Cambodia in my heart

by Grace Ko in ,


Long time! It has been too long. Despite my new years resolution to blog more, I haven't done a very good job at it. 

Since ringing in the new year, I have been settling into my life here in Korea, traveled to Cambodia, gotten sick (with a trip with the emergency room), had a few dinner parties, lunched with my aunt, welcomed my parents back from a long trip. 

But of all that, Cambodia has been on my mind and in my heart. 

Prior to going to Cambodia, I had watched the documentary, Nefarious and was heartbroken at the realization of the prevalence and severity of human trafficking.  In preparation for our trip, we watched a documentary called The Pink Room. Having my eyes opened to child sex trafficking left me with a heavy heart and a fear for what I would see and feel in Cambodia. I went to Cambodia with a heavy but expectant heart but I had not been prepared to be blown away. And to utterly fall in love with the country. 

Cambodia. A country that has captured my heart. 

Here's a photo-log of the trip (warning: it's going to be a long one!) 

I went with a team of 16 members from back "home". I was eager to be reunited with friends from home and was especially glad I was able to host them for their layover in Seoul. It felt like a dream to have all of them here in Korea. 

 All crowding over the wifi password

All crowding over the wifi password

 Reunited and it feels so good! 

Reunited and it feels so good! 

 포장마차-style 

포장마차-style 

After a 6 hour flight, we landed in Phnom Pehn International Airport and made our way to our hotel. 

 Arriving at our hotel late at night

Arriving at our hotel late at night

Day 1 (Saturday) - After arriving late Friday night, Saturday morning, we had breakfast, got ready and headed out to visit The Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng to learn about the history of Cambodia and the Khmer people. (The Killing Fields are a number of sites in Cambodia where mass killings occurred and where people were buried by the Khmer Rouge regime. Tuol Sleng is a site which was a former school that was turned into a prison and interrogation center.) 

 Daily ritual: breakfast at the hotel = 2 sunny-side eggs + 3 toast + coffee 

Daily ritual: breakfast at the hotel = 2 sunny-side eggs + 3 toast + coffee 

Cambodia 3.jpg
 Tuk tuks: our mode of transportation

Tuk tuks: our mode of transportation

 Choeung Ek aka The Killing Fields

Choeung Ek aka The Killing Fields

 A very tourity moment

A very tourity moment

We had lunch at Daughters Cafe, a favorite spot for the team. The cafe is a beautiful respite and the food is delicious. 

 Khmer iced coffee!

Khmer iced coffee!

 Tuol Sleng 

Tuol Sleng 

Day 2 (Sunday) - We visited a local church. Vibrant, welcoming, overflowing with love and joy. 

Cambodia7.jpg
 Tuning in

Tuning in

Days 4-5 (Tuesday and Wednesday) - We partnered with a local organization called Hard Places Community and during the mornings, our team prepared various stations on different children's books (Charlotte's Web, The Giving Tree, The Very Hungry Caterpillar just to name a few). We told them stories, taught them songs and did activities with the children at Punlok Thmey. 

 Prep time! 

Prep time! 

 "Not a box!" 

"Not a box!" 

 The Very Hungry Caterpillar 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar 

 The Giving Tree

The Giving Tree

In the afternoons, we dispersed to various locations throughout the city for Kids' Club with HPC. 

One of the days, a few of the team members and I decided to go out during the evening hours. We were shocked by the contrast of day and night in Phnom Pehn. Light and dark. The same exact riverfront where we had play games and sang songs with the young children, at night, became a flashing signboards 

 "Dark is light you. Depths are height to you." 

"Dark is light you. Depths are height to you." 

Day 6 (Thursday) - We had Soccer Club with the kids from the centers. 

That afternoon, after returning from Soccer Club, the staff of HPC surprised our team with a farewell party! We were overwhelmed by their love and generosity and I will never forget that day. 

Day 7 (Friday) - We worked with another organization, XP Missions and we visited a small village in the slums. We played games with the children, jumped rope with them, made balloon animals, did face-painting for them, sang songs. Some of the team members went around the village and took family portraits and were able to print the photos for them. 

Day 8 (Saturday) - Our last day was a "free" day. Some of us started it off by going to the Russian Market for noodles for breakfast. I had been wanting to try it all week so I was excited to finally get to. 

To those who supported our team, thank you. Without your support, we could not have gone. 

To my HPC brothers and sisters, you are an incredible group of people. You are such an inspiration and encouragement to us. 

Cambodia, you are in my heart and in my prayers. Hope to be back soon.