This entry is different from anything you have read here before. It’s about the other side. A honest reflection and probably something you don’t expect.
It’s been a year. Actually more than a year already since I left Switzerland. I remember it as good as if it had been yesterday even though it seems to be an eternity away. My journey was comfortable, took over 30 hours, within which I had to change the airplane three times. Yes, I do a lot to save money. And yes, I also missed a plane due to a delay of the one before. Smile. And if I had considered it as a “crazy challenge” that time (I didn’t), I would laugh at those thoughts nowadays. There is far bigger challenges in a life abroad. In a life as a volunteer in an entirely foreign surrounding with heaps of situations you have to face, to cope with, to get used to.
I’ve been asked many times, what is THE biggest challenge. Well, that’s not an easy question. And I guess, everyone in our team would answer it differently.
From my point of view, there is none. There is no BIGGEST challenge. It is the combination of various obstacles which appear sometimes to be bigger, sometimes smaller, sometimes don’t appear at all – probably depending on time, recent happenings and problems, mood.
wo söll‘s dänn higah?
London, Paris oder Rom? […]”
where should we go?
London, Paris or Rom? […]”)
Bligg, a Swiss rapper, was shouting this into my ears at 4am on Saturday, 13th of June. I put him on snooze. Shut up, I thought and turned around.
5min later, he asked me again, “… where should we go?”.
A wonderful era came to an end some weeks ago. “My” drivers left the construction side Elevate. It was time since the first building phase was finished. And since the rain season has come closer and it started to be difficult to drive due to the mud.
Together we got up early and worked until late. We sweated. We partied and danced. Played football with empty water bottles – also called recycling. Went swimming. Laughed, joked, enjoyed our community. Celebrated one’s birthday. Together we suffered when a truck got stuck or a machine broke. We sought shelter from the strong wind or the rain. They taught me to drive the big excavator (- not easy!). To speak and understand more Khmer. And they taught me about their life, their family, their culture. However, my attempts to teach them English or Swiss German failed miserably.
They are more than people working for us. Rather like friends – or even like BROTHERS to me.
It’s early in the morning, 6.45am, I’m on the way to our construction side of Elevate Campus. It used to take me double of the time to ride there, but nowadays I need only a few minutes to fly over the dusty, bumpy, holey “street”. I know it too well and could possibly drive there in my sleep. Behind me, a red fireball is rising. It’s already hot, probably over 30°C, or even over 40°C and the blue sky promises no pity. Likely to see a tornado today. Just like yesterday. And the day before. And last week.
Tornado – daily sight
At one corner of our selfmade lake, around 70 workers are slowly gathering. As soon as most of them are here, I call out their names and mark on my list who is missing. Even after dozens of times, I don’t know the exact pronunciation. “Haun, Haoun, Ha-o-un, Ha-u-on ??” – Lots of laughter. Somehow, we always get it sorted out – even though the only words they know in English is “no” and “okay”. I am thankful that my Khmer is way better than their English. Right after the registration they start working at the shoreline and I hurry to the other side of our land.
May today there be peace within. May you trust
that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are
born of faith in yourself & others. May you use the
gifts that you have received & pass on the love that
has been given to you. May you be content with
yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge
settle into your bones & allow your soul the
freedom to sing, dance, praise & love.
These are only a few projects which we have started building or at least are in our minds, visions, dreams. Elevate Campus – an NGO and kind of sister of the church ICF Cambodia – is all about fun, sport, education and fundamental health care. On our hearts especially are children and young adults. The new generation. The generation which will be tomorrow’s leader. The future of Cambodia. We want to see a change in their lives, in their families, in their districts, in Siem Reap, in Cambodia. Our vision is to break the cycle of poverty, boredom and insufficient education. We want to educate and empower the new generation. Our goal is to make a long-lasting difference by supporting and appreciating all different kinds of characters. Offering unconditional acceptance for everybody, we want to provide a campus where they can play different sports, have fun together, enjoy leisure time activities, take classes, connect with each other, make new friends. We build a fun park where children, teenagers and adults can forget their tough daily life and experience carefree moments, appreciation and love. Believe it or not, in Cambodia these values are not at all taken for granted.
I moved. My life in the multi-colored room which I slowly grew fond of, had come to an end. Sooner than expected. Wait! It was never expected! My new home is a beautiful villa for my standards – a normal house for you, maybe. I moved, yes. But this is far away from being everything that changed.
How come? Well, there was an idea which wouldn’t leave my mind anymore. And then ZACK BUMM it came true. Too fast to keep up with it. Too fast to work out a plan, a concept, a system. So fast, that I rarely had time to find reasons against it. It was fast, yes. However, that brought 1001 challenges with it. Without exaggeration!
I’ve never been a big fan of Christmas since I often experienced it as a fest where people gather because they have to, because everybody does it and because that is what you do on Christmas day. However, this year it was an entirely new experience. It was mostly about doing something for the very first time.
It was my first time to celebrate Christmas abroad, thousands of kilometers away from Switzerland. That I celebrated not only without family but also without any other close friends who I grew up with. In a completely different country with a completely different culture and a completely different belief. A country which only seems to celebrate it because it’s from the west and it’s a reason for another party. Together with people from Switzerland, Germany, America and Cambodia – most of them I’ve known for only a few weeks, maybe months.
It was the first time when snow, cold and real Christmas trees were lacking and the temperature didn’t go underneath 18°C. Not that I would have minded that fact 😉 And last but not least, I was given a huge amount of responsibility for something I’ve never done – not even something similar to it.
Traffic in Cambodia might slightly differ from what you are used to. It can definitely take you some time to get used to it. There are loads of motorbikes, Tuk Tuk’s and bicycles and comparably only few cars on the roads. All in all, it looks like one big mess, but it works quite fine.
Flat or wobbling tyres are a common sight. I’ve had twice a flat tyre. But thanks God both times a mechanic was not far away. The first time happened after having been here for three weeks. It was along a long, straight road, a bit out of town. Out of the blue came a small boy and pointed to a fixing place. Little angel. I would’ve had no idea where to go without him. Already three times I ran out of fuel – for which, of course, I have to blame my own lazyness or inattentiveness. Once it happened in the middle of the intersection. What a timing. It’s actually funny, how many smiling faces you see, when you push your motorbike back to a gas station… 😉