Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sihanoukville I

To the beach!

Spent the first night on Victory Hill as I would be living near the beach for a month or more. Grim.
A backpackers area in the high season, but now it seems to be populated solely by overweight white men who snooze on the beach all day and sit around drinking with the local hookers all night.
Moved to the centre of town the next day. Sihanoukville isn't much of a town really - a six lane road runs through the middle, it's small but sprawling, a couple of markets selling the usual stuff. No 'sights' as such.

The beaches are lovely, and there's seven of the them ranging from 100 yards of sand looking out to the islands, to 3 kilometer stretches with dozens of bar and restaurant shacks.

Where i'm staying at Ocheteul Beach is the most popular with tourists and locals alike. The modest Khmers swim fully clothed, rain or shine, shrieking in the waves and having fun.
The tourists dash from the beach to the bars at the first hint of rain. Of which there is a lot. Most days it's raining for an hour or more at some point. A few days have seen massive storms, loads of lightening and the loudest thunder i've ever heard. It feels like the whole building is shaking. Then the power cuts out and it goes pitch black for 15-20 mins as not everywhere has a back-up generator.

The plus side of all this weather is that the skies are amazing at the end of the day, as the sun sets behind the hill and lights all the clouds from below. Sadly my digital camera isn't really up to capturing all this but i'll try with my 35mm some day soon.

I've been working at the Cambodian Children's Painting Project for 2 weeks now. It really is a lovely place; the staff and volunteers are all great, there's a relaxed atmosphere despite the work involved and the kids are (mostly) really sweet.

Typical day goes like this - start at 8am, set up the painting studio for the children, who tend to arrive from 7.45 to 8.30, help them with painting and ideas for paintings (have to constantly try and persuade them to try new things as they can be very stubborn and always want to paint the same things; palm trees, sunsets, monks with umbrellas... At 10am they have English classes and I help the teacher with the lessons too, although a lot of the time it's just a question of keeping the kids in line, making sure they don't copy other student's work, and helping with their writing and spelling. After that we set up all the little tables and chairs out the front and start serving up 50-70 bowls of food for lunch.

In the afternoon they do more painting, various crafts and games, finishing at 5pm.
About 10 of the boys have home made skateboards with they ride down the access road opposite the project.

This results in an endless stream of minor injuries, cuts and grazes. So we also spend a fair amount of time doing first aid, patching them up and sending them off to do it all over again. They never cry, they're a tough bunch.

This afternoon we're taking some of them down to beach to give out flyers for the play that they are performing tonight... pictures soon (ish).

All in all, life is good - i'm enjoying the work and have met some great people here. There's plenty of time off for the beach, and a party most nights somewhere or other. It can be an exhausting combination of work/party/relentless heat - but it's great.


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