by Lisa Lamoreaux
I have been back in Colorado for a month now. I have a lot of great memories from the trip. Some of my favorite memories include times that I was able to connect with the people of Cambodia. Although there are many great moments, there is one particular day that I find myself looking back on with great fondness.
The day was Sunday, May 26th, and our group was busy at our hotel, the Lotus Lodge, preparing art supplies for our work at Anjali House the following day. As the group gathered and sorted materials we discovered that the essential oils we had brought for one of our art directives had broken in one of the bags. The bag, and all the art supplies inside were covered in oil. It was a huge mess! Everybody else was busy with their jobs, so I decided to take on the task of cleaning up the mess.
I got to work emptying the bag. I laid out all contents on the balcony outside one of our rooms, and began wiping down and re-bagging all the supplies. As I cleaned, one of the girls who worked at the Lotus Lodge came over to see what I was doing. I tried to find a way to explain what doing, but I spoke very little Khmer and she spoke very little English. I could not communicate using words, so I began trying to use gestures. This again fell short, and we found ourselves awkwardly grinning at each other. It was at this time that the girl pointed to a bag of brightly colored, plastic beads I had sitting out on the banister. She appeared to be very interested in the beads, so I opened up the bag and let her look at them more closely. She examined the beads carefully as she sorted through the bag. She seemed to really like the beads, so gave her a couple. After spending some time choosing her beads, she carefully placed them in her pocket, and returned to her duties.
A little later, she came over again with another girl. The second girl was also fascinated with the beads, so I offered a few to her as well. The girl carefully chose her beads. She showed me how she was going to put them on her keychain, and then heading back to work.
The first girl stayed behind. She showed me a beautiful flower that she had brought for me. I thanked her for the flower, and then placed it in my hair as she looked over the other art supplies. She pointed to some glitter I had out. I opened up the glitter, stuck my finger in, and put some on my cheek. Then I offered the glitter to her so she could put some on her face. She smiled and giggled a little before sticking her finger in the glitter. Then, instead of putting it on her cheek she put the glitter on my cheek, and smiled. I then, stuck my finger in the glitter and put some on her cheek. This made us both laugh. After this, the girl began pointing to several other art materials. And I happily showed her what each material could be used for.
Some time passed like this, and then the second girl came over again. She offered me a tiny pair of souvenir, Dutch ceramic shoes as a thank you for the beads. I thanked her very much for the special gift she had given me. The girl smiled at me then, both girls left to go back to work. After that day, I felt a deeper connection with the two girls.
These interactions gave me a new found appreciation for art’s ability to open up communication. I am grateful for the art materials I had available to me, because they made it possible for us to engage each other on a deeper level.
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