We have been at the project site for 7 days now. I know this sounds like one of those melodramatic opening lines to a survival story of a man trapped on an island with a beach volleyball as a friend, but don’t worry this post is not that at all. However, the post will be a rather blunt recounting of the last several days to give a flavor of what’s been happening in Cambodia.
Day 1: Market day. We ran all around Kampong Cham gathering supplies for our new home on the site. Pastor Poline, pictured above, was a blessing from above. If we didn't have him translating and negotiating prices, we might still be at the market. Kampong Cham is the third largest city in Cambodia so Poline was invaluable to our success on day one. We tracked the prices of the local produce in the Kampong Cham market to gain a better knowledge of the most profitable crops to grow. It was a full day of filling our tuk tuk, the Cambodian Uber, full with sleeping mats, fans, rice cookers, mosquito netting, and much more. Other activities of the day included being splattered with chicken blood from a local butcher in the market and learning how to properly make Cambodian rice. We christened the house with our first dinner on the floor with rice and vegetables.
Day 2: Project site evaluation day. We mapped the terrain and layout of the property for the project site. It sounds fancier than it was, but we did a walk around on the property and examined the soil structure and confirmed the need for an excavator to remove large amounts of volcanic rock. The soil was rich and seemed to be good for the agro-forest element of our project. Pastor Hong gathered an estimate for the grading of the site. We picked up Craig’s custom-made machete from the local blacksmith. Every team in a foreign country needs a machete, especially if you are surrounded by dense bamboo forest. I also sweeped the house fifteen times to remove our bug friends and that is a lower estimate on the daily sweep count. Geoff and I also Bear Grylls-style killed a poisonous spider that was trying to sleep with me. No exaggeration it was the size of a fist. Lots of bug guts that we still can’t get off the wall. Craig also rescued a scorpion because he thought he could eat it, but Pastor Hong advised Craig not to, don’t worry I would have stopped him too.
Day 3: Geo-terracing and grading of the project site day. We worked on deciding the layout for the setup. We worked for more than 3 hours debating and deciding design for the aquaponics system and then of course having to convert all dimensions to the metric scale because America for some reason chose to make their scale different. It was a good day overall. I managed to squeeze in some good pleasure reading to finish up the day, which doesn’t happen enough back home when I have cell service. In fact, I was able to finish an excellent book called, “In Defense of Food,” by Michael Pollan. I would definitely recommend the read. The book provided a comprehensive evaluation of the Western diet, the good and the bad, and on top of that delivered practical information and action steps for evaluating your own diet and how it might be improved. Something that I have been reflecting on lately because if I preach sustainability, then I would like to practice it in all aspects of my life. Each time we eat is a vote for some sort of sustainability or non-sustainability practice. I will stop this rant before it goes too far and simply right another pondering about this later so stay tuned!
Day 4: More geo-terracing and grading with a mix of final project planning. We worked again on finalizing project plans. We are looking to source all materials in country to make our sustainability systems truly sustainable and capable of outlasting our physical presence. The thinking is this way if any parts of the system break down, we can quickly point the farm manager to where we sourced the pieces. It takes a little more creativity of substituting different materials for what we might typically use in America. Also this day we got a table and became 20x more productive. Pastor Hong's cousin realized Geoff was trying to make a table out of bamboo. He laughed and disappeared. Somehow thirty minutes later a table appeared in our house. We still don't know quite how he achieved this feat with only his small scooter. We continue to be amazed by Khemer people and their scooter skills.
Day 5: MORE geo-terracing and finalizing project plans with a splash of making our own homemade bamboo laundry drying rack. It was time to do some laundry on day five after wearing the same shirt for seven days straight. Clothes in the tropics have a funny way of staying perpetually damp with sweat. Sorry if that was TMI, let’s just stick with our clothes stunk a little. Also if you were wondering why we keep filling our days with geo-terracing and grading. It is because we contracted out the work and needed to supervise the work to make sure it was done correctly. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to rent the heavy construction equipment to do the work ourselves in Cambodia. Part of the international project process is patience and learning that workflow is a little different from expected in other countries. In our case, a two day estimate for the grading project turned into three full days of work. No worries they finished grading on day three and we were able to evaluate our project plans more critically during this time and make some important changes.
Day 6: Internet Café and meetings day. We went into town to meet with a missionary who had some connections to people involved in agriculture in Kampong Cham. She’s lived in Cambodia for 16 years. We worked at the internet Café. Free Wi-Fi is always a game-changer. We talked to a new friend Jack over FaceTime. He made several aquaponics and sustainable farm systems in neighboring Thailand and so he was a wealth of knowledge and help. We also worked on coordinating tuk tuks for an incoming group of Auburn friends, who specialize in horticulture and look to help us with system design and implementation. Next, was the small scavenger hunt to find a tree nursery for our agro-forest. The day wrapped up with some fresh coconuts on the porch and the jack of all fruits, jack fruit, courtesy of our missionary friends . A new fruit for all of us, it tasted like Melon Hi-Chew. I like melon Hi-Chew, in case, you didn’t put two and two together. We might have made that our dinner for the evening.
Day 7: Sabbath and writing this blog post day. Currently, as I write this post we are waiting along the Mekong river to eat an authentic French pizza dinner with a group of missionaries. We arrived 6 hours early because we needed to do some work with Wi-Fi. We might have already ordered one pizza and sampled some cold local beers. Right now, we are excited for tonight and making more contacts, but even more we are excited for the future and developments of this sustainability project to equip, empower, and educate the rehab center so they can serve the rescued sex-traffic victims.
Thanks again for continuous support and prayers!