Saturday morning, Indi and I awoke and waited. We were both excited (I was a bit nervous, too) about heading to the orphanage to meet the kids. This was unlike anything I’d ever done before. After some uncertain waiting around, we left for the orphanage at about 1:00.
It isn’t a long walk, takes about five to seven minutes. It’s a block or so off a main road. As you approach, you see murals painted by the children and volunteers on the exterior garden wall. Children rode by on bikes, waving and saying hello. Once we got to the gates, we were swarmed with children eager to meet the new people and practice their English. A familiar pattern soon emerged:
What is your name?
My name is _____. Nice to meet you! (shakes your hand)
Where are you from?
How old are you?
How did you hear about the orphanage?
Do you have an iPod? (That’s Not My Name is like the most popular song here, everyone sings it. And one of the kids knew that Freddie Mercury died of HIV; how does a Cambodian orphan know that?)
The children ranged in age from 6 or so to 19, though most of the children are younger. It’s hard to tell, though, because even the teenagers look like they are only 11 or 12. They have a small volleyball court, two soccer goals, a pond to swim in, and a building to house them. They all seemed happy and mostly care-free. Indi played hangman with some of them and loaned her iPod. I played soccer for a bit and explained my belt buckle to an interested group of boys.
For lunch, a group of us flagged a tuk-tuk down on the main road and went to the Takeo central market. You know in the movies where you see the crowded Asian market, with overstuffed stalls of the most RANDOM items and awnings allowing cracks of light in? It was like that. Amazing! We purchased some coloring and activity books for the kids.
Indi took a rest when we returned, and I went back down to the Orphanage with some of the other volunteers. When we arrived and handed out books, the kids were ecstatic. Within minutes, everyone was huddled around all available flat surfaces, working diligently on whichever book they were able to get. One of the volunteers was preparing and English lesson on fishing. I was going to join them, but an adorable little girl came up and tugged on my shirt. She asked if I wanted to play ping pong. Of course I did!
We went into one of the little auxiliary huts in the yard and, lo and behold, there was a ping pong table! Sreynget wiped the floor with me. Afterwards, she wanted to teach me some Khmer, so she took down one of the A-B-C charts and went through the pictures with me. I am out of practice, but she was very patient with me. When I couldn’t remember ‘grape’ she had me repeat it ten times. I still can’t remember it, but kudos to her for trying.
Today, we didn’t go down; Indi’s ankle let her know she overdid it a bit and I worked on getting the routers cooperating at the volunteer center. I’m also working on some information documents for the schools around the area that New Futures also sponsors in addition to the orphanage.
Tonight we’re all heading out to a local carnival. Can’t wait to see what it’s like!