#9 Cambodia – CMAC in the field

Tuesday 3rd July 2012

6:30am alarm goes off.

7:00am meet driver in the lobby and drive off for some local Khmer breakfast – yum (I think I had donuts and banana milkshake – sounds totally unhealthy in England, but Cambodia manages to make it work!)

We arrived at CMAC HQ (Battambang branch) at 8am, to speak to the chief and those in charge, to pick up an English speaker/ translator for me and then head off to the landmine fields.

My translator took a little longer than expected to appear, and as everyone spoke faster and faster in Khmer, I did momentarily feel that I wasn’t going to find anyone who spoke English (nightmare!!), but eventually, a rather tall woman with a beaming smile came over to me, bowed her head and introduced herself as Mrs Horm Chantha – my guide for the day.

The 3 of us, Chantha, driver and myself then set off to the landmine fields in Pailin. It suddenly dawned on me on this journey (about an hour through the Cambodian countryside) that I was actually in Cambodia, the stunning scenery, the scorching sunlight and the lovely people and that I really must appreciate it whilst I’m here rather than feeling nervous and lonely all the time!! So I did – I had a fab day.

First stop – the field. We picked up a forth person just before the field, another English speaking CMAC worker, and thank goodness we did as he ended up being my translator (Horm Chantha was lovely but not the best at English and every time I sid something she didn’t understand or had something that she wanted to tell me, she would phone her brother and have him speak to me in English). The women in the field were lovely – none spoke English but that was to be expected, and looked like they were quite enjoying being a part of the doco. I was also allowed actually out in the field – something I was told when I arrived that I wouldn’t be allowed as I did not have a CMAC uniform, but they changed their mind for me.

After this we went for some local Cambodian cuisine for lunch. Rice (which I do actually like in Cambodian – its fat and sticky), fish soup/ stew (yummy) and chicken (I really must remember in Cambodia not to eat the chicken – I don’t think there was any actual meat, just heads and legs/ feet, and it took a lot for me to eat a piece – polite consumption).

Horm Chantha then wanted to show me her farm, perfect as I wanted to film some farms and schools to show how the land that has been cleared of landmines is used. We ate some of the lychees, cabbage and bananas she grew there, and I filmed all the children and family members around!

Final stop on the way back to Battambang was a temple/ statue on the top of a mountain. Great view of the towns below and Horm Chantha seemed to take a shine to me as we posed for a couple of photos together. Back at CMAC HQ (Battambang) she gave me her CMAC uniform hat – doesn’t sound like much but I was actually really touched, and I arranged to see her again on Thursday to meet some of the landmine victims she works with.

Problems for the day – I forgot the tripod which I thought would be a nightmare!! It just meant some improvisation in terms of balancing the camera during interviews, and I was only able to use one camera at a time. Tip for next time – always check all of the kit before leaving the hotel!!

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