Home is where the heart is

By Frances Micklow

The air outside was sweltering hot and thick enough to slice through with a knife. But inside the tin-box hut, it was surprisingly cool.

Yuem lives with her husband and two youngest children in a squatter village in Siem Reap. She moved here eight years ago from Siem Reap Provence when her brother began to farm the family land. She welcomed the tourists to take off their shoes and step into the shade of her home.

The house was small, about the size of a double-occupancy hotel room, and sectioned off with large tapestries. The walls were made of metal sheets and reinforced with scrap and recycled wood. There was a front opening, one window, and many small holes in the walls for ventilation.

While seeking refuge from the sun, Yuem told us about her everyday life in the village. Her husband delivers water to people from his motorized bike and makes up to $5 on a good day. She buys sweet and condenced milk for her baby, although it doesn’t have the nutritional value of formula milk, she says it is cheaper and keeps better. She also spends at least $.60 a day on rice for her family. “By the time I buy rice a milk for my kids, there’s not much left,” she says.

As we leave the shelter of Yuem’s home, we step back out to the repeating pattern of huts. Heat isn’t the only thing that is hard to handle for these people.


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