Trip to Cambodia

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During the last week of my Easter Holiday from 26 to 29 April 2011, my mom and I went with Tiffany, her sister, Gaile, and her mother together with another 32 people from my church for a four-day trip to Cambodia to do services and gain experience about how poor some people really are. It was a trip that I hope is seared permanently into my brain.

Before I went on my four-day trip to Cambodia, I thought that Cambodia and its capital were made out of nothing but primitive wooden and straw huts and massive mountains of garbage. After, I have a different view of Cambodia, but I find that the country is still deep in poverty. When I first arrived in Cambodia, like Singapore, the heat was extreme and nearly unbearable. But unlike Singapore, there were hardly any AC facilities except in the bus, hotel or restaurants and there loads and loads of insects including mosquitoes, ants and the worse thing: flies. When we were at the airport, we already found some flies and mosquitoes, but it was just the same inside the bus. When we stepped in we found at least a dozen mosquitoes and flies inside. Fortunately, the mosquitoes were not the blood-sucking type and although the flies were annoying, they didn’t harm us directly although they made us petrified. In fact, because my mother’s eyelashes were so long, a fly even made a landing on her eyelashes!

On the first day, we fortunately could stay in AC for most of the time. After going on a brief sightseeing trip in Phnom Penh, we returned to the hotel and to the horror of me and Tiffany, our guide, Aunty Au, forbid us from joining the adults to see Security Office 21 (S-21), aka the killing field, thinking that we were too young to understand what Pol Pot had ordered to be done and that we still hadn’t lost our innocence (Yeah, right! Most children nowadays already understand matters of the world). Ok perhaps we should have practiced reading the stories and the other children hadn’t lost their innocence (like my cousin who refuses to face reality and instead prefers to live in a fake fantasy). But even so, Tiffany and I, who are now 10 and have long lost our innocence, should have been allowed to go to S-21! Instead we were cramped in a rather stuffy hotel room where we were forced to practice our stories while we already knew how to!

At first, we went to a room that had literally no air-con because of the direction it was facing, and then I had to put up with the sons of Uncle Alex. Fortunately, we moved to another room that had better air-conditioning, but then everybody was jumping on the three beds. Although Tiffany and I kept sane by passing notes and playing Deal (where Tiffany kept defeating me), the adults forced us to abandon our game of Deal when somebody was speaking and the kids kept annoying us. Later we played the game where we had to guess what another person was and I am very bad at these types of games. To keep myself amused, I decided to be the guard and stop people from trying to listen to what the adults were telling the actor to be. I soon found that my primary enemy was this guy who is extremely active and most likely has Attention Deficit & Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) because he acts as if he is insane, attempting (and failing) to listen in. He also possesses a wristband that is supposed to keep mosquitoes away, but then he hits people with it and puts it under their noses and once, when I tried to keep him away, I suddenly felt pain and found that he had given me a kick right in my groin! Fortunately he was dragged away. Later he also caused Tiffany, Matthew and others pain but the adults unfairly refused to tell him off or control him!

When the adults finally returned and we could get out of the hotel room/madhouse, we went to this place for dinner with several missionaries and their children. We ate at a long, open air table that had only flickering candles for light. The guy with ADHD then grabbed a glass and put it upside down over a candle, therefore trapping it. I knew that the candle would go out because the CO2 would be trapped in the glass and extinguish the flame, but the speed in which it happened surprised me - the candle extinguished after only a few seconds. Afterwards, the ADHD guy did the same with many candles. We relit some of the candles, but the electric fan fanning me extinguished them.

Before we ate, this missionary called Chris from Norway led our prayer and sang a really funny song about his home country. The lyrics I remember most were,
“We fight the Swedes…….
Who are seven feet tall…..
Although they might beat us,
They can never eat us…
Because we are Norwegians…..
And we don’t taste good”

During the meal, I wondered why those missionaries would leave comfortable homes to come to Cambodia solely to help people. While we ate, Uncle Alex challenged us with joke questions, such as a chain of questions about this grandfather. The grandfather stole from a bread shop, ran away and was shot by the police. His wife was sad and his nephew was surprised. The questions were very hard because they were all edible foods in Cantonese.

