My body-clock
was clearly confused. After going to bed at 2am, I woke at 4am and couldn't get back to sleep.
Ironically, I'd woken early on the only day of the trip with a civilised start: 9am! The other days would start much earlier.

I took the opportunity to pack and to review the schedule for the day. The morning would be spent in briefing meetings in Unicef's offices. After lunch, we would take a boat trip to see the riverside dwellings and urban slums. In the early evening, we would drive to Prey Veng, to stay overnight there ready for our first field visits early the following morning.

By 6.30am, you could already start to feel the heat of the day.

A few others were up and about by 7.45am, and we had breakfast. I needed cash, and the local cash machines didn't recognise international cards. I asked the hotel for an ATM that would work with all cards, and they suggested the ANZ Bank.

The tuk-tuk driver said he knew it, but it turned out he didn't, and I think he drove randomly until he spotted any bank. This turned out to be a bank with no ATMs. They could, however, do a cash advance on a credit card for $5, and since I only needed $100 (you can buy anything in dollars), I decided to take the hit on the card.

This turned out to be a lengthy process. First, there was a form to be filled out. Then they needed to photocopy my credit card and driving licence. Then all the details from the form needed to be entered into the computer. Then a supervisor needed to sign it. Then the supervisor's supervisor needed to sign it. Then the signed paperwork had to be taken to the cashier. Who had to fill out another form. Then finally I got my cash.

We all checked out, then were driven to the local Unicef office for our briefings. En-route, someone mentioned all the signs for Happy Pizzas. Hugh warned(?) us that these were so named because they were sprinkled with marijuana.

The Unicef office was a short drive from the hotel.

We were then given an extremely comprehensive set of briefing presentations by the local management team and experts.

The next census isn't due for two years, but the estimated 2006 population is 14.1 million people, 84% of whom live in the rural areas.

Googling the GDP of Cambodia had produced widely varying figures, ranging from a few hundred dollars to $2500. Rodney was adamant that the higher figures were fiction, and that the true figure is $389 - or a little over a dollar a day. By way of support for this, garment workers (who come to the city to earn high wages) are paid around $40-45 a month.

When the company first asked Unicef
what it wanted the company to fund, the answer was pre-school education. 'Why education?' is obvious: it's the
key to the long-term economic and social development of a country. An educated workforce means better jobs, higher salaries and more foreign currency entering the country.

But why pre-school education, and why was that placed ahead of more obvious needs such as immunisation and access to clean water?

The answer there is three-fold. First, some aspects of Cambodia's development are already well underway. Immunisation is a good example, with two-thirds of all children receiving all of the major vaccinations. There is still work to be done here, of course, but good progress is already being made.

Second, Unicef believed that pre-school education is vital to later education. Less than half of children enrolled in schools complete primary school. 14% of them complete less than a year, 20% of them fail the year-end tests and have to retake grade 1. Of those who do make it through primary school, the need to repeat grades means that it takes on average 10 years to complete a primary school education. As a consequence, less than a third of Cambodian children enter secondary school.

Third, and far from obviously, pre-school education may play a crucial role in other forms of development, such as sanitation. Children are taught about latrines and basic hygiene at school, for example, and it is partly through them that their parents are educated, creating the impetus to implement clean water and sanitation projects.

For lunch
, we visited a restaurant called Friends. This is a not-for-profit organisation that teaches employment skills to street kids - from waiters to chefs - so that they can obtain paid work.

One of the students:

We were introduced to Cecilia, a communications officer, who was taking us on a boat trip to see the fishing boats and riverside slums on the river Mekong.

Our captain:

Fishing is completely uncontrolled, and as a consequence fishing stocks have been greatly diminished.

The riverside slums were very much as advertised.

Like all developing countries, Cambodia is a tale of great contrasts, with this:

next door to this:

The trip lasted around two hours.

Then it was back to the Unicef Landcruisers to drive out into the first of the provinces we were visiting.

This involved a short ferry crossing, and the local traders of course descended on the waiting vehicles, selling everything from drinks to seafood.

The river served in a variety of capacities, from moped wash:

to swimming pool:

The drive was quite long, and the hotel we were staying in was best described as basic. The mosquito protection in my room comprised a pair of lizards (as in Africa, these are found everywhere in the rural areas, are quite harmless and tend to be welcomed as they eat insects.

We went for a meal at the local restaurant - again, simple but tasty food. Most of us took the precaution of avoiding ice in our drinks, but otherwise ate, drank and were merry.

The merriness was aided by a little forethought on the part of myself and Mike Penford. Having been warned that restaurants in the provinces were unlikely to stock wine, we'd bought a few bottles in Phnom Penh and brought them with us. :-)

Then back to the hotel to finish the wine. My lack of sleep was catching up with me, so after jury-rigging Laura's mosquito-net for her with the help of a ceiling fan and a belt (her room was not equipped with lizards), I headed to bed at around 10pm.

>>> Tuesday ...