CAS Week 2018

Renaissance College

Category: SIEM REAP BLOG 2018

An emotional goodbye

The sound of my morning alarm signified the start of the day that we all dreaded: the day we go back to Hong Kong.

Today was a rather busy day. Waking up at 5:30 in the morning was something I definitely hope I’d never experience again. After embodying the alarm clock and barging into others’ rooms, we found ourselves once again on the Karaoke Tuk-Tuk, which overhyped what was essentially a green tuk-tuk with a made-in-China Bluetooth speaker.

Shortly after arriving at the monk’s monkastery, the sound of a big “snort” directed us towards the location of a gigantic buddhist pig, as well as four monks dressed in orange walking towards us. They came over and we gave them some rice, afterwards, they gave us a blessing. Later, our good friend Hong Lee introduced us to the lives of buddhist monks in Cambodia.

After our long overdue breakfast, we went back to our room to change into more comfy clothing and chilled. Most of us took a nap and packed our bags for the airport.

Under the immense heat, we visited our last temple of the trip, Banteay Kdei. It was a short visit which consisted of a small trek to the end of the temple and back. Next up was a dance, we all performed an Apsara dance as well as Go-Go Wonderful under the shade of a tree. Afterwards, us guys performed an entertaining rendition of I Want it that Way by the Backstreet Boys.

The most important time of the day was a time where we stood in a circle and reflected on our experiences over the past week. We shared what we thought rocked the most, what would stick with us after the trip, and give a compliment to one other person. This time allowed us to really appreciate one another and thank other people for the work they’ve done over the week. We felt that this gave us the opportunity to compliment other people that we don’t know, which could allow us to better know each other.

The trip to the airport was our last tuk-tuk ride and after a picture with the Karaoke driver, tears were shed as we said our goodbyes to our heroes in green and went to say goodbye to our tour guides. Saying goodbye to our tour guides was one of the most difficult things to do, especially when our entire group bonded over the service and the explorations.

The tour guides were such a core part of what made our CAS experience so wonderful, insightful, enlightening, and most importantly, enjoyable. As Ms. Colarossi said, these guides didn’t need to put so much effort into making this trip fun, they weren’t obligated to devote themselves so much, to be so enthusiastic.

Yet they did, and it was because they put more than what was expected from them that made this trip an experience we could never forget. This was why it was so heart-wrenching to say goodbye to them, but I made up for my lack of meaningful verbal language with a lot of hugs and photos.

This week was a long week, but it sure was meaningful. We learnt that the qualities of being a good human aren’t just being smart in school, it was about respecting others, devoting your time to help others. It isn’t just about you and those around you, but it’s about proactively going out there, to offer your assistance to those who really need it. Not some school project who’s due date we neglected but helping others where they really need it, be it a house, or fundamental English.

This trip was an eye-opening experience that taught us to pay more attention to the world around us, to not shelter ourselves in this cocoon where we are safe when others need our help. This trip taught us how to appreciate the things we are given, and not ask for more when we don’t need more.

This trip was absolutely unforgettable. We would like to thank all of the people that helped make this CAS trip possible: the teachers, the tour guides, the tuk-tuk drivers, HUSK, and finally, the students!

This trip taught us how to be human, and in that sense, taught us the best lesson possible.

Thomas and Clarence

Bidding farewell to Siem Reap (day 7)

On the last full day of our CAS trip, we started the day like most of the other days on the trip. We woke up at 7:00, ate breakfast at 7:15, and finally left on our convoy of tuk tuks at 7:50. However, despite our indifferent morning routine, we had a variety of new activities to look forward to.

Immediately after leaving the hotel, we travelled to the ancient and legendary Angkor Wat Temple – one of the biggest religious monuments in the world. Led by one of the first English speaking tour guides for the temple, we had a mini-history lesson on the significance of the temple. We admired the many carvings on the ancient stone walls, and was left curious about the many spectular architectural designs. After taking several photos inside and outside the temple, we left to go to the Bayon temple, another iconic located within the Angkor Thom area.

After finishing our tours of Bayon at around 11, we went back to the Phare Circus area for lunch, and to meet with our Great Race Team, before the race began. In the race we had to complete tasks like counting from 1 to 10 in Khmer, learning some Apsara dance moves, “paving” a road, completing a quiz on Cambodian culture and history, completing puzzles, and even eating bugs. Despite the variety of challenges, with the promise of a cash prize, all students were eager to win.

The race was challenging in many ways and pushed all of us out of our comfort zones. We had to work with different people, whom we had rarely worked with before. We would also have to navigate through the city completely by our self, and would have to speak Khmer when directing our selected tuk tuk drivers. Some students exceeded in some challenges – like the Apsara dance – while others struggled in the same activities.

