Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Wrapping up.

Well folks, my three month internship at UNESCO in Phnom Penh, Cambodia is coming to a close. Thursday is my last day in the office. Lynn and I head to Thailand on Friday and back to the US on Monday. We will land in Minneapolis on Wednesday the 6th of September.

The whole experience has really been life affirming. Living in a developing nation, even for such a short period of time, has really made me look at people and life in a whole new light. It is all too much to put into words, but it is powerful stuff!

Thanks for reading the blog!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Road Trip to Oddar Meanchey

Here are some pics from our recent trip to the rural provinces. We spent 3 days on the Thai/Cambodian border. The roads in these provinces are really bad. The first picture shows a bridge we encountered on our way to Oddar Meanchey. After 4 hours of driving along a bumpy road at about 20 mph, we came across this bridge that we could not cross. So we drove 4 hours back to the nearest town. Keep in mind the town we wanted was just 20 minutes beyond this bridge. The following day, we took another road where we barely made it across a bridge where a huge truck decided to break down right over the only bridge. You can see our white SUV barely making it around. After all that excitement, we found some ancient ruins. These ruins were in the middle of nowhere and it is not a place where tourists normally come (there are landmines all along the Thai /Cambodia border-it is one of the most heavily mined areas in the world). Nonetheless, while we were scrambling over ruins, six kids just showed up and gladly showed us around. the girl in yellow was one of the kids. We paid them in cookies.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Trip to Angkor Wat

Lynn and I headed to Angkor Wat this weekend. The place is amazing! I was blown away. It is a huge area of temples totaling around 40. There are many still pretty well preserved.

In one temple, the jungle literally took the temple back and the trees simply grew over the walls. The one picture was made famous in "Tomb Raider."

We took in sunrise at Angkor Wat (the picture with the 3 spires). I was truly a beautiful site.

We are heading to the rural provinces Wednesday - Friday with UNESCO. We are off to see the schools. Next weekend we will lounge around on the beach in Sihanoukville!

Thursday, August 03, 2006


New era

I am officially into the last month of my internship. Things are winding down in regards to UNESCO and data collection. I am finishing 3 reports for UNESCO and transcribing all of the translated comments I received on the surveys. It is quite the process on both accounts. I am lucky enough to have made a good friend in the office that actually wanted to translate the surveys for me!

Nonetheless, Lynn arrives Friday AM. So the last month is devoted to work and play. We are going to Angkor Wat next weekend for a 4 day break. The following weekend will be a trip to the beach: Sihanoukville which is on the Gulf of Thailand. Plus, all the tourist stuff around Phenom Penh that I have been putting off so I did not see too much stuff two times.

So as things wind down I have to shift into a new perspective. Imagine me, less anal! Hey, it could happen.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Street Scenes

You can see two forms of transport. The cycle is a man operated tricycle contraption. The tuk tuk is in back. It is a motorcycle (or sometimes only 1/2 of a motorcycle) attached to a carriage.
It is not uncommon to see kids running around in the park naked. Or washing themselves in the river.
Here is a picture of the open markets. There is no refrigeration so the food is sitting out for all the world to see. Of course the 2 ducks do not really need refrigeration (yet!).
Here is another shot of the market where you can buy meats, fruits, and produce.
Here is a typical street picture. Actually, it is usually much busier.

Here are a few pictures I thought I would share. They were actually taken by a friend of mine when he visited here a few months ago (thanks Stan!). Nonetheless, the scenes are pretty common here. The pedestrian traffic is very limited. Thus to cross the street it is much like playing a real life game of Frogger without the music. Also, stop signs and stop lights are rare. If they do exist, they are only 'suggestions'. Everyone just comes full speed up to an intersection, looks both ways, and continues on. It is a very frightening system when you are on the back of a moped not sure who is going to stop...You or the SUV! However, somehow it all works. I read somewhere the main rule of the road is to maintain momentum. Thus, do what you can to avoid stopping. This means riding on the wrong side of the road 1/2 the time just to avoid stopping or going around the block. It is a beautiful system- and it works.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Data update

I know how much people like Rian love to hear about data, so here goes.

On Monday, my Ministry of Education informant gave me another set of surveys from the teacher training colleges. Now I only need surveys from one more teacher training college. As of today, my return rate is 68.06%. That is pretty good I think. I am told that most of the teacher trainers who did not complete the survey were physically not at the institution (death, maternity, left without pay, quit, or transferred). After inspecting all the surveys closely, I found surveys from only one institution appeared suspicious when I received 6 photocopies of the same completed survey! I flagged this up with the Ministry and they are looking into it. :)

Additionally, it looks like I will be able to interview some teacher trainers too. This qualitative aspect will really add to the study. I should have those arranged by next week.

Everything in Cambodia is going well. I am analyzing a survey for UNESCO on the state of technology in seven rural provinces. It is taking up much of my day and is proving to be quite the challenge. Not so much intellectually (which it is) but more logically. We hired a government agency to input the data from the surveys and to give us the raw numbers. Well, when they did this I found many logical contradictions. It has been a challenge stressing to this government agency that numbers should agree on every table in the report and that it is not a proper survey technique to simply fill in missing data!

Friday, July 07, 2006


Road trip to Kampong Chhnang to Cultural Museum of Cham People

On Friday, I was surprised with another road trip. This time, I ventured to the province of Kampong Chhnang to attend the opening ceremony of the Cham Cultural Heritage Center. The Cham people are the largest ethnic minority in Cambodia who originally came from Vietnam. I was seated up front by the podium with the other NGO representatives. Of course, the speeches were all in Khmer so I had very little idea what is being said; I only understood the general discussion. Well, once all the NGOs finished their talks, my boss suggested I should say a few words! Talk about being put on the spot! My training as an interculturalist really paid off here.

After the opening ceremonies, everyone brought out their cameras. One man, possibly the professional photographer, wanted a picture of me with him. (Keep in mind I was the only white person there). As I was standing there, an older woman got in the picture wanting her picture with me; the same happened with a younger woman. Finally, the photographer set his camera timer, ran to me, and put his arm around me for the picture. I can only imagine the future stories that will go through the village. Nonetheless, the Cham people were wonderful, hospitable (they fed us), and generous. When we left, Cham villagers gave us each a bag of cakes made from rice, eggs, and oil sprinkled with sugar. It is much the same as a funnel cake and very tasty. The picture of the tree with the woman on the left and the man on the right has these decorative cakes hanging from it. The picture of the young girls with the colorful turbines shows them giving the NGOs these cakes as gifts.

The final two pictures are from the truck on the way to this province. You can see the houses are on stilts. This entire area will flood in 2 months time. Although you cannot see it, the picture with the dirt road and the shacks on the side is actually about 15 feet above the ground. The river will rise to that level so the road is just above the flooded river!

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