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    [post_date] => 2017-07-05 18:51:03
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    [post_content] => Ojai, July 5:

I was up most of the night last night, with a delayed difficulty in adjusting my internal clock to Pacific Time. I read a lot of French history in preparation for my next summer adventure--an academic course in Paris. I thought jet-lag was supposed to be easier in this direction!

This morning I delivered Will to the train in Ventura, and as a now fully-independent "traveler" he was able to get to Burbank airport and is now, I assume, happily together with his family. Last night he watched the fireworks from campus after spending the day with Alice, his day-student classmate, but I decided not to watch: I didn't want the local pyrotechnics to dilute my memory of the Queen's Birthday/International Refugee Day fireworks in Phnom Penh a few weeks ago. Returning to the quay on a small boat that had drifted down to where the Tonle Sap joins the Mekong, the multicolored bursts and concussive resonance seemed to be filling the air just over our heads. On the boat we had debriefed our earlier visits to Tuol Sleng and the "Killing Fields," considering, "What does justice look like in Cambodia?" This was just one of a myriad of questions we had pondered in our three weeks in the country. I hope all of us continue asking them.

It was a little hectic making the flight connection at the Hong Kong airport: our dear Yao was leaving us, but we had little time for sentiment, as Klara needed to get a boarding pass (with Abby's loyal assistance) and we had been late arriving due to thunderstorms. All was well in the end, however, as our last leg was also late and we had plenty of time to make the connection. Movie-watching, eating, chatting, dozing, and reading filled our long journey back to Los Angeles, and because of our delay most of the students with further connections had to hustle through immigration, baggage claim, and customs before streaking to their next flights. Miraculously, they all made their connections--some by the skin of their "kromas"! Devon was right to admonish me about staying positive when I was sure some connections would be missed. Resourceful Toads--especially world travelers-- always rise to the occasion.

Like everyone else, I assume, I am happy to be back with my family. But I miss the group--students and instructors--dearly: they provided such an array of wondrous moments and plain fun. I could not have asked for a more sensitive, mature, enthusiastic, intelligent, and amusing group of travelers. Time and time again they rose to the challenges before us: excessive heat, stomach problems, the emotional realities of Cambodia history, and the mental and physical demands of travel. I learned much from them through their thoughtful responses, their personal support for each other, their humorous quips, and their sincere interest in the people we met. I know our moments in the pagoda in Koh Ksach Tonlea will hold a special place in all of our hearts. So many beautiful moments.

I know that our instructors enjoyed the students' unique qualities that somehow blended to create a dynamic that more often than not made us all feel comfortable--and larger than we are individually. I think we have not seen the last of Yut and Jan . . .

So: Aw-kun Everyone. Aw-kun, Anna-Liisa. Aw-kun, James. Aw-kun, Klara. Aw-kun, Will. Aw-kun, Abby. Aw-kun, Jina. Aw-kun, Colin. Aw-kun Yao. Aw-kun, Devon. Aw-kun, Steven. Aw-kun, Yut and Jan. Aw-Kun, Donald. Aw-kun, Thavry. Aw-kun, Sokeng Eng. Aw-kun, Sithul Thon.

Aw-kun, Kampuchea . . .

 
    [post_title] => Looking Back at Cambodia
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PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

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Looking Back at Cambodia

Jake Jacobsen,PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

Description

Ojai, July 5: I was up most of the night last night, with a delayed difficulty in adjusting my internal clock to Pacific Time. I read a lot of French history in preparation for my next summer adventure–an academic course in Paris. I thought jet-lag was supposed to be easier in this direction! This morning I […]

Posted On

07/5/17

Author

Jake Jacobsen

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    [post_content] => We spent two amazing days on Rabbit Island admiring the beautiful view and reflecting upon our adventure. Our group enjoyed delicious meals, the sunshine, and swimming. Some of us even indulged in massages. Our last day will be spent in Phnom Penh preparing for the trip home.
    [post_title] => Paradise found on Rabbit Island
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Paradise found on Rabbit Island

Jan Wolf,PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

Description

We spent two amazing days on Rabbit Island admiring the beautiful view and reflecting upon our adventure. Our group enjoyed delicious meals, the sunshine, and swimming. Some of us even indulged in massages. Our last day will be spent in Phnom Penh preparing for the trip home.

