Meeting people and Tonle Sap

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January 29th 2010
Published: January 29th 2010
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I've been enjoying meeting people who are on the trip and in the community. There are 16 of us on the tour. All of us are interested in helping the Cambodian people and everyone has been good-natured and generally pleasant. John and I have split off from the group for birding a few times. Jeffry and I and others have had some enjoyable discussions about theology and rites. Nobody's clumping, and despite the highly in-filled schedule, nobody's been irritable.

Sokoun, our guide, has been telling a lot of stories about his life, growing up poor, working for the Vietnamese, playing with UXOs, and going to school. Between facts and life stories, Sokoun describes how to prepare crickets as a snack and other useful information (short answer: Pull out the digestive tract, stuff with a peanut, salt, fry, enjoy with beer).

A young woman working at the hotel has been helping me with the Khmer names of the fruits. Waitresses giggle at my Khmer. Everyone is kind, as always, and the swarms of children selling postcards and begging, while troubling, does not feel overly aggressive.

I met Maureen, one of the owners of Peace Cafe, the other night (try to follow this--it was Singing Tree, it sold, the name is different, but Singing Tree is in a new location). Maureen was very welcoming and has allowed me to negotiate for interviews at the cafe.

This morning we went out on Tonle Sap Lake. Our naturalist, Art, described his education, number of bouts with malaria, and the path to becoming a birding guide in Cambodia. He contracts through Sam Veasna Center, which was where I had my tour to the painted stork nesting grounds last year. Art climbed up on the roof of the boat with me to help me identify birds.

Little egret
Intermediate egret
Great egret
Grey heron
Chinese pond heron
Barn swallows
Indian cormorant
Little cormorant
Asian open-billed stork
Oriental darter
Large-billed crow
Grey-headed fish eagle (the new one in this set)
Whiskered tern
Blue-tailed bee-eater

I was able to call most of them, but it was nice to have the confirmation from someone with more experience and better binoculars. We didn't go far out, just to the (mostly Vietnamese) floating village. That's where the python photo is from.

Michael from (original) Singing Tree stopped by my hotel, where his mother from Israel is also staying, so I had a chance to converse socially in Hebrew for a few minutes. they invited me to Shabbat dinner but sadly I already had dinner plans. I'm meeting with a different Michael from ConCERT at 4:30, and perhaps with Scott from Trailblazer. It's been a little hard to find times without missing parts of the tour, which leads me to the conclusion that it's best not to try to engage in too many unrelated activities simultaneously.

I'm really hoping to snag another couple of interviews today. Really, I should have come into Siem Reap a few days before the tour, since Phnom Penh is harder to interview in (bigger distances between NGOs). I may have to think of this as a way to develop preliminary bins and codes (that's qualitative research talk if you don't recognize it) with whatever I get and then plan a return trip with a couple of days designated just for research.

My colleague and her daughter arrived for the tour today. Kathie is also doing research in Cambodia and will check my response about orphanages when I write it.

I had a wonderful conversation with Michael at ConCERT, ranging broadly around topics of values, cultural relativism, the impetus for voluntarism, and community development. Had I not had dinner plans I'd have enjoyed talking more.

I was able to complete three interviews in Siem Reap, which is enough to start with.

Dinner was with a few people from the group. We went to Khmer Family Restaurant, my favorite in Siem Reap. We had fresh spring rolls, Khmer curry, cashews with chicken, and steamed pumpkin in banana leaf with palm sugar for dessert. Several of us walked through the Night Market, then braved the fish massage, as I said I would last year. It's hilarious. I'm not sure how useful it is, but hilarious.

Tomorrow we drive to Phnom Penh.

Additional photos below
Photos: 7, Displayed: 7


29th January 2010

Tonle Sap
Hey Shoshanna, This trip sounds reminiscent of my travel through Cambodia. Siem Reap and the ruins are like a wonderful dream to me now. I did not care for Tonle Sap. Love the photos of the fish massage. I remember lovely restaurants in Siem Reap. Glad you are sharing pics of food. cheers, Michael

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