December 24, 2002

Merry Christmas from Cambodia

Merry Christmas from Cambodia!

Over the last couple of days I've been listening to some Christmas music and I think the song that I can relate to the most right now is "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas". The weather here in Cambodia has been warm and humid all month, although the last day or two have been a little bit cooler with highs in the low 80s. Needless to say, my chances of getting a white Christmas this year are rather slim.

The day after I last wrote I began my trip back to Cambodia from Slovenia. 4 planes, 3 taxis, 2 motor cycle taxis, 2 buses, 2 tuk-tuks, a ride in my parents car and 3 short nights later I arrived back here in Phnom Penh. On the way I spent a few hours in Croatia, Cyprus, Dubai and Bangkok. In Cyprus I had enough time to bring my checked bag up to the maximum weight limit for the flight to Bangkok using an assortment of Christmas presents with some Big Franks to top it off. On the way here I also spent the night in a hotel near the Thailand – Cambodia border and then had a 10 hour share taxi ride from the border to Phnom Penh. As you can imagine I was quite glad to see my bed by the time I got here.

I pretty much stayed in Phnom Penh for my first two weeks back in Cambodia. I did take a quick trip to the Kompong Thmal office, but only ended up spending one night there. On the weekends I enjoyed getting together with some friends again for church and then some games on the two Saturday nights.

On Sunday (a little over two weeks ago) I traveled to the town of Koh Kong which is located near the Thai border on the coast. I actually passed through this town on my way to Cyprus a couple of months ago, but this time I joined the entire ADRA team from the Child Survival project in Kompong Thmal for a week-long workshop (this is the project that I have spent the majority of my time here with). The workshop was focused on behavior change strategies. Quite a bit of it took place in Khmer so I also spent much of the time with another small group that was working on writing a new proposal during the same week. I ended up keeping quite busy and didn't even get a chance to swim in the ocean while I was there. The beach was a few kilometers away from our hotel and I just didn't have enough time or energy to go when the meetings were over.

On Sabbath I finally got to explore the area a little bit by car and we even tried to take a boat up one of the rivers to visit a waterfall. I say tried because the boat engine quit after a couple of kilometers and our guide couldn't get it started again. He ended up rowing us back down the river to where we had started, but gave us directions on how to reach the waterfall by car instead. I enjoyed swimming in the waterfall for a while and then we explored a couple of other roads in the area before ending up at the beach to watch the sunset, which was a perfect ending to our nature filled Sabbath.

On Sunday we traveled back to Phnom Penh (via the 4 ferries). Along the way we took a little side trip to Kirirom National Park. This park is quite accessible by good paved road and is only a couple of hours from Phnom Penh. It is located in some hills where they have pine trees and the weather is a couple of degrees cooler. They have quite a few nature trails as well as some places to swim in the river. It's a nice place to get away from the city and I'm thinking about going back there for a weekend trip sometime.

On Monday I did laundry, repacked my bag and got a couple of things done in the office. I was planning to write an update email but ran out of time. Tuesday morning I caught a taxi and then a pickup to Preah Vihear where Ben & Sharyn Davis live and work. I have visited them before and wrote about the house they built in the jungle. Since I last was there they have wired up the solar panels and batteries so they have electricity. They also have a bathroom in the house although all water has to be carried from the river which is a 10 minute walk away. The house itself is still very open and the shower still only has two walls. They now have the animal pen wired up with an electric fence and the current population includes 3 gibbons (like monkeys), 2 monkeys, 3 small deer-like animals, a parrot and a large bird of prey. There are also several storks, geese, chickens, guineas and pelicans plus all of the actual wild wildlife which includes birds and several flying squirrels that can be spotted at night gliding between the trees above the house. Besides enjoying nearly a week of rural living, I also ran some network cables in the office and worked on databases to help keep track of the micro credit (small loan) and well digging activities of ADRA in Preah Vihear.

On Sabbath we visited a site where ADRA is planning to conduct adventure based learning activities. They have purchased a piece of land and have started blazing trails through the jungle. They plan to set up several activities like a zip line and other rope course type things. I enjoyed seeing some very large trees, which I hadn't really seen here since most of the accessible places in Cambodia have been logged.

On Sunday I traveled back to Phnom Penh. I arrived early enough in the day that I decided to go to an evening Christmas service at one of the International churches here. It was nice to sing some carols and start getting into the Christmas spirit a little bit. They even had a couple of songs by the Sunday school children. Afterwards I visited some friends and then we visited one of the fancy hotels to look at the Christmas decorations.

Today and yesterday I've been keeping busy in the Phnom Penh office. Last night Jonathan, Sujoya, Daren (Sujoya's boyfriend who arrived from England about a month ago) and I went to Bryan and Penny's house to play some games. On the way I had a flat tire so we had to find a repair shop to get it fixed. The valve stem actually broke off somehow so I had to spring for a new tube ($2 including labor, much more than it would cost to fix a typical puncture).

Today we went shopping for food during out 2 hour lunch break. I'm organizing Christmas dinner tomorrow with all of the volunteers and a few others who are here for the holidays. It looks like we'll have around 15 or 20 and we bought all of the food today. We first went to central market which is the main market in Phnom Penh and bargained for all of the vegetables and things. We then visited one of the supermarkets to get the imported foods. This evening I'm planning to visit a couple more of the fancy hotels, including one that the SDA church school choir is singing at. After that I'm going over to a friend's house for a Christmas Eve party.

Tomorrow we'll spend most of the day getting ready for and eating Christmas dinner. After dinner we're planning to have a gift exchange and maybe some games too. It certainly won't be the same as being with family, but I'm sure we'll have a good time.

Have a very merry Christmas wherever you're spending it this year!

Until next time,


PS I've run out of time so I won't get pictures uploaded to myfamily today, but I'll try to do it soon. The other pictures (lots of them, and with no captions) are already on photopoint.

Posted by andrew on December 24, 2002

I am a student who live in Phnom Penh. I seek some information from and I saw your report.

The purpose of my seek is the Micro-Credit in Cambodia.

Other one, I am seeking the donor who fund on the Information Training. I work as volunteer with NGO( ITTP) in Cambodia.

Posted by: Romly on July 25, 2004