Thursday, August 1, 2013

Crazy Stupid Loved

I am thankful for many things in Cambodia. Things like giggles and smiles of little children, rides on water-buffalo-drawn carts, morning runs with the sun rising over glimmering rice paddies, scorching late afternoon sunshine overtaken by rainstorms... stories and pictures of all of these coming soon. :)

My hilarious and always-entertaining team of monkeys (here clearly very successfully becoming the graceful apsara dancers of Cambodia). 

But most of all, this time, I think I am thankful for these 7 monkeys. Most older than me and a few easily 20 years my senior, but whose collective youthfulness keeps me young. :)

I'm getting too old for this, was my first thought upon arrival to Cambodia. Luckily these guys proved me wrong.

I stumbled my way into this trip, switching gears into thinking about it at all really only a few days prior to take off. Taking the team on a tour through the somber history of genocide in Cambodia, and the inspiring work of HOPE, I was feeling at home, but nonetheless pretty lonely playing tour guide for yet another bunch of strangers. Kind of a new loneliness in familiarity and tiredness (and inside actually wanting to be enjoying some Vancouver summer.. or just curling up and reading a book) while everyone else was experiencing with fresh eyes and genuine awe, tiredness way overshadowed by the giddiness of all things new. 

Finally getting to the rural village where we would be based for most of our time, after months of dreaming and waiting, the team jumped in to play with the kids that gathered around us.... while I retreated to our hide-out in a newly-constructed classroom and dove into my sleeping-pad-over-concrete bed on the floor, feeling lame not to be as energy-filled as I usually am, and feeling bad that, though they would have no idea of what to compare to, I knew this team wasn't getting the best of me.

But when you share 24 hours a day together, somehow, strangers don't stay strangers for very long. I've never had a group of complete strangers become such quick "siblings"... poking so much fun at each other, playing so many pranks on each other, and having so many endless giggle-fits into the night as we tried to wriggle ourselves into a comfy spot on the concrete, knowing we'd all get woken up a few hours later by the howling dogs that made their home outside our door.

And then leading the team and being fully there (not just feigning it!) becomes easy again. Easy enough to enjoy anyways. :) Somehow, in the grace of it all, I found a new rhythm of leadership, quieter and less prominent/directive /group activity-discussion-facilitation, I think, than in all the other teams I taken overseas. No more or less personal, but maybe even more empowering to each person individually, in making room for their unique strengths, compassion, and personalities to find expression and inspiration. I think, anyways (?)!

And, somehow, the grace of all of that, in the "relative nothingness" that I really was for team sometimes, they each got what they needed to live fully in the experience. Each in their own way, deeply and tangibly, with hugs, joys, laughter, and tears, they loved all the people we shared life with in the most rural areas of Cambodia. They affirmed me and each other with no few words, and just in case I didn't get the point about me, as a parting gift, they sneakily and so thoughtfully got me a new phone with a crazy long battery life (35 days?!) for me to use in my future travels... AND on our last day in Cambodia, when my silly overly-trusting carelessness in the market ended up as a sizable donation to a swift pair of pick-pocketers - as much as I said it really didn't matter - they insisted on being the amazing lovely family that they are, pooling their money to replace all that I'd lost.

And left me in an awe of being so very crazy stupid loved, by this bunch of strangers who have, once again, become my family and team in loving those around us. :)

... More to come. :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cambodian Idol

Sorry no news in the last couple weeks...  I've been mostly out of internet range and am just back now to the town! I've taken a million pictures and have a ton of stories to tell, but unfortunately I don't have time to put those together into a blog right now...

But in the meantime, if this video will slowly upload... here's one of the kids from the village we've been living in the last couple weeks. We see them every day when they go to school (we are working on a new school for them), so we've gotten to know the local kids pretty well. We taught them the Hokey Pokey, the Chicken Dance, If You're Happy and You Know it, Go Bananas, and even the Pharoah, Pharoah song.. and when we ran out of action-packed kids songs, we asked the them to sing us a song... and that's when we (a) were put to shame and (b) discovered the next Cambodian Idol! The video's not very good quality so it's not half as good as it really is... but this kid's got talent!

More hopefully soon! 



Sunday, June 12, 2011

Stanley Cup fever in Cambodia!

Well, it makes me pout quite a bit to miss all the Canucks craze in Vancouver! Even for someone who only ever really watches the last period of the games, or bakes in the kitchen and only pokes her head around the corner to watch the instant replays when something exciting happens... I LOVE getting in the spirit when it brings the whole city together!! Why did I not factor in playoff season when I planned for this UNION trip last fall! :P

But, seeing as pouting isn't very productive... I brought Stanley Cup fever from the streets of Vancouver with me to rural Cambodia instead!! In the form of bringing 12 plastic hockey sticks and some pylons with me and teaching the kids in the village how to play!!

My Khmer is pretty limited, but kids learn pretty darn quick! "Now, sit, watch, after, play" seemed to get the point across... and a quick demo later, the kids were pro and lovin' it!

