Time On The Mekong

Written By Pualina

Did you know that the best place to swim is in the Mekong River? We know from personal experience, but this blog post begins five exciting days before. We left Siem Reap in style, in a 12 seater van that should probably only be used for ten people. A very cramped eight hours later, we arrived in Kratie, a peaceful city along the Mekong River. Our group had quite a bit to get ready for, a day that we have been looking forward to all trip, a day so important no one can forget it: HALLOWEEN! For those of you who don’t know, Halloween is Sammi’s favorite day of the year, so it would make sense that she had an amazing idea of how to celebrate it; a switch-a-roo. We put all of our names in a hat and went in a circle and picked them out to see who we would dress up as. On the morning of the 31st we all couldn’t wait to show each other our costumes. The best costumes voted on by the group are as follows: Bryley dressed as Joe, Sammi dressed as me, Kate as Kylie, and Joe as Lucas. Our costumes had to be somewhat subtle because we were meeting with two NGOs that day. The first was an NGO called ADHOC that aims to protect survivors of human trafficking and land conflicts. The second was CRDT, a local organization we would be working with for the next four days. After learning about the organization and meeting our local guides, Phiya and Sohky, we boarded a mini bus to take us to the docks. At the dock we had five boats waiting for us. There were quite a few falls walking down to shore. The most memorable was by our very own Bryley, who realized she was, in fact, still wearing Joe’s jeans. Then as soon as she got up, she fell down again! Whoops! We still had a 30-minute boat ride in the rain to get to our destination, the island of Koh Thnout. Claire C. especially enjoyed the boat ride! When we arrived, we were greeted with open arms by locals and our new host families. After meeting everyone, we were taken to our homes and given time to shower and get ourselves acquainted. We met for dinner and to go over our schedule for the next few days. After a long travel day, everyone was more than happy to go to bed. The next morning, we had Khmer lessons at 7:30 followed by a hearty breakfast. We were finally ready to get to work, which involved installing new water pipes in the village. For the next two days, we worked hard with the locals, who praised Audrey, an outstanding worker, for her dedication. On the third day, we were lucky enough that Phiya and some locals took us to the head of the island to go swimming. We rode on two tractors, which took about two hours. Our ride was very bumpy, and we became experts at dodging branches coming for our heads. At the river, it was quite a “splash zone,” as Lucas would say. Some of us, mainly Joe and Madi, got very into a sand fight among the group and local children. We moved spots to have lunch, and we laid out our towels and relaxed. Sammi and I did not realize how strong the sun was, and now we have red faces and very intense farmer’s tans. Claire G. and Kylie participated in gutting an eel, which the rest of us proceeded to eat. Harrison found a nice spot in the shade and thoroughly enjoyed reading his book, Papillon. On our way back, the tractor with Claire G., Claire C., Bryley, Sammi, and myself hit a tree stump, which was very startling, and now we can say we have been in a tractor crash! We stopped at the spirit forest and learned about the local people. We didn’t have anything planned the rest of the afternoon, so some slept, while others read or journaled. We met a bit earlier to play on of my favorite games, Flashlight Sing! After a very intense game, we were excited to eat dinner. Now, fast forward to this morning, and we walked 30 minutes to get to our final work site. We took out the broken pipe and installed a new one. Although the sun was strong and the work was hard, we all felt very accomplished and grateful to have had this experience. This afternoon after lunch, we made banana coconut pastries, or, in Khmer, “num dong jek.” We all cannot believe that we only have one month left until we return home. We are so grateful for everything we have experienced thus far. We can’t wait for everything ahead of us! Orkun thom thom!

P.S Love you Cheney family!

On our way to the river before we were hit by many many branches.
The group in our costumes on Halloween.
Audrey and Sammi enjoying the sunset on the swings in Dom Re.
Lucas and Kate being themselves on a boat at sunset.
Some ladies and I walking to lunch after a morning of work.
Bryley and Claire smiling through the rain on the boat to Koh Thnout.
Your classic tractor selfie on the way to the river.
Bryley, Claire C, and I reading in hammocks during our lunch break.
Us girls swimming in the Mekong river (after an intense sand fight).