Phnom Penh is an inland city, full of people, noise, traffic, trash, heat, commerce… in general, it’s the kind of place everyone needs a break from once in a while. Many people here go southwest on Highway 3 (there are no numbers above 5 for their major roads) to the coast for access to the sea. There are beaches, resorts and other opportunities to enjoy nature and “get away from it all”.
One of the highlights for our team, and all the Asia’s Hope families is our outing to Kep, one of the seaside communities. Our team raises enough money to take children and staff from all six homes for an overnight stay at Rock Royal Hotel. It is a short walk from Kep Beach for ocean swimming, but also has a large pool.
On Saturday morning, we packed up and left Phnom Penh, traveling in three busses. There apparently is no seat belt law, or limitation on how many people can be packed into a bus. Two families in each bus, plus our team, and some university students, meant that people were standing, sitting on other’s laps and using the middle aisle. The children love being together with us and each other like this and some of our best conversations happen on the bus rides. It is a two hour trip, more or less, depending on road conditions. There are some very nice roads being built now but often “road conditions” refers to how many cows are on the road, how deep the holes have gotten, etc…
We arrived close to check in time. The families carry their own food with them because it is immeasurably easier and cheaper to feed everyone that way than to try to descend on a restaurant with 150 hungry kids. After eating they all headed to the pool for sun and fun (and the resulting exhaustion).
Our team had lunch at the Sailing Club, one of our favorite spots on the water. This is the oft photographed dock which we all have in our picture banks.
Our evening meal was with the house parents at a restaurant that they love, Kimly Seafood Restaurant. They are such a great group and have a lot of fun conversing and eating, and watching us order and eat (and laughing at us). We often do not know what to order since everything that sounds familiar to us turns out to be quite different, except for French fries which, surprisingly, are the same everywhere. I often opt for vegetarian dishes, or chicken. This night I got adventurous and ordered fish and chips. The French fries were exactly what I expected, the fish was totally different ( also as expected).
We all met together after dinner for a message and worship time and entertainment for those who weren’t too tired to stay awake. Julie and I weren’t among that group so I’m sure we missed some good things but we got some much needed sleep.
The next day we were up early enough to beat the crowd to the breakfast bar. That was part of our plan since we were familiar with what happens when 150 hungry kids wake up and descend on the buffet. We made it just in time.
Afterward our whole group met for worship and a message one more time. Then the kids loaded on the buses for a short jaunt to the beach. Some swim, some just enjoy the sand and sun. The men and boys had a “soccer” game on the beach. Since the bus drivers don’t allow wet, sandy people on the bus, they left to go back to the hotel while the beachgoers walked back. It was check-out time. The retreat was over except for the ride home.
This break from their normal routine is a much needed respite. That being said, it is also a common experience to all of us that going on vacation entails some work. The fact that they approach their work so calmly and efficiently is always remarkable to me. The helpers shop for food, pack it up and take it on the bus. The children are instructed to be ready on time, and they are. They pack up their suitcases (which most of them have purchased on our trips to the market) and take them to the bus themselves. They go around to all our team and say thank you and give goodbye hugs. They pose for pictures, and take plenty of their own. The buses leave for Phnom Penh.