Cambodia Service-Learning 2013

Like I mentioned, this is already my 2nd trip to Cambodia hehehe. But it never hurts to 温故知新! This Cambodian experience was definitely much more refreshing given the fact that I’ve already gotten used to the conditions on the island the previous time. I tried to stay awake during bus rides to observe the streets and traffic conditions of a 3rd world country. I tried my best to make my $800+ worth.

And no doubt it’s been a really great experience 🙂

First, the streets.

I looked out of the window most bus journeys and the view was such an eye-opener. I don’t go to Malaysia (particularly the more rural areas) often, much less Indonesia, thus what I saw was really new to me. Markets lined up along the streets, and every 1km along the road or so another big market will be present, 5 or 6 people squeezing on one motorcycle and children as small as 4-5 holding hands walking home together. That’s one aspect of their lives that Singapore can never compare to I guess- the fact that I was never allowed on my own until 12, the fact that motorcycles can only seat 2, how our wet markets are slowly transforming into our huge hypermarkets such as Giant or Sheng Siong.

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The street markets hehe. This was the best I could capture since I was on a moving bus 😦

There are pros and cons of living in every country or leading any lifestyle, but I must say the Cambodian children look really happy. They don’t need our sympathy, for that’s how they choose to lead their lives and that’s how happy they are. In my previous trip I believe I pitied them quite a bit, thinking how unfortunate they are to be born here. But I guess they’re content with their lives! They do not have such a terrible stress from studying, and the kampong spirit is still deeply entrenched in them. They may be envious of us thinking that we’re rich Asians who made it successful, but here I am, envying them for their slow and peaceful lifestyle.

Nearing the boat trip I managed to catch the sunset! Thank god I had my fill of sleep on the plane 🙂

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A great great view of the sunset! Desperately tried to wake everyone up because the sun was so rosy and beautiful but everyone was fast asleep, so there I was busy trying to snap photos on a moving bus LOL. I was so impressed by the place before even reaching the island, completely different from my original impression of dirty and run-down etc. I have no idea why/how my mindset can change so quickly in one year, but I’m pretty sure it’s for the better, and I guess I’ve learnt to embrace different cultures pretty well 🙂

It’s rather… cool how the sunset is “chopped” up by the telephone lines, that I don’t even see in Singapore or any other developed country for that matter anymore. A better caption would probably be: a great great view of the sunset in a third world country! I really appreciate the beauty of third world countries now, I don’t think I had this 新鲜感 on my trip to UK. I hope to visit more third world countries and the villages (eg. India/Thailand/Vietnam/rural parts of China) while I am still young and active, these are the places that I’ve really grown to appreciate more because everywhere else in the world is so touristy now!

Second, the island stay.

I’m pretty sure I explored more parts of the island this time haha. Although the island tour wasn’t as enriching as it could have been/the past, it was still refreshing to be standing at what once used to be so familiar. At where the killing fields stood, at where the newly developed huts stood. Undoubtedly, many areas of the island had major changes. There was a new volleyball court at what used to be a large patch of grass. There was a new community centre built by Australians, new vocational training centre laid by another group and continued by us, and so on. Well, I must say that it’s probably a good thing that the island’s gaining loads of attention from other people, such that volunteers are frequently coming to contribute either to the school for the children or the village as a whole.

We also played with the children as usual, piggybacked them, flung them around like a swing, but yet they are still warmly running up to ask asking for hugs and everything. The children are really warm, I have no idea how Singaporean children actually grow up to shy away from strangers. In Cambodia they are so hearty and nice towards strangers that they first meet hahaha.

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The kids who joined me on the swing hehe.

