Guess what? I think there will only be one more of my harassment update emails! There is a lot going on in my life here the next two weeks. I am going to start packing up quite soon and begin living out of a backpack one of the next few days here. I think I will have something like three going away parties over the following weeks. Bad news though, I just lost my camera. I was just thinking about how proud I was of myself for keeping track of it for this long, and then I go and leave it on the bus. Anyway, it was fun while it lasted, oh camera of mine.
So the past few weeks have been busy. I have been trying to fulfill promises that I have made to people. I took a student to Phnom Penh with me for a few days. He had never been. I wish I could have gotten better answers from him, but after living on a farm in the countryside of Cambodia for 18 years, I think he was quite tripped out to see this big city he had always heard people talking about. I took photos but.. no more camera. After that, I went and visited my buddy Philip in Battambang. I had been promising him that I would come check out his village before leaving, so I made the trek up there. We spent one night in his village and one night in the provincial town. I really enjoyed doing that and seeing his students and his house. After that we went to Angkor Wat, for the what is likely to be my last time. Angkor Wat is the giant temple complex that Cambodia is famous for, if you didn’t know. Its cool and always a little overwhelming, but I was happy to go again, especially since this time it was for free. Philip had never been before so it was cool to go with him there as well. We ate Mexican food two nights in a row. Yum. Just got back from that trip, one that I am calling the “Lake Lap” since I basically circled the country and the lake that is in the middle of it. Good Times.
It is getting tougher and tougher to prepare myself for the changes that lie ahead of me. I am positive I will be able to handle it all, but it doesn’t mean concerns don’t cross my mind. I know I am coming back to a great group of family and friends and that knowledge is always what puts me at ease. Another volunteer out here with me probably but it best when she said to me that she is more scared of going home than she was of coming out here. Scared probably isnt the best word, but there is definitely some apprehension. Things are going to be different! Yet I am still looking forward to it all so much! I get back on July 13th at 2:20pm people. See most of you shortly after that!
Been a busy past couple of weeks. Was a facilitator at an English teacher training conference, followed up that with a field trip to a national park here with my Eco-Club (pictures are up). After that we had the last official meeting for all of the volunteers I came over here with. I will likely see most of them again before leaving, but we tried to celebrate like it was our last bang anyway. I also gave my basketball girls a copy of all of the photos I took of them as they have, for the most part, no access to facebook to view them.
Aside from all of that I am not really doing much. The 12th grade students at my school have an important national exam they have to take soon, and part of it they are required to write an essay. Well I set up a class to help them prepare to write an essay, and quickly it turned into a paragraph writing class. Thats ok though, the kids are fun and I handpicked them because they are the best English students.
The big news of this, for once, short update is I finally know when I will be coming home. Yes, an exact date. Peace Corps is booking my ticket and unless something drastic happens, I will be home sometime on the 13th of July. So after my birthday but guess what? We can still celebrate. If anyone has an requests for items they would like me to bring them back, now is the time to ask. If not, I will most likely try to limit the amount of stuff I bring back! but feel free to ask me. No elephants or tigers though. Love you all! Cant wait to see you!
I just got back from my vacation to Bali yesterday. It was a lot of fun but in a lot of ways I am glad to be back also. Going on vacation felt weird with how little time left I have in Cambodia, almost like leaving right before you have a huge deadline coming up for a project at work. Fun to leave but just didn’t feel completely right. Anyway, got that out of the way. I wound up traveling around the island a good bit, going to four different places. I think the best way to talk about each is one at a time and in chronological order of when i went to them, and also here is a link to my album from the trip:
drove up here after getting flying in. supposedly this is the cultural center of the island but it felt more like seller central. which would be ok if the products were consistently more original. For the most part they were not so that was kind of a let down. Spent two nights here and unfortunately after the second night the friend I had traveled there with got hit by a motorbike as we were crossing the street. The girl on the bike was going way too fast thru the intersection and i only narrowly avoided being hit myself. That really derailed our plans for the day as we were going to get massages and enjoy starbucks (none in cambodia!) and instead had to go to one clinic and one hospital. Turns out she is OK but I was quite worried there might be real damage because she got hit quite hard.
