Saturday, January 16, 2010

End of Week 2

Today we did some planning for our English lessons next week.
Then my rooommates and I ventured out of tourist Phnom Penh to meet Maly. Pat had to call her to get directions because we were lost. And we eventually arrived at her stay. We met a lot of her friends and hungout. We learned about some Khmer popular music and listened to Taylor Swift... yeah... I guess she is popular here.

And then we had some delicious fruit. I dont know what it was called but I couldnt stop eating it... which hopefully wasnt a bad idea.

Then we hopped on the back of Maly and SvreyPbao's Motos... it was seriously so scary and so cool. I had a skirt on so I had to sit sideways, with Jackie holding on to me. Emily rode with SvreyPbao. We got lost along the way but got to the church where we originally met. We talked to a few guys who had been hanging around there. They were really nice and knew where the hotel was so they brought us there.

Then we picked up Yer and went to eat dinner. I ate many firsts today. I really like frog. The shrimp was huge and delicious. We had some good fish and some other spices that were new to me. Pumpkin is popular.

I wish I had already uploaded my photos from today... but here are a few from the trip so far...

Theres a mural from ChildSafe, some children playing infront of Angkor Wat. Yer and I at Ankor Wat. Our boat ride, sunsetting behind the skyline of Phnom Penh, and the jungle roots at TaPram (which Ive only heard said/read in Khmer, and dont know how to spell it), and also a view of the city from our hotel:






Monday, January 11, 2010

Guitar and makeshift coconut drumming, swimming, psars, riverfront cruise, discussions on issues of justice here, ice cream (which actually turned out to be a front for a brothel, leaving the taste of ice cream bitter on our tongues), sunsets with city line of Hindu and Buddhist architecture, coconut, smells I’ve never smelled before, patterns, lights, renewed city... I should start to upload some photos.

These past few days we have travelled as a group to the Killing Fields and S-21. We went to Angkor Wat, and on a boat ride along the river. We saw how the silk makers live on the water and in quite a beautiful community... the outdoor community is everywhere. I thought everyone was outside all of the time until we drove through the night celebrations on Victory Day. We are spending this week at different organizations working on closing down systems of injustice that have been keeping children on the streets, and women from being prostituted. In all of our studying, it is really good to be working with these organizations. I feel like this is very much something that I will continue to take with me.

I hope to get to learn some of the dances everyone does at night in the parks. It looks really fun.

S-21 was a high school turned into a torture, detainment and execution residence for prisoners of the Khmer Rouge. The Killing fields were a ‘dumping ground’ for the inconvenienced overpopulation of people needing to be killed off at S-21. These are the centers which have been preserved and are open to the public, but are only one of many throughout Cambodia. (An estimated 1.7 million people were killed under Pol Pot.)

Our tour guides have very personal connections with the history here – as does everyone here. I am seeing the importance of a group of people healing with themselves. A goal of some of the organizations we work with is to enable people to help themselves – and have people helping their own people. I really like their method and find little social conflict/problem with sustainability in my studying of these organizations.

I am falling more in love with Cambodia with every experience. I will ever understand or feel the deep loss as they do (or I hope not anyways), yet I am mourning with them. It is really amazing to see how safely and lovingly we treat each other here - I pray repetitively in my mind as a process of mourning: 'God please... please bless the Khmer people'.

At first our excitement with our tuk-tuk driver Pat/Pot/Bot/Bod was clearly one sided – its easy to look excited to see familiar faces when it gets you good business. But as the days have progressed – we have had a few really nice conversations, and he takes care of us well. I am happy every day to see Pot.

Our group of students went to New Life church yesterday morning and the first person I met was named Molly. Apparently it’s a Khmer name! I will connect with her this week and hopefully have a chance to see the city with a resident woman who is the same age is me.

If you want the information for the group blogging so you can read entries daily from my classmates' similar experiences/yet different perspectives - email me and ill give you a sign in name/password.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day 2

A couple of days has passed. We are feeling like weve been here for a week already... it is hard to believe it has only been 2 days.

I love my roommates. Everyone on this trip is pretty cool and Im excited to know each of them more by the end of the trip.

I love seeing monks riding motor bikes down the road through the never ending speedy speedy traffic jams. I dont get nervous because it seems our tuk-tuk drivers know what they are doing - same with everyone else driving... Ide love to have learned to drive here...

Ive seen things I think would be difficult to express on words without feeling like I was exploiting situations here... so Ill probably share stories with people personally as they are interested upon my return. Ill have my journal with these stories that people can read as well.

Otherwise generally I can say that it is a difficult tension between helping immediate needs of children sellings things/asking for food vs. being involved in programs that will be working against the systemic chains that are keeping the children and women in these exploitation 'services'.

I only try to imagine myself in the shoes of the women I have seen in this country... I will never forget the sexual exploitation that happens in front of my eyes between young Cambodian women/girls with touring elder men, or phrases in a tourist advice book which suggests that men go home with Khmer girls before they choose to go home with Vietnamese girls - or else chances are they wont be getting any.

Yes that is in a tourbook... thats pretty shitty to think about.

We're staying right in the city - so far it has been so fun and sometimes scary - just because it is new, but once I am doing something and gain more experience, it feels a little bit like home. I enjoy meeting Cambodian people.

We've developed a familiar relationship with a tuk-tuk driver named 'Pat', a few of us have ventured outside of the more common tourist areas and felt what comes with being the only white people. We have some very Western-modern markets where we get groceries to make food for ourselves for lunch. We have breakfast at our hotel and have dinner along the waterfront...

Tomorrow we head to Angkor Wat. A 7 hour bus drive... after leaving early morning, we will arrive, stay the day, watch sunset and drive back through the night celebrations of the 31st year anniversary of Victory day (end of Khmer Rouge rule).

I love Cambodia.