Displaced Yankee Productions | The Smell

The Smell

Last night Art and I had dinner with a couple he knew through friends back home. Piseth, a native Cambodian and his wife Siobhan, from Australia, met while Piseth was a monk. Born in the rural countryside during the tail end of the fight with the Khmer Rouge, he became a monk at a young age to avoid being forced to become a soldier. Dinner was an interesting affair – they are on the verge of moving to Hong Kong. Siobhan has had enough of life in Cambodia for now. They spoke of the relocation camps, lack of health care and the fear among Cambodians to speak out against a government that cares very little of the poor. Journalists and filmmakers being arrested; shot at and bullied – it was a sobering topic. We’ve already been warned by Borom our film liaison to always have our permit on us and keep a 10% contingency handy for bribes. In fact, customs attempted to extort a small amount from Art when we arrived. According to Siobhan, the police are not fond of “do good” Americans. Art and I agree upon returning that neither of us is interested in getting arrested or shot, so we plan on treading very carefully – especially at the relocation camps the government has set up. We’re heading there tomorrow.
But today was an uplifting day of filming at the CCF. Spending time with “our” four kids, catching them doing things they love: Saroeurn, who dreams of being a karate instructor kicks his way through his martial arts class. Layseng, who loves to sing, belts out her ABC’s and Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes in her English class. We also have frank interviews with Allie, who speaks of the rewards and difficulties of living and working in Cambodia and with their new pediatric nurse volunteer from Scotland, Fiona, who talks about some of the medical milestones and setbacks. Both issue a strong call to action to everyone: Get Out and Get Involved. It is something we plan to repeat often in this film. These kids’ lives are being changed by individuals who are making a difference. We all can enrich our lives by following their examples.
We break for lunch and Art and I head to a little deli I remember to grab a sandwich. I stroll across the chaotic intersection with cars, Tuk Tuks and motorbikes beeping and swerving around me. Art is still on the other side. He catches up with a grin. “I’m still getting used to this,” he says. Garbage lines the street and the ever-present smell of Phnom Penh lingers in my nose. Allie calls it a mix of heat, pee and people.

After lunch we head to CCF 2. A new five story building that can house another 80 children. They’ve also set up vocational training rooms here for hair, make up and sewing. The building is impressive and stuffed full of narrow staircases. I estimate I went up and down stairs lugging equipment today at least twenty or more times barefoot. When we wrap for the day, I’m relieved. My feet are bitterly protesting. I plan on soaking them later and then hosing them down with Purell. Siobhan told me a revolting story about the rains here and the “poo water” that floods through the streets. She just got over a nasty foot infection as a result of walking outside. As I walk in the rain, I’m now obsessed with poo water. Great – something else to worry about.


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