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Its almost that time…

May 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Hey All,

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!

– RY

Categories: Uncategorized

Bali Blast

May 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Family and Friends,

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:

Ubud

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.

Kuta

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.

Gili Trawangan

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.

Canggu/Berawa

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.

– RY

Categories: Uncategorized

March Sadness

April 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Hey All,

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:

http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.media.press.view&news_id=1756

– Ryan

Categories: Uncategorized

2011 Here I am!

January 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Hey Everyone,

It feels good to be in year 2011 knowing that this is the year that I get to come home! That sounds crazy because I still have plenty of time here, but the holiday season was really tough to get through as I have said before, but I did get through it so now I am focusing on enjoying the time that I have left here and doing the work I want to or need to before I leave. It seems like my responsibilities or duties increase every day, I guess that’s what being an adult is and it’s overrated.

Construction has just started with Youth Art and Resource Center. However, I have been sick since January 2nd and have been in bed ever since. I have not been able to watch the work at all. I think I must have come down with either Giardia or some other sort of stomach virus. My doctor finally prescribed me medication and I believe that it should help, but I do feel better than I have been. It has taken me quite some time to get “Cambodia Sick”, or a sickness that is something more than a cold, so it was probably time anyway. All this time spent wasting away in bed really sliced through my DVD collection. I still have a good amount squirreled away, but I went through a lot of good stuff. Anyway, this has also been somewhat complicated by the fact that the Peace Corps D.C. office has yet to transfer the money that we raised into an account here, but I had them start working because otherwise it might have forced me to find other laborers who could have cost more. The money will come soon, I hope, so it was just better to start than to keep waiting.

For New Years I went into Phnom Penh to celebrate with other volunteers. The night before New Years Eve I went to the embassy for a small party and wound up meeting Congresswoman Laura Richardson, who represents a district in Long Beach. Long Beach actually has the second largest population of Cambodians in the world, second to the capital Phnom Penh. She was nice and we wound up talking basketball. I showed her pictures of my girls basketball team here and she told me how she wanted to organize a women’s game with the president. She also bought me a shot of Grey Goose. After that my Peace Corps friend who joined me at the Embassy all went out to hang with the embassy marines. That was interesting because their lives are clearly very different from ours. It was also nice to ride around town in an SUV with a driver, all provided by the embassy, an upgrade from the normal tuk-tuk’s I ride in (or I walk).

On the actual New Years Eve, I didn’t do much special, but it was just nice to be out and celebrating. New Years is one of those holidays that rarely lives up to expectations because they are sky high so it was nice to just have more relaxed idea of what the night could be. We wound up at the big casino in the capital at the dance club they have there and watched fireworks, which all seemed quite unsafe because they were going off right over our heads. It was one of those things that felt like it could go wrong quickly, but it didn’t so moving on. The night ended around 3am by grabbing late night hot dogs, which sounds weird but they are delicious. I came home on New Years day to celebrate the opening of Siphen’s new home. The house is absolutely beautiful.

Hopefully everyone’s holiday seasons were good and you were all with the people you wanted to be with. I am still a little sad that I missed my niece’s first set of holidays but I am planning on making it up to her after this. Take care people, feel free to email me to let me know how are you doing too!

– Ryan

Categories: Uncategorized

Holiday Edition

January 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Hey All,

First off wanted to wish everyone Happy Holidays, especially my niece Callie who is celebrating her first Christmas with her parents, Danny and Les. Hope its a good one for her and everyone else!

I have been very busy these last few weeks, and actually really homesick for the first time in a while since being here. I think with being as busy as I have been thinking about the holidays has been a nice diversion, but then I remember I am spending my second one away from home and that makes it kind of have a sour taste. So I am just continuing to chug along because after this, I get to spend my next sets of holidays at home. Wound up celebrating my Christmas with my fellow K3 volunteers in Phnom Penh. We went out for a nicer than normal dinner and then went out and spent some time and money at a dance club. Had a good time, but not necessarily the traditional holiday celebration, more of just my normal experience in the capital. Still enjoyed myself.

Back in the village, I have been working to get my Youth Art and Resource Center project off the ground. Peace Corps hasn’t transferred the funds so I am just doing the rest of the preparation that I can before that. I am also looking to write another proposal so that I can have USAID give funds to purchase some of the materials for the building. In addition to both of those, I have purchased basketball jerseys for my girls basketball team and coach them pretty much everyday. I haven’t seen them out of those jerseys for practice since giving them up. They also asked me for nicknames so I have them all those well. Here is an album of them, kind of a team picture day if you will. I have also been working at university on my free weekends in the provincial town of Takeo. At my school I am also working to promote literacy, so I have a library program going to have each English class visit the library once a month to have them work with reading the English books we do have. I have also worked on labeling the books according to skill level so the students have an easier time finding books suitable to their level. Always something.

