Weekend Village Studies

All 19 Cambodia SSTers fanned out across the provinces Friday and Saturday this week, getting a taste for independent, small-group travel and for provinical life. In many SST locations, these “village studies” have been a staple for the last 40 years as a way of preparing students for their countryside service assignments. Students have the opportunity to arrange for their own travel on public transportation, secure a guesthouse for the night, and do careful accounting of SST monies.

Bailey, Seth, and Austin went to Prey Veng, a province on the Vietnamese border. Somewhere in transport Bailey and Seth digested some bad food, so they spent most of Friday afternoon and evening with significant stomach issues. Fortunately, Mennonite Central Committee workers Ruth and Miles Wiedekehr live in Prey Veng, and after MCC Directors Shari and Bud Yordy and the Graber Millers helped the students make the connection, the Wiedekehrs graciously took the threesome in for the night and nursed them back to stable health before they returned to the city Saturday afternoon. Rachel, Trisha, and Charlie went to nearby Takeo in Takeo Province, and Rachel also dealt with a stomach illness throughout the night, but not before the group climbed a nearby hill to ancient ruins, seeing a temple built 100 years before Angkor Wat. Rachel relaxed all day Saturday at the Graber Millers and returned (much restored) to her host family home Saturday evening.

Most other student groups were healthier on the trip. Allison, Sarah, and Julian were in Odeng, only 45 kilometers away from Phnom Penh. On the return trip they took customary Cambodian transport — a long, rectangular wagon pulled behind a moto, loaded with Cambodians and the three students. They were quite a spectacle, and enjoyed seeing Western tourists in Phnom Penh taking their pictures once they entered the city.

Stephanie, Corinne, and Michael were in Kampong Cham, the province where Charlie and Jake will be on service and where many Cham Muslims live. Kelly, Annalisa and Jake were in Kampong Chhnang on the opposite side of Siem Reap on the Tonle Sap Lake. Phil, Annie, Chloe, and Kat were in Kampot, near where Allison and Trisha will be on service. Groups were intentionally sent to locations away from where they will spend the final six weeks of SST, just so they could see a different part of the country.

The randomly arranged photos here are entirely from students’ cameras — from Seth, Julian, Charlie, Stephanie, and others. Students will give oral reports about their journeys to all of their peers this week.