Thursday, June 3, 2010

An Awfully Big Adventure and Back Before Lunch!

Today has been a very full day, and it’s only 3:30pm (at the time of this writing)! Sara and I have been across Cambodia (practically) and back, traveling with FFE (Food For Education). I have done my best to document our epic adventure, but it has been a wild ride since we first stepped onto the boat at about 7:30am.

We were told prior to this morning’s events that we would be “crossing the river” and “taking the boat” to get to the school where the drama would be performed. I thought to myself, “oh, a quaint little village across the river. Fun.” Silly Brekke, nothing is ever that easy.


A nearly 40 minute boat-ride later, in which Sara somehow either got engaged to or became the sister of this very chatty 17 year old girl, we arrived at this dusty looking hamlet. All the homes were thatched roof, bamboo-planked square cabin-type constructions on stilts. All the roads were a dusty red dirt pathway with assorted bumps that my behind can still feel. We unloaded the drama equipment from the boat and clambered into a tuk-tuk (“took-took”).

This is a tuk-tuk - like a rickshaw attached to a motor scooter

We departed for another nearly hour-long drive along winding streets and across flat, scorched plains. It was beautiful in a broken-hearted kind of way. It was a land naked of pretense and full of raw living truth. I think I may have fallen in love.

We arrived at the school and the drama kids immediately started to set up. They are an efficient little group!

I say “kids”, but they were more like a rag-tag group of high school students and recent high school grads. They ranged in aged from about 16 to 20, with a few speaking English (the best were the girl in green and the boy in pink).

The performances are IRD funded and are designed to teach lessons in basic hygiene (like washing your hands), the evils of alcohol and tobacco, and why eating your vegetables is essential to a healthy lifestyle. The group is hip and funny (as you can see) and I think it was a great way to engage the school children. Hopefully they’ll remember what they were taught.

The drama group then handed out toothbrushes and toothpaste (and a demonstration for correct teeth brushing techniques) to all the school children.

There we lots of neighborhood kids who milled about and watched the drama. They were terribly adorable. I couldn’t help but snap some photos. :)

We want to come to school too!


I got to visit the classrooms (there were only about 5 rooms) and say hello to the students. One room had a hand-made math poster that brought me back to 11th grade Algebra III. No matter where in the world you are, some things never change!

See if you recognize the 3rd line from the bottom 

Then it was time to go, so we deconstructed the set, said our thanks to the teachers and students and piled back into the tuk-tuk, which promptly crashed while leaving the school. No joke, the motor died and we rolled downhill into a tree/fence. Sara and I screamed like the seasoned veterans of travel that we are.  After the manly boys hopped out of the tuk-tuk and pushed us to safety, we were off again. Until the motor died about 12 minutes later. So there we were, half melted in greasy puddles on the floor, stranded in the middle of rural Cambodia looking for a bottle of oil to get the motor functioning again. It was miserable hot, we were tired and hungry. The tuk-tuk wouldn’t start.

Did I mention it was hot? And Sara had decided to introduce the Cambodian teenagers to the musical stylings of Justin Bieber – which really should be a sin right up there with unwrapping cellophane candies in a movie theater. Well, the hand of God got that tuk-tuk running again, and we bumped and chugged our way back to the small river-side hamlet where our boat was moored. With the same efficiency, the drama kids unloaded the tuk-tuk, filled the boat and had us back in the water. And when I say “in” the water, I literally mean that by behind was cruising along a mere 5 inches away from this strangely green water (it looked like someone had washed a GINORMOUS paintbrush with green paint in the river).

40 minutes and some rather awesome tan lines later, we arrived back home in Kampong Chhnang. We walked into our hotel around 1:10pm – home in time for a late lunch! What a day, and it is only half over. In Cambodia, you really must expect the unexpected. 

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