Last year, I wrote posts here and here about the dredging and widening of the Siem Reap River and how it led to mass evacuations of the people living and working along its shores. A new village had been planned to accommodate the evacuees but it was nowhere near finished by the time these people were left homeless. This year I was curious to see how much progress had been made in the development of this new village and to try to talk to some of the people now living there.

From the outside, there has been tremendous progress made. There are streets-worth of new houses, some shacks but some quite large of either wood or brick. Some of the larger ones had plants growing in front. The electric lines are all up and there are street lamps set throughout the village which are clearly in working order. The skeletons of toilets are now complete, and there seem to be working toilets to be shared by one or two families apiece. The road leading up to the area is paved with gravel. There are a couple of makeshift shops and a “restaurant” or two (i.e. plastic chairs set around tables in a 3-sided building strewn with lights, and the ubiquitous red cooler case in the front). Driving up to it, it seemed, indeed, like a new village had been created.

One of my first students here came with us, and I asked her if she would ask a couple of women we saw some questions for me. Sophal said I had to try to speak in Khmer and she would help if needed (can you believe it?) so I tried my best to communicate, and between the two of us, I got some interesting insights. I first asked if they had lived and worked before by the river. They both had lived by the river and worked selling goods in the Old Market. But when I asked whether the new village was a good place to live, they laughed. No. It’s too far from town, too far to find a place to work, and most importantly of all, too far from any school. Twelve kilometres is a long way if you don’t have a moto, so mainly these people seem to be stuck out there with nothing to do and nowhere to educate their kids. There is a doctor, but again, it is far away. And as Sophal pointed out, there are no rice fields, so they can’t grow their own rice, either. As she said, it looks good on the outside, but once you look inside, you see the problems. I must admit, though, that there weren’t all that many people around at 4 in the afternoon when we were there. I don’t know where they were, but the village isn’t strewn with hundreds of people milling about aimlessly, so it’s hard to tell. But clearly, the lack of a nearby school is a huge problem. I’ll come back next year to see what else has been added to this new community. I had heard that a school and a clinic were both part of the original design. We’ll see.

And on a different note, back at Anjali House we were fretting about the incredible heat of the rooms upstairs, especially the one used as the computer room. The structure is wood with very high ceilings and the baking sun seeps into the rooms. Add the ambient heat of 10 laptops, and you really do have an oven rather than a classroom. But a friend from my guesthouse came by to take a look. He’s an engineer and he had some good ideas. So look what I went out and bought:

Two extractor fans now in place and some glass wool to lay atop the ceiling to provide some insulation. Hopefully, that will make a bit of difference.