Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Last Evening in Phnom Penh

I can't believe that our last evening in Phnom Penh is over...well, for me it has... there are a few others still dancing at the 'Heart of Darkness' - a popular bar/ disco in this city. Once we got through a Britney Spears song, Faith and I were ready to leave and so were Ashley and Rachel. It was great fun! It has been a very intense and fast paced trip.

We started bright and early this morning at 8.15. I told everyone we would meet at 8 even though I had planned with our local host, Sitha to meet at 8.15. I did it because every morning we are delayed by 10 minutes as there are always a few still sitting at the breakfast table. Today when I came down, everyone was ready and waiting for me. Brandon wants me to apologise to him for 'lying'...after steering a group of 13 for 10 days, I don't think I want to apologise :)

We had a full day today with meetings with two NGOs - World Vision (Human Traficking Project) and Youth for Peace (Project on Trauma Healing and Reconciliation). I leave it to the group to talk about their take away points from these two visits. We also visited the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an organisation that does excellent work in documenting the past and strategizing on including history and memory into the present.

We did all of this and lunch without a break and by 5.15, we were on a boat on the Mekong river, to enjoy sunset and to unwind. We had a lot of fun on the boat – I am simply very happy with the positive spirit that existed all through in this group. After the boat ride, we went to dinner at a restaurant which is on the same river. It was beautiful, food was wonderful and of course, great company. We raised toast to our wonderful driver – Pagiren – who has been with us since Siem Reap, to our hosts – especially Sitha, Bopha, Emma, Ngarm - the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and to us, as a Team. The group got me a chocolate ice-cream with candles and sang ‘she is a jolly good fellow…’ I was so touched. It has been so much work getting this course set up but it has equally been a lot of fun. I did pick the students for this course, and I am really pleased with how well we have worked together and I think, we can see the beginning of some good friendships.

The students have put in a lot of work and for most part their interest and excitement in learning something new every day was obvious. We are a serious group and as is repeatedly told to us by people here, we come across as a group that is really eager to learn and is not one that is out there just to have fun in a foreign country. It is a great compliment, one that I am proud of…we have had a great time but we have also done so much work. We do have a lot to reflect on, in the coming weeks. We still have a three hour meeting tomorrow with members of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. After that, we will all go our own way and get back to Monterey sometime before the end of the week.

I’ll write more later – it’s once again a late night!

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