It’s August. It rains. A lot. Not that Seattle drizzle type. REAL RAIN where every few seconds the tuk-tuk splashes through a pot hole and you wonder if it doubles as a kayak. I spent six weeks in the fall of 2014 coaching soccer to kiddos in Siem Reap throughan organizationthat works with multiple NGOs throughout the area. I would spend each day heading to a new village to play sports with kids ages 4-12.
My life at this time:
Early breakfast at the guesthouse
Take a tuk tuk to a village within an hour-ish commute
Play soccer, volleyball, ultimate frisbee with the kids for 4-6 hours
Wash my clothes while in the shower – for real – that’s how the laundry got done
Bike to dinner and stick to my $2 a night dinner budget – mostly street food at a cart near my place
Read, swim, wander, go to the market, get a foot massage
It was so much fun playing with the kids. My life was ALL SPORTS and ALL PLAY. What more could I ask for?
And then there was the tear-jerker:
There was an orphanage that I went to a couple of times a week. It was about to shut down because they couldn’t make the payment of $300 USD per month to run it. One day the kids were all playing soccer on the cement and I was confused as to why they were all just wearing ONE cleat. I later found out that there had been a donation of shoes and although there weren’t enough in the right size for everyone, they wanted to share so thought that ONE shoe was better than NONE. That created a meltdown later in the evening for me.
Soccer at an orphanage in Siem Reap
My tuk-tuk driver taking me to soccer practice
Resting during a soccer game
Some other volunteers I met were teaching English just outside of Siem Reap. To read more about what life is like as a localclick here.
Right after I graduated from college in 2012 I spent the month of July in Vinogradov, Ukraine. For two of those weeks I volunteered at a summer camp for orphans and underprivileged children.
My uncle, Victor Kubik, runs a non-profit called LifeNets and they sponsored some volunteers to work at the camp. My brother Colin, cousin Natasha, uncle Oleh, and I were the Americans that he sent over there.
Have you ever been assigned to be a lifeguard for 30 kids who don’t speak English while they are splashing around in the Pacific Ocean? I have this skill that makes me come off as a person who knows what they are doing; but I really don’t. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but everyone survived.
After I graduated high school I flew on down to Puerto Vallarta for about a month to help out at a summer camp that would be in the middle of no where jungle somewhere nearby. My parents had missionary friends who lived down there and I was going to help them with whatever was needed. During this time I brushed up on my Español, ate good food, played with kids, and met lots of fun people.
The gals of the family I stayed with
Leanne and me
I went into this whole experience with no idea what to expect – and I was in for a treat. Before the camps began we took a bus out to the countryside where we would be staying for a few weeks. As soon as Leanne, a girl from Chicago who was also helping out, and I arrived, it was pouring rain. We were to set up a bunch of tents to prep for the camp. For hours we slaved away in the rain while being eaten alive by mosquitoes, but I couldn’t complain – I was there to help… After that first day, we were satisfied with our work and ready for a hot shower.
One of the groups at camp
Sand castle contest
During those two weeks I helped out as a cook, played lifeguard, reffed sports games, helped set up all sorts of activities, and pretended like I knew what was going on. Luckily, there were plenty of people who spoke English, as well, so I wasn’t completely lost.
I made a lot of friends, had a great time with the kids, and really enjoyed my overall experience. It was definitely a step out of my comfort zone as I was traveling alone, had never really been fully immersed in a non-American culture, and was away from my friends and family. But ever since then, I have wanted to travel and have definitely not been as “high maintenance” as I used to be. It was a learning experience that I am very grateful that my parents threw me into.