Cambodia, Siem Reap. (OVIA trip)


As most of you might have already known, I went to Cambodia for an OVIA trip with TPJ about a month ago, and man, it was one of the most unforgettable trips I've ever been on. It was 10 days and 9 nights long, and honestly on the very first day I was just like: "FML when is this trip going to end?!" I was just so exhausted because I just returned to Singapore two days before Cambodia from Phuket. But towards the end of the trip, I just didn't feel like going home anymore.

It was my first time going to Cambodia, and believe it or not it has been one of the top few places on my bucket list. I've always wanted to do voluntary work overseas, especially Cambodia (don't ask me why, I'm not sure myself) and of course I was ecstatic when I passed my interview and got selected to go on this trip. 

We honestly didn't do much on the first day, except warming-up and preparing ourselves for the next 9 days. I only remember feeling so shagged that day since we assembled at the airport as early as 6am. On the second day we visited Kok Kruel Primary School and saw the children there for the first time. Look at how cute this child is hehe.

As soon as we got to the school, all of the children started to stand in their lines. They greeted us by putting their palms together and giving a slight bow. 

[Some photos are taken by the secretarial team, so credits to them! We also have a blog @]

The school was a simple one - there were students from grade one to grade six, almost 120 students in total, with only 6 teachers and one principal. The space you see here is the outdoor area where the students usually play at. The classrooms had no air conditioners, no ceiling fans, no mounted fans and no whiteboards (They use blackboards). The toilet had an obvious lack of sanitation - there were no toilet rolls, no flush system, no basins, no taps, no toilet bowls. There were just two cubicles, one big hole in each (they act like toilet 'bowls' ) and a huge water tank beside it. The toilet stank and reeked of urine, but I was glad to be able to step out of my comfort zone and I went ahead to use it. 

On the third day, I met this boy called Kun-mor. I saw him sitting alone in the classroom and so I sat beside him during lesson time. When I said hello to him for the very first time, he gave me a very shy smile and a subtle wave before turning away bashfully. He was such a curious and witty kid. He would always be the one shouting the answers out loud in class. We made 'masks' that day and I watched him cut the paper plates. He was so focused. Next, I asked him which animal he wanted to draw but he didn't answer me properly. So I drew for him a pig and he coloured, while he drew and coloured the second paper plate on his own. The mask on his head was supposedly a lion, but somehow it looks like some headpiece gahaha. It was so interesting watching them colour with the different crayons. 

I also couldn't help but notice his torn clothes though. It honestly broke my heart and I wanted to sew it for him so badly. At that moment it just struck to me how poor they were. And then I began to notice more and more torn clothes around me.

I met one of my favs on the fourth day in class. When I first met this girl she was already so clingy and she kept holding onto my arm, hahaha how cute. (I shall call her Cutie) The thing about the children there is that, when they like you, they would literally stick to you wherever you go. So cute.
The boy behind me is Kun-mor. I was so happy inside when I saw him in this white top, at least it wasn't torn and it looked so good on him. 

She was clinging onto my arm and probably telling me something I would never understand hahah. She was the most talkative child I've ever talked to over there, but it was such a pity that I couldn't understand their language. She loved to talk to me but I could only pretend to understand every time. I couldn't help but laugh inside whenever she tried to, because she always gave a face of worry each time she did, as if she was telling me something SO important. Hahaha they are just so adorable.

(pssst, do we look alike?)

Kun-mor is such a gem. Whenever he saw me, he would immediately smile and walk towards my direction. His shy smile can be so charming sometimes heheh.
I also met Rita (this girl in the photo) for the first time on the fourth day. She's one of the three children I'm closest to, and probably my favourite one.

We spent the weekend away from school, so for both day 5 and 6 we went out for sightseeing instead. We visited the silkworm farms, some wood carver place, temples and Angkor Wat. We woke up as early as 4am to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. 

