This year we thought we’d be unable to create our traditional Chocolate Easter Garden, but Mrs Kershaw came up with the goods (chocolate, rice crispies AND the little people) and all was well. Nom nom.
It was Tom’s birthday this Friday so we took a 3-day break at the White Elephant hotel, East of the city. Normally this would be a 1-1.5 hour drive depending on traffic – but there wasn’t any! It was Khmer New Year, so EVERYONE had gone back to their home province to visit family, leaving the capital a near ghost town.
We swam, we read, we relaxed. We played pool, table tennis and “Go Fish”. A great end to a good break.
On Saturday we had pizza and made Tom a cake in the shape of his current favourite TV show, “Gravity Falls”.
We have found flour! And lentils! We’ve been buying flour from the big supermarkets but it’s a long drive and you invariably end up buying other stuff you don’t really need to make it feel the journey was worthwhile. We’re currently on an austerity drive to recoup all the money we’ve spent trying to get the air-con working, so local-bought is best.
The snag with buying from the market is no-one advertises what they’re selling – bread is hidden in lidded baskets, lentils live under the table, and flour sacks are stacked at the back of the stall. Of course, WE don’t even know which KINDS of stalls & shops might sell which kinds of things, and it’s not always obvious. Cambodians are very rigid about who can sell what – the guy who fixes moto punctures doesn’t do mechanical work, the person who sells 7 kinds of rice doesn’t sell flour. But, it turns out, the woman who sells lentils and noodles DOES have flour! Hidden of course, but we located the correct stall by the usual process of Googling a photo of the thing we want to buy on the phone (lentils), then playing ‘hotter or colder’ round the market.
“No have”, they say. I point up and down the row, they look confused then point in the direction of someone selling the item. Probably – it’s not an exact science.
We’ve also managed to get bread delivered to our door. There’s a chap who rides round every morning with a bread basket on the back of his bike, calling “Num pan, num pan” but it’s always after we’ve left for school, so we caught him one Saturday and explained (miming, no language barrier) that we would put out money in an envelope with a picture of a baguette on it and a bag underneath; if he comes by and sees the envelope, he counts the money, divides by 700riel (about 20c, or 15p) an leaves that many baguettes. It took a few days to nail it, but now we have a steady supply, as long as we remember to put out the ‘bread trap’ each morning.
Even better than finding cheap local food, God has been blessing us with FREE food! Our neighbour visited family in Siem Riep and brought us some yellow mangoes, our other neighbour came back from the provinces and gave us bananas, green mangoes, white sweet corn, and some strange sticky rice parcels beautifully wrapped in banana leaves. Tom said the bean filling reminded him of bran flakes. And weirdly, he was right.
Today we rolled up our sleeves, shifted tables & chairs, swept floors and generally started getting the new school ship-shape. Or school-shape.
During the festivities we found a takoy gecko. They eat mosquitos and cockroaches, so after we explained to him how many of each we could offer at Chez Kershaw, he was more than willing to accompany us home.
He’s nocturnal, so is currently biding his time waiting for night so he can begin hunting…
Today we took buckets of rice, bottles of fish sauce and gifts of clothing to some of the poorest villagers in Baray, about 100km north of PhnomPenh.
In one of the houses our children played with day-old ducklings, alongside Khmer children; boundaries of culture and language melted away as all squealed with delight. Another mother we talked with (through an interpreter) proudly showed us their church, a peeling wooden shack. We chatted with her in a lean-to barn amongst her animals, only to discover that the ‘barn’ was her home, and she was saving up to buy some walls.
Tom and I arrived at the Baray Village Stay at lunchtime on Tuesday. We have a shared house on site and eat meals at the Solar Cafe nearby. The house is lovely and free of mosquitos, the food is hearty and delicious. This morning we will be taking rice and clothes to poor families in the surrounding villages.
Wildlife: last night we found a frog in our bathroom, this morning a cricket joined us on the breakfast table. Fortunately we were too full of baguette, jam, scrambled eggs and hot chocolate to eat him.