Dinner at the Village

L to R: Mean Somethe, Wil, Chai, "the villagers", Bryse, and Matt.

I remember that night when we stayed at the Chief Commune's home. They were very hospitable, and served us a generous dinner. While eating, we slowly came to notice that we were being watched...by many. They were very curious about us, and we knew they were exchanging dialouges and laughs about us. Here's Bryse taking a photo of the spectators.
Photographed by Tim Weiss


Spotlight: So Pheap

In a country known for its not-quite-finished roadways, even the most robust moto-scooters meet a daily challenge in commuting around town - but high costs restrict car ownership to the Cambodian elite. Thankfully, we have had the good fortune to cross paths with one of the Khmer glitterati: our driver, So Pheap.

With a quiet demeanor (So Pheap translates roughly to "polite") and a ring on his left hand that would rival those generally reserved for Italian mafiosos and Super Bowl champions, he escorts us to and from the project site every day. The trip is only about 20 miles, but takes close to two hours - much of this time is spent in the short but treacherous length of unpaved roads close to the site, where So Pheap fearlessly navigates us through floods and fields, braving herds of cattle and dark of night (although I think the dark of night scares him a little bit) to carry us safely to our destinations.

Admittedly, our schedule on this trip has been a bit unruly. Often, complicated site conditions arise that require inspecting, or temples come up that require visiting. Yet, with all the confusion, the well-groomed So Pheap diligently manages a busy schedule of driving, napping, and feeding our obsession with dirty Khmer words. Indeed, this driver of a Toyota Camry - a car blinged with "VIP" stickers on the front and sides - is, without question, a Very Important Person.


Phnum Bok Mountain

The mountain directly West of our site is called Phnum Bok and it is a pretty unique feature in the relatively flat surrounding landscape.

We drove past the base of this mountain every day on the way to the site and made sure to climb it one time before leaving.

Although it kind of looks like the Loch Ness monster, you can barely see the the embankment in the middle of this shot taken from the top.

At the top there are Angkor temple ruins, an ancient linga and a Buddhist pagoda.


Same Same

There were certainly many differences in the standards of Cambodia construction but we were more surprised at the many similarities in Contractor "shenanigans". Here in the U.S., labor cost is usually the biggest expense for Contractors and, therefore, the productivity of their employees is key to a successful project. In Cambodia, the Contractor we have been dealing with owns the equipment, the laborers are paid a few dollars a day to live and work on site so their biggest expense is fuel. It was common for several laborers to be napping in hammocks throughout the day.

However, even with all of these differences in cost structure our Contractor is playing a lot of the same games as Contractors here in New York. For example, the site superintendent did not speak English while asking for a time extension but was miraculously able to communicate with us over beers a couple of days later. It appears that playing the "dumb contractor" card is an internationally known tactic.

The Cast

L to R: Tim (EWB), Narith, Chai, Will (HT), Matt (EWB), Tobias (HT), Bryse, and wiL (EWB)


See all of the KAP photos on EWBfiles Picasa!!!


Proposed South Embankment

The existing condition of the southern embankment is rather haphazard and there hardly remains any structural integrity. Upon vegetation clearing, it is most likely that the embankment would simply be leveled.

A proposed location for the new southern embankment is at the existing southern roadway. Shown above, Bryse points to the location where the southern canal crosses the roadway.

Shown above, the roadway at one point, cuts right through the southern embankment. Bryse stands in the center of where the roadway cuts the southern embankment. The left berm is where the south embankment will continue and merge with the west embankment, while the right berm is the remaining portions of the southern embankment.

Construction would require elevating the roadway to the specified height to meet the same elevations as the west embankment, and abandoning the remaining existing southern embankment.

Extended Benefits of the Dam

The benefits of the Trav Kod (Balang) Dam is a chain effect. Starting with simply filling the basin with water, the dam will be able to regulate the flow of water to downstream villages year round. Thus, during the rainy season, one wouldn’t get “too much” water, and during the dry season, one wouldn’t be completely without water. This regulation in water flow allows for an extended period of rice farming, and subsequently, more rice yields. More rice equals more food. More food equals healthier villagers. (Shown above, Bryse showing the kids ofthe Plum Kod village a picture of themselves)

But there are more benefits. There is an existing canal that taps into the southern tip of the basin, and this canal had run dry since the failure of the dam. This canal further supplies water to families located in the lower east portion of Balang Commune.

Shown above, Ceeda on top of the canal's walkway and local villager Bac Kron standing at the base of the canal.

Further down this canal, smaller tributaries branch off to carry the water 3km further south to where a 0.25 acre reservoir (shown above) at the Wat Trach pagoda has ran dry.

About another 1km south, a larger shallower reservoir comparable to the Trav Kod reservoir can potentially be filled with water. Currently, an anticipated smaller water gate is being constructed to regulate water flow into the Plum Kod village.
With these reservoirs, there are plans by HRND to do some fish farming.


The North Embankment

The final location of the North embankment is still unclear. There appears to be a high point running along the north side of the basin but it is not as clearly constructed as the south embankment; it looks more like a natural hill.

However, there is at least one low point on this north side shown above at this rice field that is somehow still holding water at the end of the dry season. So, we want to look at this embankment in a way similar to the south. Will it be better to repair the existing embankment or construct an entirely new embankment at a location we choose? Now, if things were easy this would simply be a matter of surveying both locations, performing soil tests and making a decision.

However, the areas outside of roads such as this possible existing north embankment should not be explored without proper clearing and approvals from CMAC. The man shown above lost his leg somewhere close to our site so there is certainly a potential danger.

So we are going to pursue both options at the same time. We will survey and test soil at the existing ox cart path that follows the contours of the basin and at the same time Human Translation will begin working with CMAC to clear the area that appears to be the existing north embankment so it can be surveyed later. Once all of the information is gathered we should be able to choose a final location.