In late June I made my 7th trip to Cambodia (in less than 5 years!) Christina was running a summer day camp and I came to help out, along with 5 students from Beijing (2 of whom just came back to China after their first year at university).
A family with kids in the youth group graciously allowed the China team to stay in their house while they were away for summer, and a youth leader from Siem Reap (who I’ve met on previous trips) stayed there as well. The house was very different to China houses – including the “Great Wall of Cambodia” staircase – and we were blessed to be there.
It was a great set up, and it contributed to something very different about this trip, for me. With the number of students I brought, and not staying at Christina’s house, I spent a lot of time being the one who knew something about Cambodia – teaching Khmer words, directing tuktuks, explaining things. A very different experience, when I am always the visitor! But after so many visits I’d learned more than I knew, about the language and the life, at least compared to people visiting for the first time. Especially exciting was realising just how much Khmer I’ve learned over the years!
As always, the sky in Cambodia delighted me, especially the murals of clouds. In Beijing – between tall buildings crowding the sky and pollution blurring the view – it’s unusual to see beautiful cloudscapes. One night the sky lit up in brilliant pinks and oranges, reminding me of the sunset skies in Canberra.
Also as always, I noted lots of interesting sights among the traffic. On the streets of Phnom Penh, motorbikes still make up the majority of vehicles, although the number of private cars increases with each trip I make. One person on a motorbike looks empty, two is normal, three is comfortable and four isn’t unusual. I think the record number of people I saw on a single motorbike was 4 adults and 3 children. The record number of people I saw on a tuktuk (a sort of carriage hitched to a motorbike) was 15. I think. It was hard to tell past a certain point with that many people squeezed in together!
I didn’t see any whole pigs on the sides of motorbikes this time, but I did see big collections of ducks and chickens being carried upside-down to both sides of motorbikes. The ducks were attached by the feet to a series of wooden slats across the back of the bike. I also saw a panel of glass being carried between two people on a moto, and a large mirror panel being carried in the same manner (the picture below has the best shot I got of that).
The camp itself was very fun. There were about 40 students, plus adult leaders. The list of nationalities included: Australia, New Zealand, UK, US, Netherlands, Germany, Hongkong, Korea and Cambodia. It was called Camp Whatever – the idea behind the name being that whatever you do, do it for God’s glory. The students spent 1.5 hrs every day in a “track” they’d chosen – music, drama, art, or sport. In the afternoon were different activities, including messy games and swimming at a pool. The whole group (almost) is pictured below in our “reverse tie dye” shirts, which we made as another afternoon activity (the shirts started out bright blue!).
I was running the art track and had a really fun time with the group (pictured above). The first day we taught on art as worship, and practised using the different media I’d bought in Beijing. Through the week we talked about how art can be a way we express our feelings, and put into a picture things we can’t put into words; how art can be used to inspire and encourage others; how art can tell a story with a single picture. We read parables and drew them, we drew pictures to illustrate Scripture verses, drew pictures representing relationship with God, and the beauty of God. On the last day there was a “showcase” where each group prepared something to show to the others – we chose our best/favourite pieces to display:
One of the most fun things for me about my trips to Cambodia is that I have built relationships with the TCK students there over time. It’s been 4.5 years since my first trip (for a high school youth camp) so many of the older students I’ve known a long time. A highlight of the trip for me was near the end, when two different students made comments along the lines of “saying goodbye to Tanya is easy because I know she’ll be back”. In the TCK world, that’s a big deal.