March 4–Two reflections by Talia and Constance

Today was a Buddhist holiday so we didn’t build the chicken and pig pens. Firstly, after breakfast, we helped our home-stay parents cook the food that we were going to offer to the monks that were coming to visit the village. Once the food was prepared we walked to the school where the monks were. It was really cool because the mother I was staying with offered us her proper clothing to wear. Although I couldn’t fit!! (The people are very little) Camilla wore a top and skirt and it looked really good! Once we go to the school we all sat and began to chant with/to the monks and Buddha. It was a very enlightening experience; seeing how passionate and synchronized the locals were as they chanted was really amazing. The best part was after the chanting. We changed into out sarongs and sat in two lines. The monks then continuously poured water, infused with incense and flower petals, on our heads and chanted. This was meant to bring good luck. Throughout and coming out of this I felt very peaceful and grateful that I was receiving such a blessing. I think it really worked, because the rest of the day was very calm and pleasant. We then returned to our home-stays for lunch with our families. Although my family did not sit with us, the mother was very attentive and the meal was the best I’d had on the island!
Following lunch, after reading and discussing a few articles on charity work, we went to a small beach to swim and relax. It was great. The water was really refreshing and we were allowed to actually show skin and wear a bikini or swim-shorts!! The current in the water was really strong; luckily no one got swept away! [We brought local lifeguards]. It was really nice to take a break and have such a relaxing afternoon; it definitely helped with the whole group mood, and everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun. Afterwards we were lucky enough to go see the dolphins! It was awesome; even though we didn’t see them close up, the idea that they were there and pretty close was cool. When everyone was really quiet you could hear them breathe out. It almost sounded like a sigh. It seemed like they were swimming circles around us!
All in all it was an amazing day. On the island we focused a lot on what was wrong and how we could help, whereas today we got to experience the beauty and good parts of the island. I really enjoyed it and I think most everyone did too—Talia



Today we started off our day by waking up in our host family houses. We woke up to the scorching hot sun, and the sounds of the different unique Cambodian creatures. As we bike to breakfast I begin to appreciate more and more my surroundings: the beautiful people, the hellos from all around, and the incredible raw nature that surrounds me. Breakfast was rice, per usual, and a delicious aloe yogurt. (Something I’ve never tried before.) After breakfast I then biked back to my host family house, where I was then given a beautiful Cambodian scarf to wear to the wonderful Buddhist holiday service. After thanking my elder house parent I set off to the service. Walking up the rickety stairs the excitement of this new experience begins to kick in. As I take a seat, with the bottom of my feet hidden, I begin to observe the different religion. Then once the service is over, we are finally able to be blessed by the monks. We all then change into our sarongs and take a seat. We then proceed to get water dumped all over us from the monks; it was such an amazing and spiritual experience, one I will most certainly never forget. As the day goes on, at around 4, we then mount the boats and go to the private island for a swim in the Mekong river. This was such a fun time and such a great time for group bonding. Soccer was played, chicken fights were made, and laughs filled the small island. After we were done swimming we then took the boats to the middle of the river where the pink Dolphins were said to be seen. The serenity of this boat ride was magical. Although we did not get to see as many dolphins as we had hoped, there was something about the peace and silence of just sitting in our tiny three person boat that is, to be quite honest, unexplainable. We then headed back to the mainland, where our home stays were, and got ready to eat dinner. As I sit down at the dinner table, and look around, I then realize how truly lucky I am to be able to have experienced such an amazing day in the beautiful country of Cambodia.—Constance