Long weekend at Svay Chrum

Yesterday was the day they celebrate the overturn of Pol Pot ( I think ) so with a long weekend in store it and with much to do – it was an easy decision on Saturday morning  – ” let’s hit Svey Chrum !”. Everyone cheered and after spending a few hours running around gathering provisions at the market and packing the car which included a bicycle, a ladder and a long feather duster on the roof ,we were off. Mum’s house is only 8km by road and one 20min boat ride across the Mekong and we were there in under an hour. We arrived to find Phalla, her kids and several friends already there but they had forgot their set of keys so they were simply paying cards and drinking beer under a mango tree. The car was unloaded and I wasted no time getting busy while the women started lunch.

Our $10 concrete pots arrive

Our $10 concrete pots arrive

First job was installing some shelving and hanging some pictures around the house to get it spruced up a bit. Vichea and Angus proved able little helpers and were very happy following me around with screw drivers and drill bits at the ready. Next up we took delivery of 6 beautiful new concrete pots that will hold rainwater for mum in the dry season. Anyone who has ever showered with water out of one of these using a bucket will know how wonderfully cool they keep water. Some of you may remember I used to use one of these as a swimming pot at our old compound in Russian Market. I paid $15 for that pot but these are larger and much better quality and were $10 a pop. A real bargain. Delivered by a little horse and cart, all I had to do was point at the resting place and they were rolled off and settle in place.

After the pots left it was getting dark so we called it a day and after no showers due to a stuff up with the water delivery, a few beers and a nice dinner,sleep was rough indeed and the 5000 village dogs out and about barking at everything certainly did not help. Perhaps a ghost was moving through the area. ? The next day I was up at 5am with the sounds of roosters and a nearby funeral ceremony starting (read : god awful music played at stadium levels ). I lit a small fire out in the garden to stave of the dawn mosquitoes and fumbled around in the dark trying to find the makings of a coffee with no luck. Soon enough everyone else was getting up bleary eyed and after a breakfast of beef noodles and some khmer coffee it was back into the chores. Around 7am the guy who has the house-raising business arrived and we discussed the semantics of jacking mum’s house up a meter in height. The reason we want to do this is slowly but surely over the years many surrounding neighbors have raised their land to combat the effects of pooling from excessive rain or flooding when the mighty Mekong spills over every 10 years or so. There is no underground drainage over where mum lives so the water has to get away somehow and this means its just flows to the lowest spots. Mum’s block is now one of these so we a) have to raise the house first so we can then b) raise the entire block a meter or so.  The original price we got from one guy was $600 however the new guy cut us a price for raising the house and the front stairs ex-materials of $430. It pays to shop around. He gave us a list of stuff he needed such as concrete, sand,gravel,steel,nails etc and we went off and bought it all and it came to$180 so for just over $600 …..we will be up up up and away. I am miffed I am going to miss it all as I’d love to watch. They use acro-props and car jacks and it takes 5 days apparently.

I then unwrapped my new toy – a circular saw – and set about dismantling the cruddy old lean to roofing that covers the rear of the house. While Nek held the ladder, I had to first prune a mango tree right back with my axe so I could then strip away the tin roofing sheets. I sweated and heaved as years of dust and dirt rained down on me and having upset a bees nest I also had king size Cambodian bush bees buzzing around my head which was unsettling to say the least. I removed enough tin roofing to let light and air along the side of the house but left the sheets over the bathroom and kitchen and I then fired up the saw and cut out the rafters and beams. Net result was a much nicer looking rear area ! Damn I was stinking to high heaven and needed a shower though so luckily the water truck had arrived and the new pots were brimming with water.

After a delicious Vietnamese style fish soup for lunch I lay down inside under a fan and sleep came swiftly. Almost like i had been drugged, it was a super deep, much needed sleep and I woke up much refreshed an hour later when Chris rang to say he was on the way with his dad for a look see. They arrived and we quaffed a few cold beers and had a walk around before they left for the city. We then gathered up all the kids and took a walk over through the nearby Wat which is right on the Mekong banks and blow me down what do you think I saw right in front of me ? A white sanded, perfectly clean beach !! Is shit you not ! A huge sandy berm with trees and lovely clean water flowing past and not a skerrick of rubbish or mud in sight. Grace wasted not time in stripping down to her undies and jumping in and she was soon joined by some local villagers who brought their horses and brahman cows down for a swim. it was very peaceful and serene and Jirra was in seventh heaven as she looped around performing her best zoomies.

That night the dogs were much quieter than the previous night and we slept without fans as a breeze cane through the open shutters and super light rain pattered down. I had almost forgotten what it is like to sleep in a breezy room and it was just great. Yesterday I awoke “late” at around 7am and was greeted with coffee and bacon and eggs for breakfast which was heaven sent after a couple of days of soups etc. I was pretty stiff and sore after a couple of days chores so took it easy just relaxing upstairs in the house with the kids playing around me happily. Tra came out for lunch and brought tonnes of food with him spo we had a huge nosh and then a quick kip after lunch and then we decided to ride the ferry over to Koh Ohknatey which is just opposite us. 10 of us and Jirra jumped on the boat at 5c a person and we were son walking through the lush farmlands growing corn and mangoes and bananas. It was nice and cool as we meandered through the quiet concrete streets and we lost track of time and ended up some way from the river so we flagged down a flat bed truck and piled everyone on the back and headed back to the ferry landing.

So after a very busy and action packed long weekend we headed home and it took us under an hour to get back to our house including a stop for Chinese roast duck and baby suckling pig at Russian Market. Needless to say……our own bed never felt so good.


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