this is where the action happens for the most part in bali. lots of people coming and going, mostly down two narrow streets that are close to the beach. lined with shops and guest houses and bars, theres a lot to do here but also nothing to do. I spent my days using kuta as a hub for my other explorations but also would go surf at the beach and then following that would watch the sun go down sipping on a beer. I also spent too much money buying things here as I wanted some stuff and knew that there was really no chance that I would be coming back ever, so I stocked up. also, there is so many australians that come up to this area to party their heads off that it makes the place crazier. not really what i was looking to get into this vacation but it was definitely available here. it was nice to surf here as the airport is a little ways down and you can watch planes take off and land while waiting for the next set of waves.
this is a smaller island between bali and lombok. went here to get away a little bit from the craziness of kuta and wound up having a good time. they dont have any motorcycles or cars on the island so to get around you either ride a bike or hop on a horse drawn carriage. i fooled around on a bike for one day and rode around the entire island which allowed me to find a good spot to swim out and snorkel. easy to do because i just noticed where the boats for the tours had stopped and swam out in that general direction. it was really nice and pristine to be on this island, even though it still felt a little more overwhelmed with people than an island of that size should be.
this was probably my favorite place on the trip. i went up here on the recommendation of a friend as a good place to surf but got there and decided it was too big and too difficult to rent a board. however, i got there early enough and felt like going for a run so i did (motivated by the fact that the day before i read about kevin garnett running the beaches of malibu). the place really reminded me of del mar in san diego beachwise and it was really nice to finally be in a place that wasnt so overcrowded. the hotel/house i stayed at was very nice and the lady who ran it was extremely helpful as later on i wound up needing to rent a motorbike to see a temple in the ocean and she arranged it all for me and didnt overcharge me or anything of the sort. i wish i had more time to hang out in this area. the temple was pretty awesome and crazy to see, enough so that i wound up getting blessed by the monks who were there as well. amazingly enough i also didnt get lost going to or coming from the temple as the roads were not easily to distinguish from one another.
Overall I had a really good trip. My last day I ran into some significant bad luck and wound up breaking two surfboards and therefore having to pay for them to be repaired. I had already spent a lot more then I had planned so that really put a damper on my time in Bali. However, other than that, I really like the people of Indonesia as they are much more laid back and relaxed than Cambodians on an individual level (an obvious generalization) and it was nice to be in a culture with a little bit more of that floating around. I hope everyone is doing fantastic and I am looking forward to seeing you all soon.
I am finally getting a well deserved break, or more like a slow down, from all of the hectic running around I have been doing the past two months or so. The past week was especially crazy as I mostly voluntarily upped the “realness” of my experience and service here by going full Khmer during my experience at the national sports tournament held in a province north of my own.
To travel up north to that province, I had to meet up with my girl’s basketball team and head to our own provincial main town, which is about 20 minutes away. They came to my house at around 4:45am and we arrived in our provincial at around 5:30am or so. From there, we proceeded to mill around for about an hour before deciding to walk and get breakfast, but by the time we sat down for breakfast it was time to leave for Kampong Thom, where we were headed. Without eating. By around 7:15am, we still really hadn’t left our town but had made our way to the outskirts of it and were proceeding to pick up the athletes who were going who lived along that road on the way north.
We made it thru the capital Phnom Penh and up to our designated lunch spot, Skun, at around 11am, in a van filled with over 20 people. I was sharing a bench seat with four others and myself. We would later arrive at the school we would be staying at at around 2pm. That would make it about 9 hours since I left my house but in all regards the actual time spent traveling was close to 6 hours with 3 hours of waiting around for people.
Once at the school, my team was then assigned a classroom that they would be sleeping in for the duration of the tournament. I stood in there helping to arrange a sleeping area for them and apparently the administrators from my province and also from my school assumed incorrectly that I wouldn’t also be staying there with them as I was left without a spot to sleep. This was corrected by allowing me to sleep outside of the classroom on a straw mat under a mosquito net with three other male students from my school who accompanied the team on the trip, in an area approximately 2 meters wide. Also throughout the week or so I would be there, I would be bucket showering outside with other students who were there. I was prepared for this and brought two “kromas”, the male bathing dress/towel. However, after pulling them out within minutes my deputy school director claimed one of the two “kromas” unbeknownst to me and I didn’t see it at all after that unless he was wearing it.
