The House That MAG Built - Part 4 - The Blessing

Siem Reap Travel Blog

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Your loyal reporter hard at work filming.

Today was going to be a very special day. Not only would we finish the two houses, they would also be blessed by monks and handed over to the two families. But first we had some finishing touches to take care of. Today we were working at House 2 again with the Blue Team and one of the wall panels still needed to be finished. The ladies started working on this, once again adding to the total enjoyment by some lovely singing led by Katherine. Before long someone had come up with the name Kat's Chorus for the group of vocalists. In the meantime Dave and I did our own bit of close harmony upstairs, while sawing off the last extending beams. The local women inside were already preparing offerings for the blessing that would take place soon.

Anticipation was rising when we nailed the final wall to the house and Steve had started to blow up some MAG balloons for decoration.

House 2 shaping up.
The local kids were very well behaving and kept an eye on the balloons in case the wind would blow them away. By 11 o'clock the teams that had been working on House 1 arrived in one of the busses and we were ready for the blessing. Led by a priest and two musicians playing a tabla and a one-string violin we made 4 rounds around the house, while the locals clapped and laughed at the weird dance moves of these 'falang'. Then we went inside the house and set around a corner where the monks would sit down. Once they did the locals started chanting in Khmer, which was later continued by the monks while they splashed holy water around the room (the first of which hit me straight in the face while I didn't see it coming). Three volunteers handed bowls of fruit over to the monks and a hilarious moment occurred when one of the monks took out his mobile phone to take a picture of us!

While the monks continued their ceremony with the family we had a couple of group pictures taken in front of the house before jumping on the bus and riding back to House 1, which was also completely finished.

Finishing the last wall panel.
Three different monks joined us here and did the same splashing ritual, after which we once again went outside for the group pictures. Most of us had enjoyed working on this house the most since there was a lot of contact with the locals and especially the kids. We were therefore delighted that they had all gathered to say goodbye and the man of the house, Con, did a short farewell speech that was translated by Cham. It took longer than expected for some of the people to say goodbye and when Kat walked back two of the local women she had been working with held her hands all the way until she got on the bus. All in all a very, very fulfilling end to our building project.

Before heading back to the hotel there was one more thing on the agenda. Many of the volunteers had brought gifts for children with them, but instead of distributing to individual children it had been (wisely) decided that it would be best to donate them all to a school.

Local women preparing the offerings for the blessing.
We had also donated some money towards a huge bag of second hand clothing that would be distributed among the village kids by the Jesuits. I had made a donation on behalf of Ad and Mieke who had asked me to buy some clothes or books for local kids.
Arriving at the school we found the kids lined up in neat rows. The head teacher welcomed us and thanked us for all the gifts, which would be used to teach the children at the school. Dave and Brett fooled around in the big platoon of youngsters and the ladies taught the kids how to use the big skipping rope. Before long all the kids were skipping, playing soccer or throwing a frisbee around, while we sat down in one of the classrooms to have lunch.

Back in the hotel I decided to take it easy for the rest of the afternoon.

Finishing touches at House #2.
A dive in the pool, a couple of beers and a few chats with my fellow volunteers was as much as I had energy left for after those four exhausting days. At half past 5 I went up the tower of the hotel to view the sunset over Siem Reap with Bryan and Kim. We could just make out the main tower of Angkor Wat on the horizon, but it was a bit too cloudy for a perfect sunset.
We had a buffet dinner at the hotel, but not before viewing a presentation by the MAG Cambodia team. Two Khmer staff members and a woman named Lauren told us some facts about the important work that MAG is doing in Cambodia. In all honesty, I think it was a bit of a missed opportunity since the presentation was troubled by some technical problems and lack of presentation skills.
The finishing touches. Sawing off a bit of house here and there.
I understand the importance of the local staff presenting their work, but a lot got lost in translation and nervousness. The Q&A that was done by Jamie was much better and I would recommend the team to have him do the presentation next time, keeping in mind that getting the message across clearly is the important main purpose of the whole thing.

I was getting very tired, but having some food and getting the sugar levels up again seemed to help. I had a few beers and some Schnapps with Martina and her friend who had just arrived at the hotel (they would continue for a trip through Malaysia) before retiring shortly after 23:00 hours.

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Your loyal reporter hard at work f…
Your loyal reporter hard at work …
House 2 shaping up.
House 2 shaping up.
Finishing the last wall panel.
Finishing the last wall panel.
Local women preparing the offering…
Local women preparing the offerin…
Finishing touches at House #2.
Finishing touches at House #2.
The finishing touches. Sawing off …
The finishing touches. Sawing off…
Steve and Dave nailing the walls t…
Steve and Dave nailing the walls …
Tough wood !
Tough wood !
Steve and Dave nailing the walls t…
Steve and Dave nailing the walls …
Kats Chorus.
Kat's Chorus.
Local kids keeping an eye on the b…
Local kids keeping an eye on the …
The ceremony starts.
The ceremony starts.
House 2 finished. A labour of love.
House 2 finished. A labour of love.
Taking off the shoes for the bless…
Taking off the shoes for the bles…
The blessing at House 2.
The blessing at House 2.
Monks blessing House 2.
Monks blessing House 2.
Blessing at House #2.
Blessing at House #2.
The team at House #2.
The team at House #2.
Cool shirts !
Cool shirts !
Kain and the other kids.
Kain and the other kids.
Helen and Brett with the local kid…
Helen and Brett with the local ki…
Brett and disabled Kai.
Brett and disabled Kai.
Monks blessing House 1.
Monks blessing House 1.
The team at House #1.
The team at House #1.
With the full team and the locals …
With the full team and the locals…
Martina takes out the Austrian Sch…
Martina takes out the Austrian Sc…
Kids of the local primary chool.
Kids of the local primary chool.
Gifts gathered for the school kids.
Gifts gathered for the school kids.
Neatly lined up for those big whit…
Neatly lined up for those big whi…
Find Brett ...
Find Brett ...
Straighten up Brett!
Straighten up Brett!
Dave hidding between the kids.
Dave hidding between the kids.
Dave hidding between the kids.
Dave hidding between the kids.
Dave fooling around with the Austr…
Dave fooling around with the Aust…
Nannette trying out the skipping-r…
Nannette trying out the skipping-…
The kids enjoying the skipping rop…
The kids enjoying the skipping ro…
Having lunch in the classrom.
Having lunch in the classrom.
Another fine lunch !
Another fine lunch !
The huge bag of clothes.
The huge bag of clothes.
A huge bag of clothes to be distri…
A huge bag of clothes to be distr…
Sunset over Siem Reap.
Sunset over Siem Reap.
Presentation by MAG Cambodia.
Presentation by MAG Cambodia.
Siem Reap
photo by: genetravelling