Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Cambodia.

December 17, 2009: Our final day.

Posted in Cambodia on December 21, 2009

Our final day of work: This morning we returned to the homes where we are building septic systems. The toilet has been installed at the first house and the latrine is nearly ready to use. It has two water storage tanks built of brick, one for “flushing” and one for “showers” (by water scoop). By the time the team left for lunch, plastering was under way and the roof had to be installed.. At the second house, work was completed on the exterior wall, and at the third house, Tommy, Denver and Karen went back to square one, helping to dig a hole for the septic system. Karen also was invited to help the mom separate twigs and other small inedible bits from rice spread on a bamboo mat.

Because there was limited space and work to be done, two separate groups were able to check out Chamcar Bei village and visit with the shopkeepers. Tommy’s group talked to the owner of the motorcycle shop, who is university educated and speaks excellent English. He has been operating his shop in Chamcar Bei for two years. Heather bought a karaoke CD. The cover looks like a soap opera picture. Most of the karaoke songs here seem to be about heartbreak (some human conditions are universal). A number of us, including Heather, Karen, Adele, Tommy, Gabby, and Kayla took off their shoes (as a sign of respect) and gave cash offerings to two passing monks, who gave each of us a blessing. Tommy says the monks wished us safe travels and blessed our worthy deeds. We were humbled by the experience.

Jud, Brian, Bob, Cesar and Jen also visited town and were invited to play volleyball with some local teenagers. On the bus ride home each evening, we have noticed many young men playing volleyball in their yards. It was the first, but by no means the last, game of the day.

Susanne, who is a professional chef, stayed behind at The Vine this morning to help prepare our lunch. By request, she cooked brown, rather than white, rice. If you are going to visit Southeast Asia, it’s important to like rice. We also had a delicious green salad with Dijon dressing and chicken soup. It was a treat for Susanne to get back in a large kitchen.
We had a relaxing lunch, knowing that our afternoon would be spent buying crafts made by local women as part of the BABSEA community restoration project and playing with children at the school. At lunch, Celeste and Heather played Backgammon. Jen and Brian played Cranium, and most of the others did yoga with Julie, who runs a yoga studio back home.

After lunch, we visited the community center where women make jewelry and Christmas ornaments of coconut shells, straw baskets, and woven cloth goods such as purses, scarves and table runners. Proceeds go toward women’s economic ventures. Because of the hard times in this area, most of the women were not able to get an education; this project is designed to help them be self-sufficient and learn about operating a business. It was a good time to buy gifts and souvenirs while making a contribution (the Chamcar Bei version of an economic stimulus package). It seems odd to think that friends and family at home are doing their holiday shopping and attending seasonal social functions while we are in rural Cambodia building latrines.

Our next stop was the community garden where we planted seeds and seedlings last week and earlier this week. The seeds are just starting to sprout, which is satisfying to see after heavy digging and planting in the hot sun. The community garden is another Developing World Connections/ BABSEA-supported economic venture.

Our next stop was the school, where we were greeted by an enthusiastic class of kindergarteners. They are a very lively bunch! We played games with them and the hula hoops we brought from Phnom Penh were a particular hit. Julie is an expert hula-hooper and everyone was impressed with her tricks. Jud, Brian and Vy played a competitive game of basketball with some older children (about 11 or 12 years old) and their teacher (who was wearing a long skirt) until a snake crawled onto the hard dirt court. The children threw stones at the snake, but the game broke up anyway. By that time, a soccer match had started at the back of the school – BABSEA volunteers versus our group. Gabby, who plays soccer at home, was a standout, but the BABSEA team still beat our volunteer team, even though some of them were barefoot. We learned later that they play nearly every day after work. It was a hot, dusty, action-packed game. Adele, Cesar, Tommy, Kasper, Denver, Jen, Heather, Brian and Jud rounded out the team. The rest of us cheered them on.

After saying our goodbyes at the school, we stopped at the reservoir, where a number of went for a swim to cool off. Gabby was the first to jump in. Tommy, who used to teach gymnastics, did a handstand on the railing before plunging in. A lot of the local kids were there, too, since it’s a favorite watering hole.

The day wrapped up with a celebration dinner at the Kep Lodge restaurant. We were touched when Mr. Tiery and Vy thanked us for our contributions during the past two weeks. We would all love to work with them again. After dinner, each of us received an honorary award in keeping with our unique personality traits. It’s amazing how much you can learn about people in such a short time. The evening wrapped up with some dancing. Tomorrow, most of us will head back to Phnom Penh, then on to Siem Reap to see the temples. Jackie, Michele and Jud plan to stay on the coast for awhile longer. Jud will be continuing on to Thailand and possibly Myanmar.

We have formed a bond and it has been an amazing time for all of us.

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