Edit Blog Post
Published: February 4th 2010
We began yesterday with a trip to a local school. It was airy and pleasant. The director gave us the official story about the students' low costs and the teachers' low pay. This is true on paper, but in practice, students really need to pay for “special classes” taught by their teachers for an additional fee.
As we walked around, another tour participant remarked that she was looking at the classrooms and seeing S-21/Toul Sleng, the school that the Khmer Rouge converted to their interrogation and torture center. I have a similar experience when I look at giggling teenagers and imagine them in Khmer Rouge uniforms and holding guns.
Lunch was pretty and all seafood, not my favorite, but I at it anyway. I did pick around the octopus and just eat the squid.
After lunch we went out to a village and met with members of a women's saving cooperative. Saving money is a new idea for many here, and so giving a group seed money for their group lets them discuss investments and loans as a group. They decide who gets a micro-loan rather than the NGO. We met under a house in the shade (think
of a carport with a room over it) and they showed us their accounts and described what they'd used their loans for. They lend to members at no interest for three months and to others at low interest (Cambodian loans are typically at 100% interest, so this is a great deal). In addition to making loans for needs such as a bike to take fish to market or improve a roadside business or get to Phnom Penh with a sick child, these groups engage in community advocacy, such as fighting foreign development that is illegal but greased with bribes. The women said that since the joined the group, they are not afraid of well-dressed people, officials, and foreigners.
This group was mostly Cham. The Cham are an ancient Muslim minority group. The women wore scarves and a few wore veils as well. I was happy to be able to greet them in Arabic, and they seemed surprised and pleased. They said that they get along with their Khmer neighbors just fine, and when they posed for a photo outside a mushroom growing shed with one of the members who is Khmer, they laughingly put a scarf on her, which
everyone seemed to find funny.
On an hour's break, I watched the police stopping and fining motorbike drivers who weren't wearing helmet. Some people tried to flee; some managed and others didn't. Some (those without legal registrations?) had their bikes impounded. I wouldn't have had bad feelings about it except that everyone seemed to agree that the police were pocketing the money.
We drove out to the bay and boarded little fishing boats (dories with outboard motors). We watched a beautiful sunset, the water going from dark turquoise to teal to grey-blue with rose and mauve highlights to black. The fishing boats were spilling out their nets (they looked like long traps to me), while the poor fishermen waded in with a headlamp to attract the fish and an enormous hand-held net. We were out for about two hours learning about fishing and about illegal incursions on the community fishing grounds by trawlers and developers. It was quite warm even out on the water, and after a meal at Rikitikitavi, I really enjoyed showering and washing my clothes.
Half the group is at a village, sleeping in borrowed houses for the night. I hope they have a
great time, and I'm regretting not going only a little as I do things like run the air conditioner and enjoy indoor plumbing. Perhaps some other time.
Tot: 3.062s; Tpl: 0.054s; cc: 12; qc: 26; dbt: 0.042s; 2; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb