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A Day on the Island



09th of July, 2016


Cambodia '16

Today’s our last day of work. We wake up at four or five. The monsoon season twists the usual crowing into white noise, and the wind calls to us from the other sides of our doors. There is no way to separate the darkness of our closed eyes from the darkness around us. By seven, the rain has cleared up –become a light shower — and we meet in the underhang of home stay number three. We begin to walk the muddy, unpaved road to the steam baths. A fire burns under the wooden stilts of the house. We breathe in the smoke trapped in the wet air. Two older women place five or six clay pots – some small, some large – on each of the two wooden tables. Three children watch. None of them look any older than seven. The middle child fills a broken beer can and pours the water into the ground. The shy one, in a green shirt, hides behind the two others. We sit cross-legged on the tables and stir the potpourri and scathing water with a wooden skewer. A heavy blanket decorated with hearts and some Chinese characters drapes over our bodies. At once, we lift the lids off of the pots. The steam overpowers us. We stay inside for 45 minutes. When we meet the raw air again, one of the women brings us a bag of bracelets. Strings of red (good luck) and yellow (Buddhism) are braided side-by-side and tied together as the women blesses our wrists. She says they were the gift of an old monk. At 8:30, we and 20 or so villagers meet at the site of the new school house. Mr. Lom yells, “muy, py, buy,” (one, two, three) and we raise the first pieces of the wooden frame. Phiya climbs the wooden rungs and fastens the top of the roof to the end of a concrete school building. Two men attach the first support beams with the preciseness and simultaneity of a hummingbird’s wings. Mr. Lom replaces his hammer with the back end of a hatchet. We’re still at the stage where half of our nails are hammered in bent, so we tear them out and perfect our carpentry for the remainder of the morning and afternoon.



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