August 25, 2002

August in Cambodia


Well, it's been nearly a month since I wrote last, so I guess my attempt to write more often has failed. Time has been passing pretty quickly and it seems hard to believe that I've been here five months already. The last several weeks have been relatively uneventful so this email shouldn't be quite as long as the last one at least.

The weekend after I last wrote was my birthday. The actual day was on Friday, but since I spent most of the day traveling I thought of the following couple of days as my birthday weekend. Friday morning I taught an English class and then got a taxi. I learned from the ADRA staff and the taxi driver that a bridge on our route home was damaged so I would have to pay extra for the car ferry that we would take on the long way around. As it turned out we waited in line for the ferry for two or three hours and then found out that the bridge was fixed so never actually took the ferry. The 2.5 hour trip turned into about 6 hours and we arrived in Phnom Penh just as one of the heaviest rains I've seen so far hit. The taxi driver of course still charged the higher fare even though we didn't end up paying for a ferry, and I was completely soaked to the bone on the moto ride back to the ADRA office from the taxi stand area. I actually enjoyed that part pretty well though since the rain cooled me off a little, and my bag was kept dry by the moto driver's poncho. Over the weekend I went out to eat at a fancy Swiss German restaurant where I had cheese fondue, Greek salad and potato soup. Afterwards we had dessert at a much less fancy, but fun place called "Ice cream in coconut". Can you guess what they serve? The coconut milk is served in a glass and there are some interesting candy-like "treats" in the bottom of the coconut under the ice cream. I also got a singing to with a candle to blow out at the Saturday night game table.

On Sunday I went to the killing fields which are just outside of Phnom Penh. I went with a couple of guys who are here doing some video projects, a British girl teaching English for a month, and a couple of other friends from church who live here. There were six of us and we went on two motos, so we had three on each bike. With the same group I also set my personal moto record of four foreigners (barongs) on one moto for a fairly short distance of about two blocks. We took one picture with five piled on, but weren't really stable enough to drive anywhere that time.

The killing fields are another sobering reminder of the sad history here in Cambodia. They have one large monument where they have collected most of the human skulls and things that used to be strewn around the area. There are many shallow pits that were used as mass graves in the area and you can see some bone fragments and bits of clothing in places. The genocide museum definitely paints a much more vivid picture, but the killing fields are worth a visit as well.

During the week I went on another village visit with the ADRA staff where they were mapping the villages. They basically take a big piece of paper and a legend to the house of the village chief and he draws each hut in his village on the map, marking which family lives in each one. These maps are useful for contacting the villagers who are working with ADRA as Commune Coordinators (CCs) or Village Health Volunteers (VHVs). It is also helpful in contacting the Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs). Over the last couple of weeks the project staff have been conducting training sessions, first for the TBAs, then for the CCs. Now they are in the midst of training the VHVs. The CCs use what they have learned to help train the VHVs in their respective communes (communes are administrative divisions sort of like counties in the US, but smaller). Since most of the staff are spending all day conducting training in the field, they are actually too busy to have most of the English classes right now.

On the next weekend I was planning to go to the beach with Ryan, but ended up canceling at the last minute because I got a little sick from something I ate or drank. It only lasted for about 24 hrs, but I didn't feel like riding down to the beach after church. Since I was feeling better by Sunday we decided to visit Oudong instead. Oudong is an ancient capital city with some temple ruins and things to look at. It is also a popular Khmer picnic spot with lots of vendors around the parking area. Since it is only about an hour north of Phnom Penh we just went on our motos. While we were hiking around some Khmer girls wanted to take their pictures with us, so we stood there first for a group shot, and then for individual photos with each girl. I mainly bring this up so that you don't wonder about the strange pictures in my photo album... :)

After I got back from Oudong I met up with my friend Rachel from Loma Linda who was here for six weeks. We had some supper and watched a movie, then I said goodbye to her since she was headed back to school that week. I also said farewell to Ryan on Monday before I went back out to the Kompong Thmal project since he also was headed back to school.

At the project I spent one morning taking some photos of a TBA's house that had burned down so that we could send out an email to some of the ADRA staff to raise a little money to help her rebuild her home. She had just completed the ADRA training course a week or two before the fire. Fortunately she was visiting neighbors when the fire started. On the same trip I got to stop by a small temple site which was quite peaceful and had some ruins which I believe were from the 1200s.

Last weekend was not particularly eventful. We had a fairly small group of four at the game table Saturday night, but it was still fun. On Sunday Jeremy (one of the guys here doing video projects for the mission) and I had a craving for Mexican food so we made tortillas and salsa from scratch. Along with beans, cheese and some veggies they made excellent burritos which we enjoyed while watching a movie. I also stopped by Central Market and bought a pair of Gap pants for $3.

On Monday Jeremy came along with me to Kompong Thmal and we spent Tuesday and Wednesday visiting the areas where ADRA is conducting the VHV training. In between village visits I taught my 6:30 am English class and helped get some extra training materials printed up at the last minute. I also helped our Monitoring and Evaluations (M&E) officer with some of the computer statistics packages that he is trying to use.

Friday night I had a very International supper with Frank, his wife Elaine and some ADRA guests. We had ten people at the table, with at least one person from Germany, France, England, Mongolia, New Caledonia (Pacific Islands), the Caribbean (not sure which island), Vietnam and of course the States. I think the US and Vietnam each had two people and the other countries just had one (not counting the kids who were in bed by the time we ate). The guests were here in Cambodia for an ADRA workshop in Siem Reap and were visiting from the ADRA offices in Vietnam, Thailand and Mongolia.

The English Sabbath school was especially diverse and full this week with about 30 people and at least 13 different countries represented. Potluck was excellent with lots of good food and fellowship. Saturday night we played games as usual. The group is growing again since one of the English teachers arrived last week. A new ADRA volunteer from Germany is due to arrive this week and another one or two are coming to the mission soon as well. There is still an unfilled PR position with ADRA that might bring another volunteer eventually, and Ann Stickle will be arriving in a couple of weeks. She will be the new Associate ADRA Director here and she was in both Moscow and Maryland at the same time as my family, so it will be fun to see her again.

This week I'm staying here in Phnom Penh to work on compiling the results from some strategic planning surveys. ADRA Cambodia is having a strategic planning session in a few weeks where the survey results will be used.

Well, I think that's pretty much all that is going on with me right now. We've actually had some relatively cool weather over the past couple of weeks. We went nearly a week without breaking 90 degrees, although the humidity is still around 100%.

That's all for now,


Posted by andrew on August 25, 2002