Trip to Kratie Province

 Posted by Joseph Allen at 10:23 am  Cambodia
Jun 082008
 

We took a trip out to the Kratie Province from Wednesday to Friday of last week. The main purpose of the trip was to allow us to better appreciate the work and efforts of CWF’s partner organization Cambodian Rural Development Team (CRDT). Although we are volunteering here at CWF, students still pay for their lessons. The tuition proceeds go to fund CRDT and their projects.

We started our trip with a 6 hour bus ride, with occasional rest stops. The food dishes along the way were very good. Aside from the roadside restaurant we stopped at, there were numerous venders selling a delectable selection of crispy crickets, dried spiced spiders, Cajun mini frogs, cooked fowl, fruits, and other dishes.

Once we arrived in Kratie we rested for an hour, and then attended a presentation at the local CRDT office. Here we learned of the various CRDT projects including: water and sanitation, biodigesters, fish farming, small livestock production, agricultural production, community awareness, and an effort to help preserve the remaining population of Irrawaddy dolphins still found in the Mekong River. The best chance to see the dolphins occurs during the dry season when they congregated in deep water pools of the river.

We spent the first night at a local guest house and the next morning started for a remote village located on the largest island in the Mekong River (about 7 km by 2 km in dimension). Traveling initially by car (approx. 1 hr), then by boat (approx. 30 min) we made it to the village. We saw several of the projects firsthand and socialized with some of the locals doing our best to breach the language barrier. It was all about cameras and taking pictures. (For anyone thinking about CWF, I would recommend taking something that would help share about you and your family. One volunteer brought pictures of his family and a bottle of port. Oh how they enjoyed that port!) In the afternoon we took a boat trip out on the Mekong with the hopes of spotting a glimpse of the Irrawaddy dolphin, but with no luck. As a consolation, we did manage to spot foam mud patties floating on the river, and one of the boatmen picked up a dead fish not quite half eaten, but with a strong foul smell. After we picked up the dead fish my thoughts focused on tossing it back into the river. As it became apparent that the fish was on board for the duration of our trip, my main concern shifted to remaining upwind of the fish, which having no control of the boat, was a futile effort. Returning to shore we ate dinner and rested. The local inhabitants have this uncanny ability to sit comfortably on the floor (as there is no furniture) for hours on end. After sitting for 5 minutes I had to change positions every 2 minutes. The only position I could remain in for any considerable duration was to lye flat on my back on the floor, but this position was not very conducive to cross-cultural interaction.

Later that night there was a celebration in the village complete with a DJ and dancing. Traditional Khmer dancing was fairly easy to learn. The younger children didn’t much participate in this, and instead waited for more contemporary pieces before getting up and dancing. (Some could really get their groove on.) Tired, sweaty, and smelly, we retired to our lodging at one of the local houses and slept on floor mats, protected by mosquito netting, and appreciative of the small pillows provided. All-in-all not a bad nights sleep. I did wake up in the middle of the night however to the sounds of birds chirping a melody suggestive of an alien space invasion. The next morning we headed back to Phnom Penh.

Though our trip to Kratie was brief, it provided a vivid look into the lives of rural Cambodians and Khmer culture.

   

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