Home is wherever I’m with you ..(& the lizards, the toads, the cows & the chickens)

The moment we saw this house, we knew it would be our home whilst we were living in Cambodia. For a start, there weren’t any people living in it which is a massive plus and not always to be expected as we had found out at the previous house. Our landlords are warm and kind, they are grandparents and their family live next door to this one. She was in floral pyjamas, laughing and sweating profusely whilst cleaning the tiled floor which was already immaculate. He is quiet, stoic but smiles with his whole face, I immediately loved them both. The garden is full of fruit trees, bananas, mangoes, limes, jackfruit, coconut and papaya. Although neither of our landlords speaks English and our Khmer is very basic they made sure we understood that we eat from the trees with various enthusiastic hand gestures and eating sounds. The house is a traditional Khmer home, the ground floor is concrete, with tiles throughout – on first glance, it looked a little like a hospital waiting area but nothing that imagination couldn’t fill with colour and busyness. The kitchen has a stove top and the water is cold and comes from the well which means we can’t drink it but we can wash in! We’ve also learnt that if you wait until later in the day the water becomes a little warmer from the sunlight which has saved Sam’s sanity a little bit. The upstairs is all wooden, there is a balcony where Sam works from looking out on to the garden and a big living area with two bedrooms leading off it. It’s basic and wonderful and safe. It’s in Salakamreuk, which is the countryside – the picture I’ve used is the view outside our house – there are beautiful red roads and a rice paddy with the most vibrant green grass opposite. Our landlord’s cows walk past multiple times a day to visit next door and hang out with the flock of chickens. We have a family of toads who come to visit us every night who we’ve become a little protective over. They get eaten here and every now and then we’ll see a man with a torch and a bucket at the top of our garden reaching through the gate to catch them. So every night we do a headcount of ‘Cleo’, ‘Jeremy’, ‘Jammy’ and two smaller toads that Dylan hasn’t named yet. Everybody in Salakamreuk loves Karaoke, so every other night we get a few renditions of ‘Let Her Go’ by Passenger and if we’re lucky a couple of songs from the Vengaboys back catalogue too. Dylan has become quite fond of ‘Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom’. We’ve learnt a few things so far:

Always check your shoes and the toaster for lizards, we haven’t had any casualties yet but we have had some near misses and some reptile hot steppers.

That monks wake up at 4am and chant whilst the sun comes up every morning which has become quite comforting,

That our landlord is the modern day Cambodian Indiana Jones. One morning he was pointing vigorously at the ground and then back to me in the garden. He left, then returned with a concrete post and shoved it into the ground, broke a branch off a tree and took some metal wire out of his pocket and constructed a washing line. I have also seen him scale a tree and he takes the girls for a zip around on his motorbike from time to time too. His most Indiana Jones moment to date though was the night of the bees.

We are pretty used to insects now, we had a tarantula on our first night here and we often find giant millipedes which are the size of your forearm and grasshoppers have become one of Dylan’s favourite finds! It was a Sunday night and it started with one bee. Then another bee, then there were tens of bees. Sam is allergic to wasps and at the time in the panic, we weren’t quite sure what they were and started imagining scenes out of My Girl. We hid in the bedroom for the entire night and by morning the bees had relocated, we just didn’t know where too. As we tiptoed towards the gate we were faced with a wall of bees. They had relocated to light above our front gate, they had built a hive and there were hundreds of them. Our landlord was passing and we panic waved him over, to which he smiled pointed at his watch and drove off whilst I threw each child through tiny gaps in the buzz to the tuk-tuk driver. As I arrived home a message from Sam came through,

‘Hey. Don’t come home now. They’re going wild. Too dangerous. Also get some antihistamines incase!’

But all was being handled, our landlord has brought a friend along. they were both in their flipflops holding branches with fire at the end. They were waving them around the hive to get the bees to move along and it was working, the bees were off on their merry way and our Indiana Jones had saved the day, again.

We’ve also learnt that cows headbutt, well more so – Dylan has learnt that cows headbutt. She was playing football next door with our Landlords children and became enamoured with one of the herd. The children explained that cows are not to be approached, Sam was watching with Dotty from the sidelines and suddenly she bolted. It could have gone horribly wrong and we’re all very thankful it didn’t but the cow gave her a good nudge and everyone picked her up and dusted her off whilst she professed ‘I won’t go up to cows any more, just around them!’, lesson learnt, if not a little bit too late.

Nothing is safe from ants, you will find them in anything that has been put down for longer than a second. If something isn’t completely sealed, it’s the ants now. Except for cups of tea and coffee, we provide a search and rescue mission .. ship them to safety and carry on with our beverage. Gross, a little but needs must.

More lessons to follow, I’m sure of it!

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