Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bicycling at the Pursat Market

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Wrapping things up....

My time in Cambodia is wrapping up and coming to a close....  I am quite sad, as well as a bit relieved, to be returning home.  It is hard to put into words the emotions I have gone through since I've been here.  In less than two months, I have experienced what it is to give oneself to the service of others; it is a profound act that is far more valuable than any souvenir or object of remembrance.  I learned that I'm not all that interested in being a tourist... I'd much rather go to another country to work and contribute the skills and knowledge of which I have been so fortunate. I have made many friends during my brief stay and I now feel I have a connection to Cambodia.  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 welcomed me into their daily routines and activities. In a short time, I was able to accomplish a lot:  (1) I visited remote villages where bio- sand water filters were demonstrated, (2) I observed the installation of water collection tanks and visited many families using bio-sand and rainwater collection systems, (3) I taught English to Khmer schoolchildren, (4) I gave a solar energy demonstration to rural children in Kravanh, (5) I trained the school librarian in Pursat on a new inventory/checkout database, (6) I consulted with SC staff with digital video editing, (7) I helped a student set up a blog, and (8) had a great conversation with a young student who was interested in conducting art classes.

After I leave Cambodia, I hope to stay in touch with the many amazing people I met through Sustainable Cambodia. Notably,  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 Sorn (the "Boss") met with me over coffee and graciously invited me back to work with SC in the future.  Of course, his invitation was music to my ears! 

So today, Friday, June 11th, I will return to Phnom Penh for a couple days of relaxation and will re-introduce western food into my diet! I also plan to engage in a few tourist activities and take in the last bit of Phnom Penh before my final departure back to the United States on Sunday, June 13th.....

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 International Children's Day.

"The main aim of Children's 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." (

Early in the morning, Sustainable Cambodia staff headed out to Chanserey Village, located just outside of Kravanh, where I had been assigned to assist with English language instruction and other tasks.  I didn't know what to expect regarding the activities involved and was completely surprised when we arrived at the Bak Chen Chieng Commune, a Buddhist monastery.  We drove into the outdoor area where the celebration was taking place. Approximately 50 children from five years of age to maybe fourteen years were quietly seated at long rows of desks that were facing towards the Master of Ceremony.  Pei Yin (an SC volunteer) and I were asked to sit at the front of the class facing the children.  Formal introductions were made and then the children began to sing.  Here is where I about lost it!  The singing was so beautiful and to see all those tiny, bright faces singing so amazingly good was a bit overwhelming!  I wish I had an audio recording that I could post because the singing was 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 science of photovoltaics 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 making electricity to run the fan and music box.  Dimang translated my info in Khmer to the children and the demonstration was a hit!  The children loved blocking the sun with their hands to stop the fan, and then, again, allowed the sunlight to hit the solar panel, making the fan stop and start up again over and over... they were truly amazed, as so was I!

International Children's Day is all about games, such as flour sack races, musical chairs, balloon contests, etc;  But when I went to pack up my solar kit, I was immediately surrounded by children still wanting to know more about this strange new science.  They helped me pack everything up and fit all the pieces into the molded slots within the packaging.  My take-away for the day was that there is a lot of potential for the children 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 decided to break the blog posts into sections.  First, I will begin with my arrival in Siem Reap.  After spending several amazing days at the Kravanh Bright Future Center, I took a bus from Pursat to Siem Reap to spend the weekend.  A friend will be joining me here and then we'll explore the city and visit Angkor Wat. Upon my arrival in Siem Reap, I was greeted by a monsoon downpour!  I'm actually getting used to these, as they occur at least once each day-- the wind and heavy rain really cools 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 --  it was nice to have a smiling and helpful person immediately available in this 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 and was offered a choice of breakfast or lunch. The tea was actually some sort of fresh fruit drink and I ordered breakfast because I hadn't eaten anything all day.  Breakfast was delicious...  eggs with a french baguette and fresh fruit with yogurt.  It was exceptionally good!

There was a nice couple dining next to me and we started up a conversation. They are from Canada and had spent the last 1 1/2 years in Korea teaching English.  They are taking a quick two 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 having a good cup of coffee reading a book.....

I am currently updating this blog from my beautiful room and at 7pm I'll return to the restaurant for dinner.  Tonight is "movie night" where they show films on Cambodian History and Angkor Wat.....

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