Friends, Food, Fun

On Wednesday, Hannah and I headed back out to Bataey Srei to teach colors and shapes! Instead of reading during the hour long tuk-tuk ride, I decided to lay back and listen to music while watching all the shops, villages, and temples fly past. It was really a beautiful drive. The day with the kids went by super quick! I led the review today of fruits, vegetables, and animals and then we passed out a worksheet that Hannah and I handmade. The worksheet was fill-in-the-blank for colors, and matching for shapes. The kids rarely ever get worksheets so they really enjoyed it! And most of them got 100% J . Hannah bought a box of a hundred markers for all the kids to use too, and so we then spent a lot of time coloring. A really funny part of the day happened during break. I noticed that the kids were all standing in a circle playing a game, and Hannah said, “You can go join them if you want” but because I didn’t recognize the game I hesitated. As it turns out they were playing “Ninja”, a game my younger sister always liked where everyone stands in a circle and you try and swat someone’s hand to get them out. You only get one move each though and then you freeze where you are. Hannah and I each ended up joining it and it was a fun time! I wonder where they learned that though, or where the game originally started.

Later in the day we visited Shinta Mani, the headquarters for Senhoa jewelry. Senhoa is a social enterprise where they train women who have been trafficked (or at risk women) to make incredibly beautiful jewelry! It was amazing how intricate the designs were and how they connect each bead piece by piece. Later, we visited the Lotus Kid’s Club that served as a school and play area for children. While we were there I learned how to make a different kind of lotus flower with paper and glue and on Friday I will be making them with my kids at CKS!! After the Kid’s Club we visited a women’s safe house for those who have been through the sex trafficking industry. The girls we met were very happy though and were making stuffed bears when we arrived. I just recently finished an assigned reading called, “The Road to Lost Innocence” by Somaly Mam, which was about her survival through the sex trafficking industry and to be completely honest it was hard for me to stomach. That book really brought awareness and called attention to the trafficking industry in Cambodia. Somaly Mam, though, just recently resigned from her position at her own foundation because they found out that her survival tale was mostly fiction and tales taken from other girls. Regardless of whether her story was true or not, although I do not support her ethical choices in writing fiction to be believe as truth, she raised awareness for the trafficking in Cambodia and saved thousands of girls from the industry. It was really inspiring to see a house that was up and running and serving it’s designated purpose, helping women cope with their past while encouraging a hopeful future. And, the cherry on top, Senhoa, The Lotus Kid’s Club, and the women’s house are all supported by funds raised by Senhoa jewelry! I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. This small NGO turned social enterprise is funding three different organizations and dozens of staff. If you’d like to know more about Senhoa or even just look at the jewelry I really recommend visiting !

Later in the evening we had dinner at the Green Star restaurant just a block from the Golden Banana hotel. It was a really great meal but what I enjoyed the most was listening to the owner tell about his life story and how Green Star came to be. The most valuable piece of advice he gave us was to recognize that our past does play a part in our future. He never thought he would end up in Cambodia, but after retirement he read an article about the Green Gecko Project in Cambodia and suddenly flashbacks from twenty years earlier came back. He used to work with a Cambodian immigrant in Australia and became very close with him. His friend had lost his entire family except one sister during the Pol Pot reign and the owner of Green Star felt that it was his purpose to go to Cambodia to help out once he saw the article. He originally went for a three month long volunteer, but after a few trips back he ended up staying in Cambodia and volunteering full time with the Green Gecko Project. One thing that really inspires me to come back and work with an NGO or social enterprise is the satisfaction and enthusiasm the people we’ve met had for their jobs. This man, for example, worked as a cooperate office manager and although he earned a lot of money, he said he really never felt purpose behind his work. Here in Cambodia he’s making living wage but insanely happy and proud of what he’s accomplished in the lives of the Green Gecko kids. It’s that kind of enthusiasm and accomplished feeling that I’m searching for at the CKS Library, but then again I have only been working there six days with three more to go (I’ll be spending four days at Bateay Srei).

Today at CKS I walked into an empty library. As it turns out I didn’t scare them all off, they had the beginning of their final exams that are from 7am-10am Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I was a bit bummed because we were supposed to make really cute aquariums out of paper, but decided it was a good time to make example projects for the aquarium and flower project for tomorrow. Three little boys five or six years old ended up keeping me company for a few hours because they didn’t have exams! They were really cute but kept laughing at me whenever I tried speaking Khmer with them. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ve been improving at all. To my surprise at around ten o’clock all the kids showed up! Usually they just go and play. So we were able to make the aquariums but I couldn’t communicate the aquarium part of it very well so a lot of the girls put butterflies and flowers and birds in their project. Overall it was a successful day. 🙂

Later in the day we all met with Michael Horton again to reflect on our service placements and as it turns out my classmates were having similar ups and downs as I was. We also got a chance to suggest changes that would be incorporated for the next group that would come here in two years. It was a really nice discussion overall. After that, Page, Sierra, Brandon and I all went for a meditation session with Venerable Y Nol. He spend a good portion of the time talking and we had a ten minute meditation afterwards. Although we initially went there to meditate I really enjoy listening to Venerable Y Nol and his lectures on Buddhist ethics and behavior. It’s one thing to study it in a classroom, but we’re incredibly lucky to learn from a Buddhist monk. After our quick session we all went to dinner at Joe-to-Go where we saw Professor Hansen, Nid Noi, Pheng and his family! Because we go to the socially responsible restaurants that Professor Hansen recommended, this wasn’t the first time we’d seen her out and about. Afterwards we headed back for a late night swim in the pool and I’m currently just reflecting on my day and listening to music. I can’t believe we only have ten days left here, I feel like I’m just getting comfortable!