Yesterday we went with a group from our church to take about 25 kids from a village to the zoo in Takeo province. It was a long day but my heart was full by the time we got home. Here are a few highlights, stories and special moments.
– I am thankful that love and laughter and a big smile can transcend language barriers. I had great aspirations of asking the kids lots of questions and really progressing in my comprehension. Unfortunately the night before we had a wedding on our street, which meant VERY loud music and not a lot of sleep. One cup of coffee was not enough but it was all I got, and I think my brain started shutting down at 7:00 a.m. But the kids didn’t seem to mind that I asked them questions that didn’t quite make sense, or that sometimes I would stare at them blankly when I couldn’t figure out what they were saying. They were content to hold my hand and babble on about how cool the animals were.
– There weren’t a lot of other people at the zoo, but any time the kids would see another Westerner, they would ask me in Khmer, “Do you know them?” They didn’t quite understand when I told them I didn’t. “They are ‘barang’ (foreigner) like you”.
– There was a little boy that was watching the games the kids were playing in the morning. I don’t know his story but he couldn’t talk and I’m not sure if he could hear. He was excited when we gave him some of the rice and chicken for lunch. Later he ended up being our tour guide. He led us through the different pens where we could get up close to the different animals. When he smiled his whole face lit up, and he loved being with the other kids. It was fun watching the kids in our group too and how they used their own version of sign language to communicate with him.
– The Cambodian people who worked at the zoo thought it was pretty funny that two white girls were walking around with a group of Khmer children. Some of the visitors to the zoo thought it was interesting as well. Towards the end of the day, a Cambodian tourist approached us and said his sister (who was about our age) wanted to get a picture with us. We were hot and tired and looked as much, but she posed with us like we were someone famous.
– It was almost time to leave and the kids had stopped to check out a large tiger. Kristin and I stayed in the truck to rest for a minute. One of the teachers drove us a bit farther to the elephant area. They had a spot where you could go right up and meet and greet the elephant. It was a bit intimidating at first, but it was a special moment for me getting to see one of God’s creatures up close. There weren’t any other tourists around, and the kids hadn’t caught up with us yet, and it was almost a holy moment. Wow, what a creative God we serve and how cool to get to experience this day, enjoying His handiwork with a bunch of sweet kiddos.