Posted On

07/3/17

Author

Jan Wolf

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    [post_content] => The Thacher group has left Cambodia and is headed home! We wish them safe travels and we miss them already.

 
    [post_title] => Thacher Team Headed Home!
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Thacher Team Headed Home!

I-team,PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

Description

The Thacher group has left Cambodia and is headed home! We wish them safe travels and we miss them already.  

Posted On

07/3/17

Author

I-team

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    [post_date] => 2017-07-02 13:25:39
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    [post_content] => After our final goodbye party with all of our homestay families, we headed off of the island to Kampot. Many of us shared intimate last moments with our Cambodian families before we walked to the boat to go to our bus away from the place we learned to call home over the past week. After around an hour drive, we arrived in the province of Kampot, famous for its pepper, and began our adventure there with lunch at a cafe which employed deaf and disabled Cambodians. We then went to the hotel for some down time after a fun but exhausting week of homestays. Before dinner, we explored some of the new town and stopped by a pepper shop where we learned about Kampot pepper and what makes it so unique. Something about the soil in Kampot fosters a special oil in its pepper and creates an oil which takes 3-4 minutes to affect your taste buds instead of the normal 15-20 seconds. Then, we went out by the river and split up to explore independently and eat dinner. After eating, shopping, and just looking around, we rejoined and met in a nearby park for some reflection time about our homestay experiences. We went to bed tired and happy to be in an air conditioned hotel and sleeping in a soft bed.
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PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

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Saying Goodbye to Homestays

Abby Romo,PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

Description

After our final goodbye party with all of our homestay families, we headed off of the island to Kampot. Many of us shared intimate last moments with our Cambodian families before we walked to the boat to go to our bus away from the place we learned to call home over the past week. After around […]

Posted On

07/2/17

Author

Abby Romo

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    [post_content] => Although Koh Ksach Tunlea (our homestay location) bares no resemblance to the concrete jungle that is Wall Street, the island has a bustling economy of its own. Turn in suits and ties for flip flops and t-shirts, and you'll find fishermen and famers all trying to turn a profit, many using micro finance loans. The loans vary in amount, from $25 to $125, with interest rates and all. While a staggering 90% of Cambodians don't have access to loans, we were able to meet with two individuals on the island who shared their experience with us. Our first interviewee was Si Thul, Tavrey's dad. Tavrey was our host on the island and an inspiration to us all, but what her dad was able to share with us was quite fascinating. In 2002, he decided to start a farm. He took out a loan and used some of the money to start his business while placing the other portion in savings. After years if producing vegetables, Si Thul learned that seasonal fruits would turn a better profit, so he decided to renovate his farm into an orchard filled with mangos and papayas. He was able to pay back his loans due to his success and smart saving, all while putting aside money for his children's education. Today, Si Thul's farm is still flourishing after producing yet another mango harvest this past April, providing the perfect supplies for Cambodia's favourite sticky treat: mango jam. When asked about how he learned to save and invest money, Si Thul pointed to his brain with a smile, suggesting its all inherit. Our second interview was with a woman who took a gamble when she decided to take out a loan for her fishing business with her husband. After purchasing a small boat and supplies, she found it difficult to repay the loan and feed her family, so she was forced to take another loan. The woman said this led her down a dangerous path, and she had to eventually borrow money from a local 'loan shark' that could produce an interest rate as high as 260%. Today, she is still trying to pay back her loans and is working on Tavrey's family farm for extra income. Si Thul's success story along side the woman's struggle showed us the benefits and doubts of micro financing, and how important yet dangerous they can be in the "developing" world.
    [post_title] => Micro Finance - Island Style
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PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

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Micro Finance – Island Style

Devon Roberts,PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

Description

Although Koh Ksach Tunlea (our homestay location) bares no resemblance to the concrete jungle that is Wall Street, the island has a bustling economy of its own. Turn in suits and ties for flip flops and t-shirts, and you’ll find fishermen and famers all trying to turn a profit, many using micro finance loans. The […]