On the second day, we went on the bus and after I was told off by mom for playing Tiffany’s iPod Touch on the bus, we arrived near a long lake where we had to go on a boat that had completely no railings or safety devices along with several large, smelly motorcycles. When we crossed the lake, we had to go on a 30-minute walk in blistering heat with nothing but fans and handheld-electric fans to cool us in order to reach the first center a Church set up: the House of Joy. We went through the one of the poorest villages in Cambodia and saw that most of the houses were made out of nothing but sheet metal and some of the families were so poor that the little children were completely naked and most of them had no shoes or wore only old slippers (when I told my cousin this, she was completely shocked as she had never experienced poverty and had never went to any poor countries, instead living only in her own little fantasy). However, to my shock, the children were not unhappy or sad. Instead, when they saw us, they all immediately showed happy faces and waved to us, shouting “Hello! Hello!” again and again. When we reached the House of Joy, again everybody was out, shouting greetings. Inside, we found that the facilities were extremely primitive and there were flies everywhere. Fortunately for us, we did not have to eat lunch at the House of Joy because the knives that the cooks used to slice the meat were completely covered with flies, sucking up the meat juice. However, I found that the children there were happily scoffing the food, mainly because they didn’t get much to eat at home. Also, they all had high morale, such as chanting really loudly while chanting the bible index.

Afterwards, Aunty Au and the other leaders agreed to let us return to Phnom Penh where after lunch, we went to the central market in Cambodia that was in a French-style building and later we were fortunate enough to visit a shopping center (yahoo!) and went to the supermarket, where Tiffany and I grabbed several cans of ginger beer along with big bags of chips while my mom bought several packets of dried mangoes. Then it came a great part - Tiffany’s younger sister, Gaile, bought at least fourteen blow-up chicks that have a ball in the middle that flashes. Unfortunately for Gaile and the little children and fortunately for me and Tiffany, we found that the chicks were of low quality and easily burst. Tiffany’s chick burst when we were in the hall of the hotel and I was squeezing it when I accidentally squeezed all the air in it out. Fortunately, Tiffany didn’t kill me and she even tore off the legs of her chick. Later, we found that a lot of chicks belonging to other people had also burst because of various reasons; one I remember was when the person’s dad accidentally sat on it. While at the restaurant, Gaile’s chick burst as well which she gave to me, and then Tiffany and I started impaling the chicks with toothpicks. I put at least 25 toothpicks in mine while Tiffany put at least 16 in hers. We then put some glasses upside down and attached the chicks to them, pretending that they were the killing tree at S-21 and it wasn’t long before we really created a replica of S-21. We tore the legs off the chicks and pretended that they were bones, we drew graves and we added blood using the ketchup in a Knabbernossi packet Tiffany had. We put blood on both the chicks and the ground and before we left, Tiffany even put a chunk of watermelon on our display to act as a chunk of frozen blood.

Afterwards, we returned to our hotel where Tiffany and others went to our hotel room to play Monopoly Deal but when we took out the Ginger Ale, we found that because Tiffany and I put it into the freezer, the drinks had frozen solid! Tiffany was in my room when the lights suddenly went out. We screamed and shouted until mom managed to fish out the flashlight, and we found that the electricity supply had been suddenly cut. Later in the night, we experienced the same problems.

The next day, we again went on the bus, but this time we went to the far more modern House of Love. When we arrived, it was a great relief because instead of little ramshackle huts, it was a two-floor building and when we arrived, several of the girls there preformed a traditional welcoming dance for us. Afterwards, we went to their church hall, where I had to get up on stage and tell the story of “A Paralyzed Man Down from the Roof”. This friendly Cambodian guy called Philemon then translated my words into Khmer. It was a rather nerve-racking experience and I was bit nervous, but I did well although the adults said I displayed too little emotion. After that, we proceeded to the dining hall where the cooks had prepared a delicious lunch of fried, free-range, organic chicken and rice. Then we played for a while before we split into groups and went to visit the houses of several villagers and we read them stories from the bible while a local student translated it into Khmer. Fortunately, we went to wealthier village, so there weren’t naked people. The luckiest even had television. However, I found how dangerous the flies were. There were dozens at a time. They would swarm towards our drinks, especially the bottles containing Pocari Sweat, and although they wouldn’t actually touch the drink itself, they would land on the neck and top of the bottle because there was a sweet smell. Because I wore a hat with a flap at the back, sometimes I found that the flies would even enter my hat! However, the local people were surprisingly resistant to the flies and ignored them, even when they landed on their faces!

After we returned to the House of Love, Aunty Au told us that we were very lucky because since Cambodia is a Buddhist country, we were lucky not to be 1) beaten up, 2) kicked out of the street, 3) shouted at, 4) killed and 5) beaten up - did I saw beaten up before? In the late afternoon, we went to visit the palace where the king lived, and although we weren’t allowed to go into the king’s palace itself (I didn’t see any security guards, but I bet that if we tried to go in without permission, we would either be 1) jailed or 2) shot).

