My oyinbo teammates celebrate Halloween, so due to that, today we had a day off and went to Banan (a different area in Battambang; like travelling from south London to north). My team leader tried to force me to make a halloween costume w/ the rest of the team yesterday but I refused (due to religious reasons), so instead I decided to wear my red kaftan to make me look special and not too left out. Upon arriving to Banan, we first climbed the hench Phnom Sampov mountain. On our way up, we passed some beauuutiful temples and got some banging Instagram shots! It was a thrilling experience. I also bought a Magnum ice-cream along the way which tasted like absolute bliss. Being over here has really made me appreciate the rare bits of western food I get my hands on.
Although it was a bit of struggle, we eventually ended up reaching the top of the mountain in about an hour, and were greeted by the most gorgeous view. Once again, lots of photos were taken. On our way down the mountain, we got lost and ended up climbing a set of stairs which legit felt like death. After the mountain, we met up with the Banan team and all had lunch together. I bought two beautiful tops in a nearby market full of colour and charisma, and I’m wearing one of them as I write. One was 3 dollars, the other was 6 dollars (in the UK, they probably would’ve charged minimum £20 for these tops). We all then went to Banan team’s office for a ‘halloween party’ and all of my team went and dressed up in their costumes. Initially, I was lowkey dreading being the only one not in a costume but none of the Banan team got the costume memo, so I didn’t feel too left out after all. In fact I even found the party kind of fun, playing cheesy games like pin the tail on the donkey, and talking with members of the Banan team.
Talking with the Banan team made me feel both jealous and grateful. Jealous because they’re basically ‘living the life’ as they’re in a more touristy area with restaurants, a yummy modern bakery right under their office, and an office that looks like a proper office with its windows and marbled floor. They have local markets to shop at which sell cool touristy things, and they’ve pretty much started all of their projects! However, I’m grateful I’m in the rural Koas Krala because even though we don’t have any restaurants or a local market or any attractions (Banan has the mountain Phnom Sampov, Phnom Banan, the bat caves and monkeys), at least we are more integrated in our community and at least we’re given the opportunity to make more of an impact since we are in such a rural area. Some of the Banan team were telling me about how they felt they weren’t getting what they signed up for; the ability to directly tackle poverty. Instead, their projects are more about how to improve tourism in their area.
Anyways, after the party, the Koas Krala team went to see the Bat Caves and surprise surprise, we saw lots of tourists! I even got to see my first black person in weeks (I’m black btw). How I wanted to reach out to him and stroke his cheeks. Soft, black, skin. Whilst most times I don’t notice myself being the only black person in my team, the occasional ‘look how the locals can’t get enough of looking at us white people’ does come up from a few teammates. It does irk me a bit, and it makes me wonder whether I’m more annoyed at the oyinbo saying it recklessly, or at black people who as a whole don’t do stuff like volunteering internationally as much as oyinbos do. Yeah so that was another side-track but after watching the bats come out of the bat caves (apparently 6 million Bats live in that cave), we went back home to Koas Krala. Overall, today was an amazing day.