Remote School Visit and Flooding Scooters

2 Mar

By Dean

Pursat to Pramoy

Today was another 8am start, with the plan to meet at Sustainable Cambodia at 8 and then head out to see a couple of the projects they are working on. We followed Vutay and Siep out of the SC headquarters, the first stop was at a school about 15 mins out of Pursat which was built by SC as a tutoring centre to augment the state school education for kids coming from remote areas. One of the problems rural kids have in Cambodia is that the state schools are often a long way from home, and with parents needing their children’s help in working at home just to survive, school often falls by the wayside or is a very low priority.

This school serves as a resource for kids to be tutored and access learning resources (books and computers) which will enable them to keep up their education to finish school with the possibility to further study at University.

The school is a small two storey wooden building with 6 main rooms, 4 class rooms, a computer room and a staff room. We were really surprised to see 10 computers sitting in the computer room, a splash of technology amongst the small wooden tables and chairs. Some of us chatted to staff and students while others played hackey sack with the kids outside.

From here we took another short ride to the student dormitory, a 2 storey wooden building where a dozen boys sleep downstairs and a dozen girls are upstairs. I poked my head into the boys room and was greeted by the sight and smell of a ripe backpackers dorm badly in need of some fresh air. Suspecting the girls might be doing better, i asked permission to look upstairs and found flowers adorning the doorway, brightly coloured drapes around the beds and a perfectly clean room full of shy and giggling teenage girls. In some ways the whole world is the same.

Rule no 59 : boys smell and girls don’t.

Leaving here it was a 30km ride to the next school, initially along a small dirt roadway but eventually we turned off the track and into the jungle. There were a few small water crossings to splash through before we arrived at a river about 40m wide. Vutay and Siep from SC didn’t hesitate on their new-ish Honda dreams, in they went into water that completely covered the engines of the scooters, they bumped and splashed their way across and waited on the far bank.

I was a little surprised their bikes didn’t stop as the water was more than knee deep, but inspired by their lead, in we all went with mixed success. A couple of the r4c guys fell over completely and ended up saturated (hilarious!!), a couple made it across without incident and the rest made it part of the way and then had to push.

Rule no 53 : a new $2 spark plug cap is a sound investment.

It took some time to get all the flooded bikes running again, and there was mixed excitement and consternation from the group when we were told that we had to return the same way again, but on we went and arrived at the school building a little way down the track. Keep in mind that this water crossing was only just possible on a moto at this time of the year (impossible in a car), and it’s the end of the dry season! In the wet season (5-6months of the year) the kids in this area are unable to get to the nearest state school 30km away, so the small wooden building we found with 20 little desks and little plastic stools stacked neatly at the front, was the only source of education for this community for half the year.

The classroom runs 2 classes a day, one set of students in the morning, and another group in the afternoon. They teach math, physics, chemistry, khmer and english to the students. The subjects considered the most difficult and therefore the most important for continuing education.

We later found out that our friend Visa, SC employee, student in Phnom Penh and all round Saviour Girl, had helped to build this school when she was a teenager, and i think i can speak for the group when i say that it was both humbling and satisfying to see the type of project where the funds raised from r4c would be going.

When we’d had the bikes serviced at the beginning of the ride i purchased a spare new plug cap and carried it on the suspicion that we’d have problems with bikes stopping in water crossings for this very reason, so leaving the school i offered my spare one to the team for the bargain price of $35.

No one wanted to pay up, but fortunately for me, Dave had a completely broken exhaust flange which would have allowed water into the engine if it stopped mid crossing. As we approached the river i jacked up the price to $50 (all [proceeds to SC!)… Dave was mumbling something about inflation in this part of the world as i fitted the plug cap.

Rule no 66 : dave still owes me $50

In he went with water frothing from the broken exhaust and bit by bit the little dailem worked its way across and up the steep far bank, both Paul and I made it across without stopping but the rest of the team and the SC guys too, all had to push some of the way across… refer to rule 53.

Another delay in getting the bikes running again, a hug goodbye to Vutay and Siep and we headed into the Cardamom mountains, destination Pramoy.

It was a long hot and dusty ride this afternoon, with the group split up by some mechanical troubles and a flat tyre late in the day for Sam. It was evening when Sam and i finally rolled into Pramoy last of all, to find the rest of the team drinking cold beer at a table with a couple of attractive Dutch backpackers.

Rule no 91 : gloating while drinking cold beer with attractive girls is not a way to impress the late arrivals in r4c.

Frayed nerves restored with cold Angkor, we just found a guest house and checked in. Pramoy is quite remote and not many tourists stray out this far, so it’s cold showers, no electricity and mosquito nets for team r4c tonight. Fantastic!

Tomorrow we tackle the rest of the Cardamoms with an ambitious aim to reach Sihanoukville 350km away. Wish us luck.

Paul playing a hacky sack like game called "Saiee" at the first school's yard


Boys and girls at the dorm


The water crossing on the way to the 2nd very remote school


The R4C team is all in the water


Water Buffalo drawn carriages were the only other vehicles we saw after the water crossing


We met some great kids at the school on the other side of the river.


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