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February 8, 2013

Jessie’s Khmer Rouge Interview

We’re preparing for a weekend trip to the south coast of Cambodia, where we will observe, analyze, and immerse ourselves in the Natural World components of the SST experience. Before that, though, we wanted to hear from another student’s perspective, this time from Jessie, who wrote in her journal about her experience with interviewing her host father about his time in the Khmer Rouge period. From Jessie’s journal (with permission): My (host) father taught me more about the Khmer Rouge Regime history, and his own personal history. I was about to take a shower when my dad said that after…

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February 5, 2013

Life around Phnom Penh

In addition to the stimulating weekend trip to Siem Reap (please see the three entries posted 24 hours ago on Angkor Wat, Kampong Phluck, and Skuon), our larger week has been full with more routine and once-in-a-lifetime activities in Phnom Penh. The big event in Phnom Penh over the last five days has been the funeral for the King Father, Norodom Sihanouk, credited with gaining Cambodia’s independence from the French Protectorate and considered the father of the country. Sihanouk, 89, died in Beijing in October, and the mourning for him has continued since that time, with formal rites taking place…

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February 4, 2013

Siem Reap III: Skuon (Spider Village)

This is the third and briefest of three entries from our four-day trip to Siem Reap, so please read the additional entries on Angkor Wat and Kampong Phluck. On the return trip from Angkor Wat, we stopped near Skuon, definitely the highlight of the 6 1/2-hour bus ride from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. Skuon villagers are known for their level of consumption of deep-fried spiders, which apparently is greater than that of ordinary Cambodians. Legend has it that Skuon people began eating spiders in greater volumes during the Khmer Rouge period, when food sources were extremely scarce. Now they…

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February 4, 2013

Among the memorable parts of the Siem Reap field trip was Saturday’s adventure to Kampong Phluck, a village built on 20-foot stilts right along the Tonle Sap. Two students — most likely Audrey and Joel — will do their service assignments at the village, teaching English and possibly basic computer skills. The village is memorable because of the complexity of getting there, and because of the otherworldliness of the wooden homes rising out of the ground. Because of the yearly expansion/flooding of the Tonle Sap Lake and the flatness of the central part of the country, most provincial Cambodian homes…

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February 4, 2013

Siem Reap I: Extraordinary Angkor Wat

One of the things our Cambodia SSTers were anticipating was their visit to the ancient temples of the Angkor Wat temple complex, the subject of much academic study and the backdrop for many Hollywood Films (e.g., “Lara Craft: Tomb Raider” and “Two Brothers”). On Friday, groups of three or four students each toured the Angkor grounds on bicycles and in tuk-tuks, lingering longer at some temples than others. The Angkor Wat trip was part of a four-day excursion to Siem Reap, located near the Tonle Sap Lake. Today we are posting three blogs about the trip, so please take a…

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January 28, 2013

Ba Phnom Explorations

Over the weekend, the SST Cambodia group traveled to Ba Phnom in Prey Veng Province, about 78 kilometers (but 4 hours) from Phnom Penh. In the first century, Ba Phnom, then known as Vayathapura (the hunting city) was the capital city of Nokor Phnom, the earlier name for what is now Cambodia. Uong Sam Ang, a friend of Mennonite Central Committee workers in nearby Prey Veng town, was our guide of the Ba Phnom area, where he was born and has lived most of his life. Among the sites we visited were the ruins of French Provincial sites; a nearly…

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January 25, 2013

Khmer Rouge Week

This week was the most emotionally draining of the term thus far, in terms of our academic and historical focus. Nearly every lecturer in Cambodia refers to the horrific three years, eight months, and 20 days (April 17, 1975 to January 7, 1979) of the Khmer Rouge regime, and this week we heard lectures about and visited the key sites of that tragic period. Pol Pot and his cadre of Communist leaders established what they called Democratic Kampuchea, seeking to establish a fully rural/agricultural society. During the Pol Pot regime, somewhere between 1.7 and 2 million Cambodians were brutally killed…

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January 24, 2013

Although this week is mostly about the Khmer Rouge — with multiple field trips and lectures — we’ll hold off on posting a Khmer Rouge blog until tomorrow. For tonight (morning in Goshen), this is just a brief blog about other activities this week. Women’s Night Out was Sunday evening, and the women went to the Baitong Restaurant, a site popular with Cambodian-run non-governmental organizations. The women thoroughly enjoyed the chance to share stories, learn to know Ann and Mia a bit better, and eat great Khmer food in a relaxing setting. One of our lecturers this week was Chak…

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January 22, 2013

Buddhist Meditation

Although this week is mostly focused on the Khmer Rouge period, we began the week Monday with a presentation on Buddhist meditative practices, led by the Venerable Yos Hut Khemacaro, one of the leading monks in Cambodia. Monk Khemacaro spoke with the group for about an hour and led us in a personal meditation. About 96 percent of Cambodians are at least nominally Buddhist, which means having a spirit house or Buddhist shrine in or outside their homes, but this Buddhism often is blended with animist and Hindu spiritualities as well. Cambodian Buddhism is Theravada Buddhism, which is most common…

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January 20, 2013

The Graber Millers had a rather remarkable Saturday afternoon, with a neighborhood fire taking 10 homes and/or businesses and threatening many others. We watched the fire unfold from our fourth-floor apartment balcony, accompanied by Sarah L-R, who happened to be here at the time. The fire was four adjoining structures away from our apartment complex, but the wind was blowing toward the north, so the fire followed that trajectory down the block. All of our neighbors were watering their rooftops with buckets and hoses, and businesses cleared out their goods. Motorcycles from a store in the line of the fire…

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