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Archives for Spring 2010 Category

Tampoun Villagers in Ratanakiri

This is the first of three posts we'll be putting up today before heading out for another trip in the morning to see two more pairings of students. Last week the Graber Miller family took a six-day excursion to Ratanakiri Province in Cambodia's uppermost northwest, adjacent to both Laos and Vietnam. There we saw Corinne, Chloe, Bailey, Sarah, and Seth in their indigenous Tampoun villages and Michael and Austin in their further-out Jarai village. On the return to Phnom Penh we visited Charlie and Jake in Kampong Cham, a Muslim village located along the Mekong River. Overall, the trip proved once again how flexible and culturally adaptable Goshen College students can be. Impressive.

Stephanie Hollenberg in Prey Veng Town

Stephanie Hollenberg has three work sites in Prey Veng town, about 2 1/2 hours outside of Phnom Penh. Although her work placement(s) got off to a bit of a rocky start, she's settled in now to three really excellent service settings, doing work she enjoys. Arrangements for the initial orphanage where Stephanie was scheduled to work fell through the day after she arrived in Prey Veng, so Stephanie, Keith, and Mennonite Central Committee workers Ruth and Miles Wiederkehr scrambled to come up with other contacts. Stephanie then left for a weekend family wedding in Takeo Province, and by the time she returned, all was well with service assignments.

Kelly and Phil in Mesang District

Kelly Frey and Phil Stoesz are living and working in Mesang District, a quite rural region of Prey Veng Province (already rural itself), which is located adjacent to Vietnam. Both SSTers work at Organization to Develop Our Villages (ODOV), a non-governmental organization funded by Mennonite Central Committee and other entities. In their first week in Mesang Town, Phil and Kelly worked about 45 hours in the office or the classroom, assisting with editing and accounting and then teaching an English class every evening.

Annie Martens in Svay Rieng Province

Annie Martens is living and working in near Svay Rieng town, only one province away from where she grew up when her family was serving with Mennonite Central Committee in Cambodia. Annie works with International Development Enterprises (IDE), a non-governmental organization that works with agricultural and sanitation projects. IDE's director is Mike Roberts, spouse of SST Cambodia family assistant Sreyhem Roberts. Most of Annie's work centers around visiting Farm Business Advisers' villages and seeing the impact of various IDE projects. Over time, Annie will develop either human-interest stories, a blog, or other public relations materials for IDE, and she'll also be teaching local staffers some accounting software and doing other computer work in the Svay Rieng office.

Serving/Accompanying Across Cambodia

Between Friday and this morning (Tuesday), all 19 Cambodian SSTers ventured out to their service assignments, and they are now scattered in all four directions across Cambodia. For some, service began almost immediately, with their villagers asking for English lessons or giving out additional task assignments just after their arrival. For others, service was a bit delayed since they needed to stay behind for a family wedding in the city (Annalisa, Annie, and Julian); because their Non-Governmental Organization contact wanted them to start a day or two later (Allison, Trisha, Annie), or because of an SST-typical minor glitch or two (Mikey and Austin). But as of Tuesday afternoon, all SSTers were on site and thoroughly enjoying the experience.

Final Week of Phnom Penh Academic Program

The final week of our SST Cambodia Phnom Penh program, which overlapped with the Chinese New Year, ended Thursday. Over the last 10 days of the program several lectures were cancelled because speakers were traveling with their families or otherwise unavailable. All over town we were treated to magnificent, circus-like acrobatic displays known as Mongsai, or the Dragon Dance. The photos here are from one Mongsai just below P'teah Goshen, at the home of a Chinese family. The dangerous act took place right on the street, stopping traffic as performers at times reached as high as 25 feet in the air, straddling small foot pads on the tops of pillars.

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.