A day in the life of Golie in Phnom Penh.
01.02.2010 - 01.10.2010
Greetings to all!
Thanks for all the reactions to my second blog. I am glad that you think it is informative and that you enjoy the descriptions of life in Cambodia. I posted some pictures today, and viewed them myself. It is only a selection and does not represent all I see, both the beautiful and the not so pretty parts. If you put the cursor on pictures that seem incomplete, they will enlarge and be complete. I do not know how to fix that yet, but at least I managed to post pictures! Bit by bit I learn, now with the help of a Cambodian men in the internet store. He asks me a lot of questions as well: he wants to start a travel agency, and wants to know about how he can set up tours: would I like breakfast, lunch or dinner? Where would I want to go. I have to tell him: "It depends"...... Then he goes and comes back with another set of questions. Friendly man, just like almost everybody here.
My week here has been busy with trips to the University, including Saturday for a half day faculty meeting. The faculty reviewed their progress in the last half year, and discussed logistics in the office and communications! The former was quite impressive and informative for me, the latter sounded very familiar!! I presented on what my role could be (coaching/mentoring, technical assistance in course preparation, curriculum development, class room issues, responding to students' questions, work with committees, etc. whatever they would like to use me for. In the afternoon, a faculty member did a presentation for some faculty and students before she presents to a large audience of doctors and NGO workers in a trauma conference about the psychological consequences of childhood abuse (trauma) in children. I helped her with it some, and will help some more on Monday. I also did my first coaching session with one faculty member, and followed the Appreciative Coaching guidelines. Thanks to Theresa ( a real coach!) I got some good preparation and advice. More faculty members are interested and I hope that my support will be helpful. The program is new, the faculty is new, students are in their second year of their bachelor's program in social work, thus their is a lot of developmental work to do. Very exciting and the faculty team is working hard and conscientious in their coursework, committee work and teamwork. I am so glad that I have the opportunity to be part of this work for a while.
The trip to the University is about 30 minutes in a tuktuk, all through town on the road to the airport. A tuktuk is a means of transportation, a 4 person carriage, with a roof and even curtains for sun protection, drawn by a motorbike. (I will post a picture soon)! The driver will also come and pick me up, because some in that area would not know where I live. I will certainly buy a bike and try to be more independent! Back and forth with the tuktuk is $10.00! Some days I get a ride from a faculty member, which helps.
Thursday, January 7, was a national holiday to commemorate the Vietnamese take over of Phnom Penh and the defeat of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. It is controversial for some political groups and people, they do not call it liberation but invasion. The civil war raged on for 10 more years, and some like to celebrate Oct (24?), the date the Paris Peace accord was signed. I went to a movie evening, where three films were shown. One was filmed by a Yugoslav film team in 1978, with an interview of Pol Pot, ( a very kind and friendly looking man!!) and lot of footing of the forced labor camps with people, men, women and children working, young Khmer Rouge soldiers (15 year olds!) and deserted Phnom Penh. Probably 3 minutes of footing of a car ride with the film crew through complete empty streets, viewing empty houses, the only 'life' was that of flowers on trees and two doves flying away.
Only the Khmer administration lived in Phnom Penh and could be seen driving three cars to the airport. Very eery site, and the starkest contrast with what the city now looks like. The second film was about the daughter of a murdered rector of the University, who was a witness in the Extraordinary Chambers of the Court of Cambodia (ECCC), this is how the Tribunal is called here. She wants justice! The last film was an East German movie about the time after the Vietnamese entered the country. I saw only half of it. I had enough! What was reinforced in my thinking was the role the US played before the Khmer Rouge came to power, the CIA supported the Lon Nol coup and the bombings during the Vietnam war were truly outrageous, with daily reminders and consequences even now! U.S Senators were here and discussed debts, made during Lon Nol's reign!! and hope to propose in the US to cancel those debts in the benefit of development aid! Sounds only reasonable to me, and I was surprised that those debts were still on the book!
