Doing as Cambodians do, we get up each day before sunrise and have a breakfast of fried rice, noodles, soup and omelets. Traveling with 13 interesting and diverse people presents challenges at meal time, with different eating habits and preferences, but somehow it all ends up working extremely well.
Biking out to school at sunrise and back at sunset along a red-dirt road was incredibly enjoyable with a gigantic sky and flat landscape of pastel colors. As it is the dry season, the previously harvested rice stalks have turned golden yellow, and the view is a drastic difference from the bright green fields when I last visited in the rainy season.
At the school, the students presented English songs and projects that they had worked on in PEPY’s English classes, and demonstrated their XO computers. It was incredible interacting with the students, who were eager to use the English that they had learned and to play with the funny looking foreigners. On the second day at the school we had the opportunity to work on the new school building that will house the jr. high and touch up a mural. It was hard work, but the great food cooked by local chefs was a great reward.
After we said our goodbyes at the school, we headed out, early as usual, for another 60km grinding day on route number 6 headed for Sisaphon. We arrived well before lunch and had the afternoon for some much needed rest time. Later on, we visited a local college and participated in a question and answer forum with the students. We learned a lot about life as a college student in Cambodia, and talked about their goals and dreams. Many of them want to work for the government in the best paying jobs. After our discussion, we ate dinner with them at the restaurant next door, which gave us the chance to talk one-on-one.
Yesterday was an 80km ride into Battambang, Cambodia’s second-largest city. It is an assault on the senses as the pace of life picks up as quiet countryside transforms into a bustling city. I have never considered myself much of a country person, but I now realize how much I value the calmness of rural life… must have been the past two years living in a small town in southern Japan that has changed me.
Today, some people joined a Khmer cooking class where they toured the local market, bought the ingredients, and then learned some great new recipes, and from what I have heard, filled their faces all morning long.
This afternoon we had a great visit with an organization called Digital Divide Data, or DDD. They train young disadvantaged Cambodians and provide part time work doing data entry and other outsourced computer work for both local and foreign companies. The organization provides training for new employees and also pays a good part of the workers’ university costs. It was informative and I think everyone learned a lot.
Tomorrow we have a 100km ride to Pursat, where we will be spending New Years Day and learning about an NGO called Sustainable Cambodia. I am really looking forward to that visit, as well as the rest of the tour.
The team is great with really interesting people and diverse personalities. Long talks on the road are common and are great for passing long rides.
Until the next internet shop, the PEPY Ride IV rolls on…