This morning we visited the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity, a wildlife rescue and nature conservation centre dedicated to the care of injured, mistreated, threatened and endangered species indigenous to Cambodia. We saw tortoises, storks, monkeys and cats but the highlight were the langurs who put on quite a show! We are all busy packing awaiting our transfer to the airport in one hour’s time. We are looking forward to seeing our families and sharing the stories of our immersion to Cambodia.
Today we visited the Angkor temple complex including Angkor Wat, Bayon and the Elephant Terrace of Angkor Thom and the temple of the Goddess, Ta Prohm. It was a wonderful way to spend our last full day of the program. Tomorrow morning we will visit a conservation centre before packing our bags for the flight home.
This morning after breakfast, Sister Denise Coghlan RSM guided us around the various meditation points at the reflection centre. We considered issues of dignity, stewardship, development, displacement, disarmament, peace and reconciliation and ethical governance in the context of the work done by Sr Denise, the Metta Karuna Reflection Centre and the Jesuit Refugee Service. Mid-morning, we travelled to Kompong Klang with Fr Jub to visit one of the ministries of the parish of St John. From September to January, as the level of water in the lake rises, this area is only accessible by boat. Currently, it is unseasonably dry. During our time at the village, we led the students in some impromptu activities then assisted in serving a rice soup lunch. On our return to Siem Reap, we familiarised ourselves with the town centre. While enjoying our afternoon treat, the torrential rain arrived! Good for the land and the lake. We returned to the Reflection Centre in time to prepare for our evening reflection and meal and to see the plagues of bugs, frogs and lizards making the most of the wet weather!!!
Today we travelled from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, a journey of about 350 kilometres that took approximately five and a half hours by bus. While long, the bus trip offers an insight to the life of the Khmer people (predominately farming communities) who live outside of the major cities and major town centres. We stopped for lunch at a picturesque lakeside road stop. This afternoon we arrived at the Metta Karuna Reflection Centre and settled into our accommodation. This evening, we attended Mass at St John’s. Tomorrow, Fr Jub, the relieving parish priest, will lead our program to the floating villages on the Tonle Sap.
This morning we set off early, with batards in hand, to the southern beachside resort town of Kep. We met the students of La Valla at the school and divided ourselves between three buses. The three hour trip each way gave us valuable time and our last opportunity to strengthen the relationships we have developed over the past four days.
The students of La Valla thoroughly enjoyed their time at the beach. We had good weather and the water was calm and shallow enough to allow the students to swim without significant risk. Our students were ably assisted by the immersion group from Marist North Shore to ensure a good time was had by all in and out of the water.
On our return to La Valla it was time to say goodbye to the staff and students who made our past week so memorable. Let us hold them in our thoughts and prayers always.
Today, Brigid Kelly celebrated her 16th Birthday. We hope it was a special day for her despite being away from home. One of the students at La Valla, Sreyoay, gave her a book, flowers and birthday note and this evening, the immersion group had a small party at Friends Restaurant to mark the occasion. From all of us, Happy Birthday Brigid!
We commenced our final day at La Valla assisting with painting and gardening and using other free time to prepare for the farewell assembly. In the afternoon, our students taught their final lessons and distributed to the classes an array of gifts including pens, koala clips and badges.
In the afternoon, after school had concluded, the school community gathered for La Valla’s Foundation Day ceremony. The liturgy blended both Christian and Buddhist texts and affirmed the special mission of La Valla to educate young people with disabilities. At the conclusion of the liturgy, the La Valla students performed a short concert of traditional music, songs and dancing. They extended their thanks to us and gifted us each with a scarf, photo album and t-shirt. We responded to their generosity with a performance of our own and gifts of friendship bracelets (made by the women from the Nano Nagle Centre in Peru) and ice cream! The afternoon ended on a high note with a disco!
We are looking forward to tomorrow, our final day with the students from La Valla and last day in Phnom Penh. Our original plan was to go to the water park but the La Valla students voted to travel to the beach instead. Our students have been busily planning beach games to ensure everyone has a day to remember.