For several days the internet has not been easily available so I have not posted. Getting back on track now in a beautiful place, with wifi specifically for our room. Looking forward to posting about the last days of our trip.
Two Days with Children (Tuesday and Wednesday) Days 7 and 8
These two days are very similar on the schedule so I am writing about them together. During our free time in the morning yesterday, Julia and I went to the Russian market to do personal shopping. The girl is a shopper, for sure. She got nearly everything she had in mind as gifts for people back home and found some dishes to complement the ones I brought her last year. She is a good one to barter with the merchants, which is expected practice. They always start high, she always starts low and they meet in the middle. I wanted her to see the Russian market because it is unique in many ways, one of which is the high temperatures inside during the heat of the day. It is like a sauna.
Every year I have come there is a merchant that we visit. She is a lady who has been burned and scarred on her face but in spite of that she is cheerful and an active seller. She supports herself and her son from sales at her booth. She knows Mike and Trish and recognizes most of us who have come with her which surprises me. I met her in one of the aisles and she gave me a big welcome hug. Julie and I shopped at her booth – it is the only one where we don’t barter. She is a Christian and has some amazing books about those who have survived Khmer Rouge and come to faith through some pretty nasty trials. As we left with our bags full she went to a cooler behind her wall and got us bottles of chilled water to take with us.
The team ate lunch at Digby’s, a restaurant started by a Cambodian who immigrated to the U.S. where he became a successful businessman. He then returned to Cambodia to pour back into his people the blessings he had experienced. His restaurant rivals upscale organic/fresh market establishments in the U.S. The sign that starts this post was one I saw in the store.
We went on to the Central Market to meet PE4 children and staff. This outing has become a tradition. Each member of the house is given $10 for an item of their choice. The children have become good at deciding what they want and finding it. They have learned to barter and buy so it is a good experience for them. This year’s purchases included clothing, a purse, a suitcase, and shoes. You can get a lot for $10 at Central Market. We always end the trip with a group photo.
It is always dinner time when we finish so on to Khmer Surin. After years of going for pizza, this restaurant is a new experience for some. It is a sit down, very nice restaurant and guest house where a different set of skills can be practiced. One skill that still needs to be sharpened is the act of passing food to others so that all get enough to eat. We had a bit of trouble with that at one table but will watch today and make sure the boys with big appetites don’t get it all.
Our final stop this year, instead of going to the riverfront park, is an amusement park called Dreamland. There are lots of carnival rides there, an inline skate park, a maze, and a lot of interesting places to hang out. It was in the budget for each child to have one ride and it turned out to be the bumper cars where everyone had a blast learning to drive poorly.
On the second day through the Central Market on Thursday it started to rain. This is my first experience with Cambodia in the rainy season and it was a wet one. Much of the market is under tarps and there are many leaks. It seems to be the rule, if we are not wet with sweat, we are wet with rain. The ride from the market to the restaurant was filled with drama as we jumped large puddles to reach our tuk tuk. The driver in his raincoat was busy lowering rain flaps and helping us in. We were thankful for the small degree of shelter we had because most everyone we saw on motos was soaked. The evening at Dreamland was also very wet and by then the puddles were lakes. There was a bit of excitement at the bumper car ride when a surge of electricity was felt by several of the kids holding hands, followed by a power outage in the whole park. The second night we were also entertained by Samnang, one of the PE5 kids who had bought a Batman costume at the market with his $10 (???). He raced around supposedly saving the day, until he lost his “hat” in the bumper car ride. Jim, one of our team members, and recently awarded hero status, went back with him and found it wrapped around the wheel of the bumper car.
Dreamland is a huge park and it has been nearly empty both nights, except for our group and numerous employees who sit around with little to do. One good thing about going there is that it has a natural ending point, after we have walked past all the features and had bumper car rides it is time to go home, and still early enough that we can get a good rest back at the guest house. Having this much fun is exhausting…