Yesterday I went with 75 kids from the Lighthouse Orphanage to Phnom Penh's water park. The water park is on the road to the airport and so I have driven past it many times - its hard to miss as its not exactly a traditional Cambodian looking place. Given that the entrance is $2 per person - more than the average Cambodian daily wage - its surprising the place is there at all...
The day started with my regular moto driver, Sokorn, picking mr up from the flat and taking me to the orphanage. All the kids were not in their usual clothing but had clearly dressed for the occassion wearing their best (probably only)shoes and clothes rather than the barefoot and grubby-ness I see on a daily basis. The boys had even gelled their hair! 3 buses transported us across town. The visit to the park was a result of Penny. Penny is an English woman who now lives in the States. She cam to Phnom Penh years ago and spent time at the orphanage but when she decided she wanted to come back for a holiday she hassled her finance firm in New York to give her some money and they came up with a substantial amount of cash. Nice. Penny had also bought the gel as part of a mass toiletries purchase!
Anyway, we set off. On the way Mr Long the director asked me for a dollar to get bags. He seemed to be telling me he wanted to get bags (sandwich type bags) to put drink in. This is not unusual as Cambodians do drink out of such bags so I handed over the dollar and he got the bags and some tiger balm (both absolutely crucial as I found out - more below!).
The children lined up very beautifully at the park - in age/height order. It appears they are trained to do this. Very "Sound of Music".
I got out my sun block and thought given that Khmers actually want to be pale skinned the kids may want some. Oh yes. I went up and down the line giving 5 squirts to each kid for their face. This was repeated at lunch!!
Then off they went - zooming on the slides and wave pool. The park was quite good by Cambodian standards. A real swimming pool, a kid's fountain pool x2, pool with 3 large slides (the main attraction), a set of about 6 slides (not as appealing but also good) and a separate wave pool (quite rough - I'm surprised no kids drowned). There is also a large stream running around the whole park which you float around.
So the kids ran riot for a couple of hours then Penny's food she had ordered for the kids arrived. The children were delighted with their treats, cola, water, rice with prawns (a rare treat), fried chicken, vegatables, cakes, crackers, bananas........ their eyes were popping out of their heads. Apparently, they tried a lot of food they had never had before.
After lunch I gave in and entered the pools (fully dressed of course this is Cambodia). The children kept shouting "teacher teacher one more one more" I went down the slides with one of them. After a few "goes" I worked out the correct weight to make the sliding almost deathly. Me plus one kid on lap on large inflatable ring pulling one child on inflatable ring behind. I am surprised I still have my left arm attached to my body as this combination of passengers would cause me the the kids half way down the slide to fly up the side of the slide, flip in the ring and crash in an very painful but adrenalin inducing way. If this did not happen the children loved how fast we could go- "teacher teacher one more one more" .... There were quite a few steps up to the slide and I must have done at least 100 slides so I am thinking I did exercise yesterday!
The wave pool was very funny. The siren would sound to indicate the waves were starting and then the children would run to the area to practically down themselves. Children were floating in rings on water 4 times their height!
My concern at about 2pm was that I realised that none of the children had been to the toilet - well I mean they had not "gone to the toilet block" - I am sure they had been. I made sure my mouth was very firmly shut when landing in the water. Ugh!
The children had more snacks and ice cream before more zooming, running and screaming. The disaster - one of the children who I teach hurt her finger. So much so it was floppy and she could not bend it. I was convinced it was broken and demanded that the director stop pulling it back into place (or trying to) as the child was clearly in agony. The Khmer's said there was a "hospital over there". Great I thought a hospital right by the water park how convenient! - So dripping wet we go towards the hospital. Ahhhh - Hospital??? They meant first aid room! The first aid man pulled the finger, rubbed tiger balm on it and hey presto she could bend it.... tiger balm - miracle cure. Her hand was put on a piece of card (split) and wrapped in a bandage.
At 4pm the kids dried off, ate burgers, cake, toasted sandwiches.... and then we put them on the funfair outside for half an hour of non stop rides. Suffice to say, there was a fair few children being sick (nice) and even a few so tired they were falling asleep on the rides! The director was handing out tiger balm left right and centre. It had been used earlier in the day as a remedy for headaches, sunblock.....
As the children were getting in the bus the director started to hand out the bags. "what are they for", "the children they be sick on bus" - oh yes.... and sure enough those that were not sleeping were puking. Khmers do not travel well anyway, never mind when they are full of ice cream, coke and been on a big wheel, toy train, roundabouts and an octapus/waltzer thing! We got 10 more pots of tiger balm on the way back............ and I saw a 3 legged rat.
Sadly my camera ran out of battery so you will have to wait for better photos that Penny took!