13 April, 2011

Tonle Bati Lake

What a day! Carolyn and Kate treated the kids (and adults!) to a day at Tonle Bati Lake, which is less than 30 minutes from Wat Opot. It was such an adventure! The kids were ready by 7:30 AM; although the bus wasn’t coming until 9. I think no less that 20 of them kept asking “Bati?”, to which I replied, YES, We will go to Bati LATER!.”

Finally, which I’m sure to them seemed like days had passed, the bus arrived and 37 children and 11 adults (4 ladies who work at WOCC, Me, Kate, our Aussie volunteers Clair and Monica, Carolyn and her daughter Alice and Alice's friend Chiara) scrambled on to find their special seat.

Once everyone was settled the journey began with anticipation and smiles.

Once we arrived negotiations were made and we settled on 2 little huts and quickly a couple of boards were laid across to adjoin them. It wasn’t long before the kids stripped off their clothes and dove in and I soon followed, although I preferred to swim a bit more modestly!

We swam…

And jumped…

And tubed…

Then the inevitable TUBE BATTLES began! Little ones, step aside - you will loose!

Alliances were formed…

Then they set off to explore.

Rice was brought from home, but lunch was bought and served by the tray-full by skilled women who obviously have walked this path many times and have learned the art of balancing full trays of food on their head.

It wasn’t but a mere 5 minutes after the children finished their meal that our little area of the lake was once more rowdy with splashes and tubes.  I am not sure when it happened exactly, being from the middle of the continental US, but I became a water person sometime in my early youth and have never outgrown it.  The water, not to mention the children, beckoned me in.  And in I went!  I am paying for it today though with sore muscles - but I wouldn't have it any other way...tossing, chasing, swimming the whole day was sheer bliss!

But by mid afternoon things became much more quiet and serene both on and off the water.  As I watched some of them quietly floating or gazing off in a distance; I couldn't help but wonder what goes through their little minds.  Do some of them have memories of a time when they enjoyed a day on the lake with their families before HIV/AIDS changed their lives?  Are memories like that fading away; being replaced with joyful times in their new home and with their new caregivers?  Can some never forget?

Delicious coconut water for 50 cents and enjoying the luxury of childhood (or for me re-living it!); a day when all troubles can be forgotten even if for only an afternoon.


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