Ta Boh and the bridge

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The girls and I decided to go visit Ben and Savuth on Monday.  Amelie was dying to see and help out on the bridge building.  So with Ben having left home at 6am on the motorbike, we packed up the car and headed out a little bit later.  The road there from our house is mostly pretty good.  There is about 40 km (40 minutes for me) of good road (sealed).  Then 15 km (30 minutes) of bad dirt road to get to the district town of Songkum Thmey.  From there, is a brand new dirt road that goes all the way to the Preah Khan temple complex, and the village of Ta Boh is about 20 km down that road.  We get to a red painted house and turn left and then drive into the village – about 7 km in off that good road.  This is mostly oxcart looking road.  There are two bridges – one that we saw being built last year with very interesting construction methods and another that they just built, yet to be opened.  The first bridge is pretty long and only just wide enough for a car.  It creaks as you drive along it.  When they were building it this is how they cemented the posts into the ground:  1. Place the post;  2. Dump big rocks into the hole; 3. Mix the sand and cement dry; 4. Dump that mix into the hole;  5. Pour water on top;  6. Cross your fingers in hope that it works.  They told us they were just trying this out to see how it would work.  Innovation and experimentation!  That is what we are always trying to teach people in development.
So, you can imagine I was somewhat wary driving over the bridge.  Had the girls get out of the car and run across first.  Then followed creakingly along.  There is a very steep part at the beginning which needed me to put the car into 4WD.  I managed to do that without having to look at the manual.  Made it across.
Got to the village after about 20 minutes of leaving the good road.  Stopped at the Commune Chief’s house where Ben is staying and said hello.  Tried to call Ben and tell him that we had arrived – he was out at the bridge and not answering his phone.  So started along on the way.  Went along fine till I got a call from Ben, “Stop! You can’t drive out here.. I need to come meet you so you don’t tear up the car!”  I had already passed the first bit he was worried about – a little stretch with a big rock and a very narrow bit.  He normally goes on top of the rock!  I didn’t.  But I didn’t scrape anything.
So we stopped and waited for him to arrive – then had to drive back to the big rock where he took the bike to the village and walked back to the car and became our driver.  Finally made it out to the bridge construction site.  We quickly ate watermelon and sardines and rice for lunch.  Ben was out with the chainsaw supervising them cutting up dead trees.  They were wanting to sabotage his project and cut down green trees!  Meanwhile back at the bridge, the team washed rocks, placed a pole, mixed up cement, sand and water, put rocks in around the pole and dumped in the cement mixture. Hmmm.  Slightly better method – maybe.  Gravel is hard to find.  Amelie was given a school project to document the steps to building a swinging bridge which she did, eventually.
The day quickly finished.  Everyone had a swim or splash in the river – their bath for the day.  Loaded up and went home.
So we drove back to the village.  Ben managed to tear the running board off the side of the car.  Luckily he was driving.  The girls had gone first with the truck and we met them playing at the water pump.  Everyone else watching them.  Eventually had a bath.  I had to work out how to cook a curry on a fire stove.  I tried to teach the lady of the house how to cook potatoes in a kind of curry.  She wasn’t really paying attention.  Ben wanted her to learn how to cook Black Eyed peas for him – kind of pinto bean style.  But we’ll see.  I left a kilo or so there for her.  I cooked a potato, green bean curry with a handful of black eyed peas in it using Indian curry powder.  No one really knew how to eat it.  The Commune chief said he “ot jeh” which means “don’t know how.”  A very handy phrase if you can’t or won’t eat something new.  Also applies to alcohol, cigarettes, meat, and anything pretty much.  “I ot jeh eat vegetables!” is what Jarrah has been saying lately.
At night time, a DVD goes on, a Khmer dubbed Thai soap opera.  Miscellaneous people who don’t have their own DVD wander in to watch also.  Our kids wanted to watch “Man Versus Wild” so they went outside and watched that on Ben’s computer.  Soon had an audience there too.  Both the girls love watching this show for some unknown reason.  I guess it is good for them to learn survival skills – may just need them sooner than we think.
Movies over.  Beds laid out.  Mosquito nets hung.  Under the net, it is very hot.  And it is not even April.  Went to sleep fanning Jarrah and Amelie with a clipboard.  Actually Jarrah said we took turns.  She did fan me some.
The next morning, Ben went off to work again and the girls and I packed up to go home.  We took six other ladies who were all going to the police station to fix up their Family Books.  The would walk home – just seven kilometres, before lunch.  That is one thing about this place, people just walk everywhere.  The grown up daughter of the house we were staying in was going to work in their fields for the day.  She cooked her lunch and took it.  She was going to walk to her field,  about an hour away.  She then works hard all day and walks home.  She even had a good lunch of fried deer meat with wintermelon.  A pretty healthy day for her I would say.
So we dropped off those ladies.  Drove to the District town and bought some steering oil (apparently I had driven from Rovieng with no steering fluid which is apparently not very good for the car).  Bought some snacks for the ever hungry one.  And drove home stopping at Rovieng market to buy 20 eggs and the last 3 baguettes of bread for lunch.  It was nice to be home.  The girls cooked pizza for dinner too – pretty much all by themselves!
Swinging bridge posts
Placing the post
Cement mixing Posing for picture
Cementing the post
Washing rocks
Schoolwork
Washing more rocks
Happy faces
Did you ever see such a dirty face?
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