Just another regular week in Battambang

This week has flown by.  Just like your regular beloved annual holiday, first few days are inviting and slow and suddenly your holiday accelerates and before you know it its all over.  I fear this will be the same as we accept and adjust to a slower pace, to take our time, to allow the day to unfold in its own way and succumb to the pace needed to live in this heat.  The rains have begun in earnest, catching us out in full force for the wettest bike ride of our lives.
Monsoon rains in Battambang

We are learning to acknowledge there is always tomorrow, and enjoy the here and now, the today.   What better way to acknowledge this than witnessing monks on their morning collection of alms.  Clothed in orange robes and carrying their alms bowls, a solemn silent line of around thirty barefoot monks walk along the streets to collect offerings from the locals.

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This week has had ups and downs, in fact some major downs, and it is important I share these as by no means is this journey for everyone.  I say this because I have started to read a few other family blogs and rarely do these parents admit to the difficulties of travelling with children.   The most happiest perfect people in the world couldn’t possibly take a journey of this nature and profess for it to be perfect?

Our Projects

We have had many frustrations with our projects this week, but this is a mix of issues.  For a start this is the beginning of Student Season where larger groups of students arrive on volunteer projects mainly from the UK and Australia.  Our host organisation has been very focused on the logistics and preparation for these groups and we have felt rather sidelined.   The work we are doing has also become isolated from other volunteers and we have missed the socialisation and camaraderie of our first weeks.  We didn’t expect so much computer work and have found ourselves moving from cafe to cafe for a change of scene and WIFI – not quite what I had envisaged for ourselves and the children.  We have lined up some other work next week so perhaps this will be easier for stimulating the boys.

This week we have completed the tourist T-shirt project thanks again to the skills of my dear friend Vanessa.

Battambang T-shirt

We have visited another computer centre, the Karuna Computer Centre based out at the Catholic Church here in Battambang.  The Director, Tom, was so generous with his time sharing all the learnings of educating the young in developing computer skills for us to share with CAD.  This was probably the most thoroughly thought through lab we have seen so far and a lot of focus on creating an integrated learning program for the students.

We have sourced some excellent resources we can use, and have determined the importance of introducing typing skills to children before moving on to any more complex Microsoft programmes.  Next week we will load the appropriate typing program onto the machines and complete some introductory classes for use in the first few days.


As we go along this journey I have started to notice some aspects of short-term volunteerism that don’t really sit well with me. Some roles actually take away jobs from the locals, and in others you simply do not have the relevant skills and experience.  I am not an English Teacher, J is not a Gardener, and neither of us are experienced in developing country educational needs.  Still, we do have some relevant skills, and yes, we are making progress in our own small way.  I came across this article from PEPY Tours which totally resonates with how we are feeling. You need time to understand a new country, its people and its cultural forces really to be able to work in a way that is sustainable.  I think we both came to the realisation that the to make a difference you need to apply skills and experience you already have acquired.

So I have had to remind myself that there were many reasons for us being here.  For a start we have started a whole learning journey of how international development operates on the ground and the issues they face.  We are starting to see what actually inspires us personally and where our interests may possibly lie.  Of course it is also about the boys.  Having the boys experience a completely different way of life as a family and work through this exposure in a protective but educational way.  Maybe you are wondering what on earth they are learning?  I wouldn’t even know where to start in explaining that to you, as really there is so much.  Other than the obvious life experience and exposure, we work with them a couple of hours each day.  Zachary can now tell the time.  Oscar has overcome his terror of math.  They can recount the history and geography of Cambodia, and have experienced the wonders of Angkorian Temples.  They understand the devastation caused by land mines and have started to witness the realities of poor education and the vicious cycle of poverty.

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New Style Hair

Now onto the interesting stuff for this has been a week of Cambodian Firsts that in turn have given us deeper insight into life the Cambodian Way.  First up a visit to New Style Hair for the boys.  Funnily enough this is something I noticed in the first week how Cambodian men and boys really have fantastic hair styles.  They take great pride in the way they look, and there are many salons catering for men.  Having said that I was still a little nervous that we would end up with something a little crazy due to the obvious language barrier.  A moment of inspiration and we dug out 2 photos of the boys post their last haircut and 30 minutes and $3 each later a pleasing result!
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Seeing Hands

