Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bicycling at the Pursat Market

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Wrapping things up....

Well, my time here in Cambodia is wrapping up and coming to a close....  I am quite saddened, as well as a bit relieved to be returning home. It is almost indescribable the emotions I have gone through since I've been here. In less than one month, I have experienced what it is to give oneself over to the service of others; the profound act of helping others improve their lives is the one thing I will take back with me that is far more precious than any souvenier or object of remembrance. I learned about myself that I'm not really all that interested in being a tourist, but that I'd much rather go to another country to work and contribute skills I have been so fortunate to acquire. I have made many friends during my brief stay and I now feel I have a connection here, where perhaps someday I can return and pick up where I left off.

The staff, students, and volunteers at Sustainable Cambodia were amazing.  Even though I was an "unofficial volunteer" (due to the fact my stay was less than the required 4- 6 mos. stay), everyone still welcomed and included me in their day-to-day routines and activities.  And I accomplished a lot:  I visited remote villages where bio- sand filters were demonstrated, I observed the installation of water collection tanks and visited many individual families using bio-sand and rainwater collection systems, I taught a bit of English to Khmer schoolchildren, and I gave a solar energy demonstration to rural children in Kravanh.  At the SC school in Pursat, I trained the school librarian on a new inventory and checkout database, I assisted a staff member with digital video editing, helped a student set up a blog, and talked with another student who was interested in conducting art classes. But even after I leave Cambodia, I will still maintain some of these relationships and will continue to be of assistance to Dimang (expanding the Kravanh school blog), Sothea (digital video editing), and Lin, the Pursat school librarian (database). On the morning of my departure from Pursat, Soknay (the "boss") met with me briefly over coffee and graciously invited me back to work with SC in the future. Because I have been considering completing my master's degree by doing a working thesis, his invitation was music to my ears!  Cook stoves have been on my mind lately. Because deforestation is such a problem here and the fact that many people use wood & wood charcoal to cook, there is a type of cook stove that can be easily built using local materials that retains heat longer, thus requiring less wood to function.  Or I could work on type of solar project...    We'll see--  much research needs to be done!

So today (Friday, June 11th) and tomorrow, I have returned to Phnom Penh for a couple days of relaxation and will attempt to reintroduce western food into my diet! I will also engage in a few tourist activities and take in the last bit of urban Cambodia before my final departure back to the United States on Sunday.....

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Solar in Chanserey Village

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International Childrens Day in Cambodia goes Solar!!!

On Tuesday, June 1st, Cambodia celebrated its International Children's Day in all of its provinces.

"The main aim of Childrens Day in Cambodia is to provide the basic necessities to the needy children of the kingdom and to protect them from any kind of abuse. The various NGOs take it as their responsibility to ensure that the children of Cambodia are given their basic human rights and are not exploited in any manner. Also, awareness among the citizens of Cambodia is created to prevent any such situations" (

Myself, another SC volunteer, and staff from SC headed out to Chanserey Village, located just outside of Kravanh, where I have been assigned to assist with English language instruction and other tasks. I did not know what to expect regarding the activities involved and was completely moved when we arrived at the Bak Chen Chieng Commune, a Buddhist monastary. We drove into the area of the celebration, which was all being held outdoors. Approximately 50 children from the age of 5 years old to maybe 14 years were quietly seated at long rows of desks that were facing the "front" and towards the MC (master of ceremony). Pei Yin (an SC volunteer) and I were asked to sit at the front of "the class" where we were facing the children. Formal introductions were made, we stood up, and then the children began to sing.....  now, here is where I about lost it!  The singing was so beautiful and to see all those tiny, bright faces singing so good was a bit overwhelming!  I literally had a big gulp in my throat! I wish I had an audio recording that I could post because the singing was so pure and so good!

I had my Solar Lab kit with me that day because I had volunteered to do a solar demonstration if the situation allowed.  Dimang, the country manager for the SC school in Kravanh, thought it would be a good idea to show the kids a simple solar demonstration.  Being that solar info can get complicated really fast, I decided to set up a solar panel that was wired to a fan and a music box. I explained to Dimang in English the very basic process of energy from the sun makes electricity to run the fan and music box.  Dimang translated my info in Khmer and in a way the children could understand. The demonstration was a hit!  The children were very curious and loved blocking, and then allowing, the sunlight to hit the solar panel, making the fan stop and then start up again... they were truly amazed, as so was I!

After many games, such as flour sack races, musical chairs, balloon contests, etc; I went to pack up my solar kit and I was immediately surrounded by children still wanting to know more about this strange new "toy".  But once they saw I was packing everything up, they helped me fit all the pieces into the pre-molded slots within the packaging; they found the correct places for all the small parts faster than I could do on my own! There is a lot of potential in these young people of Chanserey Village!!

My arrival in Siem Reap

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After several days in Kravanh, I have just arrived in Siem Reap....

So much has happened in the last week! So I will break the blog posts into sections.  First, I will begin very briefly with my arrival in Siem Reap this afternoon.  After spending several amazing days at the Kravanh Bright Future Center, I took a bus this morning from Pursat to Siem Reap to spend the weekend.  A friend of mine will be joining me here and then we will explore the city and visit Angkor Wat. Upon my arrival this afternoon, I was greeted by a monsoon downpour!  I'm actually getting used to these, as they occur once each day, some more severe than others, but the winds and heavy rain really cool things off!  A staff person from the Golden Villa Temple Guesthouse, where I had booked a reservation, was at the bus station to welcome me and take me to my accommodations --  so convenient & it was nice to have a smiling and helpful person immediately available in a new city! 

The guesthouse is awesome--  very lush and beautiful!  I have a few pictures posted in the album, "Golden Villa Temple Guesthouse", so check it out--  and there will be more pics later for sure!  Anyway, as soon as I checked in at the front desk, I was led to the restaurant for a complimentary tea.  I was also offered breakfast or lunch!  The tea was actually some kind of delicious fresh fruit drink and I went ahead and ordered breakfast because I hadn't eaten anything all day.  They delivered me eggs with a french baguette and fresh fruit with yogurt.  It was exceptionally good!

There was a couple dining next to me and we naturally gravitated toward conversation. They are from Canada and had spent the last 1 1/2 years in Korea teaching English.  They are taking a quick 2- week tour through parts of Southeast Asia before returning home.  They were great to talk to and it was a nice way to bring in a new city-- meeting new people and having good conversation! At 2:30 pm, the restaurant was pretty busy with guests either having lunch, sharing a bottle of cognac, drinking beers, or reading with a good cup of coffee.....

So now, I am updating this blog from my beautiful room and soon, at 7pm, I'll return to the restaurant for dinner---  & tonight may also be "movie night", where they show films on Cambodian History and Angkor Wat.....

...much, much more to come.....!