Most pre-school classes
begin at 7am and finish at 9am, and we had an hour to travel before visiting the first of three. Which meant checking out of our hotel at 6.15am. To add insult to injury, the electric water heater in my room was not working, so the day began with a cold shower.

Amazingly, for someone who does not do mornings, I even managed breakfast. Breakfast was not included at the hotel, but as the cost of an overnight stay was $10 per room, we couldn't really complain. We had breakfast back at the same restaurant we'd had dinner. The French influence was clear: we had omlette, excellent bagette and decent coffee. Breakfast for six people came to a grand total of $5.

The street outside the restaurant at 6.30am:

We stopped off at a town en-route to buy some provisions for the preschools. I of course took the opportunity for a few photos.

As we headed out, we started passing rice fields. The Cambodian soil is too damp to grow wheat - all wheat is imported from the upper regions of Vietnam - so the majority of Cambodia's agricultural production is rice.

We came across a wedding party. We stopped and I asked if it was ok to take some photos in the universal language of holding up my camera with a smile and a questioning look.

The roads got increasingly rural as we went.

Shelters are important for preschool classes as they provide shade from the incredibly hot sun, as well as shelter from the rain.

The first preschool we visited was one without a shelter. The teacher used a room in her own home to teach the kids.

The very young children were understandably shy at all these foreigners arriving, so we weren't treated to too many smiles.

The teacher handed back their drawings.

An older kid beneath the building was making the most of the shade.

The preschool kids then came out into the sun for a few minutes.

And then back to work.

Our next visit was to a school with a basic shelter - just a roof. These provide shade from the sun, but not much protection from the rain.

I had to remind myself to take photos of the structures as well as the kids, though with quite a large party of us wandering around, it wasn't possible to take a natural-looking photo of the entire thing, and the schedule was too tight at each stop to ask people to move out of shot. But this should give a reasonable idea of the setup:

The kids were rather photogenic.

Along with shelters, Unicef also installs play equipment - in this case, a simple swing.

Sabine & Hugh were busy interviewing the kids, with the Unicef team translating. I'll be adding some of their interviews to this blog.

This is the space the pre-school was using prior to the shelter being built - quite some contrast:

And then it was time to say our goodbyes.

The Unicef team pointed out a well. Depending on the depth needed, these cost between $300 and $1000 to build.

Our next visit was to a preschool with the latest design of shelter. This provides protection against both sun and rain.

Shoes are left outside.

The structure is a timber frame with planks, latticework open windows and a corrugated plastic roof.

There is also wallspace for posters and a blackboard.

Though the string system is again employed along the sides.

Not even basic supplies can be taken for granted here.

These supplies were provided by Unicef.

The kids do some work in groups, with coloured name-badges showing which group they belong to.

But you just want to see the kids, right?

Simple things like building blocks would be unknown to these kids if they didn't attend pre-school.

I think an older sister was taking an interest in her sibling's education:

At the time I had a 4Gb CF card which held 211 ten-megapixel photos. I have never before filled it. This time I did.

Fortunately, I had the technology. During the drive to our next stop, I copied the photos onto my laptop, then backed up the laptop folder onto my Lacie external hard drive. With two copies of the photos safe, I could then reformat the card ready for more shooting.

Our penultimate visit was to a primary school. This had conventional buildings.

Being older, the kids were much more confident with visitors. I also found that an excellent way to engage them was to take a photo of them and then show it to them. There was much smiling.

I asked one class to sit on the step for a group shot.

I then had the dumb idea of asking them to wave. That bit was fine, but I didn't manage to figure out a way to persuade them to stop waving; some of them were still waving five minutes later ...

I played a little peekaboo game at a window. After a little hesitation, they decided they like that game.

Though one would-be model decided he was going to ensure good coverage:

And the rest decided this was a good strategy:

Finally, we made a brief stop at another school to see a water-tank. These are used when it is not possible to build a well.

The all-important latrines:

School had finished for the day by this time, but there were still some kids hanging around.

We returned to the restaurant where we'd begun the day to eat some lunch.

Then it was the drive back to Phnom Penh to our original hotel, with all of us dreaming of a bath or (hot!) shower.

I used the journey to write this blog, though the processing of the photos would have to wait.

On the ferry, Laura met a friend she'd made the previous day.

Spotting a good photo opportunity for Unicef, I positioned myself to take a few photos of kids with the Unicef name & logo behind them.

Laura's camera card was full, so I copied the photos onto my laptop and then stored a second copy on my Lacie external drive - this was proving a very useful investment.

Back at the hotel, I'd been upgraded to a suite, which was enormous: three large en-suite bedrooms, a living room, huge kitchen, a utility room with washer-dryer, and two balconies with river view. Quite a contrast from last night's accommodation!

I had a very long, very hot bath.

We had dinner at the Foreign Correspondent's Club. Determined to keep up to date with the photo processing, I continued doing that before and after dinner, finishing the last of them back at my hotel room at 12:30. Then to bed ready for an 8am departure.

>>> Wednesday ...