My lovely smiley boss, Sopea, appeared in my office at about 10am this morning grinning and muttering “Mr Loeung would like to meeting with you Sara.”
With absolutely no idea who Mr Loeung is, I casually asked Sopea when this meeting would take place to which he responded “Now!”
And so it was that I found myself locking away my Macbook, turning off Radio 2 (my trusty companion in my big but lonely office) picking up my VSO notebook and pen and following Sopea down to the first floor to meet the mysterious Mr Loeung.
Once there I was met by yet another very smiley man (smiley is a bit of a constant here and there’s a blog brewing on just that so watch this space!) by the name of Deap Loeung who is, according to his business card the Deputy Director of Administration Affairs and Litigation Department!
Loeung apologised profusely for not meeting with me last week as he was in Bangkok and as he continued to talk it became clear that this is the man in the know about all things HR & Training. We chatted about HR policy (or more accurately the, until very recently, lack of it) and other such worky stuff for a while with me nodding and interjecting with the odd “that’s very interesting” at appropriate junctures whilst Sopea sat quietly beside me grinning away and nodding on and off.
And then bang, the power went off and suddenly everyone lightened up. The balcony doors were thrown open and I was given a brief tour of the compound (visually not physically). I now know that we have a canteen complete with chickens on site and the compound itself was originally built as the US Embassy in Cambodia, hence its size and relative grandeur for its age. Apparently, it’s a great place to take exercise (the Cambodian description of going for a walk) and if I try it, it will help me to not be so fat (anyone noticing a pattern emerging here!?!?!?)
Other assorted civil servants popped into Loeung’s office as we chatted and over the course of the next two hours I met an accountant and an economist who both work in planning and a conservationist (more on him in a mo).
We discussed Brexit, the Cambodian choice of dual currencies, traffic congestion and the law, food and families. Loeung’s daughter recently married a Cambodian American (the son of a family friend who moved to the States years ago) and has moved to LA to live and work. His other 2 children are still in school. People expressed sadness at my divorce and lack of children (I didn’t feel it politic to express that neither of these issues saddened me in the slightest!) but joy at the fact that both of my parents are alive and healthy.
And as for my conservationist friend. Well, from him I learnt that there is one species of freshwater dolphin (the Orcaella Brevirostris or Irrawaddy dolphin) living in the Mekong in Cambodia but it is threatened by both environmental issues and the lack of fisheries legislation in neighbouring Laos. There are currently only 85 dolphins remaining and attempts to boost the population are further being thwarted by the male of the species who takes pleasure in eating the newly born dolphin pups. The pups need to be protected from the males for up to a year after birth and the Red Cross are supporting the Fisheries Administration to provide this protection.
And, joy of joys, I actually got my own, up to date copy of the Fish of Cambodia Diary to ‘keep and write in”!
But perhaps my most delightful discovery during the ‘meeting’ was the extent of my colleagues use of humour. They laughed uproariously, both at themselves and at each other (well in English at least) and they showed an openness and frankness which was really refreshing to see, finally making me feel like a fish in water rather than out of it.