I chuckled to myself (as those who hang out with me know that I do fairly often) when I climbed into the front seat of the Landcruiser in the dawn hours with my briefcase in hand to engage in my first international consulting gig. I was retained to write a booklet highlighting the success stories of a donor’s grantees, who had developed pilot projects to address climate change. This entailed ten days of driving around the back roads of rural Cambodia with a chauffeurand a program officer/ translator. Here are some of the lessons I learned.
|One of the tireless grassroots organizers with a local NGO,
teaching farmers about new methods.
Polin, the program officer, is in the background.
|Rural Rice 101.
Stand out in rice field bending over, cutting stalks with a scythe.
Load stalks on ox cart. Deliver to homestead.
Thresh stalks to separate the straw from the husks.
Dry husks in sun. Use a wooden pounding tool or a machine to remove husks.
Store rice for home or for market.
When a person was “so thin… like a ghost” as a child and lost half of their family to the Khmer Rouge, they hunch over their lunch and eat it faster than anyone I've ever witnessed.
|A bio-digester set up.
This device composts manure to create
methane gas for cooking and lights.
If you say that you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is your personal savior, that you might get a fancy new water catchment system installed at your house.
|A farmer sowing the product of water saving planting
he learned through the program.
If you try to make some notes as the car as the driver honks and passes an overloaded minibus, that you will put pen markings all over your skirt.
|A trio of really poor children. They begged me to take their picture
then asked me for money. Note the plastic "ski boots" used by the girl
on the right to slide down a gravel hill.
The girl (?) on the left looks like she took a header on the same hill.
That when you buy a piece of clothing that says “Made in Cambodia”, the girls who made it wear wearing brightly colored matching head scarfs and load, standing close together, into the back of a cattle truck to return to the village where they live. It can take them an hour each way.
The sight of magenta lotus flowers growing in a wetland on either side of the road in early morning light is a great way to start your day. Especially when just down the road, its followed by a sculpted deep pink and gold tinged archway that marks the entrance to a temple.
Despite all of our efforts to build community resilience, the forces of greed and opportunity will bear heavy pressure. I was riding down a swath of cleared land and heavy machinery in Northeast Cambodia. Old growth palms and trees tossed to the side like toothpicks, amidst Chinese bulldozers driven by Chinese workers. Cambodia secured a loan from China to build the road to Vietnam, and the loan terms stipulated Chinese contractors. The red dust billowed out from behind each vehicle and coated the vegetation with powder. Locals drove their motorbikes with the korma wrapped all around their heads. Children playing by the side of the road coughed.
|The scene that the bicyclists were headed into.
You can put four piglets in a long, cylindrical bamboo cage that straps across the back of your motorbike. Or that you can hang about 15 dead chickens by their feet around the periphery around your back seat.
|A typical transportation scene. Yes, there is a man on top.
|Kampon Phluk on the Tonle Sap lake in dry season.
The lake rises 4 meters in the monsoon season,
causing the Tonle Sap river to change direction.
|Houses on the Tonle Sap lake.
I conducted a field interview on a front porch of a house like this.
|When a red dragonfly alights on the top of a wooden pole located just across your sightline during community interviews and stays there for a long time, that feel validated in this work. That maybe you are doing exactly what the Universe intended for you.