Today concluded my orientation to Global Service Corps Cambodia and what a week it’s been. Tuesday morning I had a basic Khmer (pronounced kuh-my) language lesson. Then I went to meet the students and teachers at a school that I will be teaching at in August. The school is for the children of extremely poor factory workers and farmers in the outskirts of Phnom Penh. There is a huge problem in Phnom Penh, like in cities all over the world, with street-working children where poor parents send their kids out to sell things to tourists rather than attend school, so while my trip was supposed to be primarily orphan-oriented, I am more than happy to step in at this school. Other NGO’s and volunteers rarely visit this type of school which is unfortunate.
So Tuesday started off pretty smooth, and I assumed it would be a typical day in Cambodia… but I was so wrong. I generally consider myself to be a pretty adventurous person, but never ever in my wildest dreams have I imagined doing something as daring, as risky, and as adrenaline-pumping as I did on Tuesday. Ok, so there I was having lunch with the Director of the school and his wife when she asked me what was in the neighborhood of my apartment. I replied that I had seen a coffee shop, some nice Khmer and foreign restaurants, a bookstore, a pharmacy, a salon, and casually mentioned that I thought about stopping into the salon for a haircut while I was here (but not seriously), and that was it. Game over. As if I had said I needed emergency surgery, she urgently sprang up and said she had a friend who would just love to do my hair!! Before I knew it, she had made me an appointment in 20 minutes and asked her husband to drive me over. Half of me didn’t have the heart to decline especially with how excited she was about it, and the other half was curious as to how this would end. I arrived at the salon and was escorted to a chair by the owner and presented with a “book of style” to pick a cut. I flipped through the pages and the worried feeling in my stomach grew with each page flip as the styles got worse and worse. Finally, I took a deep breath and thought to myself, “this is going to happen and there’s no point stressing over it ”. So I did just that and asked for just a trim, showing her that I just wanted about an inch off. 10 minutes and a heap of hair on the floor later, I looked in the mirror to see my mop/mullet/puff/Ally Sheedy in the Breakfast Club look for the first time. Some of my hair sits on my shoulders, but most of it comes right to my ears. It’s interesting to say the least but you know what, the smile on her face after I put my thumbs up and said I loved it was enough for me. Hey, it may not be the most stylish look but it was the most fun haircut I’ve ever had.
After I got all beautified, Sophy took me to a temple to learn about Buddhism, and then we went to a meeting with the director of Friends International. This NGO is an amazing organization that works with street children to give them resources to better their lives. They have helped over 2,000 Cambodian children get off the streets by providing education, vocational training, and employment opportunities. Tourists who come through this and other cities take pity on child beggars and children selling things, when the truth is the children rarely benefit from donations. There is almost always someone above them who will take all or most of the money. This is why you should never give money to street children even though it breaks your heart not to. You’re just fueling the cycle and making it worse for them instead of making their lives better.
Tomorrow I am going to the orphanage and I could not be more excited!!!!!!!!! This is the orphanage that I told a few family and friends about that was opened by a former US Marine that cares for orphaned children, and adults incapacitated by AIDS. This should be a very life-changing experience that I look forward to sharing when I get back.