Thursday, February 17, 2011

Western Shores and Work

Once again, it has been awhile since I’ve updated this thing. I’ve been very busy with work, but staying in touch with people from back home is very important! Thank you to those who have written me some snail mail even if it takes about a month for it to get here. Also, a shout out to my UMW debate team, who are competing at districts this weekend. GO. FIGHT. WIN.

In December, I interned at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and worked on the Koh Pich Bridge “stampede” investigation.  I really enjoyed my time there and the practiced ideals that they exhibited, I believed, were different from other NGOs, which is refreshing when you’re in a dog eat dog world. That type of behavior should not exist in a humanitarian setting! I was also able to dabble into other projects, such as LGBT rights, which is so underdeveloped here in Cambodia, there is not any term for L, B, or T so everyone from all colors of the rainbow just falls under G. CCHR really encourages and allows you to be involved as much as you can.

For the past two months, I have been interning at the Victims Support Section of the ECCC. I work with the Outreach Team, where I help organize and attend public forums in the provinces of Cambodia and with the Reparations and Non-judicial Measures Team. My research paper goes in and hand with the work of the Reparations team, which is very beneficial, like hitting two birds with one stone. That’s pretty much all I can say about my work at the Court.

Lets go back to talking about traveling, which is what this blog was intended for! Back in November after Siem Reap, I visited all over Western Cambodia, to a still Khmer Rouge stronghold in Pailin to Poipet, where I have relatives that cross the border everyday for their clothing shop. We visited some ancient temples in Battambang. One was the result of a competition between Cambodian females and males at the time to see who could build the most magnificent temple. The boys gave up when they saw how intricate the carvings on the girls’ temple was so all that is left in Battambang is literally what looks like what a little boy would build with legos. So typical! Blocks versus small detailed designs. The Cambodian countryside is absolutely beautiful. The natural, charming scenery would put Wordsworth into a transcendent epiphany.

Part of the peeks of interning at CCHR in December was being able to attend the staff retreat in Koh Kong. KK is on the Western shores of Cambodia, above Sihanoukville. The retreat was for a couple of days and in my opinion ideal when you can work and have fun at the same time. We would have our meetings near the shore with coconut trees everywhere and sand under our feet. Perfect office atmosphere! We went to visit the Peam Krasop Mangrove Forest, where you can go on a mangrove walk in the eco-tourism sanctuary. It is a must-go place for naturalists! We walked through the mangrove forest (pictures are on Facebook) and then took a boat to a nearby isolated island. While dipping our feet into the cool water, we saw dolphins along the way.

After the retreat, I went to an island called Lazy beach with friends and relatives from New Year’s Eve. It was definitely a bizarre and unique experience to spend NYE on an island with about 40 people max and barely any electricity. We took the liberty to countdown whichever time we wanted around midnight and jumped into the sea. It lasted until 5 in the morning because I ended up watching the dazzlingly, beautifully lit sky, staring for falling stars, and observing stars that would not be seen anywhere I’ve been because of the lit city. Paradise? Yes. I did not even mind staying in the wooden bungalow, where bugs and all types of insects could come in and out (there was a mosquitoes net, of course).

In mid-January, I went on an outreach trip to a Southern province called Kampot, right about Kep on a map. More than the beautiful scenery (Bokor Mountain is located there along the riverside); I was more impacted by the elderly victims of the Khmer Rouge regime. It was quite disheartening to see more then three hundred people, who have been disastrously impacted by the regime still impoverished and in quite desolate situations. It is one of the reasons why I am splitting my time by working with the Reparations Team. Ironically in a culture where respecting the elderly is praised, there is not adequate social services for the elderly. They often get ignored and the NGOs here care for the kids because “children are our future.” Again, can’t really say much about my work, but if you want to find out more information on the VSS and what the outreach team does, click here and/or here.  

This morning, I went to visit an orphanage called Help for the Poor near Chmar Ampov, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. It was operated by this genuine Cambodian family (father and his three kids). The mother is a doctor (now in America) and felt sorry for the abandoned babies at her hospital so she took them home and before you knew it, there was a multitude of kids. They also take in kids from poor families. There were approximately 25 kids, ranging the ages of 6-17.  I went with a co-worker and we just planned an informal visit in which we bought fruits, snacks, and beverages for the kids. I plan to go there many more times and with actual financial contribution next time since their international donors are slowly disintegrating. By all means, please help contribute via me if you can.

I'll be visiting Kep (again) this afternoon. I will keep everyone updated. Until then, I miss you all.