I don’t fly too often and it’s always a bit daunting heading into an international airport but, add on top of that having to coordinate approximately 70 young men who are about to embark on an experience of a lifetime, and you could possibly have a recipe for disaster. However, as is always the case with boys of this calibre, there was no need for stressing or worry because they were all on time and ready to get going. It’s safe to say that this trip is not something I would see myself doing at age 15 and I can see on the faces of these young men that they are ready to make a difference to small communities in Cambodia. I’ll certainly miss my family, but this is an opportunity I will learn from and hopefully I can share what I learn with my own children.
The trip was relatively safe and comfortable and I couldn’t help but take notice how impeccable all the in-flight staff were dressed and groomed. Flying from Singapore to Phnom Penh provided one of the most worthwhile conversations with a Cambodian lady who is currently studying at Macquarie University, Sydney. The lady next to her was travelling to enhance her knowledge of Buddhism and together the conversation rolled along, building our knowledge of Cambodian culture and, to a small degree, Buddhist philosophy. As is the case with most positive people (stereotype acknowledged), they are very conscious of being present and mindful. This lead to some very deep subject matter and, to be honest, I’m not sure if it was the deep conversation that wore me out or the 9 or so hours spent on the plane.
We all arrived safely and hungry for some Cambodian food. Mr Thai, our tour leader (Rustic Pathways), who is not from Thailand, is very friendly and willing to engage the boys in some cultural and historical knowledge of the country. He shared information about the two government buildings. One built by Japan, and the other, next door, built by the Cambodian’s because they didn’t like the one they were given. Tired and bleary eyed, we dodged the traffic furniture and kamikaze motorcyclists, often with family on board, to the very comfortable hotel.
I woke up terribly early and went for a short jog. The humidity slapped me in the face as my nose tried to deal with the new smells that seem to rise form the crack in the pavement. It was an eye opener. As a teacher of Geography my eyes were immediately drawn to the sub-standard infrastructure and haphazard town planning.
The humidity adds to the urban chaos, but the people are happy and very busy. I stopped to watch a man who, in the middle of the capital city, was cooking from an open fire and collecting coals in buckets to cook some type of food. I didn’t take a photo as I didn’t want to be rude. He was happy enough to show me what he was doing and I was grateful for that.
Today we visit the Genocide Museum and I’m sure the solemn mood will provide the boys with some hard hitting Cambodian cultural context and prove to be a sobering experience.
Day one covered.