Posted On

07/2/17

Author

Devon Roberts

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    [post_content] => After planting mangroves, we headed to Rabbit Island. As we arrived in Kep (where we were to board the boat to the island) we were all anxious about how the ride was going to go. We had been told that it was about a half hour ride, and that we would all be on a small boat. After taking our dramamine to avoid motion sickness we boarded the swaying boat as the waves tossed it back and forth in the water. We made sure to put our pack covers on as water splashed onto us as we sped through the water. The boat that I was on unfortunately lost power in the middle of our journey and it took a few tense minutes of dramatic waves to start the engine again. Once the engine was restarted Kep faded into the distance and the boat cut a beautiful line through the blue-green water, leaving behind a stream of bubbles. Abby and I were sitting in the back of the boat, and we watched the small fish that would jump alongside the boat as we disturbed the water around them. Arriving at the island, we unloaded our bags and were greeted by the owners of the bungalows in which we were staying. While the accommodations were meagre, the beautiful landscape and warm water made up for the lack of western comfort. As soon as we arrived, it was made clear that the next few days were to be filled with exploration and relaxation as we debriefed the trip.

- Klara

There are no rabbits on Rabbit Island. It's an island with a shape similar to a rabbit, mostly covered by primitive jungles and has not yet been overly developed that it has lost its natural beauty. We spent the last two days of our trip (June 30th and July 1st) in this magnificent scenery, resting, meditating and transitioning back to our lives back home. Our boats pulled right up to the beach next to the bright blue beach chairs that lined up along the coastline for hundreds of meters. After dropping our bags in the bungalows we rented, we changed right away into our bathing suits and jumped into the water. The temperature was just about right, and the water is so clear that we can spot the starfishes resting on the sand.

I swam for about 4 hours the first day, floating in the water and cooling off while reflecting on the amazing experiences we've had in the "Kingdom of Wonders" in the past three weeks. James, Colin, Steven and I also tried to body surf in the petit waves after lunch, but it did not quite work that well. Except for the sunburns we all got on our shoulders and backs, I have never felt so content and happy on a beach before. We had some lectures from Jake and Yut learning about cultural transmission and the different ethnicity groups in Cambodia during our "swimming breaks", and went to bed in the cool wind under the starry night sky after some card games.

Devon and I woke up early on the second day and went for a morning swim. We did several activities to wrap up our whole experience and help us think about how to share our stories with family and friends. These include a pop quiz activity in which the winning team members each got a coconut from the instructors as reward. With the blue water of the Gulf of Thailand right in front of us, we spent the day swimming, reading, journaling, taking pictures and getting massages, while reflecting upon the days we've been through. We ended the transmission with a closing ceremony. Under the hazy moon and twinkling stars, we all sat in a circle on the grass to share our gratitudes and takeaways. In the end, we all got these leather tokens from our dear instructors to represent all the good memories we had on this trip and the good wishes we have for each other after we return.

Tomorrow we will be traveling to Phnom Penh to get ready for our departure on the morning of July 3.

- Yao
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PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

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Rabbit Island – Our Last Stop!

Klara Jacobs and Yao Yin,PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

Description

After planting mangroves, we headed to Rabbit Island. As we arrived in Kep (where we were to board the boat to the island) we were all anxious about how the ride was going to go. We had been told that it was about a half hour ride, and that we would all be on a […]