There was also a day when Jolyn decided to be a little adventurous and asked the villagers if they were willing to lend us their bikes, and there she was biking around the entire island. Jiawen Jessie Wanlu and I also felt like doing the same, so there we were speeding around the village. It was rather comical cause their bikes were so damn high and I couldn’t get my feet on the ground, and that was really really dangerous because their terrain was really rough… 凹凸不平 would be the best phrase to describe the entire rocky path. What if I just fell, I wouldn’t be able to keep steady on the ground! Motorcycle tracks and everything were present and your safety really couldn’t be guaranteed, and so I was having difficulty mounting the bike when the Cambodian children decided that since I couldn’t start the bike THEY SHALL PUSH ME!!!!!!! OMG I SCREAMED SO BADLY but it got a lot better after that- my steadiness and everything. Somehow when you keep your head ahead and clear, everything goes better. Kids hopped on unknowingly while we were cycling and followed us along the way, and I must say the entire cycling experience was really enjoyable! Thank you to the villagers of Koh Rumdual Island for being so kind 🙂

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The heavy kid who hopped onto my bike! It was tough ok! And guess what to take that picture I knocked into the hut and all the straw went into my hair HAHAHA omg I am such an embarrassment.

I must say that has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I mean I have cycled at Pulau Ubin which can be considered relatively similar but the experience at the island was no other. We managed to breeze through both the poorer and richer areas of the island, and saw the distinct differences in lifestyles. One had really malnutritioned cows with babies not wearing clothes and on the other side of the island, there are large plots of plowed land ready to be planted with crop, there were loads of fatty cows standing around and loads of villagers holding their harvest and preparing to sell them to the market. While both sides of the island… are essentially one island, they are separated by the very fact that one side owns the land, while the other side rents the land. Income disparity is indeed present everywhere.

Conditions for bathing and sleeping were much better this time given that it was at least 5degrees cooler, I burnt last year but this year was very much more like Singapore’s weather! We laid mattresses unlike the hard floor which we slept on last year. Mosquitoes and dumb bugs were still around for most of the time, but we were all safely cooped up in mosquito nets while we were sleeping so it was perfectly fine! Something that ticked me off though, was having to sleep at the corner 😦 The mosquito net brushed my face whenever someone entered and exited the net, and let’s not even think how dirty it is. So many groups of volunteers have come and gone, and I don’t think they have sufficient resources to even wash the mosquito net… so. HAHA. It’s okay! It’s great to be dirty once in a while, at least your immune system doesn’t get lazy! Bathing was fine even though the water was slightly yellow, at least it’s not gray like last year… with frogs and mosquitoes. It was clean! 🙂

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The sleeping bags actually look quite comfortable to sleep in, don’t they HAHAHA. Especially with Jiawei’s pillow HAHA. Some of them were lazy to roll up their sleeping bags after a night, so they were my sleeping bags for the afternoon naps that I gladly took every single day HAHA. I can’t really survive without them, I’ll get really really tired.

Other interesting things we did included taking photos with our painted wall from RV Combined UG OCIP Cambodia 2012, picking up cow shit with Vanessa Poh along the way, attending a wedding in the village (it was really intense man all the dancing and so) and the final campfire that concluded our island stay just like the previous trip. These are really good memories that I will never forget ever HAHA.

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The wall painted on the trip last year!

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And cow shit that Vanessa Poh and I went picking up along the way. Some of them were really fresh man, you could see from the texture which shit has been left for several days and which ones were fresh from a few hours ago HAHA.

Third, the activities on the island.

I was supposedly the mentor for the infrastructure group, for us to build up to 1m of the walls of the vocational training centre. While we didn’t accomplish that for ALL the walls, I’m glad that we managed to accomplish quite a feat since we didn’t have a lot of manpower on all the days anyway! I believe it was supposed to be higher but I guess 1m’s a safe height for us, especially since any heights higher than that require a ladder hehe. I also partook in farming, painting (or rather, scrubbing the floors), building the compost bin, census, so I guess that was quite a new experience 🙂 Hope that the corn seeds I threw in will grow! HAHA.

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A picture of the room that we were busy scrubbing the floors for!

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The kid who was following us around during census! We were afraid that he may get lost but he told us that he knew the way back and even pointed us the direction to return. The village is small, but not VERY small, but I guess most of the villagers know the entire place at the back of their palm so he followed us around hehe. It’s like they don’t get visitors very often so they jump at the opportunity to interact with us 😦

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This was the wall that Jiawei and I were working on Day 1 hehe.