Ending the race with a puzzle in the Phare circus area, “The Colarossi Rouge” – consisting of Charmaine, Zinei, Clarence, Kunal, Daphne and obviously chaperoned by Ms. Colarossi – were identified as the winners. When receiving the cash prize, a twist was revealed and the money won would be donated to help local Cambodian people in some way. In the end, the Colarossi Rouge decided to use their cash prize to provide solar lighting for local villagers.

After we concluded the race we met up with our local tour guide for the temple and set towards the Batneay Kdel Temple to view the famous sunset. Upon arrival there we were given a brief history of the temple. We learnt that the temple signifies cremation as at the base there was a large cremation hole to burn the body. Soon after we were given the opportunity to explore the site ourselves. Most of us headed towards the top to view the sunset. The sight was amazing and was every bit as good as people spoke it to be.

Dinner was a blast too as we rolled up to our dinner spot, with some of us screaming “Baby” by Justin Bieber at the top of our lungs. For dinner we had a large variety of BBQ dishes to choose from ranging from salad to spiced beef to the traditional hot dogs. We wrapped up dinner with a fun award ceremony activity where the teacher would first announce the award then act out the person who won it for us to guess.

Overall, The last full day here in Cambodia has been unforgettable for almost everyone. With one of our local guides – Wandi – leaving for his sister’s wedding tomorrow many students and teachers bidded farewell to him for the last time with great sadness.

By Kunal Dadlani

A fun-filled day! (day 6)

As the morning sun sneaked by in the land of Cambodia, we were surely feeling the aching muscles from the previous activities that had unfolded before. Wake up time and Breakfast was as normal, and we were all ready to go for the exciting day that would follow after.

The bike ride that followed after was really fun and maybe challenging for some people, but after an unanimous collective decision, we decided to keep on riding through the sandy roads. Unfortunately, some unlucky people fell down on the grounds due to either unfamiliarity of the bikes, unfortunate bumps and holes in the roads, or due to the difficulty of traversing through the sandy roads. However, all of us got back on our feet and continued riding, never withdrawing from the challenge that the bike ride presented, with everyone people coming out victorious at the end.

After experiencing a challenging bike ride, we visited historical temple sites in Siem Reap. The most prominent temple we visited today was the Ta Prohm, accompanied with a temple guide that provided many insights on the historical background on the temple. It was truly a wonderful experience to walk through the temple grounds, gaining new knowledge that would benefit us for the amazing race that would follow tomorrow.

After the temple ride followed a 2 hour rest at the hotel, as we had nothing to do prior to the circus show that would go on at night. It was a great opportunity for us to catch up on some sleep, as some of us were tired after the difficult bike ride through the sandy roads.

Dinner was a variety of curry dishes, which provided us a great warmth and satisfaction. However, the main part of the day would then start after, which was the circus show. The circus show held an air of enthusiasm and energy. Each section of the performance was very entertaining, and every action gave us a sense of astonishment, as every act was simply amazing yet complicated at the same time. The way their bodies would contort to the music, following the flow of the rhythm, expressing their well acted emotions, it was all a wonderful show, and I think everyone would agree that the show was definitely a highlight of the whole week so far. The drummer in particular was very amazing, as his well timed beats to the flow of the circus was very on point, with every hit adding emphasis and rhythm to the performer’s actions.

Overall, the day was very exciting yet relaxed, with the whole course of events generally being very enjoyable.

By Patrick

A fun-filled day (day 5)

This morning, we went to the Phare Circus to participate in a workshop. We met the performers and they taught us how to juggle and do gymnastics. It was fun but very tiring. Juggling was incredibly challenging as we realized how terrible our hand-eye coordination was. Afterwards, we took our tuk tuks to a village house where we had lunch. Afterwards, we were split into groups (games, sports and crafts) and ran activities for the children at Husk School that we have been working with over the past three days. The games team played the Name Game, Octopus tag, Fruit Salad and Splat, while the crafts team led the kids in making Chinese paper lanterns. Lastly, the sports team played volleyball and soccer, and the kids introduced some local games as well. They were very enthusiastic and willing to participate.

After that, we had cooking classes where we learned to make traditional Khmer dishes. We made a chicken curry, a fish amok dish, a banana dessert, glutinous rice balls with palm sugar, fresh spring rolls, and a green mango salad. Afterwards we had dinner with the family built the house for and watched traditional Apsara dance.

Lastly, we went to the night market, where we had the opportunity to buy local items. It was a very busy day.

Of the things we did today, the most meaningful was working with the underprivileged children of Husk School. Seeing them get so excited and happy to participate was a very humbling experience. Not only was it fun for the kids but it was also beneficial to us as we got the opportunity to learn from people who have had experiences very different from us. Seeing the family we built the house for was also very rewarding as we could see the impact our actions have had on the community. This particular family was selected for the house building because they were a poverty level one family (earning under $1.50 USD a day) and made a deal to keep their daughter in school until she finished high school.

