A roller coaster

Yoga classYoga class has been scheduled daily at 16h00. Our days seem to revolve around this magical time and everything that we choose to do before paves the road to Street N°302 where Nataraj is found. Every day we extend the classes a bit more now up to 2.5 hours and even this doesn’t seem to leave us with enough time. There is much to share with them as they are so eager to learn. We have incorporated pranayama, meditation and finally some partner work which is the most challenging due to their past history where touch was associated with negativity. There is progress, an enormous amount, especially in their attitudes and their level of confidence. Feeling more and more at ease, they allow themselves to be guided  into some challenging asanas and  situations which are met with humour. Most of all, we are having fun and taking time getting to know each other a little more. I feel a bit uncomfortable knowing that in a short time we will be on our way and the moment will come when we will have to say good-bye.

After having removed the water tank from the roof top of the yoga centre,  the owner of the building connected the water system with that of the city’s causing high levels of pressure in the pipes and extensive damage to the toilets. Feet and hands soaked, Philippe repaired some leaky pipes, dismantled the existing system, installed a new system which hopefully ameliorated the evacuation of water and will be sustainable .

Aimlessly strolling through the crowed and not so crowded back streets of PP, we spend pockets of time in Psar Thmei (the Central or New Market) where everything from live frogs waiting to be skinned to fake name-brand watches are for sell. This market is far from the most economic but hosts a few excellent food stalls for lunch and amazing picture opportunities. We stumble upon Psar Tuol Tom Pong, known as the Russian Market specializing in copied Western clothing  and sold at a tenth of the price but it turns out that  Psar Chaa is where Philippe was able to supply his traveling tool chest with necessary pipes and gadgets. A worthwhile visit to the Angkor National Museum, leisurely lunches (our favorites being spicy banana flower salad, spicy papaya and mango salad with shrimp and rice paper vegetable  spring rolls with crushed peanuts in a transparent spicy liquid) in hidden garden courtyards at Friends, Boddhi Tree, BT Del Gusto, Aram (to mention a few), many run by aid organizations supporting Cambodian social programs where the proceeds of every meal go to former street kids for their schooling and some of these cafés even employ the older ones for a valuable work experience. In fact, we learned that there are more NGOs per sq. capita than anywhere else in the world and it seems rightful as 85% of the Cambodian population lives off of less than 32 cents a day making it one of the poorest countries in the world and the most under developed in Asia.

Noa with the childrenYesterday Noa  gave his first yoga class with the help of Dara to a group of children from the Klein Kleang orphanage which we visited later in the day. Twelve kids, most smaller in size than Noa but all older in age arranged themselves on their mats in a awkward circle ready to begin. Not once was it necessary to display discipline or order. They moved in and out of asanas with soft smiles and concentrated gazes. Noa taught them 1,2,3 Mother Hen (1,2,3 Soleil) which became ”muy, pii, bei pria aatuht”, cobra, tree, eagle and mountain. They had so much fun and I think Noa and Dara did too! These kids seemed considerably more disadvantaged than the girls that I teach every afternoon and we were soon to discover their ”home”. After a long search, no apparent web site exists.

After class we headed across the city, over the bridge above the muddy waters of the Tonlé Sap, down some bumpy dirt roads, passed small children chasing butterflies and finally arriving at Klein Kleang Centre orphanage occupying an abandoned church and its quarters for their clergy. This run down site was depressing, almost shocking, resembling a war zone. The kids of all ages were dirty, dressed in tattered clothes, flimsy thongs on bits of broken bricks and bits of odd trash with strong smells of urine and other unpleasant odours permeating  the air. The grandeur of the orphanage and the feeling of hollowness  was comparable to the site of S21. Six to a bed, 30 to a room, 150 in total, mixed ages and sexes and with no visible supervision . No one to greet us, no one seemed to be in charge, no organization just an uncomfortable feeling of loneliness and despair. Except for the colourful murals of children painted on a few random concrete walls and the narrative tour from beautiful Dara who had lived there for numerous years until just recently before moving to Nataraj Yoga Centre for convenience and comfort, the place was overwhelming to the naked eye. It wasn’t the level of poverty but more the feeling of emptiness that prevailed and uncomfortably touched the heart and soul.  I guess the best thing is that for the past year a handful of these kids make it via tuk tuk once a week for yoga sponsored by our friend and yoga teacher Estelle from Jivamukti and yoga teacher, Mia. There is always something that can be done.

I have decided that visiting Cambodia is like riding a roller coaster. At first there is great apprehension, butterflies in the stomach, not knowing what to expect, even moments of doubt. Then, once decided and installed in your seat with no chance of exiting, you go with the flow and it becomes doable even exciting until reaching the next summit where doubt and apprehension reoccur before plunging into whatever will come next. A mixture of not knowing, excitement, stimulation, apprehension, adventure and joy! That is Cambodia for you on a limb.

Tomorrow is our last day in PP before taking a local bus to Kampong Thum which is situated half way from here to Siem Reap. Supposedly there are some pre-Angkorian temples there hidden in the lush forests that are worth seeing. We will miss the girls and the kids but are looking forward to a bit of quietness and down time. PP resumed in a nut shell – ”sans intérêt”, big heart, hot and suffocating, chaotic in every sense, polluted, welcoming and just wonderful. The girls and the kids made PP worth every single second!

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