Published: September 16th 2011September 14th 2011
Aziza's Place- class time
Although August and September are summer holidays for children in Phnom Penh, the kids at Aziza's still have classes 4 days/week in the mornings.
Sometimes I feel so incredibly lost, and I think I just need to accept that this is an unavoidable part of what I’m doing out here. I continually thrust myself into new situations these days and although they are mostly incredible ones, they are still new. Change of any sort is stressful and right now change is the only constant in my life.
I want so desperately to be able to say that I am happy with every aspect of my life when the reality is that some of the time I’m just really confused. Some days I really feel like I’ve found my niche out here and don’t ever want to return to the way of life I knew before leaving on this journey. I find that I feel so alive in places like Cambodia and the purpose and passion that seemed to be lacking previously in my life is definitely present here. Although at other times I feel that I don’t really even exist out here, if that makes sense, as though I’m just perpetually running from something in an attempt to escape reality.
I’m trying so hard to figure out exactly what it is that I
Although I've seen this loads of times in Cambodia outside of Phnom Penh, this was the first time I actually saw this in this city. About 1 block from my apartment!
want for my life, what’s important to me and what will make me happy. When I think of that storage unit of mine back home in Canada full of items from my previous life I know that right now the thought of unpacking it somewhere doesn’t bring me any sense of happiness at all. If I did decide to return and unpack it, settle down someplace and regain some sense of normalcy in my life, I’m not sure if this lost feeling that I at times experience out here would disappear or simply intensify further.
Fortunately I know enough to realize that at least for the moment I am exactly where I want to be. Precisely what is to come after this stop in Phnom Penh might still be a mystery, but for the time being my volunteer position at the NGO called Aziza’s Place has so far been incredibly fulfilling. I spend my time hanging out with the 21 amazing children who reside at this wonderful organization, tutoring them in the evenings, teaching English and computers to the local Khmer staff, working on administrative tasks for the organization, attending staff meetings and other things that I’m forgetting sure.
I’m also really enjoying getting to know the staff and am finally filling that need I’ve had recently to have some consistency in the people around me. The fact that I have an apartment to call my own during my stay here is also a remarkable change from the last few months of hopping around from place to place. I actually have a kitchen where I can cook my own food, a living room to hang out in with my new roommate from France and a huge balcony on which to get some fresh air while taking in the fascinating streets of the city around me.
Phnom Penh comes to life very early each day around my apartment with the sounds of countless motorbikes, Buddhist chanting over megaphones and the children from Aziza’s Place laughing and yelling in the courtyard directly below my widow. The early morning, high-volume hustle and bustle certainly ensures that I never need to use an alarm clock to get to work on time.
Sometimes I start my mornings with some yoga and organic super-foods for breakfast that I sneakily smuggled in from Australia. I sit on my balcony, enjoy the early morning heat
Crazy loads on motos
It's not uncommon to see a moto (what motorbikes are called here) loaded up with a family of 5 on them!
and look through the iron fence and layers of barbed wire protecting me at the busy streets below. Some mornings I opt to wade my way through the city’s chaotic hodgepodge of rush hour traffic to a nearby café instead. The streets I walk down to get my breakfast have no lanes and people aggressively drive down both sides of the road, honking and pushing their way to their destinations. Seeing as how there are no sidewalks present either, I end up walking directly among the traffic as if I were in fact a commuting vehicle myself. Fortunately the sheer volume of traffic combined with the disorganization of it all ensures that no one is ever driving very fast, making my morning stroll a fairly safe one.
After the sun goes down, although the streets around me in Phnom Penh take on a somewhat different vibe I find that they remain incredibly alive. Although they still feel a bit unruly, the mood of the neighbourhood becomes much more tranquil as the locals enjoy a break from the intense daytime sun and most can relax now that the long workday is over. Many homes and restaurants have Buddhist shrines with
candles burning, lighting up the streets and spreading the calming sent of incense all around. Kids run around with colourful paper lanterns lit by candles, fireworks are at times going off randomly all over the place and kids loudly set off firecrackers on the streets. And despite the noticeable drop in temperature, it remains so gloriously hot and humid even though the sweltering daytime sun is long gone.
My work so far at Aziza’s Place has been really incredible. Thankfully I’m finding that I’m already quite comfortable here and seem to be finding my way into the daily routines quite nicely. Most of the children, especially the younger ones have warmed up to me quite quickly. The biggest challenge for me so far has actually been learning the names of the 21 children and 6 local staff. Khmer names are like nothing I’ve ever heard before and putting these unusual names to the sea of faces around me has been a challenge for sure.
I have no doubt that I will soon have lots to say about my experiences at Aziza’s (in fact I already do), however I think that I will save that for the many weeks
Two amazing girls that I have been working with at AP. The older one I am helping write a letter for the AP newsletter and the younger cutie I tutor in the evenings.
that still remain during my volunteer contract here. For now I am still wrapping my head around this entire experience and am actually finding it a bit overwhelming at the moment to try and put it all into words. As time passes and that clarity comes I know that I will greatly enjoy writing about and sharing some of the wonderful things that I witness and take part in each day. However for now I will simply say that l love my crazy life here in Phnom Penh and am so incredibly grateful that I am having these amazing experiences and meeting all of these wonderful and fascinating people.
One thing I do know for sure is that the beautifully resilient children at Aziza’a Place are teaching me infinitely more than I’m teaching them. I read a quote once by Henry David Thoreau in which he urged us to go confidently in the direction of our dreams and live the life we’ve always imagined. Being in Phnom Penh and working with this NGO is definitely part of a dream that I have imagined for myself for quite some time, so finding myself here actually living out that dream is
Small makeshift cooking areas can be found on the sidewalks with a small fire under a pot of cooking food- just anywhere on the main streets.
a really incredible and inspiring thing.
There are more photos below