My Final Goodbye

Well, the time has finally come. My two years in the Peace Corps is up and I will soon be returning to the USA. There are moments when I have felt that time flew by, and I think for many of you back home reading this may agree that it did not feel like two years at all, but trust me when I say, time moves much slower in Cambodia and it definitely felt like two years most of the time (if not longer haha). People have begun to ask me what my experience was like or if I could go back in time would I do it all again, and honestly, I don’t know. I think I will need some time once I get home to really reflect on the past two years as a whole, because being here, I’m still living it, it still surrounds me. What I do know is that I have learned a lot about myself and a lot about Cambodian culture that I would never have known otherwise. One of the main characteristics I have learned about myself has been that while these two years were a wonderful break from the fast-paced, demanding society of America, my personality craves being busy and having more direction. Even though I’m sure I will want to pull my hair out at times, I am really looking forward to getting back to the hectic schedules and booked weekends. I’m sure those of you who work 9-5pm are wanting to punch me in the face right now…
However, some of my recent thoughts during this last week have been mostly about the relationships I have made here in Cambodia. While I have still been going to the health center in the mornings, my afternoons are filled with stopping by various houses to sit and talk with my friends and say my last goodbyes. Saying goodbye in Cambodia is one of the strangest, most awkward things in the world. For starters, I really don’t have the vocabulary to truly express how grateful I am for all of the love and support these people have shown me. I just keep saying thank you very much and goodbye/take care over and over again to try to stress my point. It is also a very difficult goodbye because I don’t know if I have ever had to say goodbye to someone I know there is a good chance I will never see or meet again. After college, saying goodbye to my friends was hard because I knew I was going to live in Cambodia for two years, but I knew we would be reunited one day. While I do eventually want to come back and visit Cambodia as soon as I can, there is a chance I may never get to see some of the random people in my village or my host aunts or grandparents who are a bit older. I just hope that I can leave here on the best note possible and leave my host friends and families with smiles as I know they have made me smile every day.
Another fact that I just cannot get over is that I’m actually done. I dreamt and planned for the Peace Corps for years and it was always such a monumental goal in my future. But now it has already come and gone. While I am so excited for the next chapter of my life, I will never forget this experience and can say (not too boastfully) that I am really proud of myself and of my fellow PCVs. Serving in the Peace Corps was by far the hardest thing I have ever done (we’ll chat again if I ever have children). There are great rewards, but it does not come without a price. It came with sweat, tears, frustration, boredom, and of course the many laughs and good times too. I honestly could not have made it through this experience without the prayers and support from my friends and family both at home and serving with me here. Please know that I am forever grateful to you all and cannot wait to be reunited soon!

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Here are the K6’s that completed their 2-year service. My family here. I don’t know what I would have done without them.1 week 100

And here are all of the cards/drawings/notes/etc. that I have received since becoming a PCV. THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to write or send packages. It definitely helped get me through the toughest of times!

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Camp GLOW Day 3

On the last day, I met my girls and walked to get breakfast at the same place we went the day before. Once all of the girls arrived at the venue around 8 am I decided to teach them the Hokie-Pokie as their “morning stretch” since I figured that would be a bit more fun than boring static stretches. Luckily, one of the Khmer counterparts had learned this song and dance from a different NGO and was able to translate into Khmer.
Our first session of the day was led by K6 PCV- Lauren and was based on how to get involved in community service. Volunteerism is not very common in Cambodia as most people will only do something if they get paid or some other sort of reward. We wanted to hold this session to help change that mindset and get the girls to recognize some of the issues in their communities and come up with action plans for how to try to resolve those issues. Some of the issues my girls listed for our community were traffic accidents and lack of knowledge about birth control and overpopulation. I hope that this activity sparked a desire in the girls to continue working hard in their country to help improve it.
The next session was about discrimination and stereotyping which was led by two young Khmer women who were super Western in the way they acted and one was even a K7 and K8 LCF! Some people may think that there is little discrimination in Cambodia because it is a very homogenous population. But actually some people can be very condescending to those who are “more black” than them. In America, it is easier to notice differences in skin color, but in Cambodia it always shocks me when they joke that someone is “black” because they all seem a dark tan color to me, or maybe it is that I have been raised in a society and family where skin color just doesn’t matter. Regardless, there are many differences here, religion, socioeconomic status, and education level that can cause one to be discriminated against. I hope that these girls took away a few good points and will help their fellow peers be more tolerant and accepting as a nation.

