KAT // FIN

Dream. Do.

I need a holiday from my vacation and from my mind!

Koh Rong island near Sihanoukville in Cambodia was the place where it started to hit me after four months of travelling. I had had some symptoms already for a while but when entering more quiet side of Koh Rong with 6 kilometres of white-sanded beaches, turquoise water and only handful of other travellers staying overnight, made the symptoms suddenly go worse. We were in the place where I ‘should’ have felt relaxed, calm and being able to process experiences we had had so far. Instead of these dreamy feelings I started to feel frustrated and anxious. It got that bad that it was difficult for me to fall asleep. It wasn’t these ‘exciting’ jungle sounds or the sounds of waves striking the beach near our bungalow that kept me awake during long nights. It was my mental shit.

DSC_2738_edited Long Beach, Koh Rong

DSC_2756 Long Beach, Koh Rong

After a couple of days confusion about what was happening to me, I diagnosed myself suffering from ‘travel fatigue’ at least in a medium level. It had started with feelings of not having interest to make any further plans. I felt exhausted about changing place often and always planning where to go next, where to stay overnight next and with which vehicle we should go next. It worsened by having feelings that even this paradise island’s landscape couldn’t impress me. Like if this couldn’t impress me, what would impress me?! I felt lost and alone even when being accompanied with other people. I didn’t feel like myself at all. I thought a couple of days relaxing holiday in Koh Rong would make it better but actually it didn’t. I felt I just couldn’t enjoy like other people seemed to do. I felt ashamed and had a guilty conscience. It was me who was supposed to have the greatest time of my life right now! Why I didn’t feel like that? Why couldn’t I enjoy and instead of hanging with people I felt more like spending time alone?

DSC_2759 Our bungalow ‘Tiger’

I did some self-reflection in order to solve why I felt like that. My organized mind always seems to want to plan the future even it isn’t yet processed things that happened a day or two ago. I feel happy when things go according to my plans. I need to feel that I’m in charge of my travels whether my plans turns out to be good or bad. I need to have some idea of what to expect of experiencing. That’s when I have time to dream about it and that’s when I have time enough to mentally prepare for it. Now my mind feels tired. Tired of planning and tired of looking things forward. I’ve been questionning what was my real dream in terms of this trip. I always thought that it would have been the feeling of freedom. Where is that feeling now when I feel that making further plans are more a burden than a pleasure? How well feeling of freedom goes together with too much planning?

I noticed that it started actually already after leaving India…when I started to go mentally downhill. I had been dreaming of travelling to Nepal and India for many years. I had some ideas in my mind what I wanted to experience there even we didn’t have 100% strict schedules. I wanted to do trekking, travel across India by public transport, do yoga and go to meet Mother Amma. All these things we did and my time in these countries was like one big firework. I was open to everything even we went according to this bigger plan. When we arrived to Vietnam, my passions for travelling suddenly disappeared. Auli was enjoying but suddenly I was lost. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. I didn’t know what I should look forward of experiencing. Even we made plans together with Auli I felt like not having a clear enough idea on my own to be able to dream further things.

DSC_2741 Terrace views with unproperly tied, banana shape hammock tied by Kata

DSC_2760 Luckily met Harald and Eirin from Norway. Harald taught me how to tie a hammock right…with confidence, enthusiasm and skill of a serious climber :)

BUT…I need to change my thinking. There is no place which is 100% bad. It is up to you how you want to see things in life. We often see the faults in others (if it’s a place or a person I don’t really care…it seems that often there is someone else to blame if you are feeling bad) without realising that we can change only our own character. I don’t know if this is the thing they call a culture shock or if it´s just my internal shock which starts to affect now after four months of travelling. I hope it goes away…I try to convince me being not so hard to myself. I keep telling that during a trip this long, it’s natural to have many kinds of feelings. It can’t be only sunshine. It’s okay to feel a little bit lost. But still I have guilty conscience’s small sound in my head telling me that I should enjoy my fullest NOW…After all it’s my dream which I am now living real. I won’t give up it so easily.

