It has been a month since we left Cambodia, and my memories of our experience are getting a little fuzzy. In the midst of luxury, it’s hard to recall what it’s like to walk bare footed among chicken poop.
On one of the days at the province church, the teachers organised a combined session for the children. It was Women’s Day (8 March) and in Cambodia, it’s recognised as a public holiday. The children from the different classes gathered for a time of games, songs, and learning. That gave us the opportunity to not only know the children better, but also to interact with the teachers.
Our last weekend in Phnom Penh was spent playing tourist in the city. We went to a crafts & food fair, which was set up not far away from Tuol Sleng genocide museum (also famously known as S21), and also visited the riverfront.
Many of the stalls were selling handmade items, but two businesses in particular stood out to me. I found Angkor Bullet Jewellery especially meaningful as they make beautiful wearable jewellery pieces from bullet casings and bomb shells collected across the country. The owner of the business, Chantha, told us that as a designer, he believed this was a way to show that Cambodia is rising up from the tragedy of its past.
The other business definitely worth a mention was L’Irrésistible, a brand of jams run by Action Cambodge Handicap. These jams are made and bottled by people with autism and intellectual disabilities. I happened upon this brand at a supermarket but didn’t know of its story until I stopped by their stall at the fair. The sale of these jams not only provide the people with jobs, but also help to sustain Action Cambodge Handicap, which offers these people a safe place to stay and work.
Later in the day, we made our way to the Royal Palace. We didn’t go in, but stayed outside where lots of local families were gathered on the lawn and benches. Hawkers came by peddling ice cream, balloons, snacks. Flocks of birds flew about in the air.
We took some photos and then crossed over to the riverfront. We strolled along the Tonle Sap, passing families with kids, dating couples, and groups of young men playing Sepak Takraw.
Eventually, we came to the end of the beautiful footpath and found ourselves in front of a night market. The music was loud, the crowd was a giant writhing mass, but out of curiosity, we entered and discovered that all the way at the back of the market was this open-air courtyard flanked by food stalls on all sides. Ground sheets were already laid as an invitation for people to sit and eat. It looked like one huge picnic.
Over the next few days, we tried the food at different places, including a beer garden. I might do a separate post on the eateries and cafes we visited.
The last couple of days before we flew home was spent mainly at the province church. By this time, we had come to know the local teachers fairly well and I really liked them. The children had also begun to trust us and I often found myself on the receiving end of excited Khmer chatter, of which I did not understand. I had also grown comfortable with the rural environment and quite enjoyed the company of chickens scuttling about my feet.
I hope, by the grace of God, I have served the people well. And I hope I return soon.