The group prepared to learn on the last day

The group prepared to learn on the last day

Last but not least, the really fun part of the camp…the games! We started off by teaching the girls how to play the game/song “Ride That Pony”. I personally learned this game while I was in training almost two years ago, and while it’s very simple and meant for much younger children, for some reason we got a huge kick out of it. Essentially, everyone stands in a circle and one person is “riding the pony”. We sing a song using their name and when the song ends they have to kind of dance in front of the person they land on. The next game we played was “Cross the Circle”. Whenever you make eye contact with someone you have to run through the circle and trade places. No talking was allowed. This game developed communication and teamwork skills.
We then moved on to 3-legged races and used kramas to tie the girls’ legs together. This one got a little intense as the girls were very intent on winning. The next game we played was “pop the balloon” which was literally my worst nightmare. I absolutely hate balloons popping. The girls loved it though and stood back to back with a balloon between them and pushed as hard as they could to break it. I endure…barely. And finally, for the last activity we through a million balloons up in the air and let the girls go wild keeping them afloat and not hitting the ground. This was one of my favorite parts of the camp last year as well because you can just see pure joy on the girls’ faces. Well, it was all fun and games until some of the balloons fell and they all decided it would be more fun to run around stomping on the balloons until they all popped. Again…why do people enjoy that?
Finally, the games were all over and after we cleaned up the mess we held a short certificate ceremony and took group pictures. After a quick lunch, we went back to the guesthouse to gather our belongings, say goodbye, and make our way home. Overall, Camp GLOW was a huge success and definitely a great last project for my Peace Corps service.
Again, THANK YOU to all of the donors who made this experience possible! You have helped these girls more than you can ever know 

Going crazy with the balloons!

Going crazy with the balloons!

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Camp G.L.O.W. Day 2

The second day I met my girls in the lobby by 6:30 am and went set off to find some breakfast. It didn’t take us long to find a nice hang-bii where we got some rice with pork, noodle soup, and curry….for breakfast ha. A little before 8 am we headed over to the venue and myself and another volunteer led the group in some morning exercise.

Getting started with the first day

Getting started with the first day

The two of us then went in to our health lesson that we had prepared that was based on the spread of STI’s (Sexually Transmitted Infections) and how to properly use a condom. I was extremely nervous about this lesson because I had never taught sex education in Cambodia and I know how shy and awkward high schoolers can get about that topic. For the first part of the lesson, we gave each girl one white notecard and told them to go around the room and get 5 different girls to write their names on their card. After they were finished we asked the girls to turn their cards over and look to see if there was a red dot on their card. These 5 girls stood up and we explained that in this activity, these girls had an STI. We then asked anyone who had their card signed by one of these girls to also stand. At this point a large group were standing and we explained that in this activity they had sexual intercourse and did not use a condom and so the infection spread. We then had everyone sit down and asked the two girls who had a circle on their card to stand. This represented the population that used a condom and so even if they had sexual intercourse, the infection did not spread. And lastly, we asked the one girl who had a black “X” to stand and this represented the practice of abstinence, so naturally, she also did not have an infection. At the end when we asked the girls if they understood the activity they all responded positively and said that they had prior education on STI’s and how they spread, which is great!

The second activity I was a little bit more apprehensive about, but we asked the male volunteers to step out of the room so that it would be a “safe space” for just us girls. Surprisingly, a few counterparts hopped right up to help us with the exercise and weren’t shy at all! We split the whole group into 3 different groups and put a volunteer and counterpart with each. A few volunteers had brought wooden penises from their health centers and we had a big bag of condoms to practice with. I first walked through all the steps with the girls and then to my surprise many of the girls wanted to practice themselves! I was so proud of them for being so mature. One girl actually told me that she was happy learning about this because no one had ever taught her. Definitely a successful morning!

