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Cambodia SST

First Lectures, Museum and Palace Field Trip

This is the second of four new blog entries (being posted over a 24-hour period), catching up chronologically with the intial days of the SST Cambodia group. On Tuesday of their first week in the country, students enjoyed a field trip to the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, and National Museum. We took our first group photo on the steps of one of the building at the National Palace. Lectures in that first week included input from Heng Monychenda on Angkor Culture and from Neb Sinthay on Contemporary Cambodian Politics.

Back Online: Settling into the Phnom Penh Routine

After being offline for more than two weeks, the SST Cambodia is back online now. We'll be posting several posts within the next 24 hours, so feel free to keep checking back in. We'll post these chronologically, beginning with photos and a few words about the first week on campus, a blog that was up for about an hour before the GC website crashed. The original version of that blog was lost in the crash. Students headed right into their first week in the capital, beginning Khmer language testing and then class on Monday immediately after their arrival.

All in the Families

By 6:30 p.m. this evening (Friday evening for us, Friday morning in the U.S.), all 19 students had gone home with their host families. It was a whirlwind day, first with orientation at the hotel, a driving tour of the city, and then meeting the parents and siblings. Ann and Keith tend to practice the "soft landing" approach to SST, especially given the arduous 29-hour flights/travel and the reversal of body clocks. Given that, the Colonial Mansion was a fitting and comfortable place for our first night, allowing us to relax on our balconies (Charlie, Austin, and Seth), swim and play cards around the pool, and lounge in the rooftop mini-pool that overlooked the city.

Settled into Phnom Penh!

Nineteen healthy and happy Cambodia SSTers arrived at the Phnom Penh Airport two hours ago. After about an hour of moving through the visa, immigration, and customs process, we were on our way to the Colonial Mansion, where we're all settled in now. Students send their warm greetings back home to Moms and Dads, siblings, friends, and others they love. The goal for tonight (now 1 a.m.) is sleep, with breakfast in our rooms (grocery items brought in this evening by the Graber Millers). We'll start orientation at 9 a.m. Friday (9 p.m. Thursday, Indiana time) and continue throughout the day. At 3:00 we'll leave for a driving city tour and then host family members will pick up students at the end of the city tour.

Christmas in Thailand, Ringing in the New Year, Awaiting Students’ Arrival

The Graber Millers spent Christmas weekend in nearby Bangkok, just an hour's flight away. The kids loved the enormous buffet breakfasts, and they were especially pleased with our hotel's majestic, rooftop pool, with stunning views overlooking the sprawling city of 12 million. We also had a chance to take in the Jatujak Weekend Market, one of the largest outdoor markets in the world. We also repeatedly rode Bangkok's famous sky train to get about the city, and Mia and Simon loved that, too, even at rush hour. Some students will travel to Bangkok after the SST experience is over in April. On New Year's eve we went for dinner at Lana and Andy Miller's house, which is two blocks from ours. Lana, a Goshen College graduate, and her husband Andy are Southeast Asia Directors for Mennonite Central Committee. The picture shows us dining on a Cambodian feast on their rooftop terrace.

Visiting Students’ Cambodian Host Families

Sreyhem and Keith spent much of the week visiting host families for the SST group, seeing 20 homes and talking with a 21st family over the course of the last several days. We are awaiting a firm response from two families, and a couple of the families that we had hoped would work out were altered when we saw the distance they were outside of the main part of the city. Right now we have 19 interested families that we are talking with. All but one of those homes or families are depicted here.

Weekend Family Trip to Kep

From Friday morning through Monday afternoon, the Graber Millers visited Kep, one of the locations for an SST Cambodia field trip. We'll go with the student group the weekend of February 7 and 8 to both Kep and Rabbit Island, where we also visited. The 3 1/2-hour trip to Kep was fascinating because we were able once again to see the Cambodian countryside, where students will be living on their service assignments. Other than that, the driving trip was bumpy (about half of the road was under construction) but relatively uneventful, save for one flat tire along the way. We stayed at the Beach House, where we'll also stay with our student group, and had several of our meals at the Veranda Hotel and Restaurant, which overlooks the sea. We'll have a buffet breakfast with students at that hotel restaurant when we're in Kep.

Preparing for our 19 Cambodian SSTers

The Graber Miller family, minus Niles, arrived in Cambodia Tuesday, December 8, and spent much of the first week settling into the new Goshen College apartment. The apartment, which also will be the site of our Wednesday evening processing meetings referred to as P'teah Goshen Nights, is on the fourth floor of a new apartment building located between Mennonite Central Committee's office and the Russian Market. In the photos you can see our children Mia and Simon in front of the apartment, and the views from our balcony. We bought some goods for our partially furnished apartment at the local, open-air hardware store across the street (see photo). When Keith goes out on his own he rides his bicycle, as students will, or takes a moto-dup (motorcycle), but when the family goes out we always take a tuk-tuk. Tuk-tuks, as pictured here directly and in the reflection from a following semi-truck, are carts pulled behind motorcycles, and are the standard form of transportation for many Cambodians and visitors.