Monday, 16 January 2017

Cambodian Notebook 5 - Life as a castaway


There are no mirrors here, so I have no idea what I look like.  And no one cares.  We wash our hair in the rainwater barrel and comb it through by touch.  No one wears makeup. It seems strange, coming from a culture where appearances are so important.


Life here is not all chasing illegal fishermen.  In between there’s all the business of keeping the conservation station running.  Volunteers pick up polystyrene and plastic debris from the beach (sacks of it) and clean up the coral reef.  They learn to dive, to recognise fish and the basics of conservation and marine ecology.
Inside our hut
There’s a rota for washing-up duty, refilling tanks and water bottles, and generally keeping the place clean.  In between there’s time off for snorkelling, diving, and playing volley ball.


The island is small, so it’s easy to walk around.  There are a lot of sinister bunkers and gun emplacements as grim reminders of the very recent war between Cambodia and Vietnam, when this island was on the front line.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve also spent a lot of time in a hammock with grandchildren.

And then there’s playing with puppies (there are 7 of them too cute to describe).

At the moment, the volunteers are rehearsing a play (all in Khmer) about declining fish stocks.  It’s improvised theatre featuring a couple of crabs, clams, a lobster and a sunfish wondering where all their relatives and friends have vanished to.  Perhaps it’s the sharks? Then they get caught in a fisherman’s net and they realise why.  There’s then a long sequence of song and dance as they persuade the fisherman that he can fish with a rod and line, and leave plenty of fish in the sea for the future.  When the costumes are finished, it’s going to be taken round the coastal villages as an educational project.
Rehearsal (with 2 dogs) on the volley ball court
All this is far too energetic for a pale northerner who is going to go and lie in the sea for a while to cool off!

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