September 24, 2002

Over a month already

Greetings from Cambodia!

Although it has been a little over a month since my last letter, not a whole lot of interest has happened. I have been very busy with work. I spent about three weeks working on compiling a whole bunch of surveys that were completed by ADRA staff (from each project), clients (beneficiaries), donors, ADRA headquarters staff and Cambodia Adventist Mission employees. Most of the surveys first had to be translated into English (which took about two weeks), and then I compiled all of the answers from each group into one document. After the answers were all entered into the computer, I then condensed several pages of answers (for each question, for each group) into a summary of about a paragraph. This whole process ended up taking around 3 weeks of my time, with plenty of computer problems to solve in between. Towards the end I was working some long days, but I got everything finished in time for the strategic planning workshop which was last week. I also prepared workshop folders with several hundred pages of information for each participant to use throughout the week.

During the actual workshop I was also pretty busy. I helped people with printing, checking email, and sharing and compiling documents among other things. I also had a little bit of time to be involved in the actual workshop. The goal for the week was to come up with a sort of "big picture" plan for ADRA Cambodia for the next 3 years. Many good discussions took place, and I think that the workshop went very well overall.

Although the workshop was at the beach town of Kompong Som, we were busy enough with meetings that by the time we finished I usually didn't have enough energy to go to the beach or do much of anything other than eat supper and go to bed. A few of us finally did go for a late night swim once during the workshop, and the phosphorescent algae was sparkling which made it really nice.

The weekend after I last wrote I took Jonathan, the new German volunteer, to Oudong along with Karli and Jeremy. We took a bunch of tropical fruit, most of which Jonathan had never seen before, as a picnic lunch and had a good time relaxing away from Phnom Penh. I also went bowling for the first time here as a sort of farewell night for Jeremy. We had a fun evening enjoying a regular, American style bowling alley that they have here.

Ann arrived shortly before the strategic planning workshop and we all took some time out on Saturday night to have a welcome party for her. She is getting settled in now and even had her first moto driving lesson this afternoon.

Most of the strategic planning workshop participants boarded the bus back to Phnom Penh at 12:30pm on Friday, but a couple of us decided to spend the weekend in Kompong Som. Geof brought his kayak and body (boogie) board and we spent Friday afternoon enjoying the sun and surf. It rained pretty much all week, but the entire afternoon was sunny on Friday so we had an especially nice time. Since it had been pretty windy all week as well, we had an unusual (for Cambodia) treat of good waves. Normally the waves are pathetic at best here, but this weekend we were able to body surf nicely. Another friend (Ross, who makes peanut butter here among other things) came down from Phnom Penh Friday afternoon and spent the rest of the weekend with us at the beach. The bungalows (huts) we stayed in were $3 per night with two beds or $4 per night with three beds, although Geof upgraded to another hotel with hot water instead which goes for $7 per night. Most meals eating out were around $1-2. We found a really nice restaurant called the Snake House which is decorated with various types of snakes in cages. It is run by a Russian family so the menu features a few Russian dishes which were good and reminded me of Russia. Several of the tables have glass tops and actually contain a live snake which you can watch as you eat. The whole place is really set up nicely with gardens, a salt water fish pond, a fruit bat and some geckos/lizards to keep the snakes company. The food is pretty reasonable as well. I usually ordered a couple of vegetarian side dishes (most of the main courses contained meat) and came away full for $2 or so. We ended up visiting this restaurant a total of three times, once during the workshop and twice on the weekend.

On Sabbath we went for a swim in the morning, even though it was pouring rain. There wasn't any thunder when we started swimming, but we heard some after a few minutes so decided to get out. After lunch the weather cleared and we had another fun afternoon enjoying the sun and sand. One particular crash that I had was quite spectacular. A wave caught the kayak just right so that it did a nose dive into the water, hit the sandy bottom and then flipped forward (end over end) sending me and one passenger flying. We were both a little bruised, but agreed it was worth it considering all the fun we had. The people watching had a good laugh about seeing the kayak standing up vertically in the water on its way through the flip.

On Sunday we were all a bit tired so didn't end up swimming again before heading back to Phnom Penh. I opted to get a massage (which helped immensely with the newly acquired aches and pains) during lunch time since I had a fairly late breakfast. I lost track of time and ended up paying $5 for somewhere between 1 and a half and 2 hours of relaxation.

It was really, really nice to have some time to relax and enjoy nature after being so busy with the workshop and preparations for it. Now that it's over I have started working through my list of computer things which need to get done here in Phnom Penh. I'm making good progress and should be caught up by the end of the week or so.

Next weekend I'll probably hang out in Phnom Penh, although we have some holidays surrounding the following weekend. I'm sure I'll travel somewhere over that weekend, possibly even to Vietnam.

A couple more volunteers have arrived at the mission to teach English, although I haven't really gotten acquainted with them yet since I've been so busy. Jonathan (the new German volunteer) is pretty well settled in now and even managed to purchase a TV this week. Using a borrowed DVD player we "tested it out" last night by watching a movie. I think he's planning to eat only rice for the next few months to make up for the TV purchase. He says maybe he'll add some salt for special occasions like Christmas dinner (at least that's the ongoing volunteer joke these days).

Well, I think that's pretty much all of the news I can think of right now so I'll stop and send this.

Until next time,


PS I just remembered another thing that might be newsworthy. Not long after I wrote my last update email I had a fairly minor moto accident. Basically another moto backed out in front of me and I couldn't stop in time or turn to avoid him without hitting other traffic. I hit the back of his bike, then fell over on mine. Thankfully I was wearing my one pair of thick jeans so only got a minor scrape on my knee (my jeans ripped in two places though) and a couple of scrapes on my elbow. Neither bike had any major damage (my front basket had to be replaced and some plastic was broken I think) and the other driver wasn't hurt. I'm also thankful that I wasn't going very fast (traffic is typically pretty slow moving here). I guess this is why we always wear helmets and try to drive as safely as possible here in Cambodia. Ironically I had already scheduled the bike for some repairs that afternoon, so they just added a couple of extra items to the list...

Posted by andrew on September 24, 2002