WARNING: Very long post. Do not proceed if easily bored by details of our life.
Each of these blog posts seem to start with something to the effect of, "it has been a long time... ." And yes, it has been a long time and I really do want to keep this more updated. Facebook has been an easier instant short update method, but doesn't allow for setting out the whole story. Which I want to document just for me.
So here we are however many months later. My internet connection is bad so I have trouble checking what the last post is that I wrote even.
I'm not going try to recount all our goings on in the last 6 months or so.. just a summary.
We set up the treehouse in the Damn Cha-reh (or Monkey Pod Tree in English) We think we will call this the "Monkey Pod." It was actually mostly finished at the end of January but as with so much of our life, things stalled. The main structure, roofing and steps were complete. Leaking around the trunk has not been able to be contained too well and we are STILL working on the bathrooms - a toilet and sink upstairs and an showerhouse downstairs on ground level. Ben makes progress on one thing and then something happens to halt the progress... for example, he was installing the toilet and needed a jig saw to cut a hole in the floor. The blade broke on the jig saw. The special spanner (or wrench if you are American) to change the blade had hidden itself. And here we are 3 months later with no toilet yet. The spanner was found but then the generator was no longer up at the treehouse. This last week, Ben has been working on all the fittings for the showerhouse. A fun job! So maybe we will have it finished one day. Lack of a toilet has not stopped some guests staying there. We have had quite a few brave friends through testing it out, sans toilet. I myself have not becuase of that very reason and not fancying night time negotiation of the very impressive steps.
It has been great having kind friends visit as they are great for us to help us know what kind of issues we will have to deal with when real guests come. The delayed rainy season this year finally started just a little. One night, with our last visitors, it rained. Not terribly. But enough to cause the bark eating termites to start their march up the tree looking for food. They found the treehouse, got waylaid in a mattress and mossie net. They aren't bitey at least but not a pleasant experience to be woken up by. Now we now at least to warn our guests (an maybe we will put a bed up there. With some kind of powder on the legs). I will definately write up a page on our website of 20 reasons why you should not visit us starting with: Possible night night visits by ants.sf
So that is the treehouse. Next...
The Stilt House
We were all set to build a second, taller treehouse but our treeclimbing carpenter from Rovieng kept delaying and the last message was that his wife didn't want him to come out because lightening might hit the tree while he was up there. So we thought best, maybe to put off that project till the dry season at least. So we started on a ground level cabin type house. Ben had collected a bit of wood.
Digress: on wood, we are not using any live trees (or rather cuttning down any live trees) for use in any of our buildings or furniture here. All the buildings have been built using either standing dead trees, uprooted dead trees, and leftovers from the loggers. There is so much here that can be used without having to cut down any trees. It just takes a little more effort and maybe more chain sharpening as old timber is harder to cut - something that the loggers generally don't like and so can't be bothered. So there you go. A more challenging part will be finding furniture and forcing myself not to buy wooden chairs from town. Siem Reap is full of rosewood furniture much of which might just have been cut down in our forest.
So, Ben had collected some wood for the treehouse now postponed. We engaged a carpenter from our village here and the building has gone up fast. Then it rained. So for the last two weeks, no progress has been made. They laid half the floor in a day and there is stopped. The sun is out now so just maybe they will come back tomorrow or the day after as Sunday is boxing day and boxing day is sacred here to the head carpenter.
Our big headache lately has been our cars, trucks whatever you want to call them. My Landrover Discovery has been having electrical issues and decides not to start sometimes. We finally got mechanics out who started it in 5 minutes. Patched it up. Then I got it to Phnom Penh when it was further fixed up. Drove it home and it broke down on the road about 15km from home. A kind Military Police guy (who in the past has had chainsaws which he owned confiscated here - complicated relationships here), towed us to his house and then drove us home.
