Day 2 to day 3 went just as per schedule. Programs planned went on with some changes along the way, and yet I was only involved in some activities. Myself and a female leader, Mrs Hoo permanently based ourselves in the kitchen. With the almighty help from our Cambodian Scout In charge, Kim, we were able to prepare, cook and serve hungry people.
Before I go into the depths of my experiences, initial observations enlightened me as how fortunate I was to have modern and clean kitchen facilities at home. From a mere look, one would think 'eh! This is our kitchen?!' but upon looking deeper, the kitchen consists of an outdoor food preparation area, outdoor cooking area and a open waste area. The food preparation was done on the floor, on the stone table and on chopping boards were washed and dried in the adjacent room. At the side, there were 2 large bowls of tap water that were constantly filled up whenever the water level runs low. ULWBC Exploration Course
In the preparation of poultry and seafood, these were prepared on the concrete floors of the kitchen. Fish was dissected and prepared in a bucket of water while chicken was prepared on straw mats that appeared to be unwashed. Still, chopping boards were seen with knives such as choppers and kitchen knives (medium sized)
While preparing raw meats, the preparation of vegetables were taking place on a separate place. Small - Medium sized vegetables such as carrot and ginger were prepared on a stone table while larger vegetables such as Cabbage and cucumbers were prepared on a different straw mat on the floor. Vegetables were not washed but simply sliced and placed into large pails. Vegetable wastes were simply thrown into a nearby waste area or thrown onto the floor since vegetables were organic materials 'returning to nature'.
Despite preparing food in different places, the level of cross contamination between poultry and raw uncooked food was still on the high due to the exchange of liquids between meats and raw vegetables. There were swarms and swarms of houseflies and fruit flies that surrounded almost every corner of the kitchen.
In terms of the exchange in meeting our counterparts in the kitchen, I got the chance to help out in the preparation of vegetable such as carrots, cucumbers, cabbage and onions. During the exchange, I begin to realise how Cambodians were detailed and serious about doing work, even in the finest of details. The level of detail was even present in the carrots that were sliced. On another example, cucumbers that were normally sliced top down were now sliced side ways.
In the preparation of say an omelette, all ingredients were mixed together in a batter that went on into the wok. However, this caused the batter to contain slightly more water than usual due to the onions. Thus, frying the omelette was difficult and certainly more unhealthy as more oil was added to the wok to compensate for the batter adhering to the wok like glue.
Through detailed work and time saving methods of cooking, lunches became a time of fun, laughter and lots of smiles. Due to our language barrier, I tried to use hand signs, gestures and smiles to communicate. Despite that, Cambodian's were largely very helpful and took initiative to help whenever we were preparing food.
All in all, I've learnt to embrace happiness over tough situations whenever there is a language barrier, that a smile is all it takes for individuals to come together. By respecting their culture and understanding why and how they do it, I realised Cambodian culture in a greater perspective, which brought new light to the country. I am honored indeed and fortunate to have a chance of working with our Cambodian counterparts at the orphanage.
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Project Sunshine is a Goodwill Cultural Exchange & Community Service Learning Project organised by the Scouts (17-26 years old) of Singapore Scouts Association and Cambodia Scouts
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22-29 March 2017
Enfant D'Asie Orphanage at Takeo Province, Cambodia