This Sunday 1 June was International Children's Day. On Saturday I got up at 6.30am to travel to Stung Meanchy and the CCH orphanage to watch the students dance at a ceremony at their school. I had no idea what to expect and was just invited to go along.
I got to the orphanage at 7.30am and a student walked down the road to take me to the school. It became apparent this was a little more than the "school fete" I had in mind. I immediately wished I had worn something a little smarter - but at least I was culturally appropriate with shoulders and knees covered. I was invited to sit on top table! I was horrified when the speeches started and everyone at the table was introduced in Khmer to the crowd of children and stood to bow to the audience... luckily they had the decency to pass over the non Khmer non important people although when the people started doing speeches I was concerned again and started to think of something appropriate to say in case of emergency...! So there we were with the Mayor, the local chief monk and various other important "celebrities" at the school.
The national anthem was sung, the flag raised and CCH did their first of 3 dances. Traditional Khmer apsara dances. They were excellent and I felt very proud to be involved with these children's lives - All the dancers came from CCH. No other school children were involved with their dances and that emphasised to me again that that these children had come so very far from their days on the dump site.
After dance number 1. We had speeches 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 etc etc - There were many of them and I understood nothing. Being on top table I had to look interested and smile. The children made no such effort and although remained standing/seated in the same place (generally) they talked amongst themselves during the speeches especially so through the Mayor's! (at least I think he ws the Mayor).
Dance number 2 woke the children up - in traditional costume. Then books were given out by the important people at the top table and then finally one more apsara dance by CCH. The formal ceremony was then over and CCH then began to perform live music for all of the other children to dance to.
After returning to CCH to congratulate the children I returned home with the intention of visiting them at the water park later in the day where they were going for a special treat. However, upon arriving at the park it appeared that the whole of Cambodia was taking their child to the water park for Children's Day. So much so that the road was absolute grid lock, children walking everywhere with motos on the same pavement...pollution, dust, heat. Children were scaling the outer fences of the water park to get in as they had shut the gates due to crowding.... It seemed only right to go home and then visit Phnom Penh's premier shopping mall to have an ice cream.