By 9 am we ended our health session and welcomed Plan Your Future organization from Phnom Penh. This is a group of college students that study at different universities and have different majors that come together and travel to the provinces to educate about scholarships, college applications, and job selection. In one activity, the girls listed their interests and then reviewed what jobs best fit their personalities. They also played a game where they analyzed different obstacles they could face as they apply to school and developed ways to overcome these.

Some of my students playing the College Access Game

Some of my students playing the College Access Game

After lunch we had a presentation from an NGO called Transparency International which educates the public about corruption and ways to combat it. At first, the girls were very interested in the session, but it was a pretty long powerpoint and not very interactive, so they got a bit antsy toward the end. Regardless, corruption is a huge problem in Cambodia and I think it was important for the girls to see that there are people out there trying to fight it.

The last “studious” session of the day was a panel of successful women that worked there in our provincial town, Kampot. We asked the owner of a local restaurant, a woman from the nearby expat hospital, a disabled woman who works at Epic Arts (an NGO that aids disabled Cambodians), and a woman who owns and runs a local print shop in town. Each of them talked about where they came from and what it took to get to where they are today. At the end, they gave the girls some life tips and allowed for them to ask individual questions.

Once we wrapped all that up, we had the girls go change into their “exercise” clothes to get ready for HOT yoga with Sam Weiss (K6 volunteer and total yogi). While I’m not sure if it was the actual Hot Yoga sequence that is typical, we figured we would call it Hot Yoga because, well, we’re in Cambodia, and the sweating never stops. Anyways, Sam had prepared a short slideshow that highlighted the Village Yoga Project she did at her site which helped the girls see that other Khmer girls can do yoga, so they can too. She then led them through some breathing exercises and moved on to some simple poses. They were really starting to get the hang of it by the end!

Around 5:30 pm the day was finally finished and we headed back to shower and get ready for dinner. Per request of my students, we headed to the riverside for some “low-chaa” which are basically short fat noodles with vegetables and a fried egg. One of my favorite dishes in Cambodia! Our meal was a grand total of 75 cents each so we treated ourselves to some ice cream across the street for dessert. We took our sweets and sat along the riverside enjoying the view.

Back at the guesthouse, the girls had fun playing with a few hula-hoops some volunteers had brought down and taking pictures at the Photobooth station I had set up. We also had a chance to watch a short slideshow that Evan Cobb (K6 Volunteer) had made with pictures of the girls from the first two days of the camp. The night ended with an epic glow-stick dance party which consisted of mostly Khmer music and dancing around a random chair, but a few Maroon 5 songs were thrown in there too!

All in all, a great second day of the camp and a super fun end to the night!

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Camp G.L.O.W.

This past weekend my province, Kampot, held our second annual Camp G.L.O.W. (which stands for Girls Leading Our World). While last year’s camp went well, this year was even better! One of the major differences was that we invited a large number of NGO’s to come present at the camp instead of relying on our own broken Khmer. This not only for the girls to understand better, but it also helped with capacity building and the girls got to see what passions their fellow countrymen held. Another reason I enjoyed
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this camp a bit more this year was because I am now one of the “elders”, the K6’s. I’ve been there, done that. I know more of what to expect and how to organize a camp like this. This meant that I had much more of a role in the planning and orchestrating the event which, as my Monica-personality (from Friends) holds true, was a dream for me.
On the first day, all of the girls arrived to the guesthouse by 11:30 and walked over to the venue for lunch. Both years we have had a local café called Sisters cater the event because the woman who runs the restaurant is such a great woman and cooks delicious food. She is also the creator of Pumpkin Spiced Pancakes in Kampot sooo she is definitely one of my favorite people 
After we finished eating, two other K6’s welcomed the girls and went over the main goals of the camp which included leadership, health, education/career-planning, and environmental awareness. I then passed out an ice-breaker to get the girls to meet one another from various schools. This year we had 51 girls in attendance coming from 5 different schools. The ice-breaker was one that we did at our own staging back in D.C. where you have to go around the room and find someone who likes a certain food, or has gone somewhere unique, etc. One example was, “Find someone who has been to Angkor Wat”, and then they would write down that girls name. The girls really seemed to enjoy this activity and it got them out of their seats!
The first actual session of the day was led by Wildlife Alliance which is an NGO that works to protect endangered species in Cambodia. This organization actually came to my site a few months back and did a presentation in my community as well as at my school. The girls learned about the hazards of trapping and eating or wearing various forest animals and why ceasing to do so is important. They played all kinds of games, had a coloring contest, and got face-painted when they answered a question wrong!
We finished the day around 5 pm and all headed back to the guesthouse to change and get ready for dinner. I had reserved 10 seats at a restaurant down the street that would give us a deal for one plate of rice or noodles and a coke all for $2 each, but according to my girls it was not very delicious and too expensive.
That night was probably my favorite of the whole camp though! We walked back and got started right away with tie-dye and arts and crafts! I can’t remember the last time I tie-dyed and was super pumped to see how it would turn out. We had some Justin Bieber and One Direction bumping and most of the girls went crazy making collages from used magazines while they waited for their turn to dye their camp shirts.
The night ended by 11:30 pm and I could not have been more excited to lie in my bed.

