Saturday, April 08, 2006
Once a week I go to the temple in Kompong Osleah and teach English to the monks. Sokun teaches this class on a daily basis. After a recent visit he invited me to see his home. I thought you, my readers, friends and relatives might like to see how he lives so I asked if I could return a few days later with my camera.
The house does not actually belong to Sokun. It belongs to a family that adopted him when he was a child. I don't fully understand this process. He says that he was sick and his family 'sold' him to another family in the belief that he would be cured by living with this new family. He did get better so I guess they feel that justified the process. His adopted parents now live in a village about 8 km out of town. Sokun's house is for sale but there are no takers. Until it is sold, Sokun is able to stay there.
As you can see the house is raised from the ground by stilts. The street level is less than a metre below the house. The natural ground level is several metres below this. In the rainy season the area under the house will be flooded. I'm not sure how high the water rises. Perhaps I'll have photos to show in a few months time.
As I walked up the ramp I found it to be a little unstable and I walked carefully in case it gave way. When I entered, Sokun opened the window shutters to let some light in. There is no glass in the windows. The neighbour's house is much the same and they were playing music. You can see from the photo how close the houses are together. I trust Sokun's taste in music and his sleeping habits are compatible with theirs.
There are two rooms in the house. Well, two rooms plus something the size of a cupboard in a back corner which contains the toilet. The front room is the living room and bedroom all in one. That's it in the second photograph. Sokun is fortunate to have the luxury of a fan to keep him cool when temperatures rise to the high thirties and occasionally low forties. (We've been getting 37 quite regularly of late.) There are gaps in the floorboards through which he can watch the waters rise in the rainy season. The gaps and the open windows off course let the mosquitos in so he is fortunate to have a mosquito net. The black and white photograph on the pillar in the middle is Sokun's father (not sure which one). The photo above that shows Sokun and his brother as monks.
The back room contains the cooking area, and the bathroom. Yes, he has running water but he has to pump it from under the ground and he tells me it often comes out a little red. The cooking area is shown in the third photo. Cooking is done over a charcoal fire and yes, he uses this regularly. Risk of fire, which would spread quickly, is high in villages like this.
There is a laneway alongside the house. I thought it might be for people going to the houses behind. The house immediately behind is less than a metre from the back of Sokun's house. The laneway in fact leads to the back of Psar Leuh, the upper market, so it is quite busy. In the rainy season this lane is under water and apparently people go a different way.
As this page is for text rather than pictures, may I direct you to 'my latest photos' page where you will find a few more photos of Sokun's home. If you are reading this within a week of the date I post it, they should be at the top of the page. As time goes by you will have to scroll down, perhaps through several pages, to find them.
Sokun's transport is the same as mine, a bicycle. Perhaps the more wealthy in this village own a motorcycle but a car would not be practical. The road outside is no wider perhaps than your driveway. In fact, the whole of Sokun's house may be smaller than your garage.
Sokun is 24 years old. He is quite intelligent but is still studying high school and has just completed grade ten owing to having missed many classes as a child. He also teaches several English classes each day. For this he is given an allowance from the monastery. It comes to 80,000 reil per month. Sounds a lot but in fact it is less than $A30. Half of that would eat up the electricity bill for my room. I'm not sure how well he eats on this amount.
When Sokun completes his studies he hopes to become a migratory worker in Korea for about three years. He believes this will allow him to save enough money to buy a house such as this one and then he will feel he will be able to marry and raise a family. Until then the girls in town can be no more than friends.
I am attempting to show here a little of the lifestyle of some of the people in Kompong Chhnang, Cambodia. Yes, there are many who live a much better lifestyle than Sokun. However, I can assure you there are many who are far worse off than he is.