Our last full day in Cambodia has been one of mixed emotions. So much has been accomplished these last few weeks and yet I feel I am leaving with tasks undone. Wonderful connections with a variety of different organizations have come to fruition. The scope and mission of Safe Haven has become more refined and defined and I am anxious to more forward. Two years in not a long period of time in which to build a handicap school, staff it and be ready to open our doors but two years also seems like an eternity when I want Sum Namg out of the orphanage and under our care tomorrow. Already, I am making plans to return in March to follow up with meetings and leads I was not able to follow this trip.
Cher bounces out of bed and is already chirping her breakfast song at me before my eyes have actually opened. She is in good humor despite the fact the damn rooster outside our window had been crowing since 3 am. Tonight at Shinta Mani they are having a special “Wild Life” BBQ and we are both half hoping rooster will be on the menu along side the Young Bees, Sweet and Sour Ant Soup, Frogs on the Grill and Crocodile Filets. We amble down to our breakfast table pleased to find it empty. Yesterday, another couple had the audacity to sit at our table and we discovered in the morning we don’t like change to our routine. Cher orders tea and actually gets it. The last couple of mornings I’ve order a mocha latte because the young hospitality staff at Shinta Mani, former street kids learning the hotel trade, simply LOVE to use the espresso machine. They get so excited when you order a coffee drink and they are able to show off their newly acquired barista skills. In fact, they’ve gotten so enthusiastic that every time I order one, they bring a 2nd for Cher, despite the fact she keeps ordering tea. We don’t have the heart to correct them.
Sated from my yummy breakfast of Cambodian pancakes with raisins and honey (I wonder if the poor bees that produced the honey are the same ones being featured on the “wild bbq menu later”) we saunter out the door and hop into a Tuk Tuk to head to Krousar Thmey –the school for deaf and blind kids. The school is beautiful and we are both very impressed with our tour. It turns out that the new Khmer sign language is basically French sign with a couple of random cultural Khmer signs thrown in for good measure. This discovery has a plus in that my sister can sign in French. Within moments of starting our tour, she is attracting attention. She signs through the windows of some classrooms with various kids and silently, the word is spreading: There is a pale, white woman wandering around who knows Khmer sign! Class ends and Cher is engulfed by a sea of deaf kids all frantically conversing with her in sign while they touch her white skin and marvel. All except one boy who thinks white skin is pretty ugly. He gets whapped on the side of his head for that comment (by another boy, not Cher). We learn that the teachers all go through a 6-week crash training course in Khmer Sign to become instructors. I had been hoping we could send our deaf disabled students for classes at Krousar when Safe Haven opened, since they were already the leading facility/school for the deaf. However, they do not take kids with other handicaps and they only allow teachers who are going to teach for them to go through the training course. The woman giving us the tour thinks I should be able to persuade the organization to allow my teachers to take the course. I agree and resolve to get this accomplished.