FaT dOg Cambodia

Trip Start Jul 20, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, March 24, 2008

FaTdOg Cambodia was like every other FaT dOg party I've done - unforeseen things went wrong and it was closed earlier than expected. However, rather than lose hundreds of pounds, the beach party we put on last Thursday made $190 for charity. The concept was simple enough - a free beach party 4km out of town with half the money taken on the bar going towards reopening the only school on the island of Koh Rong Samloem. To prevent the night from turning lamer than a primary school coffee morning, Kerry and our Norwegian friend Emilia started spreading the word by taking bar jobs in the 2 most popular Western bars.

In the meantime I went to the island to take photos of the school and kids, hoping to encourage some sympathetic hands to dig into pockets on the night. One child went off to round up the children and soon 50 pairs of eyes looked expectantly towards me at the front of the classroom. It had been 6months since the school had been open and they looked upon me as I was some kind of saviour. I had never taught English before but it seemed so easy - whatever I said they repeated. Only after we had finished and a load of children were walking through the village shouting "my name is Stephen" did I fully comprehend how little they had understood. Unperturbed I continued the next day and now teach them twice a week, although the class has dwindled to about 20 - maybe its the Northern accent.

FaTdOg Cambodia crept up on us. The first minivan was due to arrive at 5pm but by 6pm it was nowhere to be seen. Even worse - only 1 other person was waiting for it! I took a moto down to the beach but the only 4people there were just leaving. I felt like a dry lump of toothpaste. Things improved slightly and between 7 - 10pm there was a constant 30-40 people there but it lacked atmosphere and we were disappointed. Then a miracle - a huge thunder storm (the first rain for weeks) meant everyone had to huddle under the tiny space of the wooden bar. Half the miserable whoppers decided to leave but they were replaced by a two 25 strong convoys of soaking wet people who had arrived on the back of pick up trucks. Finally the idea of 'get wasted, the bar money goes to charity' took hold and 60 people danced to probably the first minimal ever heard in Cambodia. Before the party I had spent 3days trying to find stuff i could play that wasn't minimal. But after an hour of the night I realised that it didn't matter what I played because there was always going to be some idiots who like the Libertines or drum & bass and would never be pleased with the music. Its my party. And if you don't like 'dopplewipper', 'this is sick' or 'windowlicker' you can piss off.

After a disappointing start it really kicked off. So much so that the bar was drunk completely dry by 1am and no party can continue without alcohol. Even the 12litres of Mekong whiskey we bought for $6 had been guzzled. In hindsight we maybe chose the wrong bar for the party - Francois the owner was under-stocked and if anyone didn't have the right change he gave them the drink for free. Despite this, and all the drinks being $1, we took over $400 on the bar. I was hoping to write about some really random things that happened - naked people painted in the fatdog logo, chasing sheep, chubaka costumes, unannounced guests - but sadly there wasn't enough all stars at this FaTdOg event.

After a minor hick-up (see people to avoid while traveling #5 at the bottom) we had the honour of going to the island, and handing over $190 to the chief of the village. I must banish these preconceptions I have about village chiefs: he was neither old, nor fat, nor bearded, didn't smoke a sheesha, and didn't even wear a hula skirt or any elaborate style outfit. Still he was very happy and called a village meeting to explain that the school would be opened for 3months and the walkway to the school concreted. We even did a little photo shoot and an interview for Swedish TV which the Dive Shop are using to promote their business. In return for taking our credit they have been taking us diving twice a week for free.

We have seen many poor communities over the past 8months but there was something so desperate about the situation in Koh Rong Samleom that made us want to stay. The village is completely isolated, 2hours by boat from the mainland, the average monthly family income is less than $20, most people are illiterate and none of the children are being educated. Most people have never seen TV. We took a dvd player over one night and started watching the BBC's Blue Planet. A few kids peered through the windows to catch a glimpse so we invited them in. Soon there was 40 people sat with us watching David Attenborough narrate through 3hours of killer whales and sea slugs. The teacher starts tomorrow.

People to avoid while traveling #5 - Cambodian van drivers

It might seem harsh to associate a whole group of people with the actions of 1 person but the exists on such stereotypes. The van driver who took people to and from the party wanted $40 for the whole night. After a couple of hours he started stropping and decided he wouldn't continue unless we have him $80. So at the end of the night we paid him $80. The next morning he went to the Dive Shop and claimed he hadn't been paid and was owed $120. He became very aggressive, shouted at everyone for 10minutes, punched some tables, and convinced Rudi, the owner, to give him the money. Put simply, he stole the money that would of paid a Khmer teacher for 4months. Its the equivalent of you or me walking into a charity shop and demanding five grand. Fortunately, Rudi was very embarrassed about what he had done and covered the mistake with his own money. If you ever meet a Cambodian van driver, steal his keys and smash his van up. The world would be a better place.
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Lucy(WALES-UK) on

Hey , i'm 17 and from the UK. I have set my sights on going to Koh Rong Samloen Island, for 5 months to teach english, with a volenteer company called Travellers world wide. Since you're out there and have been to the island , would i be of true help to the children on the island or community ?My other option is Africa, I hope you have an amazing rest of your journey, thanks for blogs and help.

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