Posted On

07/2/17

Author

Klara Jacobs and Yao Yin

WP_Post Object
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    [post_date] => 2017-07-02 13:22:49
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    [post_content] => After a bike ride around Koh Ksach Tonlea, our group was able to listen to the stories of four Cambodian women. This panel, organized by our homestay coordinator, Thavry Thon, focused on the role of women in Cambodia over different generations. Thavry has recently published a book called A Proper Woman, which documents the limited opportunities for women and her own struggle to pursue education. Thavry has completed higher education in Cambodia as well as the Czech Republic and currently works for a travel company called Toursanak, which her brother founded. Thavry's story is incredibly inspirational and she was our gateway to the stories of three other women who live on Tonlea. Our first speaker was named Sroy, and grew up during the Khmer Rouge rule of Cambodia. She had completed primary school but was unable to finish secondary school because of the new rules implemented by the Angkar. During this period, she had an arranged marriage which was organized by the Khmer Rouge. As newlyweds, they barely spent time together because of the long and brutal work days. When asked about her expected role as a woman, she said she was supposed to be quiet and reserved. She would never travel far from home and talking to boys was discouraged. Sroy was told that even the touch of a boy would result in pregnancy. Sroy's life depicts the very limited role of women during her generation, while Thavry's mother's life, the generation below Sroy, shows little change. Thavry''s mother, Kim Eang, struggled throughout her childhood to receive an education. Her own mother believed it was a frivilous pursuit, as women were supposed to tend to the house work. She was nearly able to complete grade 7 when she was forced to drop out due to her inability to study because of her household chores. Kim Eang then worked at home, and was morphed into the 'proper' woman. She recalled that even talking to boys would result in gossip and that she could not even go to the pagoda alone. Her marriage was arranged, like Sroy's, but organized by her own mother. She and her husband were very shy to one another and would never hold hands. Today, they have three children and have grown to care for each other. Kim Eang fought incredibly hard to pursue her academic goals but was unable to begin secondary school, highlighting Cambodia's limited role for women. Our last speaker was 18 years old and belonged to the same generation as the Thacher students on this trip. She told us that she wanted independence from her parents, and pursued her goals by dropping out of school in Grade 6 and moving to Phnom Penh at the age of 14. She worked in a meatball factory and received a salary of $65 USD per month. In Phnom Penh, she met the man who would be her husband, and they were married when she was 16. She returned to the village with her husband and 2 year old child and is completely financially dependent on her husband. She said that her parents were supportive of the marriage because it was what she wanted. When asked about her hopes for her children, she said that she wants them to learn English, but does not know what else. The life of this young girl is perhaps puzzling for westerns as she willingly became a wife and a mother at such a young age. During the panel, she seemed content with her decisions as she had received independence from her parents and married the man she loved. Her life, as well as the lives of Thavry, Sroy, and Kim Eang, each present the opportunities for women in rural Cambodia. Despite the slow progress, women in Cambodia are becoming more empowered to reach higher education. This year, 6 girls from the island have begun pursuing university, a number that has slowly increased each year since Thavry first left the island for Phnom Penh. However, girls in rural Cambodia are still experiencing arranged marriages, limited academic opportunities, and young motherhood, like Sroy, Kim Eang, and the young mother we spoke to. Overall, the stories presented in this panel have shown that the role of women is improving, but outdated expectations for women still affect rural communities.
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PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

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A Proper Woman Panel

Anna-Liisa Eklund,PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

Description

After a bike ride around Koh Ksach Tonlea, our group was able to listen to the stories of four Cambodian women. This panel, organized by our homestay coordinator, Thavry Thon, focused on the role of women in Cambodia over different generations. Thavry has recently published a book called A Proper Woman, which documents the limited opportunities […]

Posted On

07/2/17

Author

Anna-Liisa Eklund

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    [post_content] => To end our homestay, we spent the final full day in Koh Khsach Tunlea connecting with the local population. In the morning, we helped the nearby school's fifth grade class with an art project, in which we, both us and the students, made origami butterflies inscribed with our hopes and dreams for Cambodia and it's future. After spending the morning going through countless papers in the name of craft, the butterflies were strung up on strings and hung from the class' ceiling.

After adjourning for lunch, we (without fifth graders) went to the Pagoda next to the school to discuss the morning's activities, learn an ancient monk chant, and write thank you notes for our homestay families. We ended the afternoon's activities by cleaning up the pagoda.

The day was ended with a goodbye dinner. All of us and our host families banded together in Thavry's parent's front lawn to eat, drink, say our thank yous to our families and the village chief, and dance. Although we students were really only ones on the dance floor. After the dinner, we all returned home to pack and prepare for the next day's departure.
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PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

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Final Day in the Homestay

Colin Smith,PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

Description

To end our homestay, we spent the final full day in Koh Khsach Tunlea connecting with the local population. In the morning, we helped the nearby school’s fifth grade class with an art project, in which we, both us and the students, made origami butterflies inscribed with our hopes and dreams for Cambodia and it’s […]

Posted On

07/2/17

Author

Colin Smith

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    [post_date] => 2017-06-30 10:12:22
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Yesterday, we visited a mangrove planting site and we learned a lot about the impact of private companies wanting to develop resorts and hotels in that area and how the lives of the fishermen are affected in the nearby villages. Once we arrived at the planting site, each of us planted two small mangrove trees while sinking deeper into the mud with every step. Many of us ended up covered in mud up to our thighs. Afterwards, we visited a beach at Kep and we enjoyed a few hours on the shore of a calm and warm gulf. We returned to Kampot and finished the day exploring the area, shopping and eating dinner with a view of the Kampot river.  We are moving on in our travels to Rabbit Island.

