Up Before the Sun in Siem Reap

It's currently 5:35am in Siem Reap, Cambodia and I'm SO excited that the sun is rising so I can go outside and explore! Between changing time zones and the eager anticipation of being here, I would say I took more of a nap than got a good night's rest, but today should provide the perfect amount of relaxation so I can get myself on the right schedule.

The flights were easy, I met another California girl heading to Siem Reap so we hung out during our layover in Seoul and actually ended up on the same row with no one in the middle seat between us (score!) for the second 5-hour flight.  As soon as I exited the airport, our Cambodian Guide Cham was there with a sign and immediately waved as he was looking at my Facebook photos to make sure he spotted me (appreciate that!). We had a nice ride to the hotel where he filled me in on some of the things we'll be doing this week and I got settled into my room - which had great air conditioning, a big window and a western style bathroom so I'm a happy girl! 

Today I'm going to ride along with Cham as he goes out to the project site to prep for our work this week and soon other team members will be flying in - some of whom I've met during the Baja Bound house builds and others I've only connected with through our Facebook group. I'm looking forward to getting to know these wonderful people as we embark on this journey through Cambodia and Vietnam.

SUPER EXCITING - Simla (the founder of Hands on Journeys) sent us some more information on the projects we'll be participating in and I've copied them below for y'all :) As you can probably tell from the itinerary post, this trip weaves in service while we travel. I get to spend time exploring new cultures and sightseeing while helping to empower the local community.

More Info on our Upcoming Projects organized by Hands on Journeys:

As you know by now, we are all about empowering the locals. It’s about providing them with a fishing line and teaching them how to fish. Thanks to you guys the following projects have taken place:

a. We have invited Jackson VanHarte from Frontier Collection to lead the project work in Siem Reap. Simla met Jackson at a Social Entrepreneur Networking Event in Sydney about 3-4weeks ago. It didn’t take them long to start collaborating given our values align with each other.
In April 2015 Jackson started FrontierCollection with the purpose of helping artists from the developing world (www.frontiercollection.org). This was a direct means to not only provide them with sustainable income, but also raise money for the Lost & Found Orphanage in Cambodia (www.cambodialostandfound.com).

b. With part of your funds, we have purchased the painting materials for the children to give them a boost. Once these paintings are done, we will put them for sale on our website www.handsonjourneys.com and 100% sales will go to the Orphanage/their families. We have also invited the main teacher who started the painting classes – his nickname is “Pheakdeye”. His story will move you and more than likely put you to tears. He will be the one sharing his story with you.

c. We have invited 4 of the girls from the previous village we did some project work in the past to join the painting classes. They have never had a chance to go to college, so these classes will provide them with a skill.

Your time at the orphanage: Water colour painting with the children; Teaching the children –reading books, mathematics and a bit of a Physical Education classes; water balloon fight (now who doesn’t love that); learn about their daily routine and lots of hugging and dancing….

a. Providing one family with a Toilet & Shower. Sanitation is our top priority because we have identified it as a neglected area in which we can spur significant change. By improving how we deal with human waste, we can save lives, improve Child's health and ensure greater dignity, privacy and personal safety, particularly for women and girls. One family at a time, our mission!
The building has already started so by the time you get to the Phnom Penh village, it will be at the stage of ‘painting’ the new toilet together with the family and the exchange of gratitude: “This is yours to use” & “the family saying ‘thank you’ to you” happens right at the moment you gift it to them. It’s powerful, emotional and a satisfying job that’s very hard to explain. You will get what I mean when it happens.

b. Last time Mike was at the Phnom Penh village, he built a strong connection with Dong Vibol (who is the son of one of our homehost). Trust me - his humbleness and spirit is just unbelievably attractive. Mike & I have decided to give him the opportunity of tour guiding/leading, thus we have invited him to join us for the tour. You will meet him in Siem Reap and he is on training with our gorgeous tour leader – Peou Sok Chamreun.

c. You will also deliver 2-3 water filters to the local families in the village. One of the most pressing resource issues facing rural villagers in Cambodia is a lack of clean drinking water and the good health practices that go with it. The water is contaminated with bacteria and polluted with waste. Additionally, this water is a potential breeding ground for many water-borne illnesses. We support many clean water and hygiene projects that have and will deliver significant results, and sanitation is our top priority.

d. Enjoy a cultural immersion time with the family – home-stay, home-host lunch and home-host dinner (Safe to eat and stay). They are beautiful people, REALLY beautiful souls. Talk to them, hug them... and embrace the simplicity of life.

e. Last but not least, we will be gathering the children at the school on Saturday morning and I will join you all on Skype where we will take the children for a walk at the aquarium via SKYPE. Hope to be able to show them NEMO! Catch the smiles on the children's faces.

a. Ladies & Gentlemen get your learning and teaching hat on. You will be taking with you a big bag of beads, some elastic strings & glue. Reaching the boat houses, you will spend a few hours demonstrating how to thread beads onto the string and create unique bracelets, the locals will absorb this new skill and will eagerly get to work through laughter and teamwork to create something that is integral to every person: Freedom. They will then take these bracelets to local markets. We are basically teaching them how to create a profitable business that will ultimately empower them to achieving their own goals: their children going to school, or fixing the hole in their boat, or investing in a water filtration unit reducing disease in their community from drinking soiled water.

We did a trial of this project in Oct-15 and the outcome was unbelievable. After one week of visiting the floating village, we received word that they had produced 657 bracelets and had approached, and been welcomed, in a tourist hotel to sell the bracelets for $2 each. That’s empowering!

Jenny Scholl – I assign you to be the leader for this project. Here is a video link of how to make these bracelets - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W40_NR4dWas. Try to make an attempt of one or two of them prior going to the floating village and when you reach there, the ladies are to be divided into groups of 8 (we can only teach 8 at a time), and start making the bracelets.

To summarize - your tour funds are used to provide villagers with the tools they need, while our camaraderie empowers them to use these new tools to create a better life for themselves. It’s not all about work… Plenty of time for you to relax, go for massages (why wouldn’t you coz it’s only $2-3 for one hour) and have heaps of FUN!!!

I greatly appreciate everyone's support and well wishes following along this adventure!