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Cambodia SST

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.

Trip to Kep and Rabbit Island

Over the weekend, we had our final group trip/exploration to Rabbit Island off the southwestern coast of Cambodia. It was a 3 1/2-hour trek by bus, so we breakfasted at the Royal University of Phnom Penh before heading out on the early-morning journey. After dropping off our bags at the Beach House Hotel, we boarded four different fishing boats for the 20-minute ride to Rabbit Island. About seven Cambodian families live on the island, providing guest huts and local foods to visitors.

Adventure to Kampong Phluck

Among the most memorable parts of the Siem Reap field trip was Saturday's grand adventure to Kampong Phluck, a village built on 20-foot stilts right along the Tonle Sap. Two students -- most likely Julian and Annalisa -- will do their service assignments at the village, teaching English and possibly basic computer skills. The village is memorable because of the complexity of getting there, and because of the otherworldliness of the wooden homes rising out of the ground. Several students said the journey to Kampong Phluck rivaled the delights of the Angkor Wat component of the field trip.

Visiting Angkor Wat

One of the highlights of the SST Cambodia experience is visiting the ancient temples of the Angkor Wat temple complex, the subject of much academic study and the backdrop for many Hollywood Films (e.g., "Lara Craft: Tomb Raider" and "Two Brothers"). We spent all day there Friday, with all but a few of the students rising at 4 a.m. for a 4:30 departure for the Angkor Wat complex, with the hope of seeing the sun rise over the best-known Angkor temple, Angkor Wat itself. Although the sunrise was a little disappointing, the overall experience was excellent, with students exploring in sub-groups throughout the day.

Skuon and Siem Reap

Given the zestiness of the Siem Reap field trip, we'll post three different blogs about that experience. This first blog includes photos of Skuon, the spider village where we stopped on the way to Siem Reap; images from lounging at the hotel pool and dining at the Dead Fish Tower; and photos from the Landmine Museum, which part of the group visited on Sunday morning. Subsequent blogs will focus on the temples at Angkor Wat and on our day trip to the stilt-village of Kampong Phluck.

Day-to-Day Life in Phnom Penh

This is the first of four blogs we'll post in the next 24 hours, so please watch for additional updates related to our weekend trip to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. Some of the photos here are from before and some are from after the Siem Reap adventure. Lectures continue to be pretty remarkable, in terms of the calibre of people speaking to the group and their honesty about Cambodian politics, history, and social issues. Our third full week of class included a lecture by parliamentarian Mu Sochua, a controversial figure who is quoted almost daily in the Cambodian and international press.

P’teah Goshen Night, Afternoon Lectures

This is the fourth of five catch-up posts after the crash of the GC website two weeks ago. One more yet to come this evening. Our second full week in Cambodia included lectures by David Ketchum of Mennonite Central Committee on Cambodian Families and Women's Peacemaking, as well as input by Ouk Serei Sopheak on Cambodian Politics and Economics in the Southeast Asian Context. As pictured here, Ketchum had the group engage in a drawing exercise related to direct, structural, and cultural violence, particular as these related to domestic violence in the Cambodia context.

Biking the City, Visiting Sovanna Phum

This is the third of four SST Cambodia catch-up blogs following the crash of the GC website two weeks ago. One more will come Tuesday evening (in Indiana). One week after students arrived in Cambodia, we purchased a first round of bicycles for 10 students who felt confident with traffic patterns and their biking skills. Jake and Chloe had been biking since their first day in the country since their families provided bicycles to them, so they had a jumpstart on the rest of the group.