Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Cambodia.

Our Second Week: Building, Biking, and Bonding

Posted in Cambodia on June 8, 2009

Our second week in the village seemed to fly by. Pha continues to feed us great and take care of us all like we were her children. A few members of the team got a bit sick, but we all think that it’s due to the change in diet, surroundings, etc. but I guarantee they felt taken care of with Pha around! She has been a god send and one I know I will miss when I go back to my own house and having to cook for myself again.

On Monday morning we finished our second house that we were working on. It feels so great to accomplish so much and help people get into houses that are good for them. To correct the slight blunder I made in last week’s blog, the Bridges Across Borders staff member that works on the Family Dream Home Project who’s name I could not remember is Cham Nan. I will admit, I was a bit sad to know that he wouldn’t be working with us on the playground as his unwavering cheeriness and smile light up a job site.

In the afternoon we went to start work on rehabilitating a playground by the Community Vocational Training Center. One of the swing sets was struck by lightning so we had to dig it out and move it along with re-thatching the roof. As much as I hate to say this, moving a swing set that was cemented into the ground was quite the project for 7 girls and 1 guy! But, eventually one of the locals we were working with shook his head at us and put two long sticks under the swing set so it was easier for us to lift it out of the hole and move it into the new ones. I am learning quite a bit about handy little ways to get things done without the use of machines and power tools!

Over the playground set there was a thatched roof that had collapsed so we had to take down the old thatch, fix the roof and re-thatch it. Carmen and Lauren got quite the show of creatures that live in thatching. I think they had colonies living in their hair after they were done with that job, but like troopers they did it with smiles on their faces! We tilled the land around the playground, which proved to be hard work with all the rain we were getting!

We finished the playground on Thursday morning and headed over to the school in the village to help pick a field of yams. I can proudly say that I am now a professional yam twister after my experience there! We also got the pleasure of trying boiled yams dipped in sugar after our work there. I’d never thought to eat yams that way but I think I may have a new treat when I get back to Canada!

On Thursday afternoon on our way into the village Sarah and I both had peddles fall off of our bikes. While hers got welded back on and didn’t cause her any more problems, the Silver Bullet (my bike) had other ideas for me. After getting help from one of the Bridges Across Borders staff in the village I left my bike at the shop to get fixed. I went back in the afternoon, all was well and the Silver Bullet and I took to the streets once again! Our glory was short lived as the next afternoon, on my way into the village it fell off again. Apparently the peddle just wasn’t the right fit. This time, however, I wasn’t quite as lucky and it fell off quite a ways out of the village. Once again I was pleasantly surprised when I had four different people stop to offer me a ride into the work site (everyone in the village seems to know where we are and what we are working on at all times), which unfortunately I had to turn down because I just couldn’t imagine trying to bring my bike and myself into town on the back of a Moto… truth be told, it scared me a little! When I was almost into town I ran into the same BAB staff member that helped me last time and he met me at the shop and they were ready for me and fixed it at no charge. I am constantly amazed at how accommodating the people in this country are, they’d do anything they can to help another, whether it be their best friend, or some stranger from a different country who not only looks funny, but talks funny too!

On Friday we went to help take apart an old chicken coop that they are planning on moving so they can use the space as a football (soccer) field. It mostly involved us taking down walls, moving them, and digging holes. Throughout this we came across a scorpion (which Lauren dispatched of), a few wood worms (that Savoun had the pleasure of showing us how bad they bite by putting a piece of wood in front of them), and I’d say about a million ants. All in a days work!

Aside from work there is always other important experiences we have that I love to share with you all. Remember Houdini from my first post? Well, apparently Houdini has quite a large family as Quinn and Kelsey have discovered. They went to go to bed one night (which I have to admit, I’m usually asleep by 8pm, I know, party animal!) and found two of them outside their door. We have all become warriors when it comes to facing our fears of spiders and I was woken up by yet another war cry, this time coming from Quinn!

While we were working on the playground it was nice to not have to bike ride every day, it was close enough to where we are living that we could walk there every day. We had about 3 days of heavy winds and rains, but we fought through it, lived soaked to the bone for a few days and got it done! The rain here is something else. And, as strange as it may sound, I’m going to miss it when I head back to Canada. The thunder and lightning have a way of calming me, I know, it’s strange, but it’s cool. And for the first time since we’ve been here we’ve actually woken up cold at night because the rain had cooled it off so much. It was a pleasant surprise to find myself reaching for a blanket!

On Friday after dinner we headed into the village to meet some of the students and teach a bit of English. It was a bit of a struggle for some of us, but once we got going it seemed to get easier. It’s amazing the insight you get from talking to children. Leland, the teacher of the class I was in, must have a great influence on the children he teaches as when we asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up and half of them said teachers. One girl said she wanted to become a doctor and come back to the village to help the people there. Another student a police woman, a lawyer, and a farmer. All was good while we were in the classes, it was on the way home when disaster struck…

Okay, don’t get all worried, it wasn’t really disaster, just a minor accident! First I have to explain the way back to our house. You have to bike across a bridge which they have been doing some work on, on one side is a pond, the other the water is coming out of pipes so while there is water there, it’s not much, mostly sand. On this side there is also no barricade. Earlier in the day the workers had a truckload of sand delivered so now not only was there the obstacles of rocks, now there was a large dirt pile in the middle of the bridge that you have no option but to go over it. We were all heading over it, with trepidation, and The Pearl (Michelle’s bike) somehow lost her footing and went over the edge. Don’t worry! Michelle ended up sitting on the bridge, with some scratches and needless to say a bit shaken up, but all was well. Adrian had a good laugh at us girls as it became like a medical tv show. I started to clean the scrapes on her hands, Quinn took her knee, Kelsey was somewhat of a scrub nurse handing us the supplies we needed, Carmen held the lights steady while Lauren occupied Michelle with story time. All the while, Adrian, being the good cook he is, went into the kitchen and brewed her a pot of tea. For Michelle’s parents, DON’T WORRY! She is doing great, her scrapes are healing and she still has her unshakable calm about her. While we were looking after her injuries I kept on trying to get her to scream, to let it out, but all she did was laugh at me! I have to admit, I think it may have been one of the best team bonding experiences we’ve had. And I know that it was good for us to practice the first aid training we all have, to know that we could put it to use. So, thank you Michelle, for becoming our patient! The Pearl seemed to have come out of it on top as well as there was only some damage to the basket and the rest of her was good!

For the weekend we are staying in Kep and while some of the team took a boat ride over to Rabbit Island, myself and a few others decided to hang back, enjoy the fans blowing in our faces and relax a bit. I think I get enough sun in the village!

On Monday we are heading to help with yet another house. It’s so good to know that we are getting so much accomplished! Two houses, a playground, and a field of yams, so far with hopefully another house complete by the time we leave at the end of next week. The time has flown by and we are all sad to see the end of this trip coming up so soon. We will bring home with us many memories of the friends we’ve made, both within our team and with the Cambodian people, our experiences here and the amazing time we’ve had. There truly is nothing else quite like travelling with a purpose, which I feel I have accomplished here. I know that this something I will take with me wherever this life takes me.

Thank you for your comments on last weeks blog, it’s good to know that someone out there is reading! Expect another one at the end of next week.

Until then, keep your chins up, I know some of you are dealing with snow, but consider this, you have running water, electricity 24/7 and toilets that flush! Life is good!

Developing World Connections Volunteer Participant 2009

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