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PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

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Mangrove Planting

Steven Yoo,PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

Description

  Yesterday, we visited a mangrove planting site and we learned a lot about the impact of private companies wanting to develop resorts and hotels in that area and how the lives of the fishermen are affected in the nearby villages. Once we arrived at the planting site, each of us planted two small mangrove […]

Posted On

06/30/17

Author

Steven Yoo

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We started off the day facing the altar in the Buddhist temple located in close proximity to the primary school on the Koh Ksach Tunlea. The ten of us sat silently, legs crossed, backs straight, listening to Yut’s soothing voice echo through the temple walls, guiding us to focus on our breaths. Elaborate drawings decorated the walls and ceilings and arches extended like tree trunks to the heavens. We were all so enchanted that we barely noticed when Yut instructed us to open our eyes. The room gradually awoke and we shifted into a circle as Yut began his monk chat. He talked about joining the monastery as the oldest brother of five sisters. His father and grandfather had both been monks. Yut recounted that when he was approached by his father about becoming a monk at nine years old, he was excited at the prospect of plentiful meals.

Eventually, Yut brought up the question of reincarnation and asked each of us if we would want to be re-born as a male or female. The conversation evolved into a deep cultural discussion on gender and the woes of being a man and a woman. Each of us gave our own perspectives and thoughts. By the end, I had shed a tear on behalf of Mr. Jacobsen’s comment about a mother’s infinite capacity for love.

After a deeply moving discussion, we went back to our homes for lunch and then reconnected as a group in the afternoon. Mr. Jacobsen gave us a journal prompt about how we can incorporate the Buddhist principles we have learned about on our trip at home and in our daily lives. Some of us talked about improving our relations with our siblings and family. I talked about materialism. We all have learned so much from Yut’s Buddhism lessons and simply from talking to him. Then, we transitioned to discussing the different perspectives on alleviating poverty. We were paired up and given quotations on the human condition and the nature of wealth. We came up with questions and voted on two to discuss. One of the questions we moved forward with was, “If we can only alleviate and not ’solve’ third world problems, where can we draw the line between alleviating and solving?”

Before heading home for dinner, I was surprised by Jan and Thavry. They had to make a run to Phnom Penh and had returned with a durian fruit for me to enjoy. I beamed with joy and graciously accepted the odorous yet delicious spiky fruit. The group was given another surprise: we were all invited to a birthday party at Abby’s host family’s house for her younger brother, Rattanak. He was turning three years old. It was such a considerate gesture that made the us feel truly a part of the village community.

The fourteen of us arrived at their home, and they set up tables and chairs for us. Abby’s host family welcomed us into their home with smiles and pressed palms. Some of us had brought presents for the birthday boy. He and his friends were delighted, and began playing with their new toys immediately. There was a beautifully decorated cake with a horse made of frosting, for the year of the horse. We gathered and sang an untraditional version of the birthday song in English that we all grooved to. Then, we circled around the birthday boy as he went to blow out the candles. It took a few tries but with a determined huff, the room went dark and cheers erupted. We sang once more and sat down as we were offered drinks and Khmer sandwiches with hot sauce and shrimp patties. It was a truly unique experience! The day began with peace and ended in rejoicing.

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Homestay Day 4: Surpises!

Jina Zhao,PARTNERSHIP: Thacher Cambodia

Description

We started off the day facing the altar in the Buddhist temple located in close proximity to the primary school on the Koh Ksach Tunlea. The ten of us sat silently, legs crossed, backs straight, listening to Yut’s soothing voice echo through the temple walls, guiding us to focus on our breaths. Elaborate drawings decorated […]

Posted On

06/28/17

Author

Jina Zhao

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