Sabbatical

Life and Hope Association

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Wanted to write a little post about the Life and Hope Association the in-country organization that I worked with in Cambodia.

The Life and Hope Association's goal is to improve the lives of orphans, vulnerable children and disadvantaged peoples in the Siem Reap area of Cambodia. It is based in the Pagoda called Wat Damnak. The LHA was started by the monks at the pagoda, they have added more staff and taken on many more challenges in the past couple of years. Here are some of the projects that they are working on in Siem Reap.

Back on the posting binge - The rest of the temples

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I am back in the states and have an awesome case of jet lag. Today I managed to sleep until 5am which is way better then yesterday which was 2am. So I have a bunch of posts in the pre-written stage about the rest of my trip that I will be posting this week. My schedule is that I am flying back to DC on Monday and will be trying to find a new place to live by the 1st. So if you know if anything let me know. Onto the post.

There are a lot of temples at the Angkor Wat complex so I wanted to highlight some of the others that we went to see.

Angkor Thom Complex

Demon side of Angkor Thom EntranceBesides the large Bayon temple when you come into the complex there are these massive gates that have huge statues that on one side are demons and the other side are the gods pulling the large naga snake god. This one gate is the only one (out of 4) that still has the heads to all the gods and demons (I am sitting with a demon). They are pretty awesome.

My body won't cooperate with my mind OR maybe those people with the surgical masks are smarter then me

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A tale of sickness and the life destined to be a snorkeler

When I was younger and a girl scout, I went to camp on Catalina Island and learned how to snorkel. Like a real snorkeler, learned to dive, spit in your mask, etc. But I always yearned to do more. Flash forward to 17th birthday, I get scuba diving lessons. So excited! My body denies me by on the first in pool lesson in 10 feet of water I cannot equalize and I get vertigo when I come up and freak out. The next day I return my stuff and lie to the people that I have to work and can't make it. College - I do one day of the scuba class, have flashbacks and then quit that class and join the kayaking class (which I do not regret taking).

This week - I am here in Thailand, I plan on taking the 3 day class, get certified, I am going to be a diver! I wake up the day of the class with the WORST SORE THROAT. Self diagnosed strep throat which I have confirmed because I started taking antibiotics and 4 days later I finally felt back to normal. But seriously! How could I get sick again! I am destined to never learn how to dive. How can this be? My name means Guardian of the SEA. I should be diving all the time and instead am trapped at the top of the water. Stupid Ear/Nose/Throat - You have cursed me from my true fate of communing with the sea.

If my currency conversion is correct, I am pretty sure this post is costing me 4 dollars

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Hello from Thailand. I didn't think there was going to be an internet connection on the island I am on, but why would I not expect it, the problem is it is 4 dollars for 30 minutes. So quick post. I am on a lovely island off the coast of phuket. The hotel does have a regular boat shuttle, but when I got to the dock, I would have to wait an hour so I haggled with a long boat and had them drive me out here by myself. That was an adventure. They Island is in the bay on the non-ocean side of the island but the trip is about 9km and that boat was a little small. I got a little burned, but it was pretty fun. no seasickness. lots of waves.  

The island I am on is basically the one if you are anywhere tropical when you see the day snorkling trips to a small island or secluded side of the island. I am staying there. So in the early morning and after 3pm there are only about 30 people here. During the rest of the day it is pretty full with day trippers but kind of fun. It is great when everyone leaves and you have this huge beach to yourself and it is low tide and you can walk out like 100 yards and it is only ankle deep.

Final Final Day here in Siem Reap

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I am leaving for the airport in an hour. I can't believe I have been here a month! It doesn't feel that long. Things I am going to miss:

  • All the classes I have taught. They have all been challenging and so much fun.
  • The temples, they really are amazing
  • Riding my bike around the busy streets, I did have a great time doing that. I think also because I was a westerner everyone would say Hi to me or at the least stare at me which you just get used to.
  • The food and the prices. Cheap cheap here in Cambodia.
  • The monks. They are everywhere and so cute. Too bad you can't hug the monks.

So my bike I actually gave to Mr. Pe here at the hotel, he is about 20, was only in school until 6th grade and wants to learn english but didn't have anyway of getting to the english classes so he is now the owner of my bike. There are three other bikes going to the kids and Mr. Pe has been at the hotel the entire time and when I come back he is always trying to learn english so I help him with pronunciation.

Food Post

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Since I haven't really posted about much of the daily life. Food post for the foodies. Surprisingly, Cambodian food is really not spicy. At all. The two main Khmer foods are Curry which while not spicy is really good. It is heavy on the fresh coconut milk and very creamy and usually includes onion, potato, pumpkin and whatever meat you ask for. It is really good. You can ask for chilies to make it spicier, but I don't think it needs to be spicy. The other main Khmer dish is called ämok which is steamed fish wrapped in a banana leaf with a different curry and morning glory. What they refer to as morning glory is not what I think we would call morning glory. It sort of looks like a leafy vegetable, but I can't think of what it would be in the US. Amok is also very good, at every restaurant it is a little different but usually tastes like a green curry.

Bayon Temple and Beatocello

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So I have written this post already once and I am at an internet cafe and right as I was finishing the computer restarted. So I am so pissed, this post will probably be shorter then my original one. ARRRGGHHH!

Anyway - More of my pictures have finally uploaded. My Bayon Temple photos have now uploaded. Bayon is part of the Angkor Wat park but more specifically part of the Angkor Thom set of temples.

Angkor Thom was built as a square, the sides of which run exactly north to south and east to west. Standing in the exact center of the walled city, Bayon Temple represents the intersection of heaven and earth. Built around 1190 AD by King Jayavarman VII, Bayon is a Buddhist temple but it incorporates elements of Hindu cosmology.

