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Its Ellie here,

Today we got up and piled on the bus and went to Tabitha. Tabitha is an organization that builds houses in slums and supports women that are HIV positive. Nary gave us an orientation speech and told us her own experience of the Khmer Rouge. I think we were all shocked to hear her story and how she was the only one her survived the Khmer Rouge period in her family. Her story made us realise just how real the whole regime was and how recently it occurred. As we listened to her talk, women sat in the background hand crafting silken goods to sell. After we finished listening to Nary’s speech we got to look around the various levels filled with beautiful handmade silk items. It was amazing to see how detailed all the items were, and to see the women work so hard to produce them. Even though you could see how much hard work had gone into these items, they were still relatively cheap. Most of us bought an item whether it was a scarf, a handbag, a quilt or even a Christmas decoration. And in some cases, all of this, as Tori found it difficult to resist buying everything in the store!

Adrian, Ellie, Alex, Scott and Geoffrey at Tabitha

Adrian, Ellie, Alex, Caitlyn, Matthew and Geoffrey at Tabitha

After finishing our shopping at Tabitha we all piled back onto the air conditioned bus again, ready for another round of shopping, this time heading for central market. Central market was a lot different to shopping at Tabitha as we had to be a little bit more careful of our surroundings, and attempt to use our bargaining skills! I think most of us are getting quite good at bargaining; walking out of the market with some ridiculously cheap items! Adrian is still our bargaining king; purchasing an authentic chinese silk  gown for $12 US, down from $45!

Inside the main building of the Central Market

Inside the main building of the Central Market

We had to leave the busy, colourful and rather smelly market for a nice relaxing lunch where we all got to sit around the table and pass around the laptop reading all the comments that you guys have posted up! Keep your comments coming because we all love hearing from you.

After lunch we went to the Royal Palace; a rather more peaceful and tranquil environment compared to the market. We were all rather shocked at the size and wealth of all the buildings. There were huge golden temples filled with artifacts dating back for centuries. It was surprising that these buildings were celebrating both Buddhist and Hindu religions. The royal family also lives in the palace complex and for a lot of us it was hard to get our heads around the idea that a family could live in such royalty when most of the people in the surrounding area all have very little. We were surprised to hear how the community are very loyal and supportive of their King, despite knowing he lives in such wealth.

Alex, Heather, Tori, Ellie, Caitlyn and Tara on steps outside The Royal Palace

Alex, Heather, Tori, Ellie, Caitlyn and Tara on steps outside The Royal Palace

At dinner tonight we met friends of Marks who are raising their young family in the slum areas of Cambodia. They work for an organization that provides advocacy for the people in this area, as the government proposes to move them to areas outside Phnom Penh.

House building tomorrow! Thanks to everyone who has left messages for us.

Hi there, it’s Heather.

This morning we got up, had breakfast at the hotel and got ready for the day. We got on the air conditioned bus, a welcome change to the sticky heat, and went to the first primary school, where we were shown around the small school. Recess was called and kids flooded out. We played Frisbee, hacky sack and clapping games. After a while, girls and boys started grabbing onto our arms and dragging us around the yard. James tried to take pictures of the kids, but they ended up chasing him around the yard while the rest of us took pictures. It was touching to see the little girls and boys walk alongside you, and the next thing you knew, you’d made eye contact, and there were five hanging off each arm.

After break ended we split in to two groups of six, went into the classrooms, introduced ourselves, took one table of kids each and attempted to cross the language barrier and teach the kids English. Some of us had responsive groups who loved playing simple games like concentration, and were delighted when they got stickers as rewards. I gave out Australian flag stickers as rewards, and it was touching to see Australian flags stuck upside down on their foreheads and all up their arms.  We sang the Kookaburra song to them to finish, and they sang a Cambodian song to us.

Michael with his group of diligent students learning food words

Michael with his group of diligent students learning food words

We climbed back into the bus and went to an open walled restaurant, where we shared delicious noodles, fried rice, vegetable dishes and tips on teaching.   

Then we went to the second school, where we also had a tour. It started raining a bit, so we played frisbee in the rain, but then it started absolutely pouring. We ran around and got soaked, while the teachers and some students watched us bemusedly.

We then split into our groups of six again, and taught about food, for the second time this day. Some of us found that the kids from the first school were more responsive, and others found that the second group was more responsive. We sang the kookaburra song to them again and they sang another song to us. We taught the class the kookaburra song, to mild success.

Then we spent lunch with them, playing frisbee and clapping games again. Tara and I gave the frisbee to  one of the kids. He didn’t realize we were giving it to him to keep, so he went and washed it, came back and tried to give it to us again.  He eventually realized that it was for him to keep, and the smile on his face is one we will never forget.

