–By Pannawee (Biew Biew) Sakulwannadee–   

Ah, Cambodia. A country so similar to Thailand, but different at the same time. Where the sun scorches down on you as you visit Angkor Wat and the impoverished streets are red with the natural earth. Recently, I visited Cambodia for a short service learning trip with some other members of the Muse Club. And boy, was it fun.

On the afternoon we arrived some members went to a sandstone-carving lesson while the rest of us checked in to the hotel. Later in the day, while Amy and Ms. Cathy went to the Colors of Cambodia gallery to teach some advanced painting techniques, the rest of us went to explore the local countryside by ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle). It was exhilarating riding an ATV on the local farmers’ dirt roads and rice paddy fields in Siem Reap, although after a while it became quite tiring. But I enjoyed it overall. We even got to see a massive crocodile farm! We ended the day with pizza and some “fried” ice cream.

The second day, we decided to become tourists in the morning and teachers in the afternoon. First, everybody went to three different temples by Cambodian carriage-style tuk-tuks, which are quite different from Thai tuk-tuks, with the back seat attached to a motorcycle instead of one full vehicle. It was relaxing with the wind blowing our hair back. The pagodas and temples were naturally beautiful and ancient, preserved quite nicely, though not perfectly, especially Angkor Wat. The only problem? It was very hot! Hot and humid, to be exact.

In the afternoon, we went to the Colors of Cambodia headquarters and made some generous donations of art supplies and money that we had raised. It’s nice to know we can make a difference in this world. After lunch we went to the Kvean School to teach 23 young kids, aged between 6–10, the fundamentals of art, including simple lessons about shapes and color. Everybody was participating and doing their best to teach these kids art and to make their day just a little bit happier.

On the final day, we headed to a master class to make copper bracelets at 8:00 in the morning. It was a very grueling process, but in the end we all made shiny copper bracelets that I still cannot believe were once dull metal. After that, we went to visit the Children’s Improvement Organization to teach English and art activities to the 39 children there.

Unlike the Kvean School, the lessons we gave at the orphanage were more focused on fun activities and games. For ice-breaker activities we played hangman, musical chairs, Simon Says, and that game where you link arms and try to get yourself and your teammates out of an enigma-like tangle. After that, we headed to the classroom, where we taught the kids origami and some simple paper tricks to make their art take on a new perspective.