The House That MAG Built - Part 1 - Freeze Frame

Siem Reap Travel Blog

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Red and Yellow teams ready to start work at house 2.

After having a nice breakfast from the buffet that the hotel had set up for us we were off to the small village, half an hour outside Siem Reap, where we would be working for the next five days. The total team had been split up in four groups (yellow, green, red and blue) and would rotate in shifts on each of the two houses over the next days. Today our team (Yellow), which consisted of me, Kim, Sarah and Jennifer, would be working together with the Red Team (Bryan, Tina, Alison and Abigail) on what was known as House 2. This was the one that was being built for Sam Nen (the disabled father), Cheap Khom (mother), Samoun (son, 16 years), Mau (daughter, 7 years) and Kanha (daughter, 6 years).

Dave making the group picture ... lots of times.

As I mentioned yesterday, the foundation and main structure of the house was already done. Our job was to prepare the walls and floors. The walls on these houses are made of bamboo and palm leafs. This might seem to be an easy task but it involved building a series of big frames with a grid patters on which sets palm leafs would be attached. Each cross-section of this grid had to be nailed together and then the ends of the bamboo sticks had to be sawn off. The first frame we made took quite a while, but once we got the hang of it and worked out an efficient system we were getting a lot faster at it. It combined peoples best skills (I turned out to be good at sawing) and also rotated the team members so they could do harder stuff like hammering and less exhausting stuff like standing on the grid to provide a solid underground to hammer the nails in.

House 2.

By the time we had lunch we had two frames done. Lunch was once again very tasteful and we had it in the comfort of the open house, carefully treading on the loose floorboards. Most of the day we were watched by groups of curious kids and women from the village. This quite often provided a good laugh when we fooled around with the children. Dave and I would also break out singing a few times, a habit that would continue over the next days.
It was also getting much hotter during the early afternoon and the short bursts of energy that were necessary for some of the sawing left me sweating like a pig and drinking water as if my life depended on it. I actually had to wring out the krama scarf - I had wrapped around my head like a pirates bandana - a few times.

Starting work on the wall frames.
All of the kneeling down was also a big strain on the knees and I was delighted when Jennifer let me use a little foam mat that she had brought.

By the time the end of our shift (4 PM) arrived we had almost finished 5 frames and were quite proud of our achievement. But dead tired at the same time. After taking the bus back to Siem Reap the shower was very much needed and welcomed. I spent a couple of hours blogging and chatting with Sarah before we headed off for tonight's restaurant, the Sugar Palm. Again we had a tasty set menu and I decided to try one of the cocktails. The 'Dirty Girl Scout' was just too tempting to ignore.
After dinner we headed to the night market. Some of us decided to have a drink but since I was here I opted for some shopping, so I joined Jennifer for a stroll.

Working on the wall frames.
I had told Juliëtte that I would try to find her a nice Buddha statue and she'd been quite detailed in her wishes: it should look old, be about 25 cm high and have a sitting position. I spotted several really pretty ones but they would be out off the right price range. When I eventually came across one that was 40 dollars I managed to haggle it down to 25 dollars ('No sir, this one very old!''No, you just made it look very old, but it's the same wood as that shiny new one that's 20 dollars!'). I hat send Juul a text message what her budget was but had already bought it before I received her answer (20 Euro, which was exactly right!). I bought myself a nice Gecko T-shirt and some new krama scarfs since my old faithful one was getting a bit worn out after 5 years.

After my last trip to India it's such a delight that the merchants and tuk-tuk drivers don't continue to hassle you. When you smile and tell them you're not interested they generally leave you alone. So I was in a very good mood, joking around with them and having fun, before going back to the hotel at 22:15 hours. I decided not to have a beer anymore but get some (very!) well deserved sleep.

Gijsje says:
I will not make a joke.
Posted on: Dec 05, 2010
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Red and Yellow teams ready to star…
Red and Yellow teams ready to sta…
Dave making the group picture ... …
Dave making the group picture ...…
House 2.
House 2.
Starting work on the wall frames.
Starting work on the wall frames.
Working on the wall frames.
Working on the wall frames.
Bryan sawing away ...
Bryan sawing away ...
The first out of 5 frames we finis…
The first out of 5 frames we fini…
Working on the frames with Bryan.
Working on the frames with Bryan.
Auch !!
Auch !!
Pretty proud of our very first fra…
Pretty proud of our very first fr…
Me with the ladies.
Me with the ladies.
Lunch break!
Lunch break!
Our ever presente audience.
Our ever presente audience.
Working on the frames with Abigail.
Working on the frames with Abigail.
The locals working on the stairs.
The locals working on the stairs.
Taking a break to ... err ... catc…
Taking a break to ... err ... cat…
Getting slightly knackered ...
Getting slightly knackered ...
Time for some cocktails !
Time for some cocktails !
My choice for a cocktail: Dirty Gi…
My choice for a cocktail: Dirty G…
Siem Reap
photo by: genetravelling