This whole other side of the world thing really has me on a backed up schedule. Like a grampa, I fell asleep at 8:30pm last night to then wake up at 2am and unfortunately Courtney was up too vomiting from some sort of stomach funk. I felt really bad for her, but I guess these things come with the territory.
I never ended up going back to sleep and by 9am, four of the kids lured me into playing badminton in the brutal sun, and by 9:10, I was NOT! We then opted for a more "shady" activity - the guitar! I was hoping the kids would be excited to hear some good ol' American folk that I pretend to know how to play, but I'm not quite sure they really understood its core value, although they were happy to watch and try to understand the fret action. Then I had an idea to whip out the lanyard strings. I figured teaching them how to make a helicopter would rock their world and get them all focused on one activity so I had a little posse of 10 kids huddling over me trying to follow the moves. Some got it quickly, others not so much - but overall it was a lot of fun, especially when I brought out the iPod and blasted some Michael Jackson, which made them chuckle after every "hee hee." Of course, they know nothing about Michael Jackson or anything beyond their village really, and so it's funny to watch them discover new foreign things. They love it.
Courtney and I finally did our laundry in the cement basins out back, scrubbing and beating like in the good ol' days... or just in places that don't have washing machines, and that was definitely a highlight because I was almost ready to just THROW the clothes away they were so dirty. By the end of the day here, one really feels coated in nast.
I really wanted to visit the school that the kids go to so at 12:30 Courtney and I followed the kids by bike, one sitting behind each one of us, down a couple dirt roads and into their school of 3,000 kids. There is a beautiful temple and a dirty moat inside the school, which is basically comprised of a couple dozen classrooms all facing a big square. The second we walked in, kids started to go ballistic. "Hello, hello, hello!!!" They were ALL staring at us and giggling. The staff from the orphanage, Sadung, brought us to the headmaster to introduce ourselves. Him and his two subordinates were very excited that I wanted to photograph and talk to the kids. They have never once welcomed a foreigner to the school. They were thrilled and so was I to make history! And so we waltzed around the courtyard, first walking into the elementary school classrooms, where I introduced myself to the kids and asked them to show me the biggest smiles they've ever produced for a few snaps. They were all ADORABLE and pretty shy, but not as much as the older kids. We kept making our way around the school and literally EVERY SINGLE STUDENT, from 6 to 18 years old were hanging outside of their classrooms staring at us and laughing. They were SO disrupted by our Western presence, it was A RIOT. I kept pulling out my camera on them teasing them that I would take photos and they all just kept running away and laughing. Honestly, it was the funniest, craziest reaction I've ever got to being white and having a camera!
The assistant headmaster/English teacher invited me into his 11th grade class of 25 to talk to the kids and tell them about what it's like in America and answer any questions. It was really sweet - a couple of the boys stood up one after the other first expressing how grateful and thankful they are that I came to visit their school, because they have never received a foreigner before and they were very excited that I would take their photo and send them prints. He asked me questions about the seasons in America, and wanted to know how many we had. He also wanted to know if I liked that it was hot and how I found Cambodian people. I replied that I had never met such amazing people in my life, which couldn't be more sincere. They are filled with the most incredibly positive, beautiful energy and are so happy and humble, it's... insane really. So far, I've travelled to about 25 countries worldwide and this is the first one hands down where I have not met ONE single person who I disliked or felt bad energy from. I mean, I grew up in PARIS - the OZ of bitterness!! This place is like its anti-Christ. Anyway, I had a beautiful and humbling experience talking to the kids in the classroom about uniforms, air conditioning and all sorts of random things that they wanted to know about and half promised to find an American or English native who would be interested in teaching at the school for short or long term. ANYONE INTO IT?!? The Greater Hope orphanage is also always looking to welcome foreigners to come teach the kids and help further their education in ANY way. So, if you, reader, or a friend is interested in volunteering in Cambodia and in for an incredible experience - HIT ME UP!!
The Headmaster and Teachers:
Upon return to the orphanage, some of the girls and I made some more brazilian bracelets and then I finished the photo shoot project, which I am very excited about.
In general, the kids are all very helpful to me and to each other. If they see that I'm struggling with anything, it could be getting water from the barrel holding things in my hand or putting laundry on the line, or anything - they always rush over to help. It's refreshing as no Western kid I've ever met has ever wanted to help do chores...
After dinner there was a big dance party, all the kids danced like monkeys to Cambodian and other random songs. It was the the most precious event I've ever seen. For an hour and a half, they hopped around making the funniest and cutest dance moves. It was mostly the little kids (5-10) who were going crazy on the dance floor, the older kids sat around and watched laughing. The kids are so good to each other and all get along so well regardless of age or sex. What's interesting is that the dynamic between boys and girls is SO completely different. It's almost as if they were all the same gender, they have little difference in interests and they all play and laugh with each other as if they were the best of friends.
Anyway, it's 8:30, time for gramps to go to bed, I'm EXHAUSTED!