Cambodia – Personal Story of Excitement, Adventure and Exhilaration!
By Mia Armsworth
Hi, my name is Mia Armsworth and on September 17th 2015 a team of Abbotsleigh girls and staff embarked on a World Challenge Expedition to Cambodia. It was a trip of a lifetime and one which I’ll never forget.
Cambodia was the first developing country I had visited, so whilst I was excited about the adventure ahead, I was nervous about how I would respond to a country so different from my own. I should not have been concerned. World Challenge ensures you are knowledgeable about the country, and prepared for the journey ahead. We had many group talks with experienced World Challenge leaders about planning, organisation, budgeting and staying calm when things do not go to plan. We even had a prepacking day to ensure everyone was well equipped. I’m a bit of an over packer so I was pretty proud that I stuck to the packing list. I admit that there was a small part of me that was scared when I boarded the plan as I kept questioning “Was I prepared for this adventure?
As we landed in Cambodia my initial concerns evaporated, as we experienced the amazing city of Phnom Penh. We caught Tuk Tuks, heard a survivor talk about his experience during the S21 killing camp, toured the Angkor Wat temples with a local guide; bargained at the markets and dined out at local cuisines. The city is full of movement, colour and noise and I loved it!
Travelling has its difficult moments. Trust me, trekking through the Cambodian jungle is certainly one of those difficult moments! The wet, humid conditions made the terrain slippery and with no clear path, every step needed to be navigated with care and precision. The weather attracted a variety of different creepy crawlies and no amount of Bush Mans Spray seemed to deter the leeches, insects and spiders from me. “Amanda, (my World Challenge Leader) I think there’s a spider on me” I said, as I turned around slowly. The fist size tarantula, crawling on my chest travelling to my neck, was quickly removed by fast acting Amanda. Our local guide picked up the tarantula and asked my group if we’d like to eat it. We all politely declined. In Phnom Penh, however, I got my revenge on that tarantula by snacking on their cooked legs from one of the markets.
My favourite experience, without a doubt, was our time at the Seametry Children’s Village. For five days, alongside German Volunteers, we helped the village. For 3 days we physically laboured next to the hard working Cambodian workers. We helped put down the foundation for a building and landscaped a pool. This was difficult, physical muddy work. Days were long and hot, so we kept our spirits high by singing. It was lovely when the Cambodian workers also sang with us – an international choir was formed! Moy, the founder of the school and village, visited us as we laboured. She taught us a few Khmer phrases and may have laughed more than just a few times at some of my pronunciations.
One of the best moments of my life, was when I aided in teaching the Cambodian children. The children were gorgeous and were always laughing and smiling. They were so full of life, and seemed happy with the day, and their circumstances. I was privileged to be called “teacher” as we sang, read and ate together. The experience with the children and the Cambodian workers reinforced to me that happiness does not come from possessions but rather happiness is a sense of joy, place and harmony in a community. It made me appreciate that Australian life, with its economic advantages, should be coupled with this inner sense of peace, contentment and happiness – something I am all too willing to dismiss. The trip made me appreciate that showing daily gratitude for people in your life is essential. On the last day we were given the sweetest farewell performances by the children. I wished I never had to leave.
I learned so much more about Cambodia. More than I ever imagined. I loved listening to the Cambodians, enjoyed working alongside them and got to know them and their country on a personal level. My journey to Cambodia was an interesting, dynamic and an adventure of a lifetime. I would encourage everyone to embark on a similar journey if they are given the opportunity.