Thursday, April 11, 2013

Learning the Ropes in Siem Reap

Our induction started with a tour of the villa to get us acclimated to the rules and the amenities.  We had heard a lot of the general rules and volunteer expectations before, from our earlier induction with Projects Abroad in South Africa.

The first thing we noticed about our villa is the crocodile farm immediately behind us. There are probably at least 500 crocodiles there, although they are hard to count because many of them are in the water and the others hang out in huge piles.

The crocodiles with their mouths open reminded us of Roxanne
The big guy in the middle is 15 - 18 feet long

After the first of several excellent meals at our villa for lunch, we took a 2-hour whirlwind tuk tuk tour of Siem Reap and the Angkor Wat temple area.  Our Volunteer Coordinator Bunroen ("Bryan") familiarized us with places we will want or need to visit later in our stay. We went by a nice supermarket, a drugstore, a bookstore and the Pub Street restaurants.

We also stopped at a street corner shop to purchase a local SIM card for the same cheap ($12) cell phones we kept from South Africa.  We're still in need of a Dongle to get an Internet connection from our own computer.

Early evening street view near Pub Street

Late in the day, we stopped by our volunteer placement, an orphanage called KSEDO. We met the Director, the wise and amiable Ms. Sophorn, and all of the kids from the orphanage.

We were immediately impressed with the kids.  They are bright, friendly, smiling, talented and very polite.  Prior to arriving in Cambodia, we had expected that some of the kids might be emotionally or physically challenged.  We also thought that some of them might have more serious illnesses such as HIV/AIDS.  That is not the case with KSEDO, but it may be true for some other orphanage placements in Cambodia.

These kids have either one or no parents.  They come from other provinces, generally to the west of Siem Reap closer to the border with Thailand.  We get the impression that the kids are chosen very selectively by KSEDO, in conjunction with the community leaders in their home villages.  Many of the children are at KSEDO with some of their siblings.

Savath, Da, Kakada and others enjoy Sheryl's bubbles and Sara's shades

If they have a surviving parent, they may get to see him or her once a year at Khmer New Year, but otherwise they are on their own here at the orphanage.  This continues at least until adulthood.

With Bunroen/Bryan functioning as an interpreter, we learned from Ms. Sophorn that the primary funding for KSEDO had been discontinued within the past several months.  A 21-year old girl from Australia had visited KSEDO a couple of years ago, and she and her family and friends had provided significant financial support for a while.  But apparently this couldn't continue indefinitely.

Due to the funding change, the orphanage had just moved to more rustic facilities about a 5-minute tuk tuk ride from our villa.  The main building has a large main activity room with tiled floors, and several smaller storage rooms.  The open-air classroom is about 30 meters away, with a food preparation room and a shady relaxation area in between.

Ms. Sophorn (2nd from left) entertains two visitors

The already action-packed day ended on a high note.  All of the kids participate in Khmer Dancing lessons, provided by an outside instructor 4 days per week.  Boys and girls dance together.  Most of the movements are very slow and elegant, with curved hand motions and graceful half-bows.  The choreography and synchronization were excellent. The dancing is not excessively theatrical.  Just right.  We were blown away by their talent.

No comments:

Post a Comment