Greener Pastures

So for those who’ve been here since the beginning, you may remember my post about our landlords and their attitude to children, in particular noisy children.https://bangonaboutbattambang.com/2014/08/20/peace-in-paradise/

After Beau managed to put a dart through a fly screen; pull a wicker cupboard on top of him smashing the mirror on his head, beautify the wall with crayon, get trigger happy on the bum gun one too many times, we’ve parted ways. The landlords eager to find us a new place and us eager to feel like we weren’t living with our parents.

 

Our New Digs

Our New Digs

According to our previous landlords, this place was just waiting for us. The owner is a judge who moved to Phnom Penh a while ago, not desperate to rent the place remained elusive. That was until our previous landlord desperate to find us a new domicile accosted her calling up to ten times a day and a deal struck.

We now live further out of town amidst paddy field green and buffalo tracks. The kids can play rough and tumble in the garden lined with 4 dragon fruit trees (large succulent sculptures), mangos, limes and passionfruit. We have an extra bedroom that’s swiftly been utilised as a kid free zone as it has a lockable door. This is where I’m shacked up to write this piece.

These beauties in our garden

These beauties in our garden

The local neighbours are Khmer and have already inquisitively scoped out our joint. Quinn and Beau can be found out the front with any number of sticks or swords in action.

Goat Curry ?

Goat Curry ?

These four legged friends were seen on our first bike ride to the market. The market being a cross between an abbattoir, a farmer’s market, hardware store and a bargain shop. All live or not so lucky critters (eels,crabs, insects, chicken, goose, duck, pork, beef, snails, snake) and fresh vegies/fruit are rolled out on grass mats for your perusal. Best to get there early because after the sun is higher in the sky, so are the number of flies.

Quinn turned 7 this weekend. It feels like quite the milestone for all of us. He’s growing into a thoughtful, sensitive and artistic young man. He was full of home made pinata and commando course building ideas for the party. None of which actually happened…but water pistols fights and pass the parcel sufficed.

Chocolate cake! Quite a rarity

Chocolate cake! Quite a rarity

We had quite a turn out. Tim being the social broadcaster he is- invited everyone we’ve met since arriving 3 months ago. It turned into a beautiful motley crew of Khmer and Expat- from the hotel owner and porter from the Royal Hotel where we stayed when we first arrived, to our old landlords, to work colleagues, new French friends from Beau’s preschool to the entire staff from our local, backpacker bar Here Be Dragons. 8 kg of barbecued meat later and eons of coconuts, beer and sweet cakes, everyone was suitably porky. Even a souped up ice cream van Cambodia-style came who must have got the call up.

Suzuki City cum Mr Whippy

Suzuki City cum Mr Whippy

So we are adjusting to our new digs peacefully. It feels like a new chapter has begun for our time here.  Whenever, I leave our walled garden and ride my bike along the country lane, I feel like I’m in a movie- the seated fishermen by the irrigation ditch with their home made fishing stick; the local jetty made out of a few pieces of bamboo easy to replace after heavy rains, smells waffing from outdoor ‘kitchens’ of the neighbouring corrugated huts.

What year is it? What century are we in?

Moving the Family to Cambodia

140 kgWe commonly get asked, why Cambodia, and how can you do it? So i’ll answer these curlies in this post.

Family Selfie at the Airport

Family Selfie at the Airport

 

I stumbled upon a blog about an American family who moved to Mexico  (www.revolutionfromhome.com)
at the beginning of their journey, and it was a source of encouragement and insight into how it is possible, even with parasitic bouts and tired, resistant children, and the joys and growth all involved shared. It was possible with kids!

But of course, the seed was planted a lot longer ago..

It started with a conversation… Tim and I had about living overseas with kids. I’d always been fond of the idea, especially as I’d spent a year living in Beijing as 21 year old. I arrived green, as part of an Australian government initiative that sends young Aussies across Asia-Pacific to immerse themselves in local culture, share some Australisms and impart their professional knowledge. What a 21 year old thinks they know professionally and what they do, is oceans apart. I had much free time that involved cruising the Foreign Students College making friends with folk from all parts of the globe. Many students were from Russia (pop across a big long border) and Columbia (I met one wealthy kid whose parents realised that it was safer getting educated in China rather than hijacked for ransom in their own town). Even though I had an arsenal of contacts in this strange new world if I needed them, it was still like landing on the moon. It was 2001, and few local Chinese spoke English. I was soon lured into local Primary schools to teach conversational English. Visions of delivering my final uni thesis presentation in broken stutters still fresh in my mind. I think the only thing I achieved in these classes was convincing one 6 year old kid who had chosen the English name of Tomato, that it was a winner as it never ceased to have me in fits of giggles.

Maybe the coconut never falls far from the palm. Once I was out of nest, the poop not even dry, my mum set off on an intrepid backpacker adventure even though she was nearing fifty, from Kathmandu to London inside an old Bedford truck. Once there, she stayed eights years, doing itinerant work between gathering new stamps in her passport and regular visits to her Bedouin lover in Jordan.

And so after years of watering the idea from our Umina suburbian backyard with its dog and two babies later, my dearest Tim decided,

Ok, I’d give it a crack

Green light go, we rented our beach shack to a beautiful young family, escaping city living with dreams of having a pooch and more chicks in their brood.

Patrick Swayze in our Umina Yard

We were lucky to know of a reputable NGO, a young team of dedicated individuals trying to implement international best practice in social welfare. Supporting over 150 students, they provide income support, training, health care and education to children and their families. Importantly, they are trying to keep the family unit strong and together. Also, they understand intrinsically the role that Westerners should play in skills sharing and ultimately handing over management to the Khmers. We are self funded volunteers and loving the nature of this work. We were able to offer our skills, as artist, all-round handy man, yoga devotee and educator. I have also been approached by local expats to run yoga classes, so a little in the can will help.

One of Tim's sculptures, recycled steel

One of Tim’s sculptures, recycled steel

There is always a lot of conjecture over children’s education. As the next wave of knock kneed kids reach the playground, more theories pop up about how kids learn, how they can learn better, faster, quicker, even though the brain still remains somewhat of a black box. Personally, I was shaped strongly by my education, and my adult years have been somewhat a period of unschooling. So after recognising the whole disruption to our Grade 1 son’s schooling the move would cause, we decided it was still valuable. If anything, we were heartened by this ideal that maybe he would actually gain more through life experience rather than sight words.

That being said, I came armed with helpful hints from his teachers, and again, idealistic visions of being a cool grammar teacher (yup I am a foxy moron). It hasn’t quite gone to plan. We probably average 10 minutes a day, with Quinn honing his debating skills on why he can’t sit down, I try for calm without resorting to bribery and fail on both counts. If there are jobs going for illiterate lawyers, he’s sure to do well.

Quinn in legal attire

So we made it, fumbling our way through and grateful to have this opportunity. We are going to milk it and give it a real hard shake!