Strangely enough, we found out this morning that today is a holiday, therefore the children have no school! So, Tori and I, and our new friend Shelby walked around the village talking and exploring. Turns out, Shelby is from Washington! Small world, eh? It was so funny to be able to talk to her about things like Stumptown and Hawthorn and Powell’s (as she is also a Portland native). Feels like home having a little group of PNWers taking over Cambodia. Shelby, Tori, and I all had a clear agreement: as nice as the homestay was, it was LOUD. This is not in the slightest means something we can change, it’s simply loud here! They wake up before the sun to farm before the heat. Kids have a long ways to bike/walk to their regular school (before they come back to the village for English class). And of course, adults have work to get to. But oh man, was it early. We kindly asked Sophol if we could rent the tourist bungalow on the edge of the property, facing toward the farming fields. He gladly said yes. The “bungalow” is really more of a massive, beautiful, splendid, cabin. It is gloriously HUGE and easily fits the three of us. Best of all, there is a beautiful porch that faces the fields and sunset, acquainted with rocking chairs and a hammock. I could see myself retiring in a house like this one day; sipping tea and watching the sunset on my porch each evening.
After moving, we wanted to know how we could help on our day off. So, Sophol told us could help build some fences. We, naively, said yes.
“Us Americans ain’t never worked a day in our lives” we comically said with our best hick accents today as we laughed at our lack of life competence. No, we have never farmed nor cut down bamboo with an ax nor dug holes with these weird tools. We really really lack at practical skills like this, while the village children 1/3 our age easily navigated loosening the rough dirt and scooping out the loose soil with their hands. I guess that’s a pretty clear comparison of our lives- here, they have do everything for themselves. At home, we hire other people to do things for us. If you want a fence built- you build it. No questions asked. I think about home, if we wanted a fence, chopping down the wood and creating the fence on my own wouldn’t happen in a million years. Only slightly more likely, I would go buy the material at a store. But, the most likely event would be me finding someone else to do the dirty work.
Regardless of how ugly the fences looked at the end of the day, they were fences none the less! Sweaty, hot, and tired, we joined the children in one of their favorite no-school activities: swimming in the Mekong River. They grabbed our hands and starting marching towards the fields. We walked in a long line through various plants, past farmers, and in between rows of corn. At the end of the farmland, the dirt slowly changed into sand, and the children began to run. The three of us hesitantly followed, watching them dive in and splash with simplistic bliss. Finally, they forced us in, clothes on and all. We dove, splashed, somersaulted, threw children, gave piggy back rides, did hand-stands, played chicken, and laughed until the sun began to sink in the distance. Without saying a word, all the children knew it was time to go home and (as though on cue) all got out of the water and simultaneously began to head back. It’s a magnificent concept: having the sun be your clock.
Dinner with the Holland family, Tori, Shelby, our host mom, and I ended the day with fruit dessert and good conversation. Tiger, the house dog, walked us back to the bungalow. (Spoiler alert: Tiger walked us home every night for two weeks). We sat on our porch and talked beneath exquisite stars, until our eyes became heavy, and our beds beckoned us inside.