A Visit with a Rice Farmer...an old report

Discussion in 'Cambodia Road Trip Reports' started by cdrw, Jul 14, 2010.

  1. cdrw

    cdrw Ol'Timer

    Searching through my computer archives, I found one of my early trip reports, dated Feb 2002. Sadly, many of my earlier trips have vanished from a previous 'puter crash. I now diligently do backups! Here is my old report: "A visit with a Rice Farmer"

    I'd taken Khmer gal back to visit her family, mainly because I wanted to visit a rice farmer. The farm is located about 100km south of Phnom Penh and south and slightly
    west of the small town of AngTasaom in the Takeo/Takev Province. It was in the boonies!

    During this time period, the road out of Koh Kong was a horrid dirt road, which was nearly impassable during the rainy season. Back then everyone took the ferry from Koh Kong to Sihanoukville. Now days, there is a fine paved road out of Koh Kong and the ferry is less used, except for transporting goods and some tourists.

    The following series of four posts contains about two dozen pictures and dialog. Each of the pictures have been reduced significantly in size to reduce loading times. The last post, the Addendum, covers leaving the village and my unfortunate last day.

    It should be noted that the dates shown on many of the photos is inaccurate, due to a digital camera battery problem. The pictures were taken during early February, 2002.

    'cdrw'
     
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  3. cdrw

    cdrw Ol'Timer

    Last February, I met a gal in Koh Kong (no, not a red-light district gal) and later learned her parents are rice farmers who resided in Takeo province. Takeo province is about 150km northeast of Sihanoukville (Kampong Som) and about 100km south of Phnom Penh. She hadn't visited her family in a while and I wanted to experience living in the country, so off we went. We took the ferry to Sihanoukville, spending a few days there, staying at my favored place, Chez Mari-Yan. Chez Mari-Yan has a nice landscaped setting and ambiance with its individual thatch-roofed bungalows with porches overlooking Victory Beach; at $10/nite it provides a bed w/ mossie net, cold shower and fan (no TV or AC..so, not for the timid).
    Chinese New Year and Tet were occurring and Sihanoukville had more cars/traffic, from visitors coming to town than I'd ever seen. I wanted to rent a motorcycle, but the shops had inflated their prices due to the holiday, so we took a taxi (a car packed with 8 passengers) to Kampot (100km), where I knew I could rent a bike for less money. I was surprised and happy to find that the road to Kampot has been greatly improved since my last trip; no longer was there a large section of the road with water filled potholes, some of which exceeded 6-meters in diameter and seemed deep enough to hide a stray Toyota. Arriving in Kampot, I rented a motorcycle and we took the paved road 80km to Takeo province.
    The gal's parents home is located in the middle of nowhere, about 12km outside of the town of Ang Tasaom. In order to get to their compound, we had to leave the paved road and ride over a few kilometers of the dirt berms that form the rice paddies. Not being a very skilled motorcyclist, I was glad that it was not rice growing season; the paddies were dry and I didn't have to worry about possibly crashing into a water-filled paddy. I soon learned to respect the locals who easily negotiated these berms with those narrow tire 100cc motos and bicycles.

