The last few days have been non stop. We usually wake up before sunrise and come back to our guest house around sunset. This is where John and Jon back up the footage to hard drives and DVDs and we watch dalies.
Jon (L.) and I went to Bel’s village three days ago. First, we went to the market to buy pencils, pens, notepads, candy, and cookies for the children of the village. The vibe in the country is not the same at all as in Siem Reap. Most of the people in Bel’s village have not been exposed to life outside of the village. There was no electricity, no television, one well where all the families go to bathe and drink from and also carry back to their homes. As we arrived to Bel’s village all the people walked over to the car spreading the word that the Barangs are coming. They looked at us wondering who we were and what we were doing there. No tourists ever go there, it’s desolate and three hours away from the nearest city. As we got out of the car they greeted us and were happy Bel was home again.
Here in Cambodia white westerners are called “barangs”. It goes back to the first time the U.N. arrived to help Cambodia from Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime. So the name stuck, since like the white individuals working for the U.N., many westerners bring money, gifts and other living necessities with them. In fact, most of the Westerners that live here are volunteers – teaching at local schools, helping the street children, and finding ways to help re-build the country. It was certainly interesting to be called a “barang” and was good to experience being the minority to such a degree.
Once we got to the center of the village, the villagers laid out several large mats for us to sit on, the entire village (roughly 75) gathered around us so we could pass out the gifts. I filmed and took pictures as Jon gave the gifts to the villagers. A villager climbed up a tree barefoot and with his hands picked out coconuts, chopped open the top, poked a hole through it and gave it to us to drink. I must say they were very hospitable.
Hak’s village was very similar, although the children there seemed more accustomed to the camera. And instead of bringing candy and other gifts, Hak selected pig intestines and a head since the villagers never get to eat meat. We were able to capture many beautiful portraits and also filmed several wonderful interviews. Our last interview was especially beautiful. We interviewed Hak in the rice field where he lost his leg. It made for some very powerful imagery.
Well, we have to run to Angkor Wot. Until later! – see our Gallery section for more pictures 🙂
Jose – Director of photography