The one when the monkey stole a lipgloss
Updated: May 4, 2020
Well, we are 2 and a half weeks into our time in community. It started off slow, with a lot of reading for the volunteers. They were split into their 3 teams and then had to read the handover documents from the previous group and the team plan for them to understand and edit. I think they found this a bit tedious and boring but they will realise how important it was once they are busy and need to know the info (and I don't think they all realise me and Theavy had to read and go through and understand all the documents for all 3 teams plus understanding the 3 sub committee roles...so they had it easy really). The have now had their first official Youth Club meeting, where the clubs picked their team names and got to know and understand the structure of the youth club and had the opportunity to tell the volunteers what they want to learn and get out of the youth clubs. At the end of the day we are here for them, they make the decisions and will end up leading the youth club with our volunteers facilitating. Now that they have had this experience I think they understand more about why they are here and can understand what they will be doing for the next 8 weeks. Soon they will have 3 youth clubs a week to be planning and preparing plus lots of other things to keep them busy, so me and Theavy will be busy keeping on top of everything and signing off all their risk assessments and plans.
So far, the best food I have had is some fried rice balls on the street which were 2 for about 10p, and will probably be my new lunch favourite. And my host mum bought us some khmer deserts from a woman on the street - no idea what they were, but they had some form of caramel on and were extremely sugary but delicious, obviously there are pictures below as my description are poor. And, you will all be happy to know, I found a supplier of coke zero, which is the closest I will get to a none sugary drink (sweeteners are in them I know whatever). So I am surviving happily and I no longer snack so I think I am being healthier...
Yesterday we had our first social, organised by the social committee who organise a social every week for the team to do an activity. For our first one we h a joint one with Tang Krasang, the other community placement in Kampong Thom province. Let me tell you, I was SO happy to be reunited with Matt, it may have only been 2 weeks away from the other UK team leaders but so much has gone on and it was great to catch up and get his advice and have a normal proper fluent conversation where I didn't have to think about every word before it came out my mouth...so I could basically be myself haha. We met them at Phnom Santuk mountain and walked up about 800 steps to see views of rice fields and a pagoda at the top featuring some very intrigues monkeys. The Cambodian definition of a mountain is pretty hilarious. It was a hill with steps, like there was a lot of steps, but if you took a Khmer to an actual mountain, or even a peak in the UK they would be mind blown. That's not to say we didn't need a rest up to the top because the steps were pretty steep! The monkeys weren't too scary and they didn't really come near me but they did steal Theavy's lipgloss right out of her bag!!! which is hilarious because the whole day she had been warning us all about the monkeys and to not get too close. So we get to the top and she leaves her bag unattended and a cheeky little monkey swiftly reaches into her side pocket and takes off with her lipgloss. We then watched it trying to figure out how it could use it which was quite entertaining as well. She did get it back in the end but it has monkey teeth marks on it and is a little broken and should probably not be used ever again. At the bottom of the 'mountain', Matt showed me and Joe where a punch bag was and I managed to get a small kicking practise in and relieve some stress - now I want to fashion some sort of punchbag in community that we can use haha.
In the afternoon my team went to Kampong Thom town to have lunch and visit the market. The UK volunteers found a western food place owned by an America lady who first came here as a missionary and then decided to move here. It was a good treat for the UK Volunteers plus Kimlang who wanted to try something new but the other Khmer volunteers choice to eat local food at the market and I think in hindsight, as it was a social day everyone should have eaten together, but I am also learning a lot here too and everyone enjoyed their rare day out of community so it was a success! The restaurant was called 'Love Cafe & Pizza' and was a cute little place if you ever find yourself in Kampong Thom town. Pizzas and chicken wings were expensive but everything else was reasonable and similar prices to other wester restaurants in towns I have visited here. At the market I bought some authentic Khmer pyjamas so I will always have an outfit that will remind me of here and I love them (haven't tried them on yet but they're extra large so I assume they will fit hahaha).
Last night me and Theavy went with our host mum to her cousin's son's 12th birthday party so it was my first experience of a Khmer birthday celebration. It was so fun. At first it was a bit strange because we essentially interrupted a kids party and they all just stood and stared at me for a while before the adults finally persuaded one of the girls to show me how to dance. Naturally I was absolutely terrible at it but eventually it became less awkward and we ended up dancing in a circle which was a lot more comfortable!
Then they played some K-Pop and the birthday boy gave all his guests a homemade gift he had made - flowers made out of straws so he recycled them into a gift and they were so beautiful and cleverly done!!! Now he is 12 I think I will try and get him to come to one of our youth clubs! They then wished him happy birthday with a cake - it was a green cake flavoured with coconut with frosting on the top and I didn't hate it. Frosting was way way better than icing!! Then we got given a strange milk drink - like condensed milk mixed with aloe vera and dragon fruit - strange but again I didn't hate it it was just very sweet. Then each guest then gives a gift and wishes the recipient a happy birthday, a healthy life and good education etc and he thanked them for coming etc. Me and Theavy had not brought a gift but this did not stop us from being pulled to the front to present a gift to him - and be videoed doing so of course. I wished him a happy birthday, a happy year and a healthy life in English, and he thanked me in English and also told me he hopes I have a boyfriend or I find a boyfriend soon...so at least I know that I have a 12 year old Khmer boy fighting my corner...his English is fab and he is so sweet! He is sometimes round at our house so I think I will gift him the skipping rope and colouring equipment I brought with me but haven't found a child to gift it to yet. So that was a fun and busy 45 minutes last night, we were both knackered from a day in the sun and climbing the 'mountain' but it was worth going to the party! We have our first birthday in the offie today as well - Dev turns 23, we have Theavy's a month today and then mine towards the end so we have a few more celebrations to look forward to!!