Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Someone stole my heart while I wasn't looking

Jet lag is still getting the better of me.  I awoke at 3 am on Tuesday and was still going full tilt at 11 pm.  The extra hours gave me a chance to gather my thoughts, edit photos, and finally post the second episode of my blog.

Although Gordon and I were debating whether we might be better suited working at another NGO, I felt an obligation to return to the medical clinic at Savong's Orphanage to assist Dr. Hahn in dressing our moto accident victim's wounds again.  Besides, I really wanted to know how 'our patient' was doing and whether the treatment had been successful.  The good news is, he has improved significantly, and was able to get a good afternoon nap after Dr. Hahn prescribed some pain medication.  Rest is the cure for everything...... (And so why am I not able to rest myself right now?)

Our day was spent mostly in waiting around the Orphanage, since there wasn't much of anything for us to do.  And yet, in 'waiting around', a whole new world opened up to me.  I spent some time learning more about the sewing centre.  I watched a few boys playing soccer with one of the volunteers, and some of the younger children playing a 'jumping game', similar to 'double-dutch' skip rope, except that the ropes are stationary and the child has to jump with both feet at the same time between these elastic ropes which are held above the ground, in such a way as to hook the rope with their feet.  It's as complicated as it sounds.  I know I sure couldn't do it. 


I wandered over to the kitchen area where two volunteers were playing UNO with a few children, and it was fascinating to see these little Khmer kids so confident in their knowledge of colours and numbers in English, as well as the rules of the game.  (OK, so they change the rules to suit themselves...)  In another corner, the tuk-tuk driver and 'our patient' were deep in thought over a game of chess which they played on a make-shift chessboard using bottle caps and various other discarded items standing in for the missing chess men.

One tiny girl seemed to be in charge of taking care of the cook's baby boy who is thirteen months old and not walking yet.  Somehow I suspect he's not walking because he's always being carried by someone.  He's adorable, and yes, I did my share of carrying him too.  He's going to be a heartbreaker.  I was surprised to learn that this 'little' girl is actually eleven years old.  She is so petite and short for her age, I'd never have guessed that she was more than seven or eight.    But then, I should know better after encountering this same thing last year.  Malnutrition just stunts growth, and that's just the way it is for so many kids here. 

In the afternoon, we finally got to meet Savong.  He's a fascinating young man, only 29 years old, and yet he has built this complex of orphanage and school (which are in two separate locations) literally from nothing more than a burning desire to help these children.  The Orphanage now houses 38 children, and the numbers keep growing.  Savong spent some time giving us a history of the project, and described some of the future plans, which include completing the fence around the back perimeter of the school property, building a chicken coop on the school grounds, and getting some shelving made for the dormitories.  Construction of a new orphanage nearer to Siem Reap has also begun.  He drove us out to the school and showed us around, while some men were measuring for the fence.  There is a lot of litter in this back area, and he suggested that I could help him clean it up.  I'd be OK with that and it might be a fun project to get a few of the older kids to come out for an afternoon of garbage detail, with the reward of a treat, maybe baguettes and sweet milk.  When we returned from walking the perimeter of the property, it was a delight to see that a few of the older boys and some of the teachers from the school started a pick-up game of volleyball.  They were exceptionally good!

On our way back to the orphanage, Savong took us out to show Gordon the shelving unit that he's having made by a local carpenter, which looks more like a set of wooden lockers.  I could see Gordon's wheels turning, and I suspect he's found his first project.  He kept saying he could easily do it and do better.  That's Gordon for you - Once a woodworker, always a woodworker.

Savong & I also talked about me teaching some sewing.  I admitted that these ladies are probably already better seamstresses than I am, however I'd be interested to know if they've ever done any embroidery, or if they'd like to learn.  The challenge here would be to have a translator, and immediately Savong said he'd arrange for one.  This is a guy that does not see obstacles...he only sees solutions.  Anyways, thinking about it, I could easily teach embroidery to these ladies, one-on-one, without much talking required, since there are only 6 or 8 of them.  It's the secret language of sewing that doesn't require words.

When we got back to the orphanage, the clinic was still going strong....8 or 10 people still waiting in line. 

So Gordon and I sat on the porch swing and settled in for a long wait.  The next thing I knew, I had that darling baby on my lap, and that sweet little girl tucked in under my arm, her head on my chest.  More kids hung around just waiting for either one of these two to open up a space, so they could get their turn.  No question, these kids need love just as much as they need food or clothing.  It was heaven...just sitting there on the porch, with a slight breeze cooling us off, cuddled up with those two little waifs, swaying back & forth on the swing, and listening to its little 'creak-creak' noise, and the giggles and squeals of the other kids as they played.  What can I say?  It doesn't get much better than that.....and in my heart, I know why I came back.

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