We arrived on a Friday but wouldn’t be playing our first game until Sunday. We wound up playing a team that was a good warm up as they weren’t that experience or skilled and made for only a small challenge for my girls but not big enough that their confidence would be compromised in anyway. We wound up winning that game 30-9.
Our next game would be Monday but the challenge would sadly be too much for my girls to overcome. We got stuck playing the home team, Kampong Thom, and they were just too overwhelming for the girls. They had three different girls who could effectively handle the ball and slash to the basket and then also the biggest difference maker, a giant girl who we just couldn’t guard. I wound up being ejected from the game for arguing with the referees as I was trying to protect my girls but I was massively frustrated with some of the things the referees were calling as I obviously disagreed. It didn’t help that I was mouthing off in Khmer either and the referee came over to ask me if I was the coach and I said I was. He then responded by saying that I was not and asked my girls if I was, and they confirmed it. Well, my name wasn’t on the official roster we submitted so I was not the coach, and if I truly was as I was claiming he needed me to leave. It was then finally that my “co-coach” came over to talk it out and it basically ended with them telling me to stop talking. I did later apologize to the ref and told him that I was upset and just wanted to give my girls the best chance possible to win. We wound up losing that game 42-12. It wasn’t pretty and my girls lost a lot of their confidence after that.
Luckily, our next game was much more winnable and was a good one to have so we could rebound from the previous one, for me as well as I could focus more on my girls and less on the refs. However this was difficult because I was also recovering from a hangout generated from the night before. My co-coach and I had gotten ourselves invited to the house of a BBQ meats seller lady who we would frequent at the school. We headed over there to enjoy some palm wine and baked fish. Both not favorites of mine and I am quite sure I wound up getting either an amoeba or giardia from the palm wine. Anyway, we wound up winning our third game 28-18. I was worried initially as my girls got down a few points to begin with but they came back right away and took control of the game. This game wound up being the deciding one to move on to the elimination round of the tournament as our fourth and last game in pool play was a forfeit win because the other team didn’t even bother to show up, something that happened for reasons unknown to me.
We moved on to the bracket or single elimination round of the tournament but got probably the worst draw of all to begin with. In my estimation, the team we lost to previously in pool play was the best team in the tournament, and who would we have to play first in the bracket but the second best team, the team from Phnom Penh. The day before I watched them beat a team 96-24. It just wasn’t going to be a good year for my girls. We played hard all game and even with a ton of other issues going on (a starter didn’t show, my team captain didn’t come for warm-ups and couldn’t start cause she was sick, the rest of the girls responding to that by also not warming up, also the night before three girls took off to stay with an aunt and I wasn’t able to communicate our game plan to them, etc…). We lost 44-19 and I was proud of the girls for not quitting, some of the girls who I didn’t normally give playing time played well when they did.
The reality is that they are all 9th graders, very young and if they want they will have three more years or playing ahead of them if they so choose. However, that last game was really sad for me as it was the last game I would be able to coach them and I had a hard time not getting a little emotional in public about it. It didn’t really affect them as much, my guess is because they had resolved that they would lose the game before it started.
My days during this week generally consisted of waking up at a time between 4:30am and 5am unless I managed to trick them into letting me sleep longer, hanging out for about an hour or two before a massive group breakfast at 6:30am. This was usually white rice porridge or rice porridge with stuff as they are called. From there, it was either go coach a game or go watch the games until lunch around 10:30am. After lunch it was time to go find a breezy place to set up hammocks for a midday nap that lasted till around 2pm. I would also use this time to get some quality reading time in but I was usually wiped from waking up so early so it was a good time to sleep as well. At around 3pm, it was time for more game watching usually volleyball, basketball and rarely soccer. This lasted until about 5:30pm when it would then be dinner time. These meals were very basic and usually had rice, vegetable soup, and some kind of baked fish although not always. With the change in diet for that week and the arrival of a stomach bug I am sure I lost another 5lbs or more. Weight I really cannot afford to lose anymore these days. After dinner the girls would gather with the others from our province and play some type of campfire games with each other. I was really happy to see them playing a versions of “steal the bacon” and “duck duck goose”. It cracked me up to witness all of this.