It was good fun - yay for a little sharing of culture! :)

I can't wait to hear the news on Monday (my Tuesday)!! Still sad to miss being there for it, but excited nonetheless! I'm headed back to the rural village tomorrow and won't have internet for at least week... so someone or everyone text me - I've got my flag ready to go!! :)



Saturday, June 11, 2011

New village, new school..

... but just as exciting!

Our new school project!
We’ve jumped in at about 2 weeks into the building progress, which is kind of fun because that’s about where our 2010 team left off last year (in a different village – the school’s done and full of happy kids now! See my last post! :) ), and also because we’ll be here for 3 weeks, and we will get to see the school *almost* through to completion.

Gettin' to work!
Our team.. note the (awesome) matching flower work shirts :)

Lots of work building a school…

Dirt scooping (and carrying!) out of classrooms to get a flat foundation

Filling up empty classroom floors...
... with giant rocks

Lots of rocks!

Smashing rocks...

Me with a sledge hammer (that I can barely lift over my head)… I felt like Fred Flinstone
... rock bed smashed to smithereens

Covering up all the rock bed with sand...
Some brick laying, of course! 

And brick throwing up to the other workers for the parts we can't be trusted to build without falling
A mighty solid toss, if I do say so myself :)

Tying rebar for the cement posts
 It IS hard work… mostly  because it is probably about 50 degrees out! The thermometer on my alarm clock read 48.5 the other day – and I don’t think that includes humidity (and it is HUMID!)… I put my clock away before the team could get more smothered by KNOWING how hot it is! :

But, it’s really not so bad! We get lots of help from the kids in the village who can’t wait to get their hands on deck (and never seem to tire out)!

Making a chain game of dirt carrying


And, anyways, the purpose of our time here is very little about getting a school built – the school will be finished whether we are here or not. But it is about serving side by side alongside Cambodians building their own local community, giving the best of ourselves and in the process, connecting with the local community, learning about need, and getting a real picture of our place in the world to respond. It’s about learning to love people, witnessing poverty first hand, experiencing some kind of personal growth and development, hopefully leaving inspired to keep engaging with the poor.

While we were sitting around preparing the rebar that would go inside the cement posts and chatting, someone asked me if what I am doing now is what I had wanted to do when I did my studies in international development. I smiled: well, no not exactly – when I was studying, I hadn’t quite pictured sitting on a brick in the sun twisting rebar… but being a part of effective and successful rural development initiatives firsthand and being a part of other people getting excited about it as well...its a good place to be. :)

Not too shabby... we'll see how it looks after 2 more weeks! :)
Many more photos to share.. but it's painfully slow uploading them with the internet here! I'll be out of internet range again from tomorrow for another week or more... but I'll be in touch again.. One more important post on its way. :)


Monday, June 6, 2011

School, smiles and friends from 2010! :)

Super quick post, but we went back to the village we were at last year with the 2010 UNION team! And here's the school all completed now!

All the kids are studying now! A whole bunch of the ones that were always around at the school with us last year! :)

Lots of learning going on now! :)

All our favourite kids! :)

Ok gotta run now... but I love these kids!!



Sunday, June 5, 2011

My new team of barangs!

Hello from Cambodia! :) Warm greetings.. and I mean WARM! I came back to my hotel room the other day and basked in its coolness... and looked down at the thermometer on my alarm clock and saw that it read 30 degrees. Ah yes, just as I remember! It's like extreme hot yoga... very much sweaty and kinda gross, but for many 90 minutes on end..  and for free! I will have no more toxins left by the end of these couple of weeks! :)

Anyways, in more exciting news, my team - Martin, Corinne, Jocelyn and Emma! I met them at the airport with jasmine flower leis :)

It's only been 2 days, but they seem to be a great bunch - pretty easy going and eager to help and get their hands dirty. It's hard not to think back and compare my team with last year's awesome goofy team that I just loved... but I'm sure this year's team will be awesome as well! In any case, as I reminded the team in our first meeting together, I work for an international development agency... not a tourist agency. And that's why we're here and hopefully we'll get to understand a lot more what that means in the coming few weeks! We spent yesterday taking a visit to the genocide museums/memorials in Phnom Penh to learn about the recent history of the Khmer Rouge regime that brutally killed more than 2 million people (some 20% of the population) just one generation ago..
One of the torture rooms in the S-21 prison :(

We're now in Pursat, the province where HOPE works, and we'll be headed to the village/community that we'll stay for the next 3 weeks tomorrow.

Hopefully more next week when we have a brief break back from the field! I used to do planning, sort pictures, write blogs and run errands, etc, early in the morning before the team wakes up. "Unfortunately", everyone on my team seems to be early bird eager beavers as well, up at 6am, so we've been starting our days pretty early instead! But, it'll be a good thing with lots of perky energy on the team! But for now, that means just a random collection of a few quick pics!

Bright coloured monks
Martin checking out the various creepy crawly goodies sold at the Central Market

Two picked out

And last but definitely not least...
Celebrating the Canucks' win in front of the Royal Palace!! Whoo hoo!! :D

Alright... bedtime for now. Until next time! :)