    Local Transportation: Locals use the common moto with trailer (as seen in PPenh), used like a bus for hauling people, and individually oxen and small horses with carts were used to haul goods to market. Later, on a trip far north of PPenh, I found these small horses to be very common in smaller fishing villages, where oxen were not needed to help plow rice fields. I even saw a few elephants on the road to Takeo.
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    Farmer's Compound: I was impressed with the size and neatness of the farmer's housing compound, which was surrounded by rice paddies. They had three structures: the one in the middle was primarily for community use (sleeping upstairs, dining and working/making rice flour), the one on the right was also for sleeping and had a room at the back which was the kitchen. The smaller structure on the left was mainly for storage ('houses2'). I found it interesting that by the time I awoke each day, the dirt area of the compound had been completely swept and was devoid of chicken and dog droppings, as well as any trace of footprints. The family owned a few bicycles, which their kids used, but had no motorized transportation.
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    The family: The group picture is of the family and a few neighbors. The balloons were just some of the 'entertainment' toys I brought to Cambo. The second picture is of the parents. Both of the parents were illiterate and could not read nor write Khmer. All of their kids went to the local school, but only one (the gal with the gray sweater) knew a few words in English. Like most agrarian cultures, I expect the children were used for labor during rice growing/harvest season, and school was ignored during this period. During the non-growing season, the father had another job to supplement the household income. He had one of those large (1-meter diameter) speakers and an amplifier, which he rented for use at weddings, parties and political events. The father was in his 40's and without a shirt was as muscled and cut as a bodybuilder. This was more indicative of how labor intensive rice farming must be. His wife was of similar age, but looked much older likely due to childbearing. I think they had six children, but due to language problems, never was sure of the total, as neighbors were constanly visiting with their children, in part to see the visiting barang..
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    In the picture of the family, you may have noticed two small dogs; they also have a few cats. Where ever I've gone throughout Cambo I've never seen the abused or diseased dogs which are comon in Thailand, . While both the Thai and Khmer are Buddhist, the Khmer seem to place more value on animals. I've never seen a Khmer kick an animal, something which is all too common in Thailand. I find the Khmer a far more gentle people than the Thai's. Yes, one will find crime in the major cities, but the same applies to Thailand.
    One thing similar to dogs in Thailand, is that they will readily eat rice, veges and coconut juice/meat, but sniff long and suspiciously before eating an offering of meat.

    ..continued next post: Rice Farmer2
     
  4. cdrw

    cdrw Ol'Timer

    Compound Details: The kitchen was fairly primitive and located in a room at the back of the house on the right. But, the food served was varied and good, but I greatly prefer Thai over Khmer food. Fresh water was collected in large pottery jars during the rainy season and mainly used for cooking.
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    I should add that on my first day there, I went to the local market 12km away in Ang Tasaom, with my gal, for food and incidentals. The market was quite large and full of any type of goods anyone might need, yet the town was small. Well, she soon had me buying food for the whole family...3kg pork, veges, drinks, ice etc. I considered these trips as payment for their hospitality and besides I was the 'rich' barang visitor.
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    Meals were served on the wooden platform in the center house; the parents also used this platform as their bed, sleeping on only a reed-mat placed atop the wooden planks.
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    A large and deep hole (13m x 13m x 3m deep) held water collected during the rainy season, and was used for watering the garden of vegetables and chilies, next to the water hole, as well as source water for bathing and washing. Adjacent to the water hole was the area for bathing and washing clothes. Note, along the edge of the dirt area marigold flowers are planted as these plants are noted for warding off some bugs.
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    Located about 15m behind the houses is the toilet/outhouse, which was made of palm fronds. And next to this was a wide hole where trash was disposed and later burned. All in all the conditions were relatively sanitary.
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    ...continued next post: Rice Farmer3
     
  5. cdrw

    cdrw Ol'Timer

    One of my goals during my recent trip to Cambo, was to visit more of the smaller villages and their local schools. I'd brought over 2000 pencils with me to SEA, and knowing how poor most folks were in smaller villages, I was going to deliver them to the students. I'd taken half of my pencils with me to Takeo. With the father riding on the back of my motorcycle, he directed me over a maze of rice paddy dirt berms to some of the area schools. What most surprised me was how well behaved the students were. It was lunchtime at the first school I visited, and all the teachers had left for lunch. There was no adult supervision, for over a hundred kids, yet some of the kids were sweeping out the classrooms, some studying and others playing. None of the kids were playing 'bully' or being destructive. I was amazed that they were so well behaved! Such would have never been the case in the States with similarly aged kids. Teachers are very underpaid and many require that their students bring them a few Riel each day they attend. None of the classrooms had lighting and they were quite dark, even though it was sunny and mid-day. I'd learned from past trips when visiting any small village, I was greeted as a non-threatening yet welcome curiosity, as barangs are rarely encountered. Giving pencils to each of students brought many 'wai's' in return.
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    It was disconcerting to see that some of the schools had a snack stand which only offered
    freshly pressed sugar cane juice. Not too nutritious nor conducive to learning.
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    This report has just a few of the many pictures I've taken in various Cambo villages. Hope viewers found it informative, though quite dated.
     
