Cambodian story by Katja


Dear all,

After a long break,
here you are.

Again the hot time, it is never cold though, but now it is hot and it is
only the end of February the two next months are the real hot season, it
is now the fourth hot season for us in Cambodia and maybe the last.
Thermometer reached 37 degrees inside the house yesterday. It is a bit
like holiday feeling on Saturday afternoon going around in your house in
underwear and drinking soda with ice… We were first annoyed that the
road work on our village road has been standing again another month, no
progress for several weeks, but now I am happy to have a bad road, this
keeps the traffic slow and cars minimum, so it means also much less
dust. Hot is still OK, hot and dusty is not. One year ago I was facing
the hot season and the dust, Olga in the belly, now it is much easier to
carry on.
She is lovely now, so enthusiastic about everything, world is so full of
wonders every moment when you are eight months. Or, I say lovely, but
yes she can also be quite annoying, this is the time that she loves mum
(aiti), me, so much that sometimes she can not leave me alone. She needs
to keep on eye every move I do and eat my nose and pull my hair whenever
she gets close enough. Of course I still can escape to the work, which
is my strong card. Anyway Chan (Olga’s nanny) is almost the second
important person in her life. But Arnaldo might be the second one. At
least she loves dancing with him.
Three and half years in Cambodia, goes fast, but still the first year
here seems so far away. I guess having kids makes life so intensive that
it is difficult to remember how it was before. Now the scope of life is
a bit different, we are still here, we are in Cambodia, among these
people and in this environment. Everyday facing the difficulties and
also the pleasures of being here, but still in the first place is our
little family, and now we also have our mind that is sometimes full of
thoughts about the future after this year, after Cambodia.
I remember when we first came here the people (foreigners) that had been
here a long time seemed quite pessimistic about the future of this
country. Are we the same now? Maybe we do not have many illusions and
not that much idealism (which is good to have in some quantity), and
maybe I am now living more my own life and not thinking the life of the
people here so much. I am still doing fundraising in my organisation
although there would be many other things that I would prefer to do.
..They (Cambodian staff) still did not learn how to do it. And there are
many things that are not so right, not so effective and not so clear in
my work and in the work of our staff, and I am here to advice them. So
maybe I have not given the right advice and maybe they have not tried
enough. There are still poor people here which is not a surprise. If
there is any less poor because of us being here I do not know. And these
are not the lines you write to the project proposal.
But then again there are little moments with the people I am working
with and people that are involved in our projects that I feel proud of.
I am happy to see that some things happen. Few weeks ago, donor
representative came to see our project and we brought her to the target
pagoda. Key monk was delivering environmental lesson and everything went
quite well, some things were not right, the monk was delivering lesson
of the garbage and placed a coca cola can in the sack that was supposed
to be plastic waste…. (I think only I noticed that something went
wrong…) but anyhow there was good atmosphere, many people and monks
were joking in the end so that everyone was laughing and it is also
important to have fun when learning about waste management isn’t it? So,
but this was not the thing I wanted to tell, but the key farmer of our
project that asked us to come to see his garden in the village after the
lesson was finished in the pagoda. It was wonderful, I was amazed myself
what a great garden he had managed to make in the village where water in
the dry season was so scares and almost nobody else had a garden. He was
very proud to present his eggplant, tomatoes, grafted fruit tree
saplings, compost and water pond. And I was so proud to be the advisor
of the project where he was involved, for the people like him I keep on
doing the fundraising…
And the second thing, a small thing the monk counterpart of our project
wanted to participate on the English and Environment lesson that I try
to organize every now and then in the office for our staff to learn some
basic environmental concepts and at the same time learn some new
vocabulary in English and he participated last week. The topic was seed
diversity, and we put the words that they did not understand on the
board after they had red the background text for the lesson. One of the
words was /survive and/ he did not know this word. And because our staff
speaks good English it was one of them that explained that survive means
to stay alive, and after a moment the monk counterpart said:
“survive…like some of the people in the Tsunami disaster, they
/survive/”. Yes, right, good, he understood! But later after the lesson,
I still thought about the whole thing him being there on our lesson, he
trying to catch up with our staff that has been learning English since
they were in the secondary school. And he, three years ago when I met
him first time he did not speak a word in English, he was quite shy and
did not express his ideas…..and now three years later, he can connect
the new  English words that he is learning to the events of the world.
His world must have changed a bit since we met first time and since he
started in our project. It has been a long process for him to collect
the courage and to take his place as a monk counterpart of the project
and to really start acting as a teacher in his community, but that day
and also today I feel proud to have such a monk counterpart in our
project, and privileged to witness the change.
Small things you might say, yes they are, only small things. But I
suppose these are the small things that give me the feeling that it has
been a good thing to be here, I suppose we need to justify our chooses
in some way. And then again move on, make a turn or choose a new path.
It is warm here, ventilator is humming high on the sealing and I still
feel sweat dropping down on the back. I said to Arnaldo this morning,
when we were having lunch in the kitchen with banana trees glimmering in
the sunshine, this is what we will miss one day sitting on the veranda
of our summer cottage in Finland. It is cold and cloudy and millions of
mosquitoes humming around, we will say, “yes, but the weather was so
wonderful in Cambodia, it was so hot and always sunshine.”
And today it is.


1 Comment

  1. Wonderful story, sis; it’s the small things that matter. I can’t wait to see Olga when you come to Finland in June. (It was June, right?)

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