Tuesday, July 23, 2013
07.23.2013 - 07.23.2013
Today was a very early start as we got up at 4:30 am. It wasn't a particularly good sleep for me and I had already been up since about 2 am and was dozing on and off. No one had a really good sleep as there was a lot on our minds.
It would be our last day in Prahos Kbal and we would have to say goodbye to all the people that had carved a place in our hearts. We all knew that in coming to Cambodia, living and working in a village, meeting families and playing with children, our hearts would inevitably become attached. We just didn't know to what degree. We didn't know how much we could come to care in just a short time, not just for the people of Cambodia but for each other, our team. We also knew deep down that chances are that we will never come back to this village again. The hope is that we do return one day, but life happens and you just never know.
It wouldn't be an easy day...but as Buddha says, life is always changing. Change isn't easy and the sooner one accepts that change is inevitable, the easier it is to deal with. I am still working on this and continue to struggle with change. I generally love change and thrive when the changes are my idea.
"Impermanence and Change
The seemingly fixed and solid world you see around you actually is in a state of flux. Our senses may not be able to detect moment-to-moment change, but everything is always changing. When we fully appreciate this, we can fully appreciate our experiences without clinging to them. We can also learn to let go of old fears, disappointments, regrets. Nothing is real but this moment.
Because nothing is permanent, everything is possible. Liberation is possible. Enlightenment is possible.
Thich Nhat Hanh wrote,
'We have to nourish our insight into impermanence every day. If we do, we will live more deeply, suffer less, and enjoy life much more. Living deeply, we will touch the foundation of reality, nirvana, the world of no-birth and no-death. Touching impermanence deeply, we touch the world beyond permanence and impermanence. We touch the ground of being and see that which we have called being and nonbeing are just notions. Nothing is ever lost. Nothing is ever gained. [The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching (Parallax Press 1998), p. 124]"
We crawled out of bed, brushed teeth, and shook ourselves awake. We had to prepare for a lunch for the village. We were expecting about 250 guests. It was the Union team's parting gift to the village.
We sat at a table that Ron usually used and where the workers, Pang, Tia, Kom and others hung out. Here there were bags and bags of vegetables covering the table. We got to the task of peeling carrots, eggplants, potatoes, garlic, chopping up green beans and onions.
While we did this, each team member took a turn packing up all their belongings as we would be heading to Pursat sometime after lunch.
Clark, "I don't cook" was assigned the important task of roasting the peanuts in a wok. The peanuts were later crushed and added to the curry.
The guys, Pang, Tia and Kom were helping out as usual. Pang was helping out with the curry preparation, Tia went off to go pick up more supplies and Kom went to pick up two large cans which were used as bases for the two large metal bowls in which the curry was cooked.
And just in case you have the urge to cook for 250 people, here is the list of the Ingredients you will need:
16 kg (35 lbs) carrots
20 kg (44 lbs) potatoes
10 kg (22 lbs) eggplants
6 kg (13 lbs) green beans
8 kg (17 lbs) onions
3 kg (6 lbs) garlic
3 kg (6 lbs) mixed spices
2 kg (4 lbs) shrimp paste
3 kg (6 lbs) palm sugar
3 litres oil
4 bottles fish sauce
1/4 Kg MSG
Instead of serving rice with the curry, 500 baguettes were purchased which meant 500 baguettes had to be cut up.
Before long, large numbers of children began to arrive. Children that we had not even seen before. They were everywhere. There must have been well over a hundred kids or more and lunch was still hours away.
All our food prep duties were done and now some of the women from the village would be arriving to help our cook Ron to prepare the curry.
We got to the tough task of packing up our room, our home at the village for the past three weeks. Down came the mosquito nets, bedding was rolled up, suitcases packed, garbage dumped, floors were swept and before long it looked almost like we had not ever been there.