Bayon is known for its huge stone faces of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, with one facing outward and keeping watch at each compass point. The curious smiling image, thought by many to be a portrait of Jayavarman himself, has been dubbed by some the "Mona Lisa of Southeast Asia." There are 51 smaller towers surrounding Bayon, each with four faces of its own.

New School, new things

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It has been a few days because I have not had an internet connection, either the hotel wasn't working or there was someone on the computer. So I have forgone the free computer and am now at an internet cafe. The .25 an hour is fine.

So this week I have been teaching at a night school at Wat Damanak. It is a free school for anyone who wants to come. Everyone is between 16 - 22 so very different from my elementary school kids. The best part - my second class has 2 "baby monks" they are both 17 and adorable in their orange robes. The second teacher is also a monk and he is super nice and has only been learning english for 3 years and is very good. It is kind of fun to have almost a conversation with the kids in the class. they are close to understanding me, but the teachers usually have to translate a little. it is quite nice to have someone who can speak khmer and pretty good english at the same time so when I try to explain something they can actually explain.

Yesterday in their book, we were learning the past perfect and I have to say I had no idea what that was. Good thing I had the answers. We also did the difference between Fortunately and Unfortunately.

Updates for the week

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Few updates.

I got more pictures uploaded finally after many hours of trying.

Here are all the rest of my photos from the main Angkor Wat temple. My pictures do not depict the scale of the reliefs that are on the walls of the temple because my pictures are up close and the walls are 500 meters long. so my pictures are showing maybe .05% of each wall.

I have also been able to upload all the pictures of my classes. They are such a cute bunch. We took pictures by rows so there are some rows of all boys (and they are trying to act cool in the pictures) and then rows of girls and some are mixed. Really there are just a lot of kids.

2 week in Khmer

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Well I have now been here for two weeks. It is going really well. I have now learned about 15 kids names out of 150 so I am doing terrible at that, but there are so many and I can't pronounce their names. I also think half of them are giving me fake names for me to say bad words in Khmer. We are still struggling a little with the alphabet and the numbers, but they are all doing much better. We did give out spongebob squarepants stickers when they got something right this week and that was a HUGE hit. Spongebob is universal. 

Updates - from the week so far

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Hello - Catching everyone up on what has been happening. I went to Ankgor Wat and the surrounding temples over the weekend. It was amazing, they are massive and intricate and beautiful and amazing and my pictures do not do them justice. Even up close it doesn't look real. We went to the "tomb raider" temple called Thom Phron which is the one temple that they didn't clear up and fix from the jungle so the trees have grown over so much of it and breaking it up. Its beautiful. A lot of them you could climb up to the top with these sketchy stairs and my fear of heights was tested over and over again trying to get down. This other temple called Bayon has all these towers and on each side of the tower are these faces. There are like 30 different towers at different levels with all these faces carved into the rocks, it is really cool looking. I will try to put up my pictures soon.

Updates from Khmer

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Hi everyone - I have finished up my first "week" of teaching and I am really getting to know the area here. The kids at the school are cute and some of them want to learn. There are 50 kids in each class and it is hot so I think it is hard for them to keep focus. I know I have a hard time focusing in the heat. We learned the alphabet with the fifth graders and the 6th graders we did the months of the year. Some of the kids take private english lessons on the side so they already know this stuff, but the poorer kids don't and everyone can use some practice.

There is a reason why I am not working at the orphanage

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There is a reason why I am not working at the orphanage called the Children's Development Village (CDV) it is because if I or anyone spends more then a few hours there you will have to take one of these kids home.

Um hello! how cute is she. And I didn't even take this picture. One of the kids took my camera and took all the pictures here. They are great. I think he was 5. They also really liked my sunglasses and are f-ing adorable in them. We played volleyball and went on the swings and read books and colored. Seriously, I cannot go back here without stealing one of them.

All the pictures are here. (still uploading, internet connection a little slower here and I need to go to bed.)

24 Hours in Cambodia

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I have now been in Siem Reap for 24 hours. Here are initial thoughts and things that are goingo on:

  • I found out what I am doing here. I will not be working at the orpahage because it is 30km away but instead teaching english to 3-5th graders 4 hours a day at the local public school. This has me more stressed out then work. If anyone has ideas about how/what I should do. Let me know
  • The hotel is very nice a little outside of the main city center (which is 4 blocks)
  • I should have realized that I needed to turn on the hot water heater to take a hot shower instead of taking a very cold shower.
  • There are 2 other voluteers here right now John and Cassie. They are in college and very nice. Glad to have other people around. Another person comes next week.
  • I have to get to the job 2 ways - either get on the back of someone's motorbike or get on a tuk-tuk which is like a motorbike but there is a carriage at the back.
  • Pictures uploading now. Have to go to dinner. More tomorrow!

Day one or two not sure which

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Hi everyone,

I am in the bangkok airport about to leave for cambodia. My flights were very long getting here an I was amazed by the guy next to me who was able to sleep for 9 hours straight. I got about 3 hours on the first flight and then by the second one I was out of gas and fell asleep for most of it.

Of course, I now have a cold, which is just annoying but I am so glad I brought the dayquill strips. they are coming in handy. Hopefully the cold will be short and I will feel fine in a few days.

My taxi ride to the airport this morning was harrowing. The very nice taxi driver was playing the soundtrack to the Bridget Jones' Diary which of course I have, but he was also going 140km/h and swerving through traffic. I was close to either screaming in terror or throwing up. It was fun.

I had a lovely papaya juice this morning that was wonderful. Will have to keep that on the list of things.

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