I feel really lucky to have coached these girls as they have always been quite inspiring to me. It has been so fun to watch them mature and develop and see their knowledge of basketball grow, but especially to watch them be kids. My biggest hope is that they continue playing even though I won’t be around to coach them. I know they are capable of getting so much more out of it if they do and they are all keen enough to do so. I did my best to make sure it was enjoyable for them so that they see it as something fun for them to do in the future and ideally will learn that it’s more fun to win.
So that’s that. Just adding to the things I have wrapped up now. I hope everyone is well and just a heads up I am now able to leave here (but not necessarily when I will be coming home) in less than 100 days. Love you all and absolutely cannot wait to be back! I am pumped. Take care fam and friends.
Oh yeah, I’m famous:
I am trying to get back on track to writing this once every few weeks, so bear with me a little. I have had two very busy weeks and my craziness hasn’t quite settled down yet. It is however nice to be so busy at times, even if I don’t get the rest I ever feel like I need. Even with the tiredness I can’t seem to get over, I just keep pushing along anyway because I have so much to do.
So as some of you may know, my girl’s basketball team won the province for the second year in a row earlier this month. I am quite proud of them and they played very well. Our first game was against Kirivong District, and we won 18-0. The second game we played was against Bati District, and we won again 20-5. The championship game was played on the opposing team’s campus, Daun Keo District, and my girls wound up winning even though they faced a hostile crowd of around 500 students. These students were not in stands or anything, but lined the court, making it tough to even inbounds the ball. The final score of that game was 11-6. Following that game, a small skirmish broke out when a boy in the crowd threw a water bottle at one of my girls. Of all the girls to throw at, it was the wrong one as this one has quite the attitude at times and she responded by kicking a water bottle in the direction of the team we had just beaten. Flying bottles ensued and I chased my girls off the court so no further interactions could happen. The next day as the teams had to deal with each other once again in close proximity as the awards ceremony was taking place. I could only laugh about that. Here is a link to the photo album from that week.
The following week, or last week, I had to do my best to get my Youth Arts and Resource Center operational for the Grand Opening Celebration and a visit from U.S. Ambassador. There was a lot of work to be done including putting up all the posters, repainting a few spots, moving furniture, communicating about the ceremony and so on. It was quite the hectic week also because in addition to the celebration, I was planned an after party at my co-worker Siphen’s house that including making a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, carnitas, tortillas, margaritas, sangria, deep fried shrimp, salsa, Mexican rice, black beans, and meatball soup. Thankfully most of the volunteers who lived nearby came up to help cook and to join the celebration so that lightened my load quite a bit. The celebration went well. I am slightly embarrassed because it wasn’t quite Ambassador worthy, but I gave a speech in Khmer and the Ambassador was quite happy to be around my students and the other volunteers. I have assembled a photo album for the YARC project and just posted it, here is the link. You can see where I started with the whole thing and what it became after the hard work of the school and myself. I will also be posting a video of the speech I gave sometime soon, so be on the lookout for that.
Ahead on my busy schedule is to run a second International Women’s Day event in the provincial town. All of the Takeo province volunteers are bringing girls in to enjoy some activities but also to have discussions and to, hopefully, make them more aware of some issues they might possibly face or encounter as women of Cambodia. It is slightly ironic that there are seven volunteers in our province, and six of them happen to be males. Yet, we know we are capable of empowering our female students and that is our goal of the event.
As per usual, I hope everyone is doing well and continuing to lead active and healthy lives. I am quite excited to be going to Bali in late April as I desperately need a break. However, I also know I only have four more months left to work and as it is hard for me to believe, my schedule is filling up quite quickly with things I need or want to do before that time comes. Love you all and miss you all! Take care!
It has been quite awhile since my last update and I apologize for that. I have been busy but not that busy, most of it has been because I am doing my best to take advantage of the opportunities to develop friendships with people I work and live with here in the time that I have left. Aside from that, yeah, I have been keeping busy.
