Cambodian children

Phnom Penh Travel Blog

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My hosts in Phnom Penh were a Frenchman Jean and his Thai wife Sally. They had been in Cambodia for years and were intent on staying forever, or so they put it at the breakfast table. They lived on the upper level of a large house. The owner, a congenial doctor who spoke French, and his family lived on the ground level.

In the afternoon they took me to their pride and joy, a little orphanage they worked with in a slum. The orphanage was merely a couple of brick sheds with metal roofing. One bunkroom housed the boys and another the girls. The children were aged between 3-20. In the yard was a putrid pond were a few filthy ducks paddled. We came carrying boxes of supplies and snacks, a small TV VCR, and a guitar.  After all the children were assembled (about 30) Arnie, a part-time volunteer from Singapore, started playing the guitar and we did a few action songs together. The children recited a few lines they had learned and we gave them snacks as prizes. Soon they were crawling around me. I didn’t know how to communicate (no French or Cambodian) with these happy brown tykes but we got by with hand gestures and making faces. Jean introduced to some foreign sponsors who arrived to discuss a renovation project. He was excitedly pointing out the gravel driveway they had recently made and the cement showers. The new ambitious project would be to drain the fetid pond and make a sewer connection. As it was, the neighouring factory and the orphanage were dumping their sewage into the pond, which posed a health risk not to mention made an awful stink. The sponsors were nodded sympathetically and after a few minutes left in their white company car. The children watched a cartoon on the television and were taught a new Bible scripture by Grace our Cambodian volunteer.

Back at the house I had a Tiger beer with Arnie. He was eager to practice his mandarin and I wanted to know what he was doing here. He was 27 and working in a Singaporean company. “I met Jean and Sally a year ago when I came to do a stint of volunteer work. After that I wanted to stay and do more.” He still lives with them but does volunteer work part-time (on the weekend and evenings) “I want to travel and do more social work but I have a career too.” He told me rather disappointedly. Jean and Sally also had a teenage son Izzy living with them gangsta rap music blared from his room. “He doesn’t have the right friends” Sally confided to me “He’s not the same since he got mixed with them.” Izzy came over to talk and talk and talk about gangsta rap, 50 cent, crips and bloods and blah blah. I was trying to figure out the connection between this look-krueng boy and Afro-American criminals posing as artists but it was all too confusing. I just nodded “yeah..uh huh..ok” and went to bed.   

ctjevans says:
I don't know what would have repulsed me more, the rancid cesspool or hearing rap (sort of one in the same) hahaha! your vivid, detailed description of the orphanage made for a good read. :-)
Posted on: Dec 28, 2007
LeighTravelClub says:
Cambodia really can humble any of us!
Posted on: Dec 28, 2007
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Phnom Penh
photo by: terminalfunk