DSC_2767_edited Our neighbour from Finland was often sitting on a tree playing guitar…

I wonder if this mental flow made any sense…Please send wintry pictures of Finland so that I could realize that it’s better to stay in this side of the world!

-Katariina

Stories behind the stones @ Siem Reap

No visitor in Cambodia should skip the temples of Angkor Archaelogical Park in Siem Reap. Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. These temples including Angkor Wat, are the greatest remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. Archaelogical park is huge covering approx 400 km2 and it consists of scores of temples, hydraulic structures as well as communication routes. Since Angkor is one of those once-in-a-lifetime-visit-destinations we chose to do our expedition properly instead of just going to ‘see some old piles of stones’ for a day. Actually we started by visiting Angkor National Museum in Siem Reap and got to know a lot about the history of the Khmer Empire. Temples represent both hindu and buddhist cultures and visiting the museum gave us hints of which details we should look carefully when visiting the temples. Have to say that visiting the museum was so inspiring that we spent almost 5 hours there…until our stomachs made noises so loud that we had to leave for lunch.

While many people buy only a one-day-pass to the area, we bought 3-days-pass. (For HC-temple-lovers there is also 7-days-passes available!) First day we rent a tuk-tuk with driver and did the so called ‘grand-circuit’ and went to see some smaller temples to arouse our appetite for the bigger ones. During the next day we rent bicycles and cycled to see the temples of Ta Phrom and Bayon. Even they call our second day route ‘small circuit’ we noticed by the end of the day that we had bicycled almost 40 kilometres back and forth to Siem Reap! We left Angkor Wat for the last morning and left our hotel by tuk-tuk at 5am in order to see the sunrise in Angkor. And yep, we saw the sunrise (with zillions of other people). But have to say that in order to have a nice pic I was more looking at the sunrise through a camera lens. Our definite highlight was seeing the bas-relief of great hindu mythology ‘Churning of the ocean of milk’ carved to the corridor wall in Angkor Wat. As a closure I would like to cite a tourist we saw in Angkor: “After three days, we had absolutely 0 percent of interest of any more temples”. But I’m glad that I can feel that three days was time long enough to get under the surface at least some of the stories of these stones!

DSC_2474 Welcome to the Angkor Archaelogical Park

DSC_2473 God ‘Deva’ pulling a snake ‘Vasuki’ as descridbed in hindu epic ‘Churning of the ocean of milk’ which is one of the best known hindu mythologies. Snake can be found in many balustrades in South-East Asia.

DSC_2531 Route to some of the temples was truly scenic!

DSC_2486 Temple of Preah Khan was full of stone carvings

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    Temple of Preah Khan with hindu God Shiva carved to the stone

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    Temple of Preah Khan with holy man ‘rishi’

DSC_2556_edited_2 Sunset at Pre Rup-temple with Auli and Shinn from Malaysia.

DSC_2549 Tuk-tuk drivers have lots of time to chill when tourists are touring temples.

DSC_2557_edited ‘Postcards for one dollar!’

DSC_2560 Sunset at Pre Rup-temple with Auli and Shinn from Malaysia.

DSC_2596_edited Day two’s highlight was a mahayana buddhist temple ‘Bayon’.

DSC_2625 Bayon has 54 towers each decorated with four ‘Avalokiteshvara’s’ head. For buddhists Avalokiteshvara means personification of perfect Compassion.

DSC_2626 Avalokiteshvaras’ heads are enormous.

DSC_2604 Bas-reliefs in Bayon describes daily life in 12th century Cambodia.

DSC_2608_edited_edited Funny detail one guide told us…turtle is biting man’s ass. Bayon.

DSC_2599 There were many ‘Apsaras’ carved to the stones. Apsara is a female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.