February has been a crazy month for me. I am still working to complete my school project, and even that now has a deadline. The office staff from Peace Corps Washington came to visit me in my village (the regional office, so the people in charge of the program in my part of the world) and the Cambodia Country Director also came to visit that day. It was good and they were happy with the work I have been doing, which was nice to hear. Also my Country Director, Jon, suggested that he could invite the U.S. Ambassador to come down for the Grand Opening of my school project, and so far it looks like that is going to happen. The celebration is being held March 12th and its nice to have a deadline to complete all the work. On that same day, a relative of my family got married so I finally fully attended a wedding here, not just dropped by. I had fun and a lot of wildness occurred towards the end as we all tried to consume the remainder of the beer they had bought. However it was a good time.
Aside from the big school project, its also crunch time for my girls basketball team. I took them down the neighboring province, Kampot, for a scrimmage, and I promised them that if they won we would visit the beach afterwards. Well, they won 20-8 (an improvement over last years game, when they lost 2-1) and therefore we all went to the beach to celebrate. I took pictures of the event and it was a blast. They kept trying to drag the smallest girl, who I have given the nickname Tiny, further out into the ocean because she couldnt swim. Needless to say I wound up with her on my back shortly after that. Here are the pictures from that trip. Take a look.
Aside from that, I am just working hard to continue working. I am dreaming about surfing in Bali in less than two months, and cannot wait to be there. Also, that will mean I am that much closer to coming home and being with and seeing the people I miss and love! Hope everyone is well as usual!
Lets get right into the good news! After close to two months of waiting the money for my school project has finally been transferred to my bank here AND I was able to withdraw it. I can finally pay the laborers and pay for the doors and windows. Not sure how that would have gone over in the States if I wasnt able to pay for almost three weeks worth of work ahead of time, but it still happened. I am very happy with the progress they have made and the building looks amazing. Once it is done I will post all of the pictures I have been amassing since work begun. Speaking of pictures, I have uploaded some newbies to my lastest Cambodia album. Also in that album there are probably others you might have missed out on from a different upload of mine. Enjoy!
I recently just sat down and wrote down what my February is going to look like, and I am going to be quite busy running around for most of the month. I am going to be taking my basketball girls down to the province south of me for a scrimmage and then a surprise trip to the beach. I am going to be visiting in my village by my Peace Corps Country director as well as a small contigent of people from our office in D.C. near the beginning of the month. Also, I will be working on multiple projects that are going to require me to meet up with other volunteers for coordination purposes. Aside from that, I will also be watching the Superbowl somewhere here as well as celebrating Chinese New Year the first week of the month. Busy bee!
I recently booked a flight to visit Bali in late April. I am going with my friend JaNise however I will be staying on my own a few days longer than she will be there. Can’t wait to mess around on a surfboard for the first time in 21 months! Never thought I would miss it so much but I do, its really hard to replace the sensation from having an awesome time paddling out. I recently went to the capital to get some dental work done and decided I needed to go play basketball at the local courts in town. Wound up playing against a team with two guys who play for the Cambodian national team. They were good, but I hung with them quite well, especially after only having played truely competitive basketball once in the previous ten months and being out of shape. Even won two of the four games I played against them. Following the games I overheard them calling me a “foreign horse”, I was amused.
Everything else is going good. I am still working hard to get the things done I want to before leaving. Everyone at my school now has deferred to calling me “Coach” now because my team does. Thats all good and fun but they dont pronounce quite right and it often comes out closer to “coit”, which in Khmer means “broken” and is a highly derrogatory word. So thats a fun thing to police just for a nickname and to make sure they all know what theyre saying.
When I was sick a few weeks back, I lost a good amount of weight because I had no appetite. Also, I managed to go through a lot of my stored up DVD/TV series collection. I thought you all might find it interesting to know what I have managed to watch since being here, so heres a quick rundown:
- The Sopranos
- The Wire
- Arrested Development (seasons 1-2)
- 30 Rock
- Generation Kill
- Curb Your Enthusiasm
- South Park (1-12)
- NCIS (1-6)
- Law and Order SVU (1-2)
- Flight of the Conchords (1)
- Band of Brothers
- Dexter (2-4)
I think there are a couple more I am forgetting, but I have Lost, Chappelle Show, Planet Earth, and Entourage to get through in the future. As usual I hope everyone is alive and well as I still am. They officially moved my day of departure up to July 12th, so I can leave after that but not before it. However I still plan on traveling some more once I finally finish working, just to get it all out of my system. Take care people!