Classes: Khmer Language and History/Culture of Cambodia

Classes began Monday morning at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, with Vice-Rector Ponn Chhay welcoming us to campus. Immediately following our welcome ceremony, students broke up into two classes with Khmer language teachers Touch Phara, Prum Sisaphantha, Thea Sok Meng, and Teacher Chorry. In one of the classes students are learning some Khmer script along with spoken Khmer, and all are highly motivated to improve on their language skills.

Monday we also had lunch at RUPP’s campus, ordering in Khmer, then took a break for about two hours before our afternoon lecture. Students found a beautiful oasis in the middle of a lily pond on the west end of campus, and chatted there with two RUPP students who also spent part of the break on the island.

Monday afternoon’s lecture was by Dr. Poch Bunnak, who teaches at RUPP and did a post-doctorate at the University of Chicago. Dr. Bunnak spoke about Cambodian Peoples and Cultures. Tuesday’s lecture was by now-retired Southeast Asian human rights specialist Dr. Lao Mong Hay, and today (Wednesday) we heard from Father Francois Ponchaud about Cambodia under the French Protectorate (1863-1953), Independence, and the Lon Nol years (1970-1975). Ponchaud has been a major figure in Cambodia’s history, coining the term “Year Zero” for the beginning of the Khmer Rouge period and spending time in a prison camp.

Tomorrow (Thursday) we’ll purchase bikes for all/most of the SSTers, and that will become their primary form of transportation for the remainder of the term. We’ll also visit the National Museum, which houses many ancient artifacts from the Angkor period and beyond.

Tonight (Wednesday evening) all 19 SSTers were here at P’teah Goshen for our weekly meeting. Watch for another blog about that event within the next 24 hours. The group is adjusting well to the many transitions they’ve undergone since leaving Goshen exactly one week ago.