Saturday, Jan 26th 2008

What a face....street food vendor in Phnom Penh.

Day 1: Phnom Penh

As asian cities go, Phnom Penh has a relatively quiet bustle.

Taxis drive slower, traffic is less congested, partly due to the fact that Phnom Penh is a relatively small city in comparison to Bangkok or Saigon.

Located at the junction of the Tonle and Mekong rivers, Phnom Penh retains some of its’ colonial feel. There are a number of French Colonial buildings, as well as quite a bit of new development. While we were there we saw the location for Phnom Penh’s first ‘sky-scraper’. Cambodia is definitely starting to ‘open up’, but it can still be a bit edgy.

Our Team is staying at a small hotel close to the Democracy Monument, just a five-minute tuk-tuk ride to Tabitha headquarters.

Tabitha founder Janne Ritskes met with us for the crucial first step to the orientation process. Janne, in her inimitable style, paints a sketch of recent Cambodian/World history that led to the emergence of the Khmer Rouge. Janne tells stories of real people, some of whom are Tabitha employees. These stories make the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge very personal. You do not leave the lecture unmoved.

Also included in this part of the orientation is the very important rules that are mandatory for team members to abide by; tempered with a very polite choice given to all team members by Janne. “If you cannot do these things, please do not participate in the build”.

The area that we are building in this year is on the coast in Kampot province Located on the gulf of Thailand. Our village-Kom Thmey, is about a one hour commute from our guest house accommodation in the town of Kep.

The people from these rural villages have a culture and heritage much different from our own. Janne tells us of a number of cultural “no-no’s’ that we must keep in mind. We are only in these villages for a few days, but inadvertent, or uncaring actions on our part would have to be dealt with after we are gone by Janne and the Tabitha staff.

A Visit to the Killing Fields...

View of the memorial at Chuong Ek 'the killling fields'

After Janne’s orientation talk, team members have two mandatory things left to do before orientation is complete. One is to visit the infamous ‘killing fields’, the other is to visit the notorious Tuol Sleng Prison. Both are very sobering experiences. Seeing the faces of the many people tortured and killed, and the bones and clothing of those slaughtered at the killing fields is a very emotional experience.

While it is no walk in the park, this orientation process is crucial to giving team members an understanding of what the Cambodian people had to endure. Anyone over the age of 35 or so will have memories of family members who did not survive the terrible time under the Khmer Rouge.

Tomorrow afternoon (Sunday) we travel to our build area.

Apology to our blog watchers….

We did send reports back from the field, but, it became apparent that we were caught in many of the ‘internet black holes’……luckily we kept a hard copy….sorry for the delay we will catch you up over the next week.

Bob Carver

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