DSC_2676_edited Sunrise over Angkor Wat was impressive.

DSC_2667 Once again we weren’t the only ones there…

DSC_2707_edited ‘Churning of the ocean of milk’ carved in the corridor of Angkor Wat. On this side demons ‘Asuras’ are pulling a snake ‘Vasuki’ in order to churn the milk from the ocean. Apsaras can be found flying above them.

DSC_2711_edited ‘Churning of the ocean of milk’ carved in the corridor of Angkor Wat. On this side monkey god Hanuman helps Gods ‘Devas’ to pull the snake ‘Vasuki’. Apsaras can be found flying above them.

DSC_2724 Happy to leave Angkor after 3 intense days!

-Katariina

Doing good in Angkor Borei

We got to know about Asean School in Angkor Borei by accident. We met polish Pawel during our last night in Phnom Penh before leaving to Kratie. Hence he talked about the place so warmly (and since he had spent there the last 4 months so he had to know) we decided to go and take a look ourselves after our trip to Kratie. We arrived to a very poor rural village of 4000 inhabitants. It was hot and dusty. Past us went loads drewn by horses, hen were poking around piles of rubbish and as soon as we left our stuff unattended there was one huge pig going around them way too interested. We got a simple accommodation in volunteers room with bed, blanket and a mosquito net.

DSC_2285_edited Asean School in Angkor Borei

DSC_2310_edited Front yard of accommodation building

DSC_2293 Typical street view in Angkor Borei

DSC_2317_edited Evening snack – grasshoppers and beetles

Asean School teaches english and computer skills. It aims to help the poorest kids in Angkor Borei for improving their working possibilities in the future. Director of the school is 23-year old Mister Sro. There are 2 other local full-time teachers and 1 part-time teacher. They teach at the school 3 times a day, in total of 8-9 hours. There is around 150 children willing to learn. To cut the costs of the school, Sro has decided to do as much by himself and with fellow teachers as possible. That means they don’t have any extra person to cook or to drive school’s minivan. It in turns means that these three teachers wake up at 6.00 to pick up kids to school by 7.30. They will teach between 7.30-10.30 and after, they’ll drove kids back home. Then they’ll prepare luch for themselves and to volunteers. Afternoon classes are held between 13.30 -16.30. Once again they pick up kids to school and back to their homes. Evening classes take place between 17.30 and 19.30. After, they’ll prepare dinner. During late evening Sro does ‘paperwork’…he replies to volunteers’ emails and seeks for donors to support with school’s funding.

Monetary situation is pretty desperate. Monthly costs of Asean school are approx 2500 dollars covering the rent of two school buildings, electricity, water, minivan’s petrol and teachers’ wages (only 150 dollars per teacher!). Monthly income comprises 20 dollars a week paid by each volunteer. In January total income was approx 900 dollars. I counted that they would need 125 volunteers per month (and each one should stay at least one week) to cover all the costs by volunteers. During our time, there were 3-4 volunteers at the same time.

Their dream is that school would be free to everyone. It’s not yet completely happening and they have to ask money from students. They have also not yet donors. I asked Mr. Sro how they cover rest of the costs. He said that sometimes he might ask money from his parents. I asked what do his parents do for living. He replied that they are farmers but sometimes they might sell something – for example their car to help him and this school. It’s crazy I thought…they really sold their car to support him? Does Mr. Sro ever ask anything for himself? All his energy and money goes directly to make his dream school come true. That is only admirable.

As Mr. Sro said to me (quoted freely):
‘Many times my parents doubt that if this what I’m doing is any wise…as I’m putting so much energy to this and it takes all my time. I have to answer to them that I’m working for my dream. As far as I have my belief and my energy I will continue. If I lose them and see it is simply impossible to continue, then I will stop. But it’s not until I have given everything there is in me to possibly give.’

I’ve rarely met a person this determined and selfless.

