Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Cambodia.

First Project Day: Group bonding, laughs and hard work.

Posted in Cambodia on December 15, 2008

December 9th:

Up early, we had pancakes, omelets, juice and fruit for breakfast. More importantly, we had coffee which, to my surprise, was excellent. By 7:30am Cambodian time (i.e. 8am), we were off to work. Our group split into two. One group started building a 'dream home' from scratch while the other was charged with prepping and painting a community building. As part of the second group, I must admit I wasn't too stoked by the prospect of painting all day. I wondered if this wasn't just 'makework'. I reminded myself that this was something a large group could do efficiently and, in so doing, afford the the community time and energy for other things... that there was a purpose to all of this. Our group made the experience and we kept ourselves entertained with jokes, trivia, games and singing. All of us - particularly those of us with office jobs – really enjoyed using our hands and seeing the tangible benefits of our actions. I would love to know what the Cambodian staff working with us was thinking as our boisterous group laughed and laughed, although I can image they think we are a little “loplop” (crazy). Good times.

Both groups met up for a delicious lunch prepared by a women named Saran. Saran takes great pride in her food which is as colourful and delicious as her personality. Saran is a beautiful person inside and out with a genuine and lively spirit. Her smile and laughter are contagious. I am sure I am not the only man in this group who has a secret crush on her. I find the Cambodian people very warm and friendly, if not a little shy. Their character is very endearing. People smile a lot even if, from a Western perspective, many may have less reason to. I would like to make a public vow to complain less and smile more, even when I come home to snow and settle back into the routine of real life. Laughing and smiling feels really good – I needed the reminder. Thanks Cambodia.

After lunch some settled in for a power nap before heading back to work. Myself, I resisted for fear of not wanting to wake up. The group bonding (and work) continued until 4pm. We came home, showered up and headed to the Kep Lodge for drinks and dinner. In keeping with our experience so far, the food was fantastic. By the way, our rooms at the Beach House are also really nice as we have a view overlooking the ocean. Air conditioning at night is a godsend.

In Cambodia, any future Developing World Connections participant need not worry about “roughing it.” On the contrary, if one were looking for a reason to complain, they could argue that we are living in too much luxury. My thoughts? Well, there really isn't really an 'in-between' alternative and our business is appreciated. More importantly, we do deserve it – we work hard. For those with guilty complexes, I suppose our comfort level compared to that of of the people we serve could make them feel uncomfortable. But no such guilt with this group. For me, the privilege of seeing the “poor” conditions of those we serve only reaffirms in me a greater sense of appreciation and gratitude. Besides, soon enough I will be back to wieners and microwave food so I chose to enjoy the good life while it lasts.

After dinner Chrystie led our group in a game of “how well do you know each other”. Everybody shared something interesting about themselves on a piece of paper and then we split into two groups. Each time one group guessed the correct person to which the tidbit applied, it got a point. I regret to inform you that I didn't know that my sister had one foot bigger than the other. I fear that moi, the intrepid leader himself, may have cost my team the game. I was forgiven. We shared more laughs, some more drinks and then we danced and relished in the moment. Fun and laughter is no doubt a major theme on this trip.

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