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Monday, November 30, 2009

Mekong Build 2009: Cambodia (Part 1)

i have lost touch with the blogging world for quite a while..
but hey! guess what? i am officially BACK!!!!
no more exams to study for the next month at least.. haha..

it has been a week since we returned from Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project: Mekong Build 2009
was a great experience, a real eye-opener for me!
it was my very first time building homes for the less fortunate.
I believe the same goes to the rest of my team members:
Melissa, Georgiana and Min Tze!
we were youth volunteers representing Malaysia.

we came across this project by chance, many thanks to Melissa!
she's our team leader who was looking for some options for our
up-coming project for Community Service Club in our university!
we only paid for our air tickets and a donation of USD 100 each..
the rest were funded by Habitat For Humanity (HFH) Asia Pacific..
we as students totally hit the jackpot! =)

everything was decided very last minute..
as we only got to know about this build around 2 weeks earlier!
we had to book our tickets within 2 days notice..
met Winnie Wong, National Volunteer Programme Manager..
in the Kepong branch of HFH Malaysia a week before our finals!
she gave us some insight of the previous build..
so that we could at least know what to expect!

my finals ended on Friday afternoon..
we left to Phnom Penh by Air Asia the next day..
the 2.5 hours flight was quick!
i was stuck between 2 men throughout the flight..
no fun cos we don't speak each others' language!

our day 1 [Saturday, 14 Nov] was full of drama!
i arrived late at airport as my dad lost his parking ticket (long story),
too-much-liquid-in-baggage issues at LCCT, delayed flight,
took pictures with random people in the airport,
3 Cambodian Immigration officers checked my bag
and later flirted with me (i am serious),
late check-ins into hotel, dinner-hunting problems,
tuk-tuk and motorcycle accident,
got conned by the friendly tuk-tuk driver and the phone shop..
they sold a supposedly cost USD2 max SIM card to us at USD10!

but look at the bright side..
we arrived safe and sound, staying at a 4-star hotel..
and had the best Amok fish and chicken throughout the entire trip!

upon arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport.
we met Vitey, Sokha and Kyle.

our very first meal in a small, cosy restaurant in Phnom Penh

with Net, our tuk-tuk driver of the night

Day 2 (Sunday, 15 Nov) was a better day!
buffet breakfast at the hotel was awesome.. *yum yum*
I hadn't had such a big breakfast at 7am in a very long time!
since we had some extra time..
we took some pictures right outside our hotel..
which has a breathtaking view of Tonle Sap River!

Mel and Giana with the Tonle Sap River as backdrop

camwhoring shots.. haha

we headed to one of the conference rooms for a talk..
on "Building Leadership for The Future" by Mr Christopher Lee.
most of the youngsters present were local youth volunteers..
about 20 of us were international youth volunteers..
from Malaysia, Indonesia, India and New Zealand!
we had a brief self-introduction before the talk..

at some point of the talk, I am embarrassed to say that
i was trying really hard to stay awake! it was 2 hours long!
as every sentence in English has to be translated to Khmer~
it was like our early morning lectures..
the only difference was no breaks in between! =P

the speaker, Mr Christopher Lee from HEDC

during the talk.. *we are actually posing*

after that, we registered ourselves with the organizers..
and got our registration packages!
it was a Cambodian silk bag with a cap, a scarf, a T-shirt,
a bottle, hand-sanitizer and our week-long itenary in it!
each of us had a small waist pouch with our names on it..
it was really useful later on during the week! =)

all youth volunteers headed to the dumpsite area
where the future homeowners live in 3 buses!
it totally shocked me when i saw the condition of their houses..
wooden planks and rusty zinc roofs.. no proper sanitation..
very small huts with big families living in it!

most of them earn a living by scavaging for
reusable and recyclable items from the dumpsite..
shoes and radios are repaired and being sold in the local market!

we spoke to some of the families with the help of translators..
and took a sneak peek at some of their homes!
they are among thousands of families living in the area..

this couple is among one of the future homeowners

youth volunteers and the kids.. that's Heang Siv!

one of the stalls at the dumpsite area

the interior of one of the houses

a lady repairing shoes.. the hut is as big as it is seen here!

repaired shoes ready for sale

this little girl surprised me when she hugged me out of no where!
her family will move to their new home..
but she'll remain here with her sister to complete her studies!

outside some of the houses

kids play around barefooted in these areas

next stop was the dumpsite..
which was just a short walking distance away!
the stench was unbearable as we go nearer to the entrance..
but surprisingly it was okay when we were in it..
either we got used to the smell or it simply disappeared!
This area is usually closed to public..
but we were given a 10 minute access for a visit!

as we enter, we were greeted by these sights

youth volunteers walking in the dumpsite

the school was just situated in the dumpsite

these kids were picking up cardboards..
and asking us for our empty water bottles!
the piles behind are plastic bags for recycling.

all that I saw with my own eyes and tales I have heard that day,
really sent a message to me.,
how thankful I am for what I have!
how much most of us have been taking things for granted..
the kids here are just pinning for a better life away from this area..
a proper education is like a luxury to them!

this where we had our USD2.50 buffet lunch..

local youth volunteers said it was a typical Khmer meal..
but unfortunately they were not my liking so i only had a little..

we wanted to visit the palace but it was closed!
the same happened the day we left~ =(

instead, we went to the Russian Market on a tuk-tuk for shopping!

we bought souvenirs and clothes..
as we know we won't have time during the rest of the week!

later that night, we were dressed up for the Wecoming Dinner!
it took us less than an hour to get ourselves clean and ready..
surprisingly, with our Malaysian timing..
we were still earlier than the rest.. say WHAT?!

Giana, Mel, myself and Min Tze in Malaysian traditional outfits

with some of the youth volunteers

John and i in our Indian / Punjabi costumes..

it was a really grand set-up.. probably up to 40 tables?

with my new friends, Maria and Chhay in their Cambodian outfits.

Min Tze and i with Mr Maradi who has polio since birth..
he appeared in the video for Mekong Build 2009 in Cambodia!

with the beatiful Apsara, the angel of Cambodia!

with the Kiwis who were wearing their All Blacks shirts:
Kelsi, Helene and Ryan

part of the one big happy family! =)

the plans for more future homes

stay tuned for more on this exciting journey.. =)
p/s: photos contributed by Giana, Mel and myself..

anyway, this is old news but i haven't tell you yet..

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