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Khmer New Year pics

Pics from Khmer New Year!

Family vaca to the beach and a pic of my new Peace Corps hat chewed up by the resident rat.

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Create Cambodia 2014

My apologies as it has been quite some time since I have last posted. The past month or so has been crazy busy! In this post I’d like to tell you about one of my favorite Peace Corps-Cambodia projects, Create Cambodia. Personally, I am not very artistic and never had a fascination for the arts (although I do appreciate them very much), but something about exposing Cambodian youth to the world of creative thinking, drawing, dancing, and singing just gets to me.

This 3-day-long camp took place just last month and was even better than the year before. This year, I managed to bring 15 students instead of 10, and even convinced one of my favorite teachers from my school to come as my counterpart, Vandet. Okay, I may have had to twist her arm a bit, but I think she enjoyed seeing all the possibilities there are out there for the youth of her country.

As we arrived that Friday, my students got settled in and started making name tags and decorating their water bottles right away. I took time to visit with some PCV friends who I hadn’t seen in ages, and went on to hang up some of the visual art my students prepared before coming. After a little while we had a nice dinner together and got ready for the night performance that hosted a variety of dance groups and NGOs from around the country. One of my favorite groups was from my provincial town, called Epic Arts. They are an NGO that teaches Cambodians with disabilities different styles of dance and other forms of creative expression. On this night, they performed a number that provided awareness about the safety of wearing a helmet while driving a motorcycle. All of the 150 students in attendance, as well as the PCVs and counterparts, thoroughly enjoyed the show and went to bed hyped-up, true camper-style.

The second day, the students rose quite early and started off with a bit of light exercise led by a few of my friends. After breakfast, we dove right in to a variety of workshops that was led by a few of the groups from the performance the night before. The students learned about how to sing in different octaves and how to read music, they got to make up their own “moto dance” (I have to say mine was the best), and they even had a chance to learn how to skateboard! How awesome is that?! Skateboarding might be kind of pushing the “art line” a little bit, but it was so cool watching the youth that was involved in this boarding group do tricks and teach the students something they have never had a chance to do!

That night was our infamous dance party…and boy, it got wild! I mean, I know the dance party is for the students, but it was so much fun getting out there and rocking to J. Bieber and KPop! I also think it was really good for my students, and even my younger host brother who came, to see me “letting loose” and just having a good time. I’m always “teacher Hayley” or the polite (I hope?) pcv who came to live for two years, so I enjoyed showing them that I could have fun too!

On the last day, we got started pretty quickly with the student performances. Last year, my students sang a few songs together, but didn’t really practice a whole lot. This year, all 15 of my students had been preparing for their performance for over 2 months and had been practicing every day! I was really impressed by their motivation. Luckily, my group got to go second so they didn’t have to wait the whole morning and get nervous. My group this year performed a skit called “Goan Koic Howee” which means, “The Child is Already Broken”. It was a story about a high school boy who got peer pressured into skipping class and going off to do drugs. Later in the play, he abuses his mother and continues his drug habit until he gets arrested. At the end of the story he feels sorry for how he acted and asks for forgiveness from his mother. My students did an AMAZING job and I couldn’t have been more proud of them! It just blows my mind how creative and determined these students can be. I can’t imagine having to leave them in a few months… Needless to say, Create Cambodia 2014 was a success! I am so appreciative of the PCVs who organized it and to the donors who made it all possible!

