10 Sept 2015
Ifthings were to go according to plan, I will be on the bus to Batambang at this very moment. Instead, I’m freaking out over going to the volunteer place that Stacey, Mervyn and Cho went on and on about.
“The volunteer place is so fun and meaningful! You’d meet a lot of people there. Mavis, the lady running the organization, is so nice!” Stacey said. “Come on!”
As a self-pride weak willed person, I delayed my bus ticket to Battambang, amused by my impulsivity. The impact of the decision set in much later –specifically, on the way to the volunteer place– where I start to dread my decision. What if it’s the run of the mill NGO? What if I unknowingly contributed to the voluntourism threat in Cambodia? What if Battambang proved to be the time of my life, and I missed it?
|Cho and Stacey|
|Ever youthful Mervyn|
Touch a Life is surprisingly unassuming for a place that got everyone hyped up. There’s no signage boasting it’s role in feeding impoverished children. Come to think of it, their name isn’t on the door either. There’s nothing distinguishing it from the other Cambodian houses in it’s vicinity, except maybe for the huge red double doors.
My heart pumped furiously as we go around the house to the back. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Doris Day crooned “Que Sera Sera” from the radio sitting at the very top of the refrigerator. The legendary Mavis greeted everyone with a huge and warm smile, happily announcing our menu for the day. Moh, a huge Iranian man, gently stirred his concoction on the stove. A few people gathered around the dining table, making themselves useful while chatting gaily with each other. Eri sauntered in with bread she made. Yeah. She. Made. Bread. (And Eri has her own restaurant too! Check her out!)
I’ve never had Middle Eastern food before but Moh got me sold. Moh’s baba ganoush and hummus blew me away. I can’t stop eating after I started! (Now you can try Moh’s food at his very own restaurant!) A few Cambodian youngsters joined our little lunch party. They joked around and caught up with everyone sincerely in true Cambodian fashion. There was a sense of camaraderie among the people there. Everyone trusted everyone and is open with each other.
I left the lunch party with a food baby. Not wanting to go back to the hostel, I went to Beng Mealea with Cho. Trucks and motorcycles sped past our old tuktuk on a sandy, unpaved road. Unable to take in the dust, Cho and I tried to talk while squinting our eyes and coughing violently once in a while. The tuktuk driver became so concerned with our comfort that he stopped and bought us two face masks.
|Road to Beng Mealea|
Never in my life was I so touched by a cheap piece of synthetic cotton. Not only that, the tuktuk driver entertained us with stories in his thick Khmer accent. I strained every listening muscle of my being to try and understand him. I particularly enjoyed the tale where he was attacked by a swan in this childhood.
It was nightfall when we went back to the hostel. Raindrops pelted our bare legs as we sped under the rain. As we bolted towards dry land (Kochi-Ke), there was an air of exuberance. Cho and I giggled while shivering. Stacey and Mervyn lounging at the common room and asked us about our day.
It almost felt like coming home.
|The friendly tuktuk guy|