There always seems to be something going on at the big school down the road from Globalteer. Today, there was a massive amount of people outside of the school and it seemed like the school itself was hosting three times more kids in its courtyard than usual. Yesterday, however, was the highlight. The volunteers all decided to check out the evening aerobics class where the loud dance music is always playing. For 1000 riel or 25 cents, we each got in, along with our groove on, and had a blast dancing along in the school's courtyard with about 80 other Cambodians, trying desperately to follow the basic steps. It was a riot.
Then, as the market was closing, I decided to wander around to snap a few shots.
Finally this evening, after two weeks of preparation by about 10 participating schools, including Anjali House, the annual Giant Puppet Parade took place! This wonderfully creative parade that concluded the celebration of the Chinese New Year was an utter BLAST for the kids, the volunteers and all the people who got to witness it in the streets. From a circle around the Old Market to a long walk to the Royal Gardens, hundreds of kids, their teachers, administrators, volunteers and family all paraded the streets and riverside wearing masks, hats, wings or holding these extremely well crafted giant papier maché puppets. The spectacle was colorful and mighty cheerful: the children were more excited and energetic than Elmo at a renaissance fair. It was definitely beautiful to be here during this time, to have followed and documented a substantial artistic project, to see its realization from start to finish and to attend the joy its completion brought tonight. These children are all so fun and happy and the volunteers, including me, were all very proud of the project as a whole. To some of them, the students are like their own kids by now and its wonderful to see the drive they have for these children to succeed, even when it can be difficult and frustrating at times. I filmed Pech, one of the older kids, sticking his face in the camera and yelling "I am SOOO happeeee tonight!!!" It's hilarious.
At the end of the march to the Royal Gardens, in the brutal heat and humidity even at sundown, they showed the slideshow we had been working on with the photography group. It was so much fun to finally see it on the big screen and to know hundreds of kids and adults were watching it, being able to witness for themselves the process of creating the puppets as well as the creativity of the photography of the Anjali kids. I had about ten photos in the slideshow, so it was an honor to participate some of my own work in the show as well.
After the show, all the Anjali volunteers went to get some dinner. Two business-like American men were sitting at the table next to me - literally one of only a few Americans I've met so far on this trip (It seems like everyone is either British or Australian). I asked them where they were from and what they were up to and it turned out one man was one out of seven head executives at Voice of America in Washington: real life government agents! The other man was a journalist who covers mainly Cambodia. It was interesting to talk to them as well as homely - some good old American conversation was starting to lack in my little world over here.
After dinner, the Khmer teachers from Anjali took us to a nightclub, Pyramide, out of the center town about fifteen minutes away by tuk-tuk. What a place! At the door, guards checked our bags and a big sign with a bunch of "don't symbols," such as "no hand grenades, guns, cameras or tank tops" intimidated us a little before we got in (I managed to sneak a few shots anyway), but once inside, we instantly became enamored with the live show that was playing. The first four songs we were lucky to catch were super slow, mushy songs sung in Khmer by these funny emo kids with crazy hair do's - Khmer style mullets - in front of a giant screen that played episodes of Tom & Jerry and Mr. Bean. I'm sure these kids thought they were super hardcore. The pace picked up after that and other singers consecutively sang some more old school pop music before the DJ put his records on. Then, the club hit the dancefloor, including all the volunteers, and we danced our butts off in the laser light beams. It was a great evening!