DSC_2381 Last dinner with Asean School team; from left to right – Sokun, me, Auli, Yayi, Mr. Sro, Mr. Sophea

There was running water in the accommodation building (which propably 90% of the villagers had not…I saw many of them bathing in Mekong). One morning I was very annoyed though. After having a nice and swetty morning run I noticed there was a water-cut at the accommodation building and showering was no-possible. Being annoyed of such a tiny and unimportant thing made me even more annoyed. As if not being able to take a shower would kill me…Anyway, I’ve never been so bit by mosquitos and propably I’ve never enjoyed showering and having a clean bed as much as I did after one week in Angkor Borei.
Selfish, selfish, selfish…I wish I could be more like Mr. Sro.

DSC_2309 Volunteers room

What about the kids then? They were amazing. So funny and most of them really willing to learn. We taught 3-5 hours a day. It is must to teach 2-3 hours as a volunteer. We taught 3 different groups; children below 8 years old, teenagers between ages 11-16 and high school students between 16-19 years old. All of these groups were very different. Basically we just played with youngest kids (‘Color’, number bingo and hangman were most successful and kept them paying attention). With teenagers we did different kinds of conversation exercises. To most of the lessons we invented the program ourselves. Some of the teachers gave specific instructions of what they wanted us to teach.

DSC_2324_edited Sokun teaching kids

DSC_2344_edited Auli teaching kids to play ‘color’

DSC_2345_edited My computer became popular

Especially I remember one boy amongst our youngest students. His name is Nara and he is 6 years old. He is really good in english already and always wants to understand. We did a small conversation exercise with our youngest kids. Conversation was very simple;
What is you name? (Students needed to fill up their answers like this: My name is ____.)
How old are you? (I am ____ years old.)
What is your favourite color? (My favourite color is _____.)
Poor Nara didn’t quite understand what was the point of this conversation since they learn almost everything by heart and keep repeating sentences like ‘This is my chest.’ Many students filled up words from the exercise they did on the previous day. To that exercise they needed to fill up words which were missing and which they heard as we read them. (My name is Nita. I am eight years old. My favourite color is orange.) They remembered these answers from the previous day and it was hard for them to understand that we were asking about their own answers. So Nara didn’t understand this and suddenly he just started to look up. We wondered what he was doing until their full-time teacher Sokun said that he would cry soon. He always cries when he doesn’t understand. So Nara started crying a bit. Sokun said that he is so determined to understand that if he doesn’t understand, he wouldn’t go out to have a break but stays inside instead and keeps practising until he’d understand. I really felt that these students are determined and it would truly pay them back in the future to study english this hard.

DSC_2347_edited Children of the afternoon class <3

DSC_2352_edited Children of the afternoon class with teacher Markkula

DSC_2355 Children of the afternoon class <3

DSC_2362_edited Children of the afternoon class <3

DSC_2368_edited Children of the afternoon class <3

DSC_2374_edited Children of the afternoon class <3 Nara

DSC_2379_edited Children of the afternoon class <3

If small Nara had to stop studying english just because the school wouldn’t have enough money to carry on, it would brake my heart. After finishing teaching I still felt like giving something back to the school. 10 dollars a month wouldn’t cause any big damage to my life back in Finland but it would pay 3 childrens’ studies here in Angkor Borei for a month. If more volunteers would do that, maybe it could have a significant effect. ‘How could I make a money transaction to the school’s account’, I asked Mr. Sro the day before we were leaving. He said he didn’t know. He said that he had used his own bank account last time in the year 2012…

- Katariina

2-days biking trip in Kratie

After Phnom Penh we decided to take some time off. We travelled to the city of Kratie, located approx 200km north of Phnom Penh. We rent bicycles in Kratie and arranged our own 2-day trip to the nearby villages of Kampi and Sambor which is 35km away from Kratie. All these villages are located next to river Mekong so we got to enjoy great scenery all the way.

DSC_2228 Biking team ready!