Adding to Cambodian Firsts it was time to seek out a masseur to sooth a sore back I have been suffering with over recent days.  There are many branches in Battambang of the well known Seeing Hands Massage where blind masseurs have been trained in the art of massage.  Seeing Hands Massage creates employment for members of Cambodia’s blind community.  Wars, landmines, diseases, physical birth defects, accidents, the effects of poverty and the lack of adequate medical care all contribute to the high incidence of blindness in Cambodia with an estimated 1.5% blind of the total population.  I ventured in to one of the Seeing Hands branches and opted for a $3 half hour session.  The boys and J laughed hysterically as I was felt all over by the blind to check what clothes I had on, and promptly handed a plastic basket with a blue cotton shirt and trousers and ushered behind a curtain to get changed.  It was too late to turn back and a few moments later I apprehensively lay face down on the massage table staring at a cracked and grotty floor.  It was a very unsettling feeling and particularly not being able to speak the language and my masseur not being able to see the look of terror and potentially pain on my face.  My fears soon slipped away as a professional lady masseur began what transpired to be a very professional, but a serious grinding massage!  Nothing ventured, nothing gained and with, a somewhat released back, there is a possibility I may return.
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Okay so this week has seen a momentous return for me to drinking beer.  Those of you who’ve known me for many years will be gasping as you read this.  Really?  Annie Legge? No vodka?  Cocktails?  Of course I prefer spirits and cocktails, but life with an accountant at my side has finally rubbed off.  Beer is seriously cheaper than a small bottle of water here in Cambodia.  I have tried for 5 weeks, but finally I can’t ignore J’s happy hour $0.50 beer v $2.50 G&T.  Yes totally $2.50 is still cheap, but it is not AS cheap and we have so many dreams to pursue here in Asia and that tight old budget of ours is in no way getting bigger.  Anyway, J assures me from extensive Google research that a glass of Cambodian beer has the equivalent calories as a Gin & Tonic.  So armed with that information,  I boldly made the switch to beer.  Thirst quenching, refreshing, cheap and it fills you up – travellers dream right? Jury’s still out as to whether my waistline will be compromised further than it already has, but to hell with it, I have no need for glamour for now.

Oscar and The Tooth

We decided to surprise the boys by taking our morning computer work out to our wonderful oasis at The Battambang Resort.  We arrived soon after 9am and marvelled at the peace and tranquility of this most perfect haven at this time in the morning.  We set up camp, placed our ice coffee orders and the boys were laughing and squealing with the delight in the water.  A few moments later disaster struck as a zealous forward role from Oscar  in the pool culminated in One Chipped Tooth.  As I have expressed previously, high sensitivity and culture shock can resurface at any moment and this was absolutely one of them.

Within an hour we were en route to the dentist with our translator.  I can’t deny it, Oscar was completely and totally freaked.  I tried all methods of calming him down which included a dash back to the room for remaining drops of Rescue Remedy (someone send me some more please.. along with swimming goggles!).  We entered the foyer of the dentist to be greeted by a charming Cambodian dentist with excellent English.  I stated to follow him to his appointment room but this was the final straw for poor Oscar.  Never having been to a dentist before (other than a 5 year old check-up) he completely lost control.  There was no way on earth he was going to have anyone, go anywhere, near his mouth, or in fact any further into the dentist surgery.  The dentist agreed there was no way we were going to get him in there but that he would recommend we return for a small filling.  Tails between our legs we returned to the safety of Daddy and Zac, and reached out to Comms Central aka My Mum.  The power of Viber and within an hour we had sent through a picture of Oscar’s tooth to our great friend John, a dentist.  John advised against any remedial work for now, if it was bothering him perhaps a little filing down of the tooth, but otherwise leave it for now.  For the moment, there is no way on earth Oscar is returning and you will all now get to enjoy photos with wonky teeth.  His voice has a little lisp, but I am hoping munching on a few raw apples and carrots may eventually wear down the sharpness and we will be good to avoid the terror for a while.


One of our country managers Jo, has had his girlfriend Ivy visiting from China.  They have got on so well with the boys and amazingly offered to take them out for a few hours during the afternoon.  The boys were so excited and were taken to visit the crocodile farm and paint welcome banners for the new student teams arriving next week.

IMG_2194  Ivy Jo and the boys

J & I were at a loss as to what to do – 5 weeks exactly we have been together 24 hours a day, and suddenly we were just two adults.. we decided to take off on our bikes and take it slowly, ambling through the back streets, taking a few pictures as we go and taking time to observe rather than be on a mission to get from A to B with kids on the back.  A few pictures below show the real Battambang and the sights that we see and have become accustomed to in our daily life here.


We took our time walking the evening market taking in the sights and sounds,  rewarding myself with a foot spa in a newly opened premises supporting teenage girls.  We indulged in couple of happy hour beers taking the time to talk and for reflection and planning without those little ears and voices ever present.

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For those of you who have made it this far, I urge you to visit my YouTube page which is finally up and running in response to Zachary’s obsession with taking videos.  These videos will totally bring to life our day to day here in Battambang.


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2 Responses

  1. Jilly Cook says:

    Wow,Annie! That was a fabulous description of Week 5 and your feelings and observations! I am loving each episode. Amazing!

  2. Nes says:

    Lovely Annie, always brings a smile to my face, can only imagine the highs and lows and roller coaster ride in between. Keep it up girl, looking forward to next week’s instalment! x Much love as always x Nes