Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Schooled by Pushpa

January 18-21: On Jan 18th we all pakced up and took a bus to Bangkok International Airport to catch our flight to Cambodia. It was a bit of a hassle in the beginning but we all managed to get through and make our way to the plane. It was such a short ride and it was a little less than an hour that we were on the plane. Flying into Siem Reap was interesting because from the air, I could already see how different Cambodia was from Thailand. I didn't see any big buildings or busy streets, but hundreds of farm houses and feilds of rice.

Getting through customs was a bit more difficult because we all had to get our visas and wait for them to be inspected and then stamped again and then finally go through customs and then we finally met our guides!

The hotel was beautiful! It was pretty big and was all wood, like little cabins in the jungle. We had a little down time but soon we were off to visit a temple to see the sun set. We hiked up a hill and made our way to the temple. There were so many people there, it was amazing! We climbed the steep stairs all the way to the top and could look out for miles around us and see fields and the jungle! As soon as the sun began to set, it was truly an amazing sight. Sunsets in Asia are really beautiful and the sky was so full of color! On our way down, we heard this loud ringing and it sounded like people were doing construction, but it was actually these insects that live in the trees, it was weird.

On our way down, we passed this women who was begging for money and holding her sick child. It is really hard to not see something like that in Cambodia. I had only seen that a few times in Thailand but now I see it every where here, it makes me really sad and I also get this feeling of guilt. I feel like the United States has been able to hide these types of things from me. I knew I would see poverty and things like women begging but I didn't know it would be so intense. I am glad that I have seen it, and I am greatful for the live that I have been given in the U.S. I really don't know what I would do if I were in their shoes.

So later on in the night we all went out to dinner for traditional Khmer food. It was really good and we were able to choose what we wanted and put it in the middle to be boiled and then make a soup with it. Everything was going great until Professor Pushpa told us that we would be meeting later on in the night to discuss some serious problems. I asked her what they were and she looked me dead in the eye and told me that it was about me getting yelled at by the ploice in the temple for climbing around on the temple. My hear dropped and all I could do was just stare at her. She said it was serious and that she would have to talk to me about what I had done. The only thing I could think of and say at the time was that they told me it was ok but not to do it again. We kept our eyes on each other but then all of a sudden she starts laughing~! She told me she was joking but I really had thought that I was going to get into serious trouble. My friends, Ashley and Steph have been trying to get me with a joke the whole time on this trip. I am just really surprised that Pushpa was the one who got me and not them.

The next day we went to all of the other temples. The one that I had the most fun in was the one where the movie Tomb Raider was filmed. Huge trees were growing out of the top of the temples and Ashley and I were pretending to raid the tomb. It was awesome and amazing to see all of these temples at Angkor Wat. However, there were also so many children there trying to see little things for a dollar. They didn't stop until you finally walked into a car, an area they could not go, or purchased something. Most of the time I felt so bad for these kids I would buy something from them. The younger ones seem to be the ones who get most of the tourist to buy things because they are so cute. However, most of the kids selling things are girls, not boys and the boys are more likely to go to school then the girls. It was just really sad so see children playing and being innocent for several minutes, then see them trying to make a sale so their family could eat. It was really difficult for me to see.

I asked a few of the guys who were selling books their ages and the 4 or 5 that I spoke with were between 23 and 25. A few of them were going to night school at the University to study tourism so they could be a tour guide. Most of them were really excited about it and liked to talk to the tourist to work on their English. When I asked them about the history of their country, all they could tell me about was the Angkor Empire which is very special and important to the Khmer people. I asked them about Cambodia in the 70s and 80s and they couldn't tell me anything that had happened. I thