Saisabok! — Hanging out at Tiny Toones in Phnom Penh

So if anyone read our last post about the 26 hours bus journey from northern Thailand to Cambodia and thought that sounded like a nightmare, well let us tell you, that bus ride had NOTHING on our 6 hour journey from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh!

Leaving at 7am after a late night out wasn’t so bad, but an old broken down bus would be the tipping point. Don’t get us wrong though! We know what we signed up for backpacking through a developing part of the world, but nothing could quite mentally prepare us for the next 6 hours of hell we were about to enter!

Broken air conditioning, windows that could not be opened, seats held up by ropes, a blaring karaoke comedian in a high pitched female dub over voice, a crying baby, no curtains to block the blaring sun, gum dangling from the ceiling, chicken bones and garbage stuffed in the pockets, a road under construction, and to top it all off a blaring horn the entire way of the journey to the capital city. In a country with little to no traffic laws, we sped down the highway stopping for no man or cow in the way! Our non-stop horn being our only warning of our freight train of a bus bombing through the countryside.

An adventure not to be forgotten. Fortunately, we were able to laugh hysterically at the whole situation a few hours later.

After a feast at the BEST dumpling house, we ventured over to Tiny Toones to meet the staff who will be joining us for a week long leadership retreat in southern Cambodia on Sunday.

Tiny Toones is a drop in center in the heart of Phnom Penh. Luring kids in off the street with break dancing, hip hop, art and music, Tiny Toones targets some of the most marginalized youth in the city. Their anti-drug, pro-education philosophy is giving kids in a rough neighborhood an escape from a harsh reality and opportunity in a bleak setting. There is nothing bleak or drab about the smiles, energy and colors making up the center though! Kids eager to practice their English and learn some dance moves fill the centers at any time of day.

Our group fell in love with the place instantaneously. Steve and I had a difficult time convincing them it was time to go home since our tuk tuk drivers were waiting in the rain. Back flips, the dougie, original beats and head spins are just not easy to walk away from! What can we say… Tiny Toones is rad!!

A mellow night of Khmer BBQ at a local beer garden with the founders and core team of Tiny Toones, we hit our awesome mattresses early. At 8 a.m. we were back at school! We went and hung out with students at an international school, Cambodia International Academy. We discussed the danger of a single story and the misconceptions many people have about Cambodia coming from North America. The Grade 9, 10 and 11 students were quick to set the record straight, letting us know that Cambodia is much more than landmines, prostitution and poverty! Culture, Buddhism, Angkor Wat, traditions, fashion, different food, topics of development and corruption all surfaced as far more prominent and current topics for Cambodia today. A really informative and active discussion for all involved.

Then to lighten the mood we hit the Grade 1 classroom where we were taught how to count to 10 in Khmer! Hello – susi’dy! How are you? Sok sabai te? And a few other useful phrases for the rest of our stay in their country. Then with the theme of recycling, we had a few relay races using old pastic bottles, which we then cut up a built a tree using only recyclable materials! ART ATTACK!

Now the gang is hanging out in a community movie house called the Flicks watching The Killing Fields with a bowl of popcorn, stretched out on some mattresses.

We have only been here for roughly 24 hours…

More to come. And a lot more to learn.

If you need us while in Cambodia, our number is +(855) 17503562.