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Career Advisory Services Presentation

This past Sunday I had the honor of hosting a student led group called the Career Advisory Services team at my high school. They travel to different schools and provinces to educate high school seniors about how to choose the right university and career for them. So many students here in Cambodia want to become one of three things: a teacher, a doctor, or a lawyer. The doctor and lawyer are solely for monetary purposes, while becoming a teacher is an “easy” choice for them and they are able to stay close to home. I have tried to explain to my students many times that they should not just choose a career because it will make them rich, but to choose a career that fits their interests and they love. I quickly realized that this little “spiel” is accepted much more easily in America because no matter what you do (within reason), you at least have enough money for food, shelter, and daily living expenses. The people here in Cambodia are still recovering from the Khmer Rouge which ended only 30+ years ago, with the aftereffects lasting much longer. Cambodia is actually one of the most underdeveloped countries where Peace Corps is present. I had to reevaluate my thought process as my students just sat and smiled at me thinking “That’s nice Hayley. We all appreciate your idealistic, hippy beliefs; but we all will have to support families one day and try to make it out of the rural villages so that we do not become rice farmers”.

I was reluctant to give up on them so I invited the CAS team which was actually started by an earlier PCV in Cambodia, Jane Campbell, in her third year as an extendee. The CAS team arrived at 8:30 am and unfortunately we had a poor student turnout as they only do presentations on Saturdays and Sundays when students have off. We still managed to get 32 students to come and participate and I had to remind myself that it is about quality not quantity.

The CAS team introducing themselves

The CAS team introducing themselves

The college students jumped right in and introduced themselves before pulling the high school students outside to do a warm-up activity. In the meantime, the assistant director, Chantrea, and I, biked to my market to pick up snacks and water for the kids. The rest of the morning went smoothly and I think the students learned a lot about how to identify what their interests where how what type of job would suit them best. They also played a fun career board game where they got extra “happiness” points for studying hard, taking private lessons, and helping their family. They learned about potential set-backs that could cause them to miss out on opportunities to study at university and how to handle those situations. (Mom-you would have loooved this).  At the end, the CAS team handed out prizes, such as pens and notebooks, to the top winner(s) from each group.

Playing the career game

There was around 13 members of the CAS team and they all studied at different universities with various majors so the high school students could address different team members for specific questions based on the field of study they were interested in.

I am so grateful that the CAS team came down to my school and prepared this workshop for my students. I truly believe that the seniors learned a lot and enjoyed themselves as well. Small moments like these make me happy to be a Peace Corps volunteer and blessed to know these amazing students at my high school. I’m so excited for the CAS team to come back down to present at our Camp Glow in May!

The CAS team and students after the presentation and in front of the map of Cambodia I painted last year with some students!

The CAS team and students after the presentation and in front of the map of Cambodia I painted last year with some students!

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Party for Grandma and Grandpa

Last weekend my family hosted a bon (party) for my Yay and Da (Grandmother and Grandfather). I was told by my older host sister that this is a celebration that the children of the elders will host for their parents usually only once in their life. It is their way of showing their gratitude for all they have done for them in their life.

While I usually love when random parties and weddings pop up because it gives me a break in the tedious routine of my life here, I think I’m beginning to get a little too comfortable with my peace and quiet and find myself dreading the loud music and constant staring. On Friday evening, my house was full of our extended family from as far as Phnom Penh to the cousins that live right in Kampot Town. It’s always nice to see them again because it provides new people to have new conversations with. I was told that on Saturday we would be eating Borbor (which is a breakfast meal here) and so when I woke up that morning I stalled around awhile wondering where the rice porridge was. After an hour or so I decided we must not be eating it until later that night during the party, and proceeded to make my own breakfast.

