Sunday, November 20, 2011

Winding down in Siem Reap

As you may have noticed (if you pay any attention to this blog), I have not posted lately.

There are two reasons for that:  I have been insanely busy trying to make some progress with the Savong Foundation and when I have some downtime, I prefer to sleep but also, I wrote a couple of posts on my phone which were promptly lost due to an app error.  Thank you Blogpress! 

One of my posts was about Cambodian Karaoke and I'll have to go back and re-write it since the experience was so unique.  But not tonight.  Maybe when I get back home which will be in about four days.

Of course the time here has gone by very quickly and quite frankly, it has been a roller coaster.  There are days when I think everything is going well and there are definitely days when I think everything is crashing around me.  Tonight I'm in a good mood because everything went well today.  We started the day early and bought a couple of more things for the student center but most of the day was spent interviewing the eight students (out of ten) who will call the center their home.

One by one, we talked to the students about their families, their experiences at the orphan center (where they previously lived), their school lives and their dreams for the future.  All of them want to go to university (three of them are there already) and they have big plans.  The opportunities that they have been given are so enormously appreciated.  If it weren't for the work of Savong (and his very extended network of donors), most of these kids would be leading very dead-end lives in very menial jobs.  I  am thrilled and excited to be a part of their journey.

But OH MY GOD, it has been challenging.  The Cambodian culture is very different from the one in which I grew up and it takes a complete mind bend to understand how they do some of the things they do.  This trip was all about getting information and really looking at things from a different perspective because to help a culture, you really need to understand it.  For example, in Western Society there would be no way that teenage boys would sleep together in one bed and so a dormitory in the United States would provide a bed for each teenager.  Over here, it's okay (and preferable?) for a couple of boys to sleep together so there is no need to buy extra beds because they will be wasted.   And getting the right answer over here depends on how you ask the question.  You WON'T get the information you need unless you phrase the question very carefully and even then, don't expect to find out everything.

But Cambodia is not the US and we can't expect them to do things OUR way.  Americans are in love with efficiency and organization and structure but Cambodia --well, they're not but that's okay.  We just have to bend with the wind if we want to continue working over here because banging our head against the wall is very bloody and really not at all productive.

So tonight, I'm sitting here listening to the sound of the tuk-tuks and the general hum of a very busy street outside my guesthouse.  Eddie and I don't have a lot of plans for tonight.  We may go to Picasso's which is a very American (or possibly British) style tapas bar down in the busy area of town known as Pub street.  For lunch, we had macerated chicken "porridge" from a street vendor (which may haunt me tomorrow when I see what comes out of my ass) so I don't feel too bad about having a little slice of home this evening. 

Cambodia--what a strange, wonderful, frustrating, sad and happy place.

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