“If writers wrote as carelessly as some people talk, then adhasdh asdglaseuyt[bn[ pasdlgkhasdfasdf.” ― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish
I’ll try to spare you careless words, but do be gracious – a short and sweet account of 3 very full days is knotty business. Some photos and a few tales will have to do 🙂
Getting to Cambodia was no dull affair – we gamboled across the globe, day and night, hot and cold, aeroplanes and aerotrains (very cool! Airport train in Kuala Lumpur) before our kindly tuk-tuk driver helped me to my homely bed by a big window. Every tuk-tuk driver I’ve met has been a real gent.
The dexterous weaving through traffic, the smiles of the locals, and the palette of familiar and unfamiliar smells all made the first moments quite impressive. The familiar smells made me quite nostalgic of my Thailand trip in 2012. Incredible how a smell takes you back.
My first days have left me feeling, among other things, spoilt. We’ve eaten out almost every meal since arriving, and I can’t say I’ve been anything but enthusiastically satisfied after each meal. My expectations aren’t particularly low either; the food is just genuinely great. One of my favorite dining experiences would have to be eating at a place called Romdeng, and not just because my bowl was an intricately folded leaf.
This restaurant takes young men off the street, and gives them the opportunity to be educated and employed in the hospitality industry. The older men would supervise them taking our orders, and prompt them when they forgot to say or do something. To see mentoring happen in even such a simple way left me feeling a little inspired.
Whilst I’ve really quite enjoyed eating out, learning to barter with tuk-tuk drivers and stall-keepers, and seeing different drama and music performances, I can’t help but feel like it would be wrong if those experiences were the focus of my trip. The temptation to primarily be a consumer (of food, culture, and even people) has become distinct these last few days, and I’m reminded that natural desires and pleasures find their right place when they are subordinate to a purposeful love.
Today at lunch Emily asked Cathy “Do you think you could live here?” and she said “Yes… but I’ll never know what it’s like to be a Cambodian. There’s always a way out for me.” Knowing that we are only here temporarily contributes to this temptation to consume and leave. It seems clear that for Cathy to feel so at home here, that she has engaged deeply with the people here. Getting to rub shoulders with the locals seems to put things into perspective a bit.
The organisations we are working with, Empowering Youth Cambodia (EYC), Music Arts School (MAS), and Cambodia Living Arts (CLA) are big on mentoring, and I’m so glad we have the chance to work with them. Today Emily and I met with Aran, our contact within MAS/EYC, and I already feel the trip has much more purpose for me.
From Wednesday onwards we will be working with an English teacher in one of EYC’s 4 schools in disadvantaged areas. Though still a little nebulous, the plan is that we’ll observe for a few days, and over time help her teach through music and drama – culminating in a collaborative performance for the Australian Ambassador at the end of our last week here. Very exciting!
There are no official classes that I’ll be involved with in the Music Arts School, but I’ve been invited to hang around the traps and join in whenever it seems appropriate. I’m so glad. Just wandering around the building today made me so happy. It was like being at a conservatorium of music, but people are smiling 😛
Guitars everywhere, people jamming in the foyer… there was one guy playing the most wonderful jazz piano. We’ll go hear him play on Saturday night with his Django Reinhardt inspired trio, Hot Club Pnom Penh.
I have some stories and thoughts about giving to beggars, altruism in general, and my reflections on what I’m learning about the Khmer Rouge genocide in the 70’s… but I’ll save that for another blog post. Hope you like the photos!