All of the Cambodia SSTers returned to their Royal University of Phnom Penh classrooms Saturday morning for final language testing, meeting with their teachers for discussions about what they did in the provinces. Nearly everyone showed marked improvements in language abilities after being more deeply immersed in Khmer culture over the last six weeks.
For Saturday lunch, the Graber Millers were invited to share a meal with Allison’s family’s along with Allison and Trisha. Since Trisha and Allison’s families are related (Allison’s parents are also the parents of Trisha’s host brother/dad), the families often get together on the weekends. Saturday’s lunch was a feast of Cambodian pancakes with pork, shrimp, and a wide range of greens, plus a curry soup. The meal was done in haystack style, or by wrapping leaves around bits of pancake, fish and pork, and other greens. Many of Allison and Trish’s extended family members were present as well, and we ate in the traditional style of Cambodians — as has been true for students throughout the term — on mats on the floor. The meal was utterly fantastic and the experience meaningful, and we all were thankful for such gracious host families.
Saturday afternoon and evening everyone was at the Graber Miller apartment for term project presentations, individual interviews with Ann and Keith, and a P’teah Goshen Night of pizza and storytelling. Rachel and Phil both read excerpts from their poetry; Kelly spoke about health care in Cambodia; Annie read her children’s book and Khmer alphabet book, both written in Khmer and illustrated; Allison spoke about concepts of beauty in Cambodia; Stephanie talked about Christianity and Buddhism in Cambodia; and Trisha showed the PR materials she developed for Devi House, the NGO with which she and Allison were working.
Throughout the day many group members wore their new SST Cambodia 2010 T-shirts, which we had made while students were out on service. Ann and Niles designed the T-shirts, which included everyone’s names as well as “Goshen College” written in Khmer. Kelly’s host family, which has a T-shirt making and printing business, made the T-shirts from scratch in their home, sewing together the fabric and then silk-screening all of the shirts in their nearby church. Many of the students wore the shirts because, well, they didn’t have any other clean clothes after just returning from the provinces. But it was great to see the collected displays of purple.
Project presentations, interviews, and reorientation continue on Easter Sunday and Monday afternoons before part of the group heads back to the U.S. Tuesday evening.