(Thursday) Last night was a rough night. I barely got four hours of sleep. My mind was burdening me with things of my recent past. It's funny that this time last year I thought I knew exactly what I wanted. I was so sure that I knew who I was and where I was going. The truth is, I hardly knew where to rest my feet. I did not know what I wanted besides a chance to get away. What was I running from? I'm not sure anymore, and I'm tired of running. I miss home.
This morning we had a beautiful breakfast before heading out to our volunteer site. The groups switched jobs today, and we worked on finishing the house. The other group said they were jealous of the day we were about to have, but I was jealous that they got to go to the toilet site where I felt the happiest. We departed for Kampot which took us about an hour to get to.
The house we were building was for a family that was practically living in their cow's shed. They have a boy who is mentally retarded. When we arrive at the site, he is completely naked and smiling from ear to ear. He cannot talk, but he laughs and smiles a lot. Yesterday, the group told us he was tied to a tree so he did not get hurt or get in the way. He is running around with great enthusiasm today. The people are uneducated on how to help the boy, and the neighbors do not like him. It's sad to see him being mistreated so I am grateful to have the opportunity to help build him a house.
The house was nearly done, but we had to go around the walls with bamboo to keep the leaves from blowing away. It was a tedious job that required a great deal of communication. I was inside the house talking to others outside through the wall. They would stick a metal wire through the bamboo which would then be tied and secured. After pulling tight on so many wires my fingers get calluses. I added more bandages to my already blistered hands and kept working. The little boy was running around everywhere trying to grab cameras and what not. His laugh was contagious. I did get a bit flustered when I was trying to work in a corner where there was a hammock in which he insisted on swinging in and hitting me repeatedly. Anastasia stepped in and took the boy to play. She did an amazing job with him. None of us wanted him to get tied to a tree again so she preoccupied him. I give her major props for her patience and strength. I had neither today.
There's a part of me that is a bit annoyed. Yesterday's team could have very easily finished the house and us the toilet. With the time spent in Takeo, each group should be building a house and a toilet. The cost is cheap and community members also help build. This house was only $300 to fund. Since there is just small work to finish, a kitchen has been planned. We spent the rest of the morning building a kitchen.
We all took turns with the building process. It was pretty difficult to hammer the nails into the bamboo. I slammed the hammer onto my thumb. I've been good at injuring myself today. After several hours, we decide to break for lunch. The van took us about 20 minutes away to a guesthouse backing into a saltwater river. We had some fried rice and then went swimming. The water was as warm as bath water. It was nice to relax and cool down before heading back to the site.
The work was finished soon after. We built the walls of the kitchen and continued with the ceiling. At one point they tied the boy to a post with a metal wire, but he was able to escape by pulling out the whole post. I was proud of him. Anastasia, again, took the role of playing with him. They danced and twirled; it was really beautiful. This was an extremely challenging site to work at, but I am happy and hopeful. The building has four walls and a door, and right now it is only a house. I hope the family can turn this house into a home.
We head back to the town center for dinner. We sit along the river and enjoy some great food. Afterward we go to the orphanage to watch some traditional Khmer dancing. Tonight there is a special performance. There were orphans from Qatar that flew in. They learned traditional dances and danced together. It was amazing. It was so great to see the cultural immersion. In the middle of the show, there was a break for coffee. Three people sat near right stage and had coffee while the crowd observed. It was interesting, but this is another cultural experience. The show continued with beautiful costumes and dances.
The kids were great. I was so exhausted by the end of the night, and when I got back to our homestay, I had a note on my door. Noam and Anna left me a note that they had tried to wait up for me but had decided to go to bed since it was after 10pm. I went to brush my teeth and heard a door open and close. I knew it was them so I knocked and went over. The note was so sweet; it made me smile. We talked about our days and went to bed. I slept all night :)
(Friday) Today we spent most of the day at Mach and Siphen's house. Since the basketball team won the other day, the final championship game was today. We went to watch them. They won! The other team started throwing things at them. This is how they handled defeat. Siphen took her girls off the court to get away from such poor sportsmanship.We went to the market and bought personal hygiene products for the family with the new toilet. I also bought the four girls a dress or shirt.
When we went to hand over the toilet to the family, we were all overwhelmed with emotions. I held back tears as I listened to the family members thank us. The man said he had never been giving anything in his 70 odd years. I was so inspired yet again. I was moved by their gratitude. I wanted to thank them for helping me grow and learn and have the opportunity to do this. We all took pictures and shared more smiles and laughs. When we were leaving one little girl, Rakata, was already putting on the dress I bought her. I felt my heart smiling. It's amazing how much of a difference a small amount of time and work can make. I wish only good things for this family. The people of Cambodia are continuously inspiring me.