Internet success! Way down in Kampot

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February 3rd 2010
Published: February 3rd 2010
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Cambodian Women's Crisis CenterCambodian Women's Crisis CenterCambodian Women's Crisis Center

The director is Csmbodian American. She was born in Cambodia, lived through the Khmer Rouge time, ent to Washington, DC and returned to Cambodia 2 years ago with a master's in Anthropology.
Plugged in. Technology triumphs.

We began yesterday with a visit to the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center, a wonderful organization that does extremely valuable work in Cambodia. They focus on empowerment, taking a holistic, community-based, rights-based approach. 30%!o(MISSING)f Cambodian women report having experienced violence by age 15. 50,000 women were laid off in 2008 when Cambodia's trade status with the US changed and they lost their garment industry jobs. This not only adds to economic stress, but may push young women into jobs that make them more vulnerable. CWCC engages in a variety of protection, prevention, and advocacy projects. They could use volunteers who are willing to make a 3-month commitment.

After a snack of rambutan, lychees, tangerines, mung bean paste in lotus leaves, and banana and coconut in banana leaf,* we headed out of Phnom Penh, which took quite while because traffic control signs are just suggestions here. We passed foreign factories from which hundreds of young women streamed to grab highly unsanitary-looking lunches from carts. We stopped at a shrine for truck drivers, situated just before what used to be a very treacherous section of road and received a water blessing. We stopped at a rural wat with an enormous Buddha in an unfinished housing. We could see the Cardamom Mountains to our left, and a variety of birds. Poring over bird guides is helpful when you just get 2-second glimpses as you drive by. Because I know the colors, outlines, postures, and habits of some birds, I can identify them easily, even if I have never seen them before. There were blue-tailed bee eaters aplenty, kingfishers (species not yet confirmed—I couldn't see all the colors), one green-tailed bee eater, a few Oriental magpie-robins, long- and short-tailed drongos, and pending better views or a look at a better bird guide, a very small egret, a fish eagle, two white-shouldered hawks, and several that I think are Indian rollers.

When we reached Kampot, we stopped to meet some people who have received funding from an organization called DKA. These included micro-loans and scholarships. We had a chance to visit some houses and see where the people on our tour doing a homestay will be staying. (I opted not to because my asthma was pretty bad before the trip and I didn't want to keep people up all night with my coughing.)

We continued on to our hotels, which again posed some organizational surprises. I'm now in the Moliden Guesthouse in a room that's large and clean but quite dark—too dark to read in without a book light, in fact. This room delights me, though, because it's giving me a chance to use some things I shlepped here based on previous visits: A book light, shampoo leaves, my Pac-Safe exomesh to lock up my backpack, my extra-long clothesline made of several camping clotheslines, and my Dream Sack silk sheet because there's no top sheet and I have no conviction that the blanket is washed between guests—I could be wrong, but why not use my own gear if I'm not sure?

There is no wireless access here, and the one slow computer is at the bar and not at all private. I'll try to get a coffee and upload tomorrow morning. If you're reading this, I was ultimately successful, though perhaps not in a timely way. If there are photos, it was a connection with decent enough speed.

If you're keeping track, I'm up to 5 interviews with a 6th promised.

Questions, comments, anything you'd like me to address? Use the “comment” option if you want me to post it and reply in the blog. Use “message” if you want me to write you back individually—it gives me an easy way to get back to you quickly without having to go to e-mail or a directory (it doesn't show me your e-mail address).

Update: This morning we visited a local school and talked with the director. The facility was spacious and relatively new, with a building donated by the US Embassy. The director's figures about student costs and the success rate were the official story, but we know from external sources that there are a number of unacknowledged costs and that bribery to pass the exams is common. The director's salary is about $140 US dollars a month. I assume he has a way to supplement this.

Our guide just handed me some durian. I didn't think it was that smelly or that tasty, but it wasn't quite ripe. As for me, I'll take mango, rambutan, mangosteen, or lychee.

*When I make these lists, I always think of statements in Bored of the Rings that are similar to “After a hasty repast of orts and surds....”

Additional photos below
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ASUS eee computer, 4 GB USB drive, SD card reader, Olympus WS-400S recorder with RadioShack clip mike, Canon Sureshot 600

3rd February 2010

Banana Leaf!
I loved the banana and coconut in banana leaf but my favorite was the purple/black rice paste stuffed with coconut and coated in coconut cream and steamed in banana leaf. They're wrapped in little balls as opposed to the longer packages in your picture. Do you find those in Cambodia? Or is that just a Malaysia thing?

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