We did our best to keep the children entertained. I handed out stickers and also got the children into one of the classrooms where we had a bit of school lesson with numbers. Pang and Tia helped to translate for me as my command of Khmer is limited. The children decided that they would sticker us as well as themselves. Managing that many children was kind of exhausting but it made them so happy.
Before lunch all the children were gathered in the playground neatly lined up in rows. The village heads were also in attendance along with a policeman and a few others. Leah read from our card to the village in which we all wrote something to them. We were also invited to say something more if we wanted to. Once again Leah translated. I got to let everyone know how it has been a dream of mine for over 15 years to come to Cambodia and that I am so grateful to have been able to come here. My memory is now so clouded by emotions that I no longer remember all of what I said. I did add that I really enjoyed teaching yoga to the children. That part of the trip will remain very special to me. Leah also translated everything the others had to say to us. We were thanked many times over for giving up our time and coming to help them.
One of the ladies that spoke was from another village. She wanted to thank us for coming.
We also learned that the children had never received toys before, they just didn't have them. So thanks again to my cousin Elaine for all the generous school supplies and toys...you really made a difference in the lives of these children. I was so glad I lugged an extra suitcase full of things for the children. Their smiles and genuine happiness were priceless.
Being in Cambodia meant so much because our coming made a real impact, we improved the lives of people here. How often can that be said back home. It is just not the same. Some of the team pitched in and bought a fishing net for a man for $30. Now he has a way to catch fish, eat, sell his excess and can be self sufficient. For $30, he has a chance. The net he was using was borrowed and was not very good. He wasn't catching fish.
$200 bought a sugar cane machine for Ron. The Union team did this for her. It would have taken her years to save up for it. This gave her and her family a future. She could have an income.
$50 got a young boy out of debt bondage. He is back with his family.
There are thousands of people that need help and it is not always possible to help every single one of them but to know that we have helped make a difference for some is a wonderful feeling. It is a start. It is something. You no longer feel so helpless.
Two of the classrooms had desks set up and this is where the children and adults would be having their lunch.
Later we found out that the children rarely if ever get to eat meat. Soft drinks had been purchased and I have no idea how many bottles but there was a lot. Pop is a once a year treat for children, generally only for New Years. One little boy kept saying thank you, thank you to me. It was written all over his face just how happy this one meal meant to him, a meal that children back home get all the time and take for granted.
We served all the children their lunches, the teachers and the workers were gathered in another room where they were enjoying their lunch and this is when we sat down to eat in our room.
After cleaning up after lunch we hung out with the children some more. A few more pictures and a few more hugs. Words whispered to the children, telling them how much we care for them. Handing out more cookies.
It was now just before noon and it was time to get going. Rainbow and I were with Tia and he was getting emotional. The van had been packed up with all our belongings. It was hard to believe that we were nearly at the end of our three weeks.
We started our goodbyes, our cook Ron was crying. I don't think any of us expected the always smiling Ron to cry. Her tears made us even more emotional. We had already spent much of the morning taking pictures, hugging and hanging out with the children especially the ones that really made a dent in our hearts.
It was so very hard to leave the children and the adults that we had all come to care for in the three weeks that we were here. Some of the children were clearly emotional. I was crying a lot and it was so very tough to go and to know that we will likely never see any of them ever again.
It was a tough ride back to Pursat. Everyone was feeling emotional, there were lots of hugs and then we just had to get out there. It was overwhelming.
Before long we arrived in Pursat at our hotel. This is the same hotel that we had stayed in previously and would be here for three nights and then head to Phnom Penh Friday am. I was again sharing a room with my surrogate daughter, Linda.
Later that evening when I had my two suitcases from the hotel, I was able to confirm my fear that I had really lost my other camera. The one Michael had bought for me. I should have been more careful as I was sure I had left it in the safe at the hotel in Siem Reap. I would need to get help to follow up with the hotel to see if it was in the safe where I thought I had left it.
This was definitely a tough day, not as tough as Day 19 but tough nevertheless or our day at the Killing Fields.