TIO SE Asia: Dispatch 5, We Go To School

TIO SE Asia: Dispatch 5, We Go To School

Note: Please remember, the image of our cruiser is a placeholder until we are on dry land – or have more reliable Internet. We have a treasure trove of images that can’t be uploaded right now. They will be posted as soon as we are able.


Yesterday was a lot about the horrors of the past. Today was about now and the future.

First, I did get out of bed early enough to participate in the tai chi practice. I still won’t be selected for the national demonstration team, but I caused fewer giggles from our instructors. We take our victories where we can get them.

After breakfast we gathered for the first excursion, a visit to a riverbank village, Kampong Tralach and the offer of a ride in an oxcart, out of the village into the adjacent open country. Susan and I elected to walk the mile or so to our destination, a park-like setting including a pagoda. Village children waved and smiled as we passed, and some followed, trying not to look too obvious. For the experience, we rode in the oxcart on the way back to our boat. The oxen that pull the carts are the white zebu, related to the Brahmans familiar to rodeo fans. As for the ride, I have to say it would be smoother if the wheels were round.

Back at the river, we visited the village school. It was a joy to watch our guide, Adam, engage the children. He clearly loves his country and its people, and that enthusiasm pervades his commentary and the relationship he builds between his clients and his fellow countrymen.

That talent was on display on our afternoon outing when we watched a potter at work. The whole family, four generations of women and girls, observed us observing the young mother “throw” a pot, rapidly moving counterclockwise around the clay, her movements taking the place of a potter’s wheel.

Later we saw that ability in action again as we watched an older man climb a sugar palm to gather the sweet milk. Once our climber returned to the ground, having tended to four trees by moving from top to top some 40 feet above the ground, Adam asked if anyone in our group wanted to attempt the climb (minus the tree-to-tree action, of course). I volunteered, much to the amusement of the tree man. When I got about 15 feet up the makeshift ladder, Adam said that was high enough. In fairness, the man is liable for our well-being.

Back down, my mentor outfitted me with his hat, knife and yoke with two sugar buckets, borrowed my cap, and posed for a photo with me with a huge gap-toothed grin. That and the time with the students were the height of the day for me. In this time when it is so easy to be cynical about humanity, the warmth of our hosts is something I will take with me forever.

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