During the visit, Matthew, Tiffany and I bonded together to create WWT (World Weirdest Team) with Tiffany as the CEO/Queen and our first actions were to photograph idiots. Our first enemy, Uncle Alex’s older son, we called FBI (NO, that does not stand for Federal Bureau of Investigation. It stands for Fu*king B**ch Idiot). Soon, we located a second enemy, the guy who has ADHD and kicked me, and we called him EDFBI, which is the same as the one above except that there is ED (Extremely Dangerous) because he kicked me in the groin. Unfortunately, the same day, the camera my mother borrowed broke. However, that night, this guy called Wesley, EDFBI and other kids started monkeying around, and then Wesley said some unreasonable words to Tiffany so he became an enemy of WWT and Tiffany called him I (Idiot) although the next day we may have changed his codename to III (Incredibly Idiotic Idiot). That night, the whole of WWT and Earnest went to Tiffany’s room to play Monopoly Deal. The same day, the Ginger Ale fortunately returned to liquid state.

On the last day, we went to sightsee on the tour bus and WWT immediately occupied the last seats and we allowed Earnest to join, which later proved to be sort of a mistake. On the last day, Tiffany became queen, and Matthew and I would then become two-star knights and Earnest would officially become a zero-star knight. We visited a river and also the Russian market, which was a place with a sheet-metal roof and cramped streets. On the bus, during a stop, FBI and his younger brother started launching an assault on WWT, and although Earnest went to act as a gate and block them, their assault was too powerful and I immediately went to assist Earnest in repelling the unwelcome invaders. Three things frustrated me. The first thing was that Tiffany seemed to far more friendlier to Matthew than to me despite the fact that I have known her for 6-7 years while Matthew had only known her for one day! The second thing was that while Earnest and I were battling FBI and his brother, taking pain for Tiffany, Matthew was busy trying to entertain Tiffany and insisted on flirting with her instead of joining the fight! The last thing was that while we were kicking FBI and his brother’s Agents of Secret Stuff Honorable Operative Licensed Entertainments (ASSHOLES), Tiffany in the end ordered us to let them in! Horrible! Being loyal knights we let them through, but I wish that Tiffany had instead ordered us to punch them and rough ‘em up until they retreated and refused to attack again. Perhaps it’s brutal, but it may be essential. Besides, if EDFBI was there, I would immediately deliver a powerful blow for he kicked me in the groin. Later, Matthew was so friendly with Tiffany that Earnest and I said that they might want to marry, but when Tiffany heard this, she was NOT happy. Later, as Matthew continued to flirt with Tiffany, Earnest said a deadly thing - he said that the situation had become a love story! When Matthew, Tiffany and I held a meeting because Tiffany had a urge to kick Earnest out, I told Matthew that Earnest said the situation had become a love story, and Matthew apparently was so shocked that he buried his head in his hands, and later, Earnest was supposed to be officially kicked out, but then being troublemaking, he then declared himself king (during church, Matthew and I deduced that Earnest must be in love because if he became king, he would have to marry the queen)!

For our last official meal in Cambodia, we went to this place called the Lucky Burger, before we then arrived at the airport and after having our first ice-cream in Cambodia, we saw a bit of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding and then we boarded the plane and returned to Hong Kong, only reaching our homes at about 12:30am.

From my trip to Cambodia, I have discovered that my friends, my relatives in Hong Kong are extremely fortunate and lucky people to have such good lives. I have also discovered that our concerns, such as not getting a game console, are extremely tiny compared to the daily concerns of Cambodian villagers. While we won’t die if our concerns become true, the concerns of Cambodian villagers, such as not enough food or sickness, when come true, can easily result in death. In Cambodia, we were all very fortunate to not be sick, robbed, kidnapped, beaten up, kicked out on the street and killed because Cambodia is an extremely dangerous place. In there, I also found that some people from Hong Kong had thrown down everything they had in Hong Kong and went to Cambodia, a dangerous, poor place, to help people. It must have taken a massive amount of willpower to give up a luxurious life and go to a dirty, poverty-stricken country just to help. They didn’t do it for money. And finally, during our trip, I have found that I must be more thankful to God and appreciate our fortunes because I didn’t get sick while eating at the House of Love and we weren’t attacked by angry mobs for spreading Christianity. Also, I discovered that Philemon and the other local people believe in God very strongly while they have to live in poor conditions and have little money, yet have a lot of faith, maybe more than me. Cambodia is dangerous because it is a war-ravaged country, but the local people haven’t given up, taking willpower to continue from God.


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