Cambodia: Week 9

This week was my first full week at work with Lors Thmey. On Monday, I went into the office for a meeting in the afternoon and unpacked and set up the solar water pump.

On Tuesday, I had my final exam for my class in Energy and Development with the University of College London. The exam went well, especially because the long answer essay question I had concerned poor countries’ ability to adapt to climate change. If I can’t answer that question, then I haven’t been conscious for the last 6 months! It is still to be seen if I answered the question in the way the examiner desired, but it was a success in my book because I had such a fun time answering it. :)

Tuesday night Tasha and I had a nice dinner at one of the fancy hotels in Phnom Penh and attended a small performance of A Streetcar Named Desire. The play was well-done, and I enjoyed seeing a small theater production again. It brought me back to the plays I did in high school and college.

The stage

There was seating for about 80-100 people and we were very close to the stage. The plot was pretty depressing and left you on a low-note, but was fun to experience a snapshot of 1930’s New Orleans’ culture.

Unfortunately, I started getting sick Tuesday night. The night consisted of several trips to the bathroom, a fever,  and some cold shakes. I kept sleeping until about 1pm on Wednesday. I would have slept most of the rest of the day, but was leaving for an overnight test of the solar pump’s functionality that afternoon around 4pm. Luckily, I was feeling better around lunch time. The Imodium our flatmate Craig gave me was greatly appreciate because my urgent trips to the bathroom had decreased, but not stopped. The several hour car ride out to Prey Veng province would not have went well without the Immodium.

Wednesday night was pretty uncomfortable as well. I made trips to the bathroom every 1.5 hours and has feverish throughout. I had one particularly experience that left like I was free-falling for several minutes while lying in bed. I was lucid enough to know that I wasn’t actually free-falling, but it took some effort to make the feeling go away.

Thursday proved to be a fun day, despite being on the tired-side. I was able to eat better in the morning and picked up more Imodium at the pharmacy.

Rice fields

After traversing some pretty gnarly roads, we arrived at the farmer’s house and unloaded the solar water pump near their drip irrigation system.

Here is a video of a countryside en route to the farmer’s house

and another short video of the roads

The setup of the pump was going well up until we flipped the “on” switch and didn’t see any movement from the electric motor. I measured the voltage and current across the solar panel and verified the panel was functioning properly. We headed into town to find a technician to take a look at the motor. The next day was a holiday, so the technician we found was too busy to seriously take a look at the motoer. He did measure what I believe was the resistance across the motor and determined that current could not flow into it. I’m not totally sure how you can make that conclusion by measuring the resistance, but we took his word for it. Motor-less, our ability to test the system was put on hold for the day. Slightly dejected, we headed back to Phnom Penh. The lesson: always test everything, especially that things you think “must work”. I expected a brand new motor “must work” and that’s why we spent nearly 20 hours with nothing to show for it. Or nearly nothing. I did enjoy the trip out there. :)

Solar Powered Cell Tower! #decentralizedenergy. The accompanying building is bigger than I expected, though I think they only required ~5 kW of power. The house likely contains battery backup. I’ve seen a few of these around Phnom Penh.
Rice fields on the way back from Phnom Penh. Nearly all rural family have their own rice field. An average family will produce around 3,000 kg of rice per year, of which, the family will eat about 1,000 kg. The other 2,000 kg will be sold at the market.

Friday and the next Monday were holidays, so Tasha and I decided to spend a few days relaxing on an island off the coast of Cambodia. We hopped on a bus Friday morning anticipating taking the 3pm ferry to the island for our 3-day stay. The flooding in Phnom Pneh that I had seen reported on the tv the day before had different plans for us. The 4.5-hour bus ride turned into a 7.5-hour ride and we missed the 3 pm ferry. We found a hostel near the pier and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring Serendipity Beach in Sihanoukville.

We woke up Saturday and after impatiently waiting 30 minutes for the travel agency to open (even though they were supposed to be open an hour earlier) we got tickets, hopped on a bus to a different pier, and boarded the ferry. It was a nice ride over, though a bit rainy; we landed on the dock of the small resort where we would be spending the next 2 days.

On Saturday, we happened to run into some people who work in the same building as Tasha and whom we had lunch with last week. They had similar ideas about how to enjoy the long weekend, so we spent the afternoon and evening with them. We played volleyball and frisbee when the sun was up and a variation of mafia called Werewolf when the sun went down.

Sunday was partly cloudy and mildly rain, so we had a low-key day lying in hammocks, playing cards, and walking to the village next to the resort.

The beach at sunset
Who’s that pretty lady?

After dinner, a staff member at the resort introduced us to the game exploding kittens, which I highly recommend. It’s like a quirky combination of hot potato and uno.

On Monday, we took the ferry back to the mainland and hopped on a busy back to Phnom Penh. Even though it took us a bit longer to get to the bungalows, I really enjoyed my first beach holiday. I will be doing my best to squeeze in a few more while we are in southeast asia. :)


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