This week I have explored many eating places, a Khmer place "Boat noodle" where I ate Khmer food: green mango salad and amok fish over rice. Both are somewhat spicy, but just good for me. Friday, I ate with my neighbor Sara below and one of her friends John, who both work as volunteers in peace and conflict resolution groups. Very interesting work. I was very frustrated, and was glad to go out, because I wanted to book a trip to Kuala Lumpur and after hours of online search for the cheapest ticket, and trying to book, Asia Air would not take my phone number. I tried everything, deleting zero's, putting in my American number etc.etc. I did not work. Prices change everyday. I have to get out of the country to get a business visa when I get back, so that it can be extended for 3 months. I was told to get a tourist visa, when I arrived in December, but that does not get extended! Too bad. Luckily I had an invitation to visit from my Malay friend I met in Siem Reap, and she was excited that I am coming so soon! Other places I ate were more western, but good and also relatively cheap! I am finding my way around! I now also have evacuation insurance. Will be flown to Bangkok or Singapore for a medical emergency. Flights cost $25.000 for that purpose, so $420.00 is well spent in case I need it!!
This morning (Sunday) I woke up at 5.30 to go for a walk. Tracy and Suzanne (a faculty member from the UW in the school of Nursing, who is here to teach research) picked me up in front of my house. Still pitch dark. I walk on a "strip", also called a park, with sidewalks around a rectangular grass field, surrounded by roads, right by the Indepence Monument. It takes me about half an hour to walk 5 times around. It is already very busy at that time with walkers and runners, groups of people doing Tai Chi with a boom box and great kind of Chinese music, somewhat later other people join who play hackysack, or badminton, or just do stretching exercises. Many people just sit and watch, little kids ride their bikes and this scene goes on for a couple of hours. At six o'clock it is light and about half an hour later the sun rises. I walked to the river and saw that last bit of a rising sun before it disappeared behind a cloud. Reflections in the water, beautiful site! I passed many street people, many sleep in a kind of parking lot, also a strip between roads with temples on one side, and the river walk on the other. I gave $1 to a mother with 4 children, barely and poorly dressed, one was a tiny baby. Men who were just waking up wanted money too, but I had only 1 dollar and one much bigger ($20) bill . Made me feel bad, I should always have more 1 dollar bills.
Had my first omelet for breakfast and good coffee in the FCC, (Foreign Correspondence Club) where foreigners hang out on the third floor, balcony seats and club furniture. I had a view over the river and watched all the hustle and bustle of people walking, exercising and making a living of selling all kinds of food and trinkets. I was the first customer at 7.00 and was reminded of my early Sunday morning walks in Amsterdam, when I would stop in for coffee somewhere, also often the first customer.
I took a different (new) road back home, found a bakery to buy some whole wheat bread and was back at 8.00. Talked to Fred on the phone. Everything seems to fine at the home front! Cannot wait for Fred, Anneke and Vincent to see the world I live in.
I did my laundry, with cold water, on the bathroom floor in a plastic tub and bucket, squatting on the floor, like all the women do, who wash their clothes in rivers, on the street, or in their homes all over the world. How thankful we can be for washing machines in the western world!! I hang it out on a rack and hangers, like you see everywhere on the streets and balconies, with nifty hangers with clothes pegs already attached for socks and underwear. My landlord will wash my sheets and towels tomorrow, also on the floor of my bathroom with the same equipment! I thought he had a washing machine when I heard that he would do that! Anyway I am grateful for his help!
Now I have been in the internet store for about 2 hours, figuring out how to post pictures, answering email and writing this blog.
I will have some lunch: a mango, banana and a mandarin orange with yoghurt and granola, Later this afternoon I will go to the Lucky store, need more supplies and food for in my house. I have no plans for the rest of the day, and will cook tonight for myself, read and get ready for another early day. It is quite a walk to the store, and I will take a tuktuk, just to please the guys who want to give me rides on my block. I often disappoint them, because I just walk.
I am happy with my life here. A quiet Sunday is good to get back to myself. Being alone makes one more aware of many things, and it seems that life is more precious and has to be decided on, from moment to moment!! I am planning to check out meditation sessions in the Wat Lanka, close to me, and also get a Khmer tutor, so I at least can say some phrases! Even yoga is very close and I might check that out as well1
Be well, all my good friends,
(Ps. Writing an email rather than respond on the blog, makes it easier to respond for me. Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org!)