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And I guess whatever you do, you ought to have fun too!

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And the 5 of us taking a picture on the wall that was supposed to be really steady hehe 🙂 Missing Gong 😦 Omg the way we built the wall was quite flimsy so I was quite worried that we would break the wall if we hopped on it, but I guess it’s stable enough to stand our weight… so it should be stable enough to stand harsh weather elements! Let’s hope and pray 🙂 I don’t really wish that the bricks that I put up will go to naught if they end up being torn down 😦

Fourth, Kolap 4.

We visited the Kolap 4 orphanage after leaving the island again! Upon reaching the orphanage, people ran all the way to the entrance to welcome us, as if we were VIPs HAHA. We kinda paid for most of the dinner for the orphans so they were really grateful to us I guess, and the beef was rumoured to be USD 500 down the table. “Why so tough” HAHAHA ok that was really funny, I guess it’s really fun to sit with crazy company hehe.

Our prepared dance thankfully went quite okay, and there were a lot of dance solos, and thank god we had three dancers on the trip who were entertaining the crowds most of the time HAHA.

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This picture from Jiawei’s phone is like a sum up of our entire visit to Kolap 4: the lead dancer in pink pants, the kids, and the regular teenager interacting with us HAHAHA. Thank god we managed to take a photo before we rushed off!

Fifth, relax and recreation.

The 6th to 9th day on the trip were possibly the best…? We visited the Choeung Ek Killing Fields once again, rather upset that we missed the Genocide Museum cause I thought that was really enriching for me despite its grotesque nature. We had good meals after the 5 days on the island with packet food, we had Cambodian cuisine, Korean cuisine, BBQ, and I was fed so so so well.

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Taking a selfie at the entrance of the killing field, something that we didn’t have the chance to do last year HAHA.

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One of the good meals we had, I believe this was a Khmer-Thai restaurant! Dishes kept on coming in and we had such a huge variety hehe 🙂 Was fed full and really happy at the end!

We had loads of free time for shopping and I bought loads of nonsense. I brought about an extra 5kg back and it amounted to only about USD 100 spent in the markets in total? Truth be told I am still rather amused by all the fakes I bought HAHAHA my favourite purchase has got to be the fake Vans omg!!! I’m wearing it so often and it came so cheap hehehe.

We visited Angkor Wat as well, it was a choice at the start of the trip whether we would opt for that and make our cost more expensive, but of course I voted for it teehee my brother once mentioned that you haven’t been to Cambodia if you haven’t been to Angkor Wat, and I must say the view of the buildings was really breathtaking! What was really upsetting was that we missed the sunrise cause of the damn clouds blocking the sun, it was sunrise before we even knew it LOL. Annoying shit!!! Spent the entire morning (and part of the afternoon) touring the Angkor Temples, and even did a Temple Run HAHAHA that was so funny.

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Our tag for entering the place!!! HAHAHA. Omg I think I have misplaced it, thank god I took a photo of it HAHA.

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Right after the sunrise at about 7am! The famed Angkor Wat just lies behind us, with its three “protruding roofs” HEHEH.

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Here’s us at another Angkor Temple which I can’t really remember the name (thanks for blogging 2 weeks late NGHP), but the architecture is still to die for haha it was really nice, still.

After that we had a Cambodian cooking class! That was the first cooking class in my life HAHA. Jiawei and I were like two rejected little birds heading from table to table getting people to accept us (ok not so exaggerated HAHAHHA) cause there was a limit for each class, but in the end we followed a really really nice teacher 🙂 I decided to make something that looked really strange on the menu, but it unexpectedly turned out so good! Anyway I cried while dicing onions HAHAHA I COULDN’T DO ANYTHING for the next 2 minutes cause my eyes were hurting so bad omg. Now I know what people mean by using onions to cry LOL IT STINGS SO BAD.

