We are still waiting for all our team to arrive. For now, the Hunsaders (Trish and Mike) and a student from Tusculum College and I are the early arrivals. There are preparations to be made for outings with the children.
One special event on the schedule for Day 3 was to accompany eight of the older girls from our two houses to Heng Lay studio to have pictures taken. It’s become a “rite of passage” for the girls since the Hunsaders have been coming to visit and we talked about how it was important not to leave anyone out, be consistent. None had been the right age, usually 12 or 13, for a couple years so there were quite a few of them this year.
These pictures are very special for them and are displayed on the house picture board for years. Each girl gets a lot of attention during the process. They all got made up, eyebrows fashioned, false eyelashes applied, hair crimped and arranged, dressed in either traditional Khmer dance costume or bedecked in jewels and lace, and photographed. It was quite a process, and they all looked lovely, and grown up. The studio doesn’t stop there either. They photoshop the pictures and give everyone the opportunity to be more than real. Light skin is considered desirable here and everyone is pictured as being, well… pretty white.
The studio also does wedding planning and in the course of the morning it was discussed as to whether some of the girls would like to be trained and offered employment. They are always looking for boys with computer skills for the photoshopping too. Asia’s Hope desires first to give the opportunity for university education if the child is capable of it. Training in trades or occupations such as this would be a second option. The interesting observation here is that this is not the first time I have seen the children impress others with their good demeanor and intelligence, and I am always proud of them. It was a fun morning, a real “girls day out”.
In the afternoon, we went to the Aeon Mall where the Cineplex Theatre is located to see if Trish could negotiate a price break for the movie outing the next day. It is easy to overlook the background work that is needed to make plans work smoothly and be affordable. Sometimes when large groups are involved there will be special prices available, especially when the groups are orphan homes. It was not the case with the movie theatre however, even with 57 tickets being purchased.
The remaining team members have been coming in, travel weary but happy to have had uncomplicated travel. One family didn’t receive one of their bags at the airport, and needed to return and look for it. I decided I wanted to meet Julie as she arrived, so we went together in a tuk tuk and traveled to the airport. It was so good to see my daughter again!
We all gathered for lunch with the director of Asia’s Hope, Savourn, and his wife Sony, to discuss plans for the week. Not long after that (because lunch can take a long time) we went to Aeon Mall to meet PE4 and PE5 for dinner and a movie. For those of you who may not have read about Asia’s Hope family homes, the Phnom Penh campus is located in the suburb of Prek Eng – that is what the label PE stands for – and there are six homes at present. Our team is associated, presently or in the past, with the support of PE4 and PE5. These are the children I know best and have been visiting and corresponding with since 2012.
They were all waiting for us at the mall. They also travel by tuk tuk (a two bench cart pulled by motorcycle), the difference being that they somehow fit 24 – 26 people into two of them, whereas we only fit 8. I don’t know how they do it.
The movie was “Wonder Woman”, rated G. In spite of the rating, we all felt that the film presented some challenging teaching opportunities in the areas of violence, sex and world view. Since the children here, as well as in our country, cannot help but be exposed to different viewpoints we hope to be able to have discussions with them and the house parents that will be helpful. We, our team, had some pretty good discussions about our reactions to the film.
By the way, Aeon Mall rivals city malls in the United States and is totally modern and full of people even on a weekday.
The evening ended with our tuk tuk ride back to the hotel and bedtime for many who still had not recovered from jet lag.