Cambodia Update by Amy Reid and Clair Thomas
Today we traveled to the village for the first time. We were welcomed off the bus by two lines of singing children, each equipped with a paper-chain lei to place around our necks.
During the opening ceremony, the kids sang Cambodia’s national anthem, and we followed quickly with “The Star-Spangled Banner.” When we finished, the children from the village wasted no time in rushing over, grabbing our hands, and showing us around, ready to play some games.
As a team, we’ve had very few lessons in Cambodia’s native language, Khmer. After we said hello (Sur Sday) and asked their names (Tei Neak Chhmous Ey?), there was little else we could say. Despite the language barrier, everyone on the team was able to find an unspoken connection. We spent hours playing a game with a giant rainbow parachute and duck, duck, goose.
We were only there for the morning, but some of us still teared up when we had to say goodbye. We are very excited to go back tomorrow and start doing some hard work.
After lunch at a delicious restaurant, we listened to a presentation by one of our interpreters, Polin. He told us more about the organization Sustainable Cambodia and what they do to improve the lives of Cambodians in Pursat. With our newfound knowledge, we set off in the buses to visit SC for ourselves.
The site we visited had a schoolhouse along with a few other buildings, a volleyball court, a playground, and a long dirt driveway that served double duty as a yard. Once again, we received paper leis when we walked into the schoolhouse. We sat in plastic chairs opposite a crowd of small children and watched performances of two traditional Cambodian dances.
When the ceremony ended, it was time to do some dancing of our own. A DJ played a mixture of American and Cambodian songs and we found another unspoken connection on the dancefloor.
While some were dancing the afternoon away, others played more games with the kids, including another game of duck, duck, goose and a tag game the children taught us.
During one of the games, a little boy fell and cut his chin open. The wound was deep and wide, and he needed stitches. Luckily, most of our mentors are trained medical professionals, and we had an oncologist, an anesthesiologist, and a handful of nurses at our disposal. They set his sutures and he is doing well.
As per our ritual, we had Reflection after our usual clean up and refuel. Many of us shared how excited we are, and how much hope and goodness we see in these people. One of our team members said that yesterday at the Killing Fields and S-21 we saw how cruel people could be, but today, we got to see how good they could be. -Amy Reid
“I never thought I would have so much fun working”. (That pretty much sums up the day). Today we began the work portion of our trip, which many would have said they feared the most. The blistering heat, vicious fire ants, and demanding work seemed daunting to say the least. However, to the team’s surprise our day was filled with anything but “work”. Our team reflected on the day of being nothing short of a party. Endless chitter-chatter, laughs, embarrassing moments, and some work in between started our labor section off on the highest of high notes. Who would have thought leaving the site would actually be a disappointment? The team was pleasantly surprised and enlightened to see the mutual effort from our side and the Cambodian people’s. Short cuts were learned, hard times were given, and relationships were built on a double-sided bond over getting down and dirty. The team later reflected on how much they learned and appreciated the insight and cooperation from the S.C. (Sustainable Cambodia) team.
Amidst the sweat and laughs, the team took some time to enjoy some grub and an unexpected surprise. The team unknowingly walked into a colorful, serene and absolutely beautiful pagoda. The intricately painted walls allowed the team to take a moment to relax and appreciate their surroundings. It was quite an interesting contrast from the dirt and grime in the village, to the shiny marble floors of the breathtaking pagoda. This was an additional surprise of the eventful day.
All in all, the team accomplished a multitude of tasks in the six-hour day. We took out, replaced, and repaired a new school fence. We taught four English lessons including: opposites, building machines, airplanes, and the five senses. We built twenty desks, brought in twenty of our forty bikes, and drank a record amount of water bottles. We began work on a garden by building a fence and moving mounds and mounds of dirt. Last but not least we had a good time. The team is very, very excited for days to come on our adventure across the world! -Clair Thomas