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And that’s me with my cooked… Pallini I believe? Omg I just googled it and ah I forgot what my food was called it’s alright HAHA. I chose this picture because only this picture hides my terrible facial complexion on the Angkor Wat day, rashes caused my whole face to be swollen with red bumps and it was so damn scary because I have never ever encountered this in my life. I haven’t even gotten more than 6 pimples before (SSC 2011) and I was so afraid everything would worsen and leave a scar and then I won’t have a smooth face forever 😦 Everyone was coming up to me and asking “Omg Huiping what happened to your face ah?” “Omg I didn’t pay attention before but how come you so many pimples?” I’m not trying to be an asshole here but it was really bad… for me. It’s like if someone was 40kg and suddenly gained to 43kg, they would also overreact about the weight gain despite the fact that they are already skinny. SIMILARLY, I never had to wash my face in Singapore… and imagine getting an outbreak!!!

Until today I am still unclear whether they were pimples or an allergic reaction because I didn’t see the doctor, but it’s okay! Thank god for Vanessa Poh’s allergy pill on the last day, it subsided quite a bit and then fully recovered when I was back in Singapore for Christmas 🙂 THANK GOD, really. I wouldn’t have liked to live with it, I stared at my face at every available mirror hoping it’ll get better but NO it got worse the more I washed my face 😦

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And my zai table with all our food! Look at mine beautifully presented in that red pot hehe.

Walked around after that and we had so so so much free time to shop! About 3 hours? Bought bags, notebooks, nonsense, more clothes, yogurt, and then headed for a 30 minute foot massage that cost a mere USD 3!!! Their massages were so cheap that it looked like some scam LOL, but we emerged safe and happy after it hehe. It was really comfortable 🙂 And also we agreed that all of us were to wear the ugly pants to the airport, this long, ugly and airy pants HAHAHA. All of us got different designs but all the guys chickened out at the Singapore airport HAHAHA.

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Going for a foot massage with Zhijun and Jiawei hehehe.

Had more time on the last day so we went for a full body massage again! Omg I went for the oil massage and we had to be completely naked HAHAHA. It was so awkward because there were guys in the same room as well! But it went really well and once again it was so cheap, USD 5 for one entire hour omg. The fish spa outside was also thrown in free HAHAHA. Omg. Thinking about all these memories make me smile so hard, I was really happy in my days there hehe. It was truly 无忧无虑, the only worry was to get to the next destination on time :’)

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Selfie at the fish spa area! I’m so glad that I’m rather skilled when it comes to taking selfies HAHA EVERYONE’S safely tucked inside the photo 🙂 We kinda owned the entire tank at that point in time HAHA.

Then it was the airport 😥

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But it was quite cool though! For the first time I walked on the airport runway to the aeroplane, should have taken a nicer photo nearer to the aircraft, unfortunately all of us were rushing because it was the last call HAHA.

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And the ugly pants clan at Changi Airport, many many more people chickened out upon touch down cause they weren’t going to meet the world in those ugly pants HAHA.

I must say the trip itself wasn’t exactly the best itinerary you may get, not that there was poor planning but there’s only so much you can do in a third world country like Cambodia! However, the people on the trip made everything amazing, made hotel stays so enjoyable, made massages so funny, made the 7-hour bus journey seem more like 1 hour, with all the games and questions and everything.

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This was like one of our Girls’ Nights out HAHAHA.

As I’m typing this, I’m more than overjoyed that I’ll be meeting most of them again for the New Year countdown tomorrow hehe. Honestly I was pretty sad on the last few days because I knew these are large groups that will dissipate sooner or later, so it’ll be good if we are able to keep in contact for a short while since we’re still close… I do not have faith in everlasting friendships, but while it lasts, I’ll still put in effort for it 🙂 Thank you for such a wonderful Service-Learning experience, I think my parents might slap me if I head to Cambodia again since this is already my 2nd trip, but when I grow up I hope to visit Koh Rumdual Island again, and see what sort of changes have once again been made to change the lives and predicament of the children on the island, as well as visit Kolap 4 in the hope that some children from the island will be present there. That would mean a step nearer to better education and better living environment, which can only be good for them and the island in the long run 🙂

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