A Day of Chhav


A Day of Chhav
by Soksetha Som

Chham Chhav is a friendly 11-year-old who is a 5th grader in primary school in Kampong Thom Province, Cambodia. He comes from a farming family and has two younger sisters. Together with their parents, they live in a wooden house with corrugated iron roof. Today he will tell us about his daily life, from the time he wakes until he goes to bed.

“I get up at 5am every day. I help my parents to fire the stove to process wine production,” says Chhav. Chhav’s father says, “The waste from wine production is used as pig feed as raising pigs is the main income for our family.” “As I help dad, I clean my teeth and wash my face,” says Chhav. And he continues, with a laugh, “I do not take a bath because it’s cold in the morning.”

The sun is shining. Chhav helps his 8-year-old younger sister, Sreyvang, to prepare the bed where they share the same sleeping space. He folds the blankets and the mosquito net, and scrolls up the mat. Then he changes into his school uniform. His mother says, “We don’t have much money for Chhav and his sister to spend on breakfast at school, so I prepare breakfast for them. We have fried eggs with rice for breakfast and their father also gives each of them 500 Riels (around HK$2) as pocket money”.

After saying goodbye to their parents, Chhav cycles his sister to school on a bike. It is about four kilometres. “Actually, my sister has her own bike. Today her bike is broken so I take her to school on my bike,” adds Chhav. “Normally, I meet with my classmates and friends and we all ride together to school on a gravel road. It’s a bit dusty.” Chhav cycles to school with a smile, “I enjoy learning in my class,” he says.

There are 41 students in his class. They are studying several subjects such as basic Khmer literature, basic mathematics, social studies, science, English and hygiene. “I like Khmer literature. I don’t like mathematics because it’s hard to learn,” says he. Chhav is like many other students. Their schedule switches every month. In February, he studies in the morning while last month school was in the afternoon. “Our class goes from 7am to 11am. We have three breaks. I love to play with my classmates, it makes me really happy,” says Chhav. He smiles and continues, “My teacher is Sun Seout. He is a good teacher and handsome. Everyone likes him a lot.”

The bell rings at 11am. It is time for Chhav to return home. Chhav says, “My sister and I usually have lunch at home as my mother prepares food for us. Today, my mother has cooked my favourite dishes for me, kako soup and grilled dried fish,” says Chhav. Kako soup is a Khmer dish made from fish or pork with green vegetables and ground fried rice. It's a nutritious dish.

In the afternoon, Chhav his sister and their friends catch fish in the puddles of the rice field. His father says, “Chhav likes catching fish in the puddles of the field where there is less water in this season (dry season). This helps the family reduce expenses on food. I appreciate him.” He is not only helping our family, but it is also his favourite game.

After returning home, Chhav feeds the pigs and chickens, and looks after his youngest sister who is 21 months old.

As temperatures fall, Chhav joins the children’s club in the village. He says, “I usually come to the club. I can read books and play with my friends, especially football with my best friends.” He mentions the names of his friends and continues, “It’s really fun and I like playing football.”

It is growing dark; Chhav returns home and has a wash. He hurries to look after his youngest sister while his mother prepares dinner for the whole family. He and his younger sister never forget about their school work while taking care of their baby sister.

The food is done for the whole family. Today, mom has prepared vegetable soup and fried pork. After dinner, they are ready for bed. Normally they watch TV before going to bed, but today they don’t, since the battery has run out of power. It is 8pm, time for Chhav to recharge after a busy day.

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