I finally got around to posting the video I took of when I got to “meet” Hillary Clinton. Here is the link to that. I want to thank everyone again for helping out, donating, and spreading the word about my project. I couldn’t have imagined it going smoother or working out better than it did, and everyone I know can pat themselves on the back for putting in the effort.

I am missing everyone. Cant wait for it to be 2011 because thats the year I come home. With that said, I hope everyone has a great holiday and its memorable for each and all of you. Take Care Friends and Family.

– Ryan

Categories: Uncategorized

We Did It!

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Hey Everyone!

So by the title, you might have surmised as to what I could be talking about but I will let this email I received tell the rest of the story:

Hi Ryan,

I am happy to say that your project has indeed been fully funded. We are currently processing the funds and they will be sent out to you in the next few days. Keep in touch with Carol Allbaugh about the receipt of these funds.

Good luck with the project and have a great day!

John

____________________________________________________________________________________

John Hrivnak

Program Specialist IAP/EMA, Office of Private Sector Initiatives

Peace Corps

As you can tell, we did it! We raised all of the money necessary for the project! I am astonished and happily surprised that we were able to do this all so quickly and I am sure my school is even more grateful to everyone who did contribute in one way or another. All I can really say is “wow” and thank you everyone.

Ok so from here where do we go? I think there are still people who would have liked to donate but no longer can to my project specifically. To that question I have a few different options. First off, the Peace Corps Cambodia program donated around $500 initially to the project, money that came from the Cambodia Country Fund. So if you or someone you know is still interested in donating, that is one path that is close to donating and still receiving the tax deduction. Funds donated to the Country fund would be applied towards future Peace Corps projects in Cambodia, so it’s still for a good cause and in a lot of ways, still supporting my project here.

The second option for people still interested in donating is to support the other Peace Corps Cambodia project currently in need of funds. I am quite close with the couple who are trying to raise funds for a University Preparation Program. Their names are Nate and Jen, and the past two Thanksgiving Days the couple has welcomed all of the volunteers in the southern portion of the country into their home to celebrate. They are also good people and been quite fun to have with my group of volunteers. Again, donations would be tax deductible.

The third option for people looking to donate is to write a donation check and have it sent to my mother, Wendy. This option is for people who aren’t necessarily looking for a tax deduction but want to specifically support me and my project in case there is a need for additional funds. I cannot request more money than I have already raised for the project. Also sometime soon, my counterpart is going to start a small school for poor local children at her house and I could indirectly apply those funds to her needs for that project. However, these choices are not tax deductible.

Next step for me is to open a bank account with my counterpart Siphen so that the money can be transferred and we can begin to do the work. I will also be notifying the school that they can start accumulating the materials that they need so that the project can be successful and the work can start. I will, of course, be taking photographs of the work being done as it progresses for everyone to keep a close watch on.

Thank you again everybody for your hard work and dedication, and towards seeing this vision with me and helping me get it done. Now is the fun part for me so thank you all! Miss y’all!

– Ryan

Categories: Uncategorized

Update and Donate time!

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Hello Everybody,

First off I wanted to thank people who have donated to my project. With less than two weeks under our belt, we have been able to raise close to half of the amount necessary. I am pumped! With that said, I think it gets harder from here because donations need to come from outside of my closest circle of influence and contact.I guess what that means is I really need everyone’s help in talking about the project with friends and coworkers and urging them to donate. Small amounts go a long way, I promise.

So now I am motivated to give another “by the numbers” break down for how relative money can be in different parts of the world.

Peace Corps Monthly “Allowance” – $169
Bottle of Water (cold) – 12 cents
Can of Beer – 50 cents
Bike Repair (new tire, new tube, fixed rim, new chain, brake adjustment) – $7.50
Bowl of Noodles, fried – 75 cents
Bus ride to Phnom Penh – $2.50
Bunch of Bananas – 50 cents
One Night at a Guest House (fan) – $5
Baguette – 12 cents
Razor (Mach 3) – $8
Box of Kraft Mac-n-Cheese – $2.75

It is very possible to get by here on less than what I make, but that means missing out on things that make it all worthwhile and help keep us volunteers sane. Speaking of sanity, I still have a fair amount of time left here but will all of the projects, big and small, I want to get done it has been tough to keep in good shape about it and not let it all loom too much over my everyday life. I really don’t want to leave here and feel like I accomplished very little, so those thoughts tend to weigh heavy on my mind frequently these days.

My thanksgiving went down great again, but it was harder being away from family the second time around then the first. The novelty had really worn off. I have posted pictures of the holiday in my Peace Corps Album Two if you care to peruse.

I hope everyone is still doing well. As always I am thinking of everyone constantly. Please take a little extra time to spread the word about my project, and I have created a flyer for people to take to their workplaces for the breakroom area or wherever people gather, to help do so. Print it out and share a couple! I MISS EVERYONE!

PCV Ryan Young

Categories: Uncategorized