We had a lot of fun today so much so that we cannot pick a favorite activity. The most challenging activity was working with the kids because of the language barrier and the hot sun. There was a considerable gap between skill level of various children which made it difficult for us because we had to account for everyone. We are very excited for the activities tomorrow (especially seeing the circus performance) and Friday when we get to see Angkor Wat.

Adrianne Cheung

Village projects – day 4

For the past few days, we have been working on various local service projects within the village. These include building a house for a family, assisting local teachers within the classrooms, and helping to paint a soon to be new school. Through these activities, we have gained a lot of valuable insight into the culture and atmosphere of Cambodia, and how my contributions may have helped others. It’s quite a heartwarming feeling to know that you can make a difference in a community, and this will definitely be one of the key takeaways from the trip.

The most enjoyable activity was working with the local children in the school. For the past two days, we have worked with and assisted the teachers in the classroom in teaching basic english to 11-12 year olds. Just by sitting at the back of the classroom and watching the teachers interact with the kids, I knew that they were very excited and driven to learn. The atmosphere is uniquely different from that of schools in Hong Kong as well, and I found that this was truly an eye opening experience to the different privileges and cultures that we are exposed to.

Working and interacting with the kids was entirely another story. For the first few days, we only listened in on the lessons and occasionally participated. Today was the only day we led a full lesson, and it was certainly an eye opening experience. Seeing how engaged and enthusiastic these kids were to learn definitely puts the world into perspective. We live in a first world environment and we’re privileged enough to receive a good and stable education, so this experience truly helped us understand more about developing countries. This trip has taught us how we can help in a community, and by using our education we can help students with a less advanced educational program.

Another activity we worked on today was building a house for a type 1 poverty family. This family migrated from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and they live on around $1.5 USD a day. To them every dollar counts, while we view money as an object that is granted to us. By building a house for this family, we’ve realised that everyone can make a change and our actions has provided a family in poverty with shelter. Building this house for the three days has taught us how Khmer people in poverty build their houses, and from comparing our home environment to the families’ it has been a really eye opening experience for us.

Stephanie and Daphne

Siem Reap Day 3

Today was our second day of building the family’s house. Students who weaved the walls of the household transitioned to hammering the frame for the walls. For lunch, we had curry in the Community Centre where Softies and the high school was located. We also helped to paint the first coat of the walls for a high school which was under construction.

Afterwards we taught at the school from 4-5pm, each group had their separate class and taught respectively. Although it was challenging in different ways, it was a fun and rewarding experience for all of us. It was also satisfying to see ourselves learn and improve too. The planning and practice that was done during the previous day helped a lot and made us feel a lot more confident about teaching the children.

For our group, we had to teach children phonetics and also numbers. Each person in the group was in charge of a five to ten-minute activity. Several of our group members were in charge of running games which can help children be interested in learning and help them learn. One of the games were called read and write. The student teacher would choose two students and randomly show a phonetics card (for example, Ss). The two children will have to run towards the board and write Ss as quickly as possible and say the letter, sound of the letter and what word starts with the letter.

One of the bigger challenges our group faced was giving all of the children an equal chance to play the games. We tended to be unaware of which children we chose to play the game because of how fast-paced the games where.

As we get further into the trip, it became more apparent to us of how badly people are in poverty here. The house we are helping to build is a stark contrast to the hotel we are staying at. We also learned from our Cambodian tour guide, HongLee, that most children leave school in order to work by Grade 8, and only about 10% continue to university. This motivates us to work even harder to provide education for the children at Husk community school.

We went downtown for dinner, which we will have another chance to revisit tomorrow. We had fried rice, noodle salad, stir-fry vegetables, and pan-fried honey fruits.

Rachel, Tiffany, Natazha

Siem Reap Day 2

Today was a very hectic day and everyone was definitely exhausted by the time we arrived back at the hotel for dinner. We started off with breakfast at 7:15am, the rode tuk tuks into the rural areas of Siem Reap. This is where we helped a family to build their house, had a tour around a village, then joined in on a lesson at the school where we will be teaching for the following two days.

Even though the tuk tuk rides to and from the hotel were long, they were surprisingly comfortable. The views along the way were spectacular, and the Cambodians were very nice too. Many of them waved to us as we drove past.

Building the house was tiring, but it was satisfying to see the parts slowing come together. Our group of 21 was allocated different roles, some hammered down floor panels, some built bamboo racks for the roof and walls, and others attached weaved palm leaves onto the racks. Everyone showed great determination and cooperation throughout the morning, which allowed us to complete our tasks with high efficiency. For today, we completed three wall panels and finished paving the floor. We aim to finish putting the entire house together in the next two days.

