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Pictures from my holiday in Cambodia (August 2012)

Ankor Wat (26.08.2012)

This impressive temple ruin is situated in Siem Reap, in Cambodia. On a surface of more than 400 km² you can see ruines that survived from the old  capital of the Khmer Empire between the 9th and 15th century. The whole area is part of the UNESCO world heritage and it is surely worth a visit!

Crazy trees (26.08.2012)

Some of the old temples are covered by these crazy roots. The trees are growing on the roofs and the roots can sometimes cover a whole building. It looks a little bit eerie together with the old and partly destroyed ruins. I think, I wouldn’t like to be here alone after sundown!

Stone carvings (26.08.2012)

Especially the first temples from the 9th century are marked by such impressive stone carvings. The carvings look rather like being made out of wood, but it really is stone. It must have taken years to finish all these detailled pictures and stories.

Colonnade (26.08.2012)

Many of the ruins are partly destroyed but still it is possible to enter most of them to see them from inside. Unfortunately the whole area is extremely touristic, even during the rainy season. But nevertheless, from time to time it is possible to take a nice picture without having crowds of white faces in the background :-).

Floating village (26.08.2012)

A few km away from Siem Reap there are some so-called „floating villages“. People build their houses at the shore of the Tonle Sap river on extremely high posts, because the water level rises dramatically during the rainy season each year. The highest levels are usually reached in November and by then I guess it looks as if the houses were really floating. When I saw this village, I started asking myself about the stability of the houses and also how the villagers do regarding toilets and drinking water. But maybe it’s better not to know too many details…

Fish- and pigfarming combined (26.08.2012)

The people in the floating villages live mainly from fishing or fish farming. Here you can see one of the typical containers they use for fish farming directly in the water of the river. But a bit special: above the fish is a small stable for the pigs. The feces of the pigs is supposed to be good nutritious food for the fish. However, I guess, you need to be creative if you don’t have any soil under your feet or house!

Life in the country side (26.08.2012)

Life in the country side in Cambodia seems to be rather similar to Laos. Even the people and the culture are hardly to differentiate from outside. The language and script are also related but not so close that it would allow to communicate with each other. People are generally very friendly and hospitable and kids - of course they are curious like everywhere in the world!

The royal palace (26.08.2012)

Here one picture from Phom Phen, the capital city of Cambodia: the royal palace. Phom Phen is a very big and chaotic city, full of glaring opposites. On one side bitter poverty, many beggars and slums and on the other side glourious wealth when looking at the temples, the royal palace and also at quite a number of private houses belonging to rich Cambodians or foreigners.

Traffic in Phom Phen (26.08.2012)

Traffic in Phom Phen is a complete chaos. Unfortunately, I don’t have any really good picture of it. What you see here is rather empty and arranged. But very typical for Cambodia (and also for Laos) are the Tuktuks. They are normal motorbikes on which the owner fix small carriages. It is nearly impossible to walk through Phom Phen by foot because the Tuktuk drivers more or less force you to enter their vehicle. But the tourism has also something good: most of the people in the cities can speak English, at least much more than in Laos.

Gravity-fed watersystems (26.08.2012)

This year we focused our building activities on the construction of gravity-fed water systems. In the first half of 2012 we managed to install 2 complete systems. What a joy for the population (and also for us) when after 2-3 months of hard work finally water flows in the middle of the village! Now the women and children don’t need to walk down to the river any more to fetch water and carry it all the steep and far way up to their village.

Fencing and roofing (26.08.2012)

Having water in the village is a great thing, but it means also that it has to be maintained for long-term use. Therefore it is e.g. important to protect the water places from animals and also the managment of solid waste and dirt water needs to be organised. An important part of the daily life is happening here, people take a shower, they wash and clean and even the kids like to play here. That’s why we teach the people to fence each water place, to dig a ditch or a hole for the waste water and also to roof the place in order to protect from rain and sun.

Handing-over (26.08.2012)

After finishing the construction of such a water system, everything needs to be officially handed-over. The hand-over goes from our organisation to the local authorities and from them to the village itself. This may sound complicated and formal (and it indeed is) but it is important for the population in order to understand that it is from now on their responsibility to maintain everything.

New villages (26.08.2012)

In July 2013 our first project phase of 3.5 years will come to end. This means that we have to start thinking already now about the future of the project. The plan is to follow-up our current villages (less intensive than we do now) and to add around the same number of new villages. Therefore we visited many remote villages in the province during the last months to see which one might be suitable for a new project phase. This picture shows a village that is extremly poor and difficult to access. When we reached there it looked completely deserted, but it was just that all the inhabitants had gone to work in their rice fields.

Again and again roads (26.08.2012)

The beginnig of the rainy season means inevitably that we will have to face once again road problems as already described many times. This is the road to the above mentioned village. If we decide to work here we will be able to work not more than 4-5 months a year because the rest of the time the village is only accessbile by foot. Every time again I am grateful for our good vehicle. Up to now it has always somehow brought as back home safely.

Gold-seeking (26.08.2012)

On the way to some other potentially new project villages you can frequently see this picture: people searching for gold. There is not a certain spot but the gold is in the soil at many places. Therefore people just cut the trees and start digging meter for meter and wash the soil. The gain is not huge but still enough to attract many people. Unfortunately, very often harmful chemicals are used to increase the gain. We heard many reports of people becoming seriously sick and even of cattle dying after getting in contact with the contaminated water.

Nang Gai (26.08.2012)

This young woman comes from one of our project villages. Her name is Gai and she went blind when she was still a small child. Both her parents passed away so that she now lives with her younger sister who is already married and has 2 kids. We offered her to go for a few months training to become a masseuse. There is an opportunity for blind young women in a city around 500 km from Attapeu. She agreed immediately with the comment that there would be anyway no one in the villages taking care of her. But after completing the training she will have to go back to her village where she then hopefully can earn her living by offering massage to other villagers.

Fruit trees (26.08.2012)

This year we again distributed fruit tree seedlings - for the villages that didn’t receive any last year. The condition is that the people have to make good fences around the trees and that they take good care of it (putting fertilizer every few weeks, water it and so on). These trees belong to one of the village chiefs. He did a good job with the fencing and care, giving a good example for the whole village.

Training for traditional birth attendants (26.08.2012)

End of March we offered a training for traditional birth attendants. A French colleauge, a midwife, prepared and conducted the training together with our nurse and one doctor from the hospital. We selected 2 people from each village, as far as possible always one older and experienced person together with one young woman so that they can help each other. The first days were really exciting for them, not so much because of the training but because most of them had never been in town before. We had picked everyone up directly from the village but then they had to stay alone in the hotel. The owner of the hotel was sometimes really desperate. Again and again he had to explain how to use a flushing toilet, how to switch on and off a ventilator and light or just how to open a locked door…

Pictures from Laos: Water systems and other project activities (August 2012)

Training for traditional birth attendants 2 (26.08.2012)

But the week of training was worth it! Everybody participated well and learned concentrated. Some of the ladies are really good, while other still need to practise. The lessons consisted mainly of practical exercises with special dolls and picture guidelines because only 2 out of the 18 were able to read and write. But this is not necessary in order to help giving birth to a child and to decide if a situation requires to bring the woman to the hospital. At the end everyone received a certificate and a small basket with equipment for safe deliveries in the villages.