Tori and some of the primary school kids in the playground

Tori and some of the primary school kids in the playground

We left the school and went to the Russian market, where we all tried our hands at haggling. The best buy of the day would have to go to Adrian, who bought 4 t shirts for $6, down from $16. We all are finding the currency difficult; 4000 Khmer to $1 US that means that they use Khmer as cents, and US for dollars, so we have not seen any coins here, but we are all delighted with our 2000 and 1000 dollar notes, which are a great novelty. After the market we went back to the hotel to reflect and wash up before dinner.

 

UPDATE: Dinner tonight was delicious, though the entrees were not what one would expect; deep fried tarantulas. Ellie, Mr. Horsford, Ms. Norwood, Matt, Adrian, Geoffrey, James, Scott, Michael and Mr. Voss all tried their luck, and all reported that they tasted like… chicken.

Crispy fried tarantulas

Crispy fried tarantulas

 Tara here……This morning was a rush as Caitlin, Heather and myself,  did not set an alarm to wake up. This resulted in a painful wakeup call from Scott to get us out of bed with only half an hour to get up, have breakfast and board the bus to go to the Killing Fields.
Choeung Ek Genocidal Center at The Killing Fields

Choeung Ek Genocidal Center at The Killing Fields

The Killing Fields was truly a devastating place to visit. Most of us had done projects  at school in Year 9 on Cambodia, based mainly on Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. We hd all seen many photos of the Killing fields and S21 and studied it quite a bit, but when being there first hand it was a very confronting and an uncomfortable place to be.  What caught my attention were the cells at S21 that the prisoners stayed in. They were extremely small and it really hit home seeing how the Cambodian people had been treated. There were still blood stains on the floor which I personally, and I’m sure with a lot of others, found very disturbing. I know a lot of people found the many photos very confronting, seeing the faces of all these victims faced with torture and death. Especially one photo which was enlarged of a lady holding her baby. This lady was in fact the wife of a member of the Khmer rouge and she knew what was coming for her and her baby.  In the photo you can see a tear running down her cheek and that broke my heart seeing the pain she was going through.

In the afternoon we went to two  of the five primary schools which are sponsored by the International Baccalaureate Organisation which brought a lot of joy to all of us. It was such a contrast compared to what we had seen in the morning. Seeing these children having so much fun out of so little and how they were so attracted to us. We started playing some games and Don played the recorder, and they were so amused. Seeing their smiles really warmed my heart. They were truly beautiful people.

 We have only been here for two days and I am learning so much about the different culture and history of the country. It’s sometimes challenging but knowing I’m here and making a difference makes everything worthwhile.

Barbed wire at the Genocide Museum, Tuol Sleng, Former Office S21

Barbed wire at the Genocide Museum, Tuol Sleng, Former Office S21

Day One

Sight seeing by tuk tuk

Sight seeing by tuk tuk

IGS Team at Melbourne Airport ready and assembled to depart
IGS Team at Melbourne Airport ready and assembled to depart

Welcome to our very first entry. It has taken a while to overcome a few technical difficulties with the new Goldiana WiFi access but here we all are. It was a great flight over and everything went smoothly and on time. We had an excellent afternoon sightseeing around Phnom Penh by tuk tuk and even managed to fit in a Mehkong river cruise. A few early records have been set such as the sight of SIX people on one small motor bike. Wish we had a picture to show everyone!
After a lovely Cambodian meal at a restaurant around the corner we were all very grateful for an early night.

The itinerary has been updated as of June 9th. Click on the tab at the top of the page to view it.

For a comprehensive list of what to bring, click on the RESOURCES tab at the top of the page.  There you will find a useful list.  Remember that Cambodia is a hot, humid country that has different cultural expectations about modesty in dress standards. 

You can visit the page by clicking here

Take luggage that can withstand a little rugged treatment.  The 2008 team upon arrival in Phnom Penh

Take luggage that can withstand a little rugged treatment. The 2008 team upon arrival in Phnom Penh

The 2009 Cambodia Service Project is drawing closer and the team is in the final stages of preparation for what will undoubtedly be an exciting and challenging experience for all concerned.

It is customary for members of the team and their families to mark the beginning of each new project with a Commissioning Service.  This is an opportunity for us to gather and celebrate the relationships we have built with people in Cambodia, our hopes for this project and what it has meant to past participants. We seek God’s blessing on this venture, for the good of every person who is touched by it.

The 2009 Commissioning Service is to be held on Wednesday 10th June in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at the Ridgeway Campus and will be followed by a light supper in the Round Square Gallery.  This will be an opportunity for families of team members to meet again and for us to communicate any final information.  The Commissioning Service will begin at 7.00 pm and we anticipate that the evening will be finished by 9.00 pm.

We warmly invite families and friends of all members of the Cambodia Service Project to join our team as we mark the beginning of this exciting adventure.

We do hope that you are able to join us on this important occasion.

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