We hear about people living under the poverty line all the time, but what image do we have of them? We went to visit the community centre, school and homes of people who were in type 1 and type 2 poverty. After seeing the villagers and their rice fields, it was really heartbreaking knowing that they deserve so much more, their welcoming attitude and smiling faces made the tour much more enjoyable.

We then went to visit a school built by HUSK, although compared to Hong Kong, their school didn’t have as many facilities. But there were definitely more smiles than the schools in Hong Kong, the children were enthusiastic and eager to learn, they were very excited to be in a classroom learning about the world. Today we watched a lesson taught by the teachers at the school, tomorrow we will be leading the lesson.

Reflecting on our attitude and the children’s attitude, we really put the label ‘Burden’, on the idea of school, instead of an exciting opportunity to learn. The children really make the best out of what they are given and are grateful and excited for all the opportunities.

Vanessa and Zinei

Siem Reap Day 1 – Getting our bearings

Today was the first day of our CAS trip. We were all a bit nervous because we didn’t know what to expect from the trip. However, with our suitcases loaded with snacks, we arrived at the airport, waved goodbye to our families, and headed to Siem Reap. After arriving in Cambodia, we met up with a local organization known as Indago, who will be leading us through our activities this week. They were incredibly enthusiastic and friendly, and even taught us our first Khmer word! They taught us how to say thank you in the Khmer language, which was: Arkun. This proved to be very useful later on in the day.

Indago led us to our tuk-tuks, which took us to our accommodation. During our tuk-tuk journey, we were able to see the pretty sunset and wildlife mixed with civilization. We also got our first taste of the local culture – street food, night markets; and the streets bustling with people on motorcycles.

After arriving at the hotel, we were greeted with welcome drinks and keys to our hotel rooms. The hotel rooms were really nice and all our worries before the trip dissipated – our city souls had finally been satisfied.

We quickly settled in and took the tuk-tuks again for a short trip to a restaurant called ‘Marmun’ for our first meal in Cambodia. Marmun is a non-profit organization which runs a restaurant that aims to support marginalized youth through maintaining and developing their education and other important life skills.

In the restaurant, we had an array of food, such as fried rice, vegetables, wontons, and local fruit. It was very tasty and it was nice to experience a bit of Khmer culture. With our new language skills, we thanked the restaurant staff and headed back to the hotel.

There, we quickly briefed with Indago about the rest of the week and what we will expect to see. They explained the infrastructure projects that we will expect to see in the next few days in the local village. We are excited to see how the materials and money that we have donated will be used in their ongoing projects. We have no doubt that this will be a challenging yet fun week, and we can’t wait to see what Cambodia has in store for us!

Sammi, Jessica, Ramona

Siem Reap 2018 – And we’re off!

All checked in and off to Siem Reap!

Pre-departure Blog Entry!

The Cambodia CAS trip is in 2 days! It feels like yesterday when we were choosing which trip to take, inspecting and comparing the multiple exciting options for our week of service. My friends and I have been talking about Cambodia so much this past week, we can’t contain our excitement and anticipation.

At first, I felt reluctant about participating in this CAS trip as I thought that the trip is primarily service-based. However, Cambodia is a place that won’t be an ideal travel destination for my family and I, so this trip really is the only chance for me to be able to learn about Cambodia’s rich culture and experience it personally in local villages. Being able to work with local students in Cambodia is an amazing opportunity as it is difficult to have connections with local villages and be able to organise a trip to visit these students in person. I’m grateful to be given this opportunity to show appreciation of my privilege as an international school student and the resources that I am given, by giving back to less fortunate communities whilst making memories with my peers and the local students.

Even though I am sure we will have an amazing time in Cambodia, there will be challenges we may stumble upon. Communicating with the locals will be challenging as there is a language barrier and cultural difference. Furthermore, following the rules within the Cambodian culture would be challenging for us as it is our first time travelling there and we are not entirely familiar with the rules. However, I believe it is a valuable opportunity for us to learn and experience the vibrant and unique culture Cambodia has to offer.

Despite the challenges, I am sure we will do a great job serving the Cambodian community as our team has done a lot of preparation beforehand. We have been meeting Ms. So and Ms Colarossi weekly since the start of the academic year, and have been brainstorming ideas on making the trip the greatest and most efficient. Everyone has an important role in the Cambodia trip, we are split into different teams, such as: the fundraising team, the media team and also the resources team. We have also done research on Cambodian weather, food, dress code, as well as the language, tradition and culture. With this knowledge, we know what to expect on the trip and also how to act appropriately during our stay in the village.

At last, we would like to extend a huge thanks to our teacher supervisors: Ms So, Ms Colarossi and Mr Ayers for planning and leading the trip, and also providing abounding care for us during the trip. We know leading a group of students is very hectic, but we will work to the best of our ability, and not let you guys or RCHK down!

Megan Chiu and Charmaine Ho

© 2019 CAS Week 2018

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