Peace Corps is full of awkwardness. I have spent  almost 2 years just wandering around my house/site/town following random family members wandering what is going on and what I should be doing. I decided the best thing I could do to be involved was to help with the food preparation. They set me to work shelling shrimp where everyone was astonished that I knew how to shell shrimp. Yes, we have shrimp in America. Later after lunch, the surprise came when I sat down to help wash dishes and low and behold, I know how to wash dishes too! I think most people here only get their information from TV and know that we have dish washers and such back in the States and just assume we’re spoiled brats who don’t know how to do anything. Unfortunately, I can’t use the same argument on washing clothes by hand. I am still absolutely horrible at that.

After helping for a while, I went back to the house to relax and take a break. I told me host sister to wake me if/when anything exciting happens. A few hours later I came out to the sounds of monks chanting and I realized the ceremonies had started. I groggily wandered over to my aunt’s house to see what was going on. There was the traditional tent set up with a row of monks donning orange robes chanting

Buddhist verses and blessing the family. Everyone else in attendance was wearing white blouses with a darker colored pant or skirt. I sat and observed for a while before realizing these ceremonies would probably being going on for a long time. Props to those monks who can carry their vocal cords like no other. So I ran back to the house to shower and change into black and white attire, before rejoining the festivities.

Back at my aunt’s house all of a sudden the family members were lifting up my host grandmother and grandfather and carrying them to this special platform where they sat patiently with their hands pressed together in a prayer-like pose. Another monk came over and began chanting again as he sprinkled them with water dripping from a green plant he was waving in the air. Then, the rest of the family got up and took turns pouring water over both my Yay and Da’s heads and bodies! It was a really cool ceremony to watch, and I may have been a little jealous no one was pouring cool water over my head, as we are now entering the hot season.

The monks blessing my Yay and Da

The monks blessing my Yay and Da

Family members pouring water or "cleansing" my grandparents

Family members pouring water or “cleansing” my grandparents

Later that evening the real party started. There were hundreds of people in attendance and as a member of the family, I could not just sit and enjoy the occasion, but was expected to work the event just like my siblings and cousins. I usually stick to being the “ice-girl” because it’s pretty easy to walk around handing out ice to whosever’s glass is empty. After an hour of doing this, I was allowed to sit and enjoy some Borbor to regain my strength before I continued working for the next 3 hours or so. By 8 pm I was exhausted and could not wait to crawl into my bed. The problem with wedding/party season in Cambodia is you can never get a good night’s rest because they insist upon blasting the music into the wee hours of the night.

All in all, it was a great time, and I know I will miss these crazy family gatherings when I return home.

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Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year might be my favorite holiday here in Cambodia. My permanent site host family does not really celebrate it because we do not have any Chinese blood in our family, but my training family goes all out! I remember biking to my training site, Angtasom, last year (about 60km) and having such a great time. So when this year rolled around, I knew I was definitely going to make the trip!

I started out around 7:30 am from my site on the 3.5 hour trek with a brief stop at my friend Laura’s site for some water and a snack. As long and taxing as the ride might have been, it was the perfect time for me to be with my thoughts and the Cambodian countryside. It truly makes me appreciate the moment and the limited amount of time I have left here.

Upon arriving in Angtasom, I realized my family was already getting lunch ready and I had to quickly shower to join in the festivities. As I walked through my family’s house (set in the back of the market) I could not believe how many “noms” (Khmer treats) and fruit there was for the offering! I knew this family liked to “go big” for holidays, but this year they outdid themselves! Heineken was even present!

After the initial hellos to my immediate family, I hopped on my bike to the “old house” where all the aunts live so that I could visit the rest of the family. I was most excited to see my host aunt who works for the UN in Phnom Penh and speaks English fluently. It’s so nice to have a Khmer person around who can give you more detail about things and people as my Khmer is just not up to par.
The rest of the weekend was nonstop eating. It was like Thanksgiving dinner, but for every meal, three times a day. And in between that, there was fruit and other treats laying around that you just couldn’t resist because you never get these delicacies at site. I think I’m going to have some serious self-control issues when I return to America. What shall we call it, “Post-Peace Corps 15”?
The second day of the holiday we all went to a nearby Wat (Buddhist temple) and gave offerings to the monks and received blessings in return. This Wat was absolutely beautiful and I was seriously bummed I forgot my memory chip for my camera at home. Back at the house, the family members exchanged red envelopes (mostly for all the children and cousins) that have money in them. I even received one this year and truly felt part of the family! This aspect of the holiday reminded me most of Christmas. All of my favorite holidays in America rolled in to one!