DSC_2231 We saw many signs of ‘Cambodian People’s Party’ on the way.

DSC_2232 Biking through smaller…

DSC_2243 …and bigger villages.

Local fisherman in Sambor took us and our bikes to an island of Koh Pdao which is the biggest island in Mekong. Koh Pdao seemed very remote island with only a few other tourists. Perfect! It’s funny how you start avoiding any pre-arranged tourist-tours after you have travelled for a couple of months. Success in doing something ‘on your own’ feels sometimes a great accomplishment. With this I mean something like buying your transportation ticket in stations instead of doing the easiest way and booking them in your hostel. Travelling in South-East Asia has been made very easy and every hostel offers you almost anything you can ask for from tours to transportation tickets and pick-ups. We enjoy when we have to search information ourselves and actually make an effort for getting things done.

DSC_2244 Koh Pdao port

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DSC_2260 Biking in Koh Pdao in the morning light…as if it was midsummer in Finland!

DSC_2261 Koh Pdao

Our own biking trip felt as an adventure – we didn’t have any reservation made of where we were going to sleep and didn’t have any maps with us either…we just wanted to believe that everything would sort out on the way. When arriving in Koh Pdao and seeing these dusty roads and only local people who didn’t speak a word of english, made us doubt the success of our trip for a while. Was it wise to come to a remote place like this in the late afternoon with no idea if there even was any guesthouses or homestays there? We knew that darkness would come after one hour so we started to make jokes about sleeping with chickens and pigs in a shed. Have to admit though – I was keeping an eye of some abandoned houses just in case…Since locals didn’t speak almost any english (if you don’t count those ‘hellos’ we often heard) we had to use bodylanguage to show that we were looking for a place to sleep. After some searching we found a sign of a homestay approx 4km away from where our boat had left us in the first place. We were so happy we didn’t have to sleep in any abandoned shed!

DSC_2246 This homestay we found after several searching

Our homestay was a local cambodian house lifted up from the ground. Below the house the family stored their motorbikes, kept their animals and hung their hammocks. Floor was made of sparse bamboo braches and walls were made of bamboo panels. They warmed the house from below with open fire (never mind about fire safety…) For them it was cold (it was maybe 25 degrees in the evening and they were wearing woollen hats). They wondered how we could wore only t-shirts. Toilet and bathroom were separate buildings, also made of bamboo. We got to wash ourselves old fashioned way without running water. I washed my hair carefully, it felt so great. (We noticed that when trekking in Vietnam they had some ‘westernized’ standards to homestays. Places where we stayed at Sa Pa had running water and they were serving banana pancakes for breakfast.) To me this homestay in Koh Pdao felt more real, more authentic. There was 9 people of us sleeping in that house; the owner couple with their 4 months old baby, owner’s parents and her two brothers. They separated a ‘room’ for us with curtains from a bigger space. There was an own ‘room’ for owner couple which walls were made of plastic mat. We had rice for dinner served with vegetables and some meat. After, owner ‘Mom’ showed us her wedding photos. She had 8 different dresses in the pictures! It was completely dark after 6pm so we went to bed early. We were the only ones who were sleeping on a mattress, others had just tatamis. In the morning we were waken up by a rooster.

DSC_2250 Sunset in Mekong, Koh Pdao

DSC_2256 Sunset in Mekong, Koh Pdao

Our one-night-stay in Koh Pdao cost 16$ from 2 person including dinner and breakfast. Homestays in Koh Pdao are part of a Cambodian Rural Development project and can be booked also in Kratie’s Cambodian Rural Development Tours-office. Our food was cooked by another family and homestays actually have travellers in turns. They have a sign ‘My Turn’ if it’s that homestays turn to take travellers. This way more people benefit and money will spread more widely.

