Yesterday we met a guy who was going to help us to find a house to rent instead of a guesthouse. We get to the meeting point on time and we find him lying on one of those beds that inhabit porches, restaurants, halls… sweating like a chicken; he is very sick, the blood test say he didn´t have malaria and he has brought a bag full of pills without boxes or prospectus, following the purest Khmer style.
We tell him not to worry and we go to visit the zone where Fran had told us there used to be some houses to rent. Fran, more commonly known as Fran Ratanakiri or Mr. Tao, is a charming Spanish guy who spent one year and a half living here (he’s still living in Cambodia, but he’s in Phnom Penh now), and he has sent us a huge list with contacts and recommendations.
Off we go! We ask in the guest houses of the zone and we try to look for the houses to rent that Fran had told us about.
The first one that we see is empty, what seems good news for us. We ask the girl in the guest house next door and she doesn’t know who to ask, but she teaches us to say house to rent in Khmer language and that eases things when we go to ask the other neighbour. He takes some chairs out for us immediately and starts making phone calls… it isn´t clear if the house has a tenant and the price, of course, is uncertain; he calls ones and others, he asks us why we want that house, we tell him our needs… more phone calls. At last, an answer: a friend of his is renting a house 1km away from where we are, or that is what we understand. All right, let’s go. We follow him with the bicycles and we get to a very big two storey house with a wooden up part and cement down.
Quickly, we notice that there are many people at the house, that it would be to share, something very common here, Khmer family downstairs, foreigner upstairs. But that’s not the case. The father welcomes us in the living room upstairs, enormous wooden furniture cover nearly all the space, he can speak a bit of English and is very smiley. Then, the mother arrives, a beautiful woman combing her wonderful dark mane which reaches her waist. They want to rent the house in rooms, each one, 50$/month. We don’t know what to say, they show us all the rooms in the house. If so, first we prefer one in the wooden part, but, when we see the ones downstairs, where the three children, the grandmother, three dogs and two cats live, we discover that the rooms are oversize and all have their own independent bathrooms.
We are a bit overwhelmed after meeting so many people and we hadn’t thought about something like this either. We ask them for some time to reflect. We leave After the first turn of the way we stop. We are very surprised, but we both think is a good idea, we have never lived so close to a Khmer family and this can be a great opportunity to learn more from Cambodia and its manners and maybe to improve our Khmer. It’s settled: we stay.
We come back to leave the luggage and we go to a cyber to work. The room that we have chosen is a storing room and the bed doesn’t even have a mattress, but they say it will be ready in a couple of hours. We trust them.
We come back at sunset… it is perfect, radiant, bright, empty, with mattress, sheets, mosquito net, curtains, bathmat, mat, a table and some wooden chairs from solid wood so fashionable in Cambodia. We even have a fan! We get in the room, we are very happy, we couldn’t wish anything else.
Someone knocks at the door. It is the landlord who wants to welcome us having some beers together! We go out and, while we have the first beer the other members of the family show up, we are under a deep interrogation by means of which we tell them all our lives. With the second beer they give us an appetizer (it is dry fish, it is supposed to be… river ray?) and they start to tell us some data about the family, who is who, where they work, what the kids study, that they own another house, that they merged this house’s house warming party with the celebration of their 22nd wedding anniversary and they invited 50 tables (which means around five hundred people)… despite the insistence, we decline a third can of beer, but then a full dinner appears in front of us. The two of us with the father in one table, the kids with the granny in the other; the mother, who has already had dinner at a friend’s is sitting in the middle, joining both groups. At the end, we exchange pictures about family and friends and after, some good night wishes.
They are so nice! We are very happy with our new host family.