We left for the airport Friday, June 24th, and our flight was at 1am Saturday morning. On the way to our first layover (Hong Kong), I tried to begin to acclimate myself to the time change by staying up for several hours on the plane before getting some sleep. I was shocked to get about 4 hours of sleep on the plane. It is not common for me to sleep on airplanes. After another layover in Bangkok, we arrived in Phnom Penh. Coming out of the airport, we were greeted by Anna (our team coordinator in Cambodia) and a few other people from the Phnom Penh Orphan Home.
We stayed the night in a decent hotel and in the morning went to the Toul Sleng Museum, where many of the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime were played out. I read that over a period of time 14,000 prisoners were held there and only 7 prisoners left alive.
It took two days to drive to the orphan home from Phnom Penh. Now a group of 22 (with Anna) we got to know each other better while spending these two days together in a small bus (van?---you be the judge). Although many of us knew each other already, there was still so much to learn about each other. Nobody worried about who they sat next to and every few hours we rotated seats. After all the driving and also the time at the orphan home, I feel like I really know the rest of my teammates.
I was thoroughly impressed by our fearless leaders, Jeremy and Natalie. They had taken such great care in preparing this trip and were very knowledgeable about the country. Partly because they had led a team the year before and just as much because they had researched it. Natalie (and Jeremy too) often took on the role of tour guide as we drove through the countryside. And sometimes we would have to ask Anna questions as well.
Jeremy & Natalie
I just lost several paragraphs and now will attempt to re-write them...
Upon arrival to the Chhuk Orphan home, we all exited the bus and greeted the children and the staff of the home with a customary bow and the word(s) "Jimripsuah" (Hello in Khmer). The children were eager to greet us and had prepared a song in English for us. After the song, we all (children, staff, our team) introduced ourselves. Of course, the names did not stick in our heads right away, but it took the whole trip to learn names, and also words and phrases in Khmer. I can count to 29 in Khmer!
The next morning we started working right away. Our project was to build a cafeteria. This consisted of a cement floor, a roof and about a 3-foot brick/cement wall all the way around. We also painted most of the existing building (which included 88 shutters). I mostly painted, but I did do a bit of mixing cement, laying brick, and pouring cement. I also took part in a fabulous bucket brigade, and moved brick as well.
To be continued (Rain and Mud in the next post!)....