What was really funny to notice during our trip: almost anything can be carried here by motorbikes! On the way back from the island we travelled with a huge pig at the same boat. Pig was put inside a cage which was attached to a motorbike. It was interesting to observe how they got that carriage inside and out from the boat…

DSC_2265 We shared a boat with this interesting load…

DSC_2235 Stopped here on the way back to Kratie.

DSC_2266 And found great place to take a nap and enjoy afternoon swim in Mekong.

-Katariina

Many sides of Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, surprised me. I had imagined it would have been dirty, unplanned and that there would have been rats and cockroaches running wild wherever. That image many fellow travellers had been bolstering after they had travelled in PP and that’s propably the image which comes to most peoples’ mind when they first hear the name Phnom Penh. We arrived by Mekong from Chau Doc Vietnam and crossed the border first time by boat! What greeted us was a city with modern architecture and shopfronts made of glass, well-kept parks and adoring streets lined with trees growing through roofs of buildings. Phnom Penh seemed pretty westernized…we found brands like KFC and Make Up Store for example. Teenagers in PP seemed to use smartphones and dress like any teenager in western world. People seemed amazingly friendly and you got back so many smiles if you’d smile to people. What we found beneath this surface during our 5 night stay was horrible and hard to understand.

DSC_2191 Central Phnom Penh

DSC_2196 Central Phnom Penh

DSC_2149 Central Market

DSC_2220 Picking mangos one evening with Noreen

DSC_2218 Buddhist spirit house detached to a mango tree in the yard of our guest house. They believe that keeping the spirit happy your life will become happier. They give him offerings in order to do so. We gave him some finnish salmiakki.

DSC_2216 Noreen took us to a Botum Watei temple one evening. We met a 90-year old monk.

WP_20150117_008 Evening with fellow travellers

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Imagine that Phnom Penh had been a ghost city for almost three years between 1975 and 1979. During 1975 communist party called Khmer Rouge collapsed the present government led by their leader Pol Pot. By getting power, Khmer Rouge forced all people living in the cities to go to the remote countryside for working in conditions close to slavery. In just three days, Phnom Penh was emptied. Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s aim was to make Cambodia self sufficient, peasant-dominated agrarian co-operative. They saw educated people as a threat and recruited people from countryside who didn’t have the knowledge to questionize Khmer Rouge’s goals. Khmer Rouge burnt market places, abolished monetary system, eliminated national culture, destroyed monuments and pagodas…even schools! One school in Phnom Penh was turned into a prison. Khmer Rouge used that school building to detain, interrogate and inhuman torture. Educated, intellectual people were systematically wiped out – having glasses or speaking a foreign language was reason enough to be killed. Their main prison in Phnom Penh they called Security Office 21 (S-21). There were around 20 000 people arrested and brought to this prison. After, almost all of them were taken to Choeung Ek killing site to be executed and buried into mass graves. And these aren’t the only sites for these horror acts. They have found over 120 mass graves in whole Cambodia. Almost one third of the whole population (estimated 1,7 million people!) was executed or starved to death before Vietnamese troops collapsed Khmer Rouge’s regime and established the new government in 1979. (text from archives of S-21 and Choeung Ek)

DSC_2187 S-21

I saw a man in the wheelchair one day. He had lost both of his legs from below knee and was now selling books to make his living. When I asked how he lost his legs he said he walked to a landmine (there is still a lot of unexploded ones in Cambodia…they are result of American bombings during Vietnamese war). It’s crazy to travel here and not being able so buy a book from each man like that.

I don’t feel like explaining more about this genocide Cambodia faced just 40 years ago. There is many sites which explain way better than me. I just want to tell that we visited both of these sites, S-21 and Choeung Ek. After both of these days I felt sad and silent. You might think why anyone wants to see things like this but I think it’s important if you are travelling in the country which has a history like this…to understand the country better. To me travelling isn’t just about spending money and partying in different locations. It’s also about widening my perspective and learning why things in the world are like they are. There has been many great accomplisments mankind has done that we have seen already but oh boy…there has been so much darkness as well. I feel that I have learnt already more about Vietnamese war (for example) than I ever learnt back in high school. And what it comes to Cambodia – I don’t remember that they ever told us at school what had happened here.