Ben's beloved Landcruiser pick up was having issues going up hills (or down hills maybe? stalling). Our mechanic friend came out from Australia and looked at it for 10 mintues and it worked that day.. he didn't do anything much. He rigged up the Land Rover so that it would also start - something about the electrical connection to the glow plug not working.. same as before. Funny thing is that that problem has not happened again. So Ben's pick up was kind of working for a while.. then completely conked out. So, again we called out our Mechanics from Rovieng. This wonderful guy who sells ice in Rovieng. He has a bunged up arm (from birth) but incredibly can manage as a mechnic. He trained up he kids as mechanics, instructing them to do the fiddly stuff I guess. One of his sons just returned from 3 years in Phnom Penh studying to be a mechanic. So we are really blessed to have them willing to come and help us out. They came out again, and in 5 minutes had Ben's truck going again. It was electrical.. a wire was only partially connected which makes sense why it would stall going downhill as the connection lost contact and also why it worked when our Aussie friend was out.. just having a good day... so with that fixed.. we were set again. My this is getting long. Stop if you are bored. I'm going to keep going here... We read the weather report that there was going to be flooding in parts of Cambodia and so we though maybe the time had come to take the Land Rover out and park it in the village. Last year we did that and so when it rains a lot, we bike or walk out to the village (7km) and can drive our car onwards. So the time had come. I drove it out without any issues. Then a couple of days later, Ben needed to go to town. He drove his pick up out. Took the Land Rover to town. Came back. Moved supplies back to the truck and then started home. About 10 minutes out of the village the car stops. And won't go. Something about a wheel being locked. He called a friend out to guard for the night. Went back to the village, picked up the Land Rover and came home, collecting all the stuff on the way. The next day a mechanic (different mechanic) comes out. Find out it is something to do with the universal and bearings (i am not technical). The truck needs towing to town (2 hours away). They proceed to tow the truck to town with the Land Rover. About 20km away, the engine of the Land Rover starts knocking. Good thing I wasn't driving as I wouldn't recognise the sounds of what happens when the oil runs out. The oil ran out. They drained the oil from the pick up and put it in the Land Rover. Then topped it up when they found some at a shop on the way. Then the Land Rover really stopped. So now, they engage two other cars to tow both our cars to the big town (actually the provincial capital). The pick up was fixed the next day but my Land Rover is still in the hospital. And that is the drama of our vehicles. My mum thinks we need a new car for some reason!
Ben Gets Sick
We are usually a very healthy family. I never ever get sick. The kids rarely get sick. Ben is probably most prone to anything. Mostly because he works himself to death. If you know anything about us, you know that a couple of years ago, Ben found himself in ICU in Bangkok Hospital with a life threatening case of scrub typhus. So now we know not to take fevers lightly. Jarrah was sick a few times early in the year with Malaria. We had the medication but not the test kit so when she wasn't getting better after a couple of days, I had to drive 1.5 hours to the health centre where they quickly got a positive reading for Falcipirum (sp!??) Malaria. Three days and three pills later, she was well again. So we got ourselves a bunch of test kits. She got a fever again soon after and Malaria was still in her blood (although that kind does not recur normally) so another course and she got better again. Then last week Ben ended the day with 40 degree fevers and we almost went to hospital. It wasn't Malaria and we gave him the treatment for Typhus (just in case). We thought maybe it was Dengue Fever in which case fevers should abate after 3 days. Which they did. My mother had advised papaya leaf extract which I made and administered. He dutifully took the horrid green stuff although I think he thought I was trying to kill him. Not sure if that helped. We didn't follow it through after he started to get better. But there are some studies showing that it might be helpful for Dengue and in raising platelet count.. if you can stomach the bitterness. So Ben is mostly better now... just residual headaches to make us feel sorry for him.
Loggers and Poachers and Rubber Companies
Sadly, we have not been able to keep these guys under control. It is better than last year, mostly because the exporter of rosewood to China has (temporily?) stopped collecting wood here and that mostly because most of the rosewood is gone. But there are other guys, getting Chur Teal (beautiful big trees that lined the river banks), and any other stuff. We hear hums of chainsaws in the distance. They know that the patrol team is now busy with their rice so very little chance of being caught. Hunting is similar. The rains bring out the animals - the deer go kind of silly and just stand around to get shot. That then brings out the hunters. The other day, our patrollers caught a real gun (they usually use home made guns). It was in the hands of a security guard from the nearby rubber company. I won't go into ALL the details but the end of it ws the rubber company fired the guard and another guy who was with him. We are actually kind of lucky to have this particular rubber company next to us. They built a road from Siem Reap to about 10km from our house. It is almost done and should make out trip to Siem Reap about 2 hours shorter (2.5 hours maybe). As rubber companies go, they are better than most. They are European owned (we think) and are fairly strict on their staff and hopefully will make sure that they won't be poaching and logging in the Community Forest. We need to do some more networking with them to ensure that they all know what is expected. The road itself while maybe making our life easier will also make access to the forest and all the forest resources much easier for all. Not good. There will also be a town of 1000 workers build right on the border of the CF. So just the firewood needed for all this will be incredible. Worrying times ahead. The Forestry Admin (government) have kindly offered the CF 125 boundary markers... they just need to be installed and wet season is not a good time to walk the boundary with a bunch of big heavy concrete marking stones.
I need to end here I believe. If there is anyone still left reading this to the end, you deserve an award. I have more update material I am sure and a ton of photos. Next time. I will add some photos here when I get a chance.
Thanks for bearing with me!