Any vacation would not be complete without a little excitement… On my last night visiting my family, I was sound asleep sharing the bed with my younger host sister. Besides her insistent need to practically punch me in the face while she flopped around sleeping, most nights are pretty uneventful. Well, this last night, I awoke around midnight with a sharp stinging in my shoulder. At first I thought, “Man, that was a painful mosquito/bed bug bite”. But, as the pain increased and I felt the toxin spread through my shoulder to the muscles, I knew it was a bit more serious.
After waking my sister and searching the bed with no success, I ended up calling one of our medical officers who confirmed my fear…it was a scorpion sting! Luckily, their poison is harmless and all I had to do was wash it with cold water and take some Ibuprofen. I woke my host parents and we made a new bed for me outside of the room I was sleeping in. I felt pretty confident that I was now safe and could sleep soundly once more….until 2 am when I got stung AGAIN on my foot! I kept whipping the blanket up and looking all around, but could not find the little sucker anywhere. I cautiously laid back down and tried to convince myself I was imagining things. Maybe scorpion poison had delusional properties? Within a few minutes though, I felt something running up my leg. I instantly smacked my hand down, snatched it up, and could feel it wriggling between my fingers. Without missing a beat, I flung it to the side and scrambled out of my bed. I woke my host parents once more and told them there were either more scorpions or this one was just following me. Just like in America, the dad got kicked out of bed and my host mom and I snuggled together for the rest of the night. Talk about some serious bonding and acculturation!

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High School Field Trip

This past week my high school grade 11 and 12 students went on a very fun field trip! Over a month ago I called in to the ECCC (Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia) which is the organization in charge of the Khmer Rouge Trials. Although the trials are currently on hold due to lack of funding, the organization continues to invite students and community members to the courtroom to learn about the trial process, as well as, visit the torture prison, Toul Sleng, and the Killing Fields. The ECCC sent enough busses to transport 300 people from my high school to Phnom Penh this past Tuesday to learn about Cambodia’s difficult history during the Khmer Rouge era.

Unfortunately, I was unable to ride in with the students because I came in a day early to meet up with my undergraduate university, Elon’s, Winterterm class that was traveling through Phnom Penh for only one day and night. I was able to reunite with a friend and fellow Sigma Kappa, Elizabeth Farris, and share some of my funny (and not so funny according to them) “horror” stories from Cambodia. Come on, rat chewing on your nose…kind of funny, right?

The next day, I had every intention of meeting all 300 of my students and a few teachers at the ECCC headquarters when I realized the courtroom was actually located very far outside of the city. Instead of making the hour long trek out on tuk-tuk, I waited for the group to head to Toul Sleng where I could meet them much easier.

Upon arriving at S21 (Toul Sleng) and welcoming my students, I quickly realized many of them were suffering terribly from carsickness! Almost half of the group either had an upset stomach or headache, or both. I was surprised because I thought not that many people suffer from this in America, but then I considered the fact that most Cambodians drive/ride motos and are not accustomed to cars or big busses for long hours. Because of this, some of the students chose to sit and relax at the prison instead of going through and reading about what took place there. I was a little bummed about this, but I reminded myself that these were the children and grandchildren of those who had survived the Khmer Rouge, and I’m sure they have heard stories and learned about it more than foreigners in school.

Students walking around Toul Sleng Prison

Students walking around Toul Sleng Prison

Our next and last stop was the Killing Fields which is also located outside of town. The students were all feeling the effects of the ibuprofen I gave them and were more willing to walk around and observe. Surprisingly, I didn’t see a single student shed a tear or look too distraught touring these places. This may be due to the fact that Cambodians express emotions much different from Westerners. I just hope that this experience taught them something they may not have known before, and gave them a sense of what their ancestors and fellow countrymen went through not so long ago.

Students forming a circle around one of the mass graves at the Killing Fields

Students forming a circle around one of the mass graves at the Killing Fields

You can read all about what the ECCC has been up to here: http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en

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