January 26, 2010

Biking the City, Visiting Sovanna Phum

This is the third of four SST Cambodia catch-up blogs following the crash of the GC website two weeks ago. One more will come Tuesday evening (in Indiana). One week after students arrived in Cambodia, we purchased a first round of bicycles for 10 students who felt confident with traffic patterns and their biking skills. Jake and Chloe had been biking since their first day in the country since their families provided bicycles to them, so they had a jumpstart on the rest of the group.The following Monday we bought another round of bikes, and then two days later we bought the final three bikes for the group. At this point, all Cambodia SSTers — plus Keith and Niles, who arrived January 19 — are riding bikes as their primary form of transportation. Most students realized immediately how much better they are at learning the layout of the city, and how much more flexibility and freedom they have to get around, on bicycles. Traffic patterns are radically different than in the U.S., but there is a certain Cambodian logic that works rather effectively in this context.

Wednesday, January 14, was our first P’teah Goshen Night (Goshen House Night), and we sang hymns and talked about our experiences thus far. On January 21 Charlie led the group in some reflections about the impact of music, and the absence of certain kinds of music, and the comfort in other types of music, that the group had experienced while in Cambodia.

On Saturday, January 16, students all invited their host family members to accompany them to Sovanna Phum, a local theater that has weekend shows. Although a few families chose not to attend, about 16 students brought from one to six members of their family to the show of traditional shadow puppetry and dance, based on portions of the Ramayana story, an epic originally written in Sanskrit and attributed to a Hindu sage. The story is well-known throughout Southeast Asia.

Keith and Marya continue to work at service assignment possibilities, producing updated versions of the service list every few days. By early February, students all may know where they will be going during the service portion of SST, which begins February 19.

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