Two weeks ago, I had to say goodbye to a big part of my Elevate Family. 85 women and men went home to their village. Most of them don’t have a new job. I wonder, what they’re gonna do?
Many wanted to work longer with us. Not only because we pay fair salaries but they said they love to work for us even though the conditions (esp. the heat) were not easy.
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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.
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14.-16.04.2015 – Happy Khmer New Year
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.
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Monster slide. Bicycle race track. Bump track. Education center. Selfmade lake. Sport fields. Teachings. Wakeboard lift. Event hall. Selfmade hill. Shade for spectators. Restaurants. Life-supporting programmes. Hammocks.
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.
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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!
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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.
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Christmas. In many countries an annual public holiday which closes the Advent season. Celebrated culturally by a large number of non-Christian and Christian people. Takes place mostly at the end of December, sometimes in January. Stands for gifts, family meetings, delicious food. There is the traditional Christmas tree and other sometimes beautiful, sometimes overdone decoration. It’s all about lights, bling-bling, candles. The radio would play Christmas songs for several weeks long. Children would recite a poem and receive presents. Mothers would bake cookies and create gingerbread houses. Like every year, son James would try to steal some dough. Like every year, grandmother Anna would bring some self-made socks. Like every year, uncle Sam would play the Santa Claus with a white beard and deep voice. Same same, but different. Every year a few days long. That’s it.
That’s it? Really? That’s all what Christmas is about? Just like another feast? Is it all about gifts, gatherings and glamour?
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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… 😉
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“Money is numbers and numbers never end. If it takes money to be happy, your search for happiness will never end.”
Money has two sides. It can transform people into “monsters” which don’t care about anything else, but money. It can make you greedy, selfish. It can become like a deity, more important than other people and relationsships, leisure activities, formerly important values. Money has power. Power to destroy…
…and power to create and restore. it can lead to generosity. Money can change lives in a positive way. Not only is it a means to buy food, water, electricity, clothes. It can also be invested in people and organisations helping other people helping themselves.
100 Riel = USD 0.025
Financial situation in Cambodia
Cambodia is a poor and underdeveloped country. You might not realise it when you only go to the sights and stay in the relatively modern town where they have lights, music and stone houses. They sure don’t like to show their poverty. Everything is made as nice as possible – mostly for the tourists.
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Yesterday evening, I hit upon the bright idea to create a film of already existing material. For many hours, I was working and totally forgot about the time. Tiredness came, but motivation stayed. As I finished the first draft, I had three hours left to sleep.
Over the whole film I went today again – with filled energy and concentration tanks. It’s purpose is mostly to show the beauty of Cambodia. I tried, to capture the cambodian daily life. A big challenge was to make an end. I could easily expand it to three hours, however, that would cause one or the other eye from you to be tired and my computer to crash. But who knows, there might be another creative night and another sequel …?
All situations are no fake. Nothing was prepared or discussed (apart from the water buffalo which I tried to convince to walk into the water which sadly didn’t help).
It’s said that silence is golden.
Well then, I just want to say:
Life is like a camera: Focus on what is important. Capture the good times. Develop from the negatives. And if things don’t work out, take another shot.
There they stood in a huddle in front of the entrance from the restaurant Tonle Mekong. Some had already arrived before 5 pm and since then, the group had grown obviously and uncontrollably. It reminded of an ant colony where an ant had found a delicious piece of banana and now the whole colony would gather there. Latest music hits boomed, mixed by our DJ. On the often used main road which leads past the restaurant, other locals stopped their motorbikes and Tuk Tuk’s to observe curiously what was happening. From above, the sea of people looked huge but relaxed. However, when you tried to get to the entrance, you had to realise how close together the crowd stood. A friendly “sorry” wouldn’t help, to fight your way through was more effective. Suspense was in the air. Not many could imagine what they would get to see soon. Excitement was written all over their faces. Excitement for an enormous spectacle, a different, unique celebration. Something, which they’ve never experience. Excitement for the Grand Opening of the ICF Cambodia.
Three weeks earlier, we were holding freshly printed tickets/flyers in our hands. In a meeting we discussed distributing strageties. We attached a certain value to let them know that it was something special and that the receiver should really come. Some doubted that we could give away 3600 free tickets at all.
Ten days later we ran out of tickets. None was left. A team of about 60 people had handed out 3600 tickets within a few days! Needless to say, that especially the expats asked how this could have happened. From the locals we wanted to know, who gave whom how many flyers. It came to light that everybody would give it to friends who would give it to their friends and so on. However, the question remained, will enough people actually come and fill the hall?
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