Monday, August 14, 2006

Day By Day Account

I've decided not to type endless pages on my trip but instead will summarize it as much as possible. Since many of you will eventually read Jan's postings (I hear she's already done 5 pages on Word on a detailed account of the trip), I'll spare my fingers the agony.

Our flight was delayed for nearly 3 hours which was inconvenient as we only arrived at Baray District (which is a 2 hour van ride north of Phnom Penh) past 10:30pm which is extremely late in Cambodia. The van ride there proved to be surprising and eye-opening as their vehicles are left hand drive so we were very confused throughout our stay there especially when we had to cross roads. Then, the horn is used excessively for everything such as overtaking a bicycle, to prevent cows, kids, cyclists anything from straying into the path of the vehicle. Thirdly, I doubt if there is a speed limit especially in the rural parts of Cambodia. Most of the time we kept our eyes shut after the first few minutes of screaming "On-coming truck!!" or "Watch out!!!".

There is no electricity and the last person in the toilet was halfway soaping herself when the generator went off. In pitch darkness, we fumbled our way into discovering various types of flying insects in our bedchambers. And just as we started to get comfy, we heard a loud explosion from afar. (We found out the next day that a tyre from a lorry exploded at high speed).

Day 1:
We visited some homes to invite some youths to the Youth Rally we had organised. Here, we went to the villages and saw how the Cambodians lived. Houses are built on stilts similar to the kampung houses here in Malaysia. The poorer the family, the poorer the materials the houses were made from. Children walked naked, their hair yellowed from malnutrition, bare feet stepped into cattle droppings and into homes and onto their beds. Stomachs bulged. Most of the people I met are farmers who often do not know where their next meal is coming from.

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Dalmation pig with her piglets

Their poverty is sharply contrasted with their temples as they believe in giving their money to build guilded temples. Massive structures tower over the shabby houses surrounding it.

Sickness is rampant and many are blind due to high fevers. Many had typhoid from drinking unclean water.

There are wells dug in these villages by missionaries. Otherwise, they will drink from the yellowed rivers. There's an NGO who has helped supply filters for the well waters but the penetration of these facilities hasn't reached all corners of the rural areas. Plus the Cambodians don't see the need for filtered water.

Day 2:
This is the day we were sent out one by one to various churches to preach. I was nervous but was touched to see how the congregations were fervant and strong in their faith. My translator was Pastor Samreth whose churches I preached at. At first I didn't speak much to him and didn't really connect but over the days, I grew to admire this quiet and steady man. He pastors 4 churches (the most amongst the 10 pastors) and his love for his people is apparent in his actions. His second daughter passed away last year yet he shows no bitterness but presses on.

Day 3:
We went to two villages to hand out rice, have children's programmes and visitations. We split into groups of three and visited the poor. Some we gave rice, others we gave away used clothes. This day was the highlight of my trip.

It's uncomfortable to enter someone's home, make small talk and tell them about the gospel. The last house I wanted to chicken out and stay with the children. Somehow, I was prompted to go and was really glad that I did. We went to one home with Pastor Somreth as our translator and connected with the people there. It was just an old couple at first but we were soon joined by their daughters, son-in-law and neighbour. Just from this one visit, it was enough for the local pastors to start a church in that village!

Day 4:
Preparation for the Youth Camp started. There was a buzz of excitement in the air as youths started arriving and we had games for them. The Youth Camp was held at a nearby church, a 5 minute walk from where we stayed.

I also interviewed someone from Khmer Life, a cloth business set up by my church to help the Baray community which I will blog about separately.

Day 5:
The Youth Camp starts and breakfast of porridge caused the start of my purging. I spent the rest of the day on hammocks back at the lodgings and running to the toilet. No medication in sight.

A 7 year old girl was knocked down by a van along the road nearby and was killed. There was a taped Buddhist chanting going on the whole day to announce the death.

Day 6:
Thought I had gotten all my poison out but no, was still running to the toilet. The Youth Camp was in full swing. Managed to attend the campfire that night.

Day 7:
We performed our play to over 500 youths. It was amazing. This is how they arrived:
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We then prepared to pack up to leave for Phnom Penh. Our trip had interesting stops for fried spiders, local fruits and a stop at a hammock village.

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Fried spiders on trays

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Jan ate one

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Enjoying corn on hammocks

At Phnom Penh, we visited the Toul Sleng Genocide Prison. This is one place that really made me cry at the atrocity of the human nature. This place was originally a school. The first room I stepped into had a torture bed and the tiled floor was bloodstained.

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Hundreds were tortured to death here. All the things in the school meant for the education of the Cambodian future was warped into instruments of torture.

Pictures of how the Khmer Rouge soldiers would grip babies by their legs and smash them onto tree trunks, flinging babies into the air and shooting them like clay pigeon. The fact that these people are not from another nation but their very own kinsmen makes it even harder to swallow. I felt like throwing up and took a very quick tour and left. Jan took photos on my camera.

After that, we went on a boat ride along the Mekong river to watch the sunset.
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That's it, in a nutshell. Now I shall go take a nap since I'm on MC.


jo-bloggs said...

i really admire your courage in doing this. hope your d+v is settling.

Ron said...

you should check out if its not worms that you might have picked up - I wouldnt be surprised!