I must say that the Cambodian history is indeed an interesting one. I don't think I've ever felt so intrigued by a country's history before (except China's) and paid so much attention to the tour guide when he was explaining them.

Here's my bud' Jevonne, and I'm so glad I met her because of this trip. I'll miss talking to her about guys before we sleep at night, sharing oreos with her, giving her bananas, washing our clothes together and laughing at her loser moments. :(

A typical lesson in the morning at the school would look like this. 
Everyday, we would wake up at 6am in the morning (The morning call was at 6am everyday but I would only wake up at 6:30am) and then we would gather at the hotel lobby at 6:45am for temperature taking. Afterwards, we would proceed for breakfast at 7am and depart the hotel latest at 8am. On the journey to school, Ronnie would teach us a new song everyday on the bus and we would learn them and teach the children in the next fifteen minutes.

9am-11am would be lesson and interaction time (aka soft CIP) with the children, before they are dismissed at 11. The children would go home and then we would head for lunch at 11, before coming back to the school for hard CIP at about 1pm until 4 or 5pm. 

This was how the place looked like before we started hard CIP. 

It was definitely not easy weeding and digging the weeds and soil, then layer the bricks and then more digging, then painting, all in six days under the hot sun. It wasn't something that could be accomplished within a day. It required buckets of sweat (literally HAHA) and lots of hard work. 

The end product after six days of hard CIP.

To some of us, this playground area we have constructed may seem dull and insignificant. But to them, it is a new place where they can truly play and run around freely during their breaks in school. I hope we have created a space where laughter would be resonated in, where smiles can be seen and a place where new friendships can be forged. 

It may be an OVIA trip, an experience and a worthwhile cause. It may be us teaching the kids in class, but I do feel like it's the other way round instead. We may have taught them new things and broadened their knowledge, but they have taught me so many things in return - in so many unimaginable ways.

I've learnt a lot in that 10 days, and I've also noticed many things. 


Firstly, the children. They were such kind-hearted and innocent souls. Whenever we had hard CIP in the afternoon, a bunch of children would come back from home to help us out. I can still remember the boy who carried the bricks to and fro for us while we were layering them. Whenever we left the school, one boy (Jen-tal, that's how his name is pronounced) would be running behind the bus, smiling widely and waving at us. He would be running, waving, running and waving until he couldn't keep up with the bus. During our breaks while doing hard CIP, they would give us flowers to show their appreciation for our hard work. It just occurred to me how thoughtful they were when I received them. I can never forget how Cutie wiped the sweat off my face in class and her caressing my face with her small hands. She would always tell me "bao bao" and I would carry her (and each time I did I would always remember how heavy she is, hahah). I would never forget how Kun-mor protected me by defending me from some of the small girls who were scratching me (unintentionally, as they were trying to get me to carry them). He brushed their arms away sternly, gave me a huge smile and left. Rita also tried to remove the paint on my stained hands when I was doing hard CIP. She dusted my jeans with her bare hands when she saw dirt on it.

Their little actions meant so much to me. It was just so, so, so heartwarming.

They taught me how pure, genuine happiness felt like. Each time I was with Rita, I just felt like a mother - I felt the need to protect and care for her. Every time I saw her running around the playground with so much carefreeness, it just made me feel so inexplicably happy. For the very first time, I finally understood how much love could go beyond strangers. 
Being with them, seeing them smile & radiating so much happiness while doing so without worries make me so happy inside. It's the kind of happiness money can't ever buy, the kind of happiness which stays with you until the end of each day. The kind of happiness which fills the void in your heart, the kind of happiness that allows a smile to creep in unknowingly and makes you smile for no explicable reason.

All good things come to an end. But for now, it's not goodbye but it's 'till we see each other again'. Thank you children for all these precious memories, thank you Kok Kruel Primary, thank you Cambodia, thank you TPJ. 

I'll never forget this trip.

Till we see each other again.

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