  6. cdrw

    cdrw Ol'Timer

    OOPS...I uploaded the posts out of order!! The prior one is actually page-4....below is page-3

    To the west of the compound, the area is planted with sugar cane, coconut palms and bananas. Similar plantings surround the compound. Here the women are removing the skin from sugar cane shoots.
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    Near the bathing and washing area is an implement they use for crushing the rice hulls,
    and inside the main house, but not visible in earlier photos, is a large stone mill for making rice flour.
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    Underneath the house on the right are stalls for their cattle. During the the non-growing season days the cattle are put in the fields to graze, then penned up at night.
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    For entertainment, the kids had a soccer ball. They wanted me to buy them a volleyball, but I wasn't about to play Santa to all their whims. I did, though, visit the Ang Tasaom market and surprised them with an inexpensive set of badminton rackets and a dozen shuttlecocks ($3-US). The father and I placed a few poles in the ground and created a makeshift net with a rope. They now had a place to play badminton...and soon also began using their soccer ball as a volleyball. It wasn't long before the neighbors visited and joined in, playing the new games.
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    For my visit to this farmer's house, I'd packed light. My pack, actually a bookbag, stuffed with my digital camera, laptop, one change of clothes, toiletries, a bunch of pencils (more on these later) and some toys to entertain kids...soap bubbles and balloons. I'd asked my gal if her family's place had electricity, as I would need to recharge my laptop battery. She said, 'yes, they did'. That first night I learned that don't have electricity, only a car battery, which was used at night to power a small florescent light and their small TV.
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    And upstairs, inside the main house was the TV antenna. My companion and I were given this room as our exclusive sleeping quarters. One thing I found surprising was that the floor boards and construction of their home was so good that there were no creaking sounds when walking on the floor. Our bedding was similar to that of her parents...a simple reed mat was placed on the floor, along with a small pillow. I am not use to sleeping on such a hard surface and never thought I'd fall asleep the first night. The next morning my back was aching and it took a while to get off the floor. I never had a good night's sleep during my weeklong stay. I needed something these farmers didn't have: a mattress!!
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    The family and all of the many localfarmers who visited the compound were fascinated with my digital camera and the ability to instantly view the pictures on the camera's LCD. One night, after I'd taken a number of pictures, I unloaded them from the camera to the laptop, which also contained pictures of Koh Kong and our trip to their home. I setup my laptop on the dining platform and proceeded to display the pictures I'd taken of them and their home, as well as those of the trip from Koh Kong. The whole family and a number of neighbors were crowded around to view the laptop's screen (only a few of many present are shown in the pix below). They were in awe, to say the least!!
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    But...then I had a major screw-up!! I thought I'd moved all the pictures I didn't want them to view to a different directory...and I missed one. I was quickly changing from one picture to the next, when I came upon the last of a series. I wasn't looking at the screen, when I heard a gasp from my gal and giggles from some of the boys. I turned to look at the screen and saw a full frontal nude picture of my gal, which I'd not moved out of the viewing directory. She was very embarrassed...the onlookers were glued to the screen. I quickly changed to another picture and began to worry that her father might take some drastic action towards me. Fortunately, he took it in stride and did nothing.

    ...concluded on next post: 'Rice Farmer4'
     
  7. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Jay you nasty nasty boy, keeping nude fotos on your laptop, tstststs........... :oops: :mrgreen: .......
    You have it with digital gizmo's, there's always something you can screw up..........555555......
    Now how's your GPS working BTW ? Still being a 'lost scout' or is it now possible for you to go a straight line between A and B ??? 555555
    Sorry guys, need to post like this as Jay always messes up something, I love it !!!
    Are you coming up anytime soon to CNX again ?? Next time you stay at GH Franz...... :smile1:
    Keep em ol Khmen fotos comin, I especially love the meat vendor......rgds, Franz
     
  8. BignTall

    BignTall Ol'Timer

    Love the report!!!

    Always a fun experience overnighting in the real rural areas and kipping on bamboo mats. A week of it certifies you are a true nutter, great job.

    i love the faux pax of including nudie pics of the daughter for the family, a true gent.
     

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