Worse was yet to come…We had heard about Stung Meanchey waste dump where all the garbage in Phnom Penh is dumped. It’s the largest waste dump in Cambodia. I wondered already in Vietnam where they dump all the garbage they produced in Ho Chi Minh City. There is no recycling systems and they use plastic to everything. If you buy a bottle of coke, they give it to you in a small plastic bag, if you buy a take-away coffee, you will have it in plastic bag. Whatever you buy – they pack it to a plastic bag. It’s the same in Cambodia. They overdose plastic so much! So we asked about of hostel-keeper one day if we could arrange own trip to Stung Meanchey. We didn’t know where it was located. Our hostel keeper Noreen negotiated with a tuk tuk driver who was willing to take me and Auli there. We dressed to our shittiest clothes, left all our ‘extra’ belongings to our hostel, just took some money with us and went. We bought a 50 kg package of rice and without any expectations left to see this dump. We drove maybe half an hour, don’t know exactly where. Our driver took us to somekind of a back entrance of the dump because the main road was guarded. There was a community of 17 families living in the corner of the dump. We had to go through their slum. They had built their houses from whatever they had found from the dump, walls were made of corrugated iron and plastic bags of different colours. Children were running naked without shoes. They told our driver that we could go to the border of the dump but couldn’t walk any further or climb up the dump. Some other ‘tourist’ had walked up and had lost his camera to a local person living in the dump. Yes, when we approached the dump we could notice human silhouettes walking at the top of the dump.

There was a small group of people below the dump. One of them was washing plastic bags in a dirty water-pit. One of them was hanging washed bags to somekind of a clothes line. One was packing dried bags. We didn’t see the one who was collecting used plastic bags from among the other waste atop of the dump. One was obviously a mother. Her children were at the ages of 14, 11, 9 and 2. That 2 year old boy was completely naked and didn’t have shoes. He was running around and playing with broken something that once used to be headphones. Our driver translated our questions to these people and translated their answers back at us. They told they are living among the community of 17 families we saw earlier. They told that they are working here at the Stung Meanchey. They collect plastic bags amongst the other waste and they wash, dry and pack them. Then there comes a car which collects these packages and takes them to Vietnam. Vietnamese buy plastic from Cambodia since it’s cheaper than back in Vietnam. They told that 4 person can collect 30 kilos of plastic in a day. 1 kilo is worth 1200 riels which is basically 0,25 euros. Oldest children went to school but came to help after school and during weekends.

This actually wasn’t the worst destiny there in Stung Meanchey. They told that there were 500-600 people actually living in the dump. That means they don’t necessarily have any shelter, they are sleeping just in the garbage. That 14 year old girl offered to climb up the dump and take a photo for us because we couldn’t climb there and see it ourselves. We had left our camera to the hostel and I think it’s better that way. Many pictures of Stung Meanchey can be found in internet. We left that package of rice to this community of 17 families. Maybe they could feed them all with 50 kilos. To us it cost 35$ which is basically reasonable day budget for 2 person here in Cambodia. Still…you can’t feed all of them. I became so sad when I noticed how happy these children still seemed. This 2-year-old was playing around like any other 2-year-old back in our country. But he wasn’t playing with any fancy toys, just with one broken headphones. He just doesn’t know that things could or should be any better.

The garbage dump in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Stung Meanchey (http://www.maciejdakowicz.com/)

All the time we are thinking new ways of making our lives easier and more comfortable in Western countries. We have been joking with Auli how we even have these motorized king-size beds in Finland (here many common people are sleeping just on the floor). When it’s time to questionize if we really need all the conveniences we have? Even the poorest person in Finland doesn’t know a poverty like this.

-Katariina