Out of my comfort zone, into the Tonle Sap

 

IMG_3956
The Singaporean and Cambodian team!

Going to another country is always an interesting experience, but going to Cambodia is a whole different idea, especially when you were going to stay on a floating village. It was a scary but exciting prospect but I could not turn down this once in a lifetime chance! We were supposed to go as a group to teach students about recycling and the problems of pollution, as well as test a prototype low cost water filter to introduce to the community.

img_2089
Plastic pollution on the Tonle Sap

Plastic pollution is a major problem in the Tonle Sap region because of the influx of processed foods which come in plastic packaging. There is also no reliable waste disposal methods of which to clear trash on the floating villages.

20170608_082804
Mr Rith, our host, and his youngest son Satni

We were greeted by two motor boats from which we were going to embark on  journey into the lake. I honestly had no idea what to expect! But the boat ride into the lake was exhilarating. I had never felt anything like this before. The wide expanse of water on either side and the vast sky above hinted at freedom and adventure.

20170608_073447
Best coffee on the Tonle Sap made by Mr Rith’s wife

The first stop we made was to the chief of the village’s home to pay our respects. Then we headed off to our separate homestays. We were split into 2 different groups and with our Cambodian buddies we went to visit our respective families. My group was staying with Cham Village Chief’s family for the next 3 nights. They were very welcoming, although we did not speak the same language, smiles and exaggerated hand gestures immediately broke the ice.

IMG_4635
Our friendly hosts, Mr Rith and his family.

The family we stayed with had 7 children and the youngest, Satni warmed up to us quickly. His sister, Marie, soon followed and though the Cambodian students we were with, we had really funny conversations and much laughter. Marie also helped us get around on her motorboat which she drove around.

20170607_181318
Hand built floating homes

Living on water took some getting used to. Water was drawn straight from the river using a water filter we brought over. It was interesting to see how the community was so trusting toward each other. All the houses did not have doors or gates and people could visit each other whenever they wanted. Life there was a lot slower and time seemed to take on a gentler path. The lives of the community members were simple but happy and it sounds cliche but a simple life, free of the trappings of technology has its own joys.

20170607_175131
Satni and Lyan, pumping water through a water filter for the team

Our time on the Tonle Sap was mainly to share the problems about improper waste disposal with the students. We also delivered stationery supplies to the the students in the local schools. These materials were bought from the local Cambodian markets (using donations from friends and family) to support the local stall owners. In total, we visited 3 different schools to teach them about recycling, and conducted upcycling workshops!

IMG_4600
Students from the local floating school

Going back to nature was a refreshing experience and I realised how caught up I had been with modern life, especially the internet and social media. Watching the sunset from the house we were staying in was amazing. With no tall buildings to hamper the view, the sky shone with a blaze of colours and the clouds seemed to glow under the evening light. Life felt so light and easy as our house rocked in rhythm with the gentle waves. 

20170607_180754
Yours truly, taking in the peaceful scenery

This trip is one that I would not likely forget. The friendships formed with our host family and the beautiful scenery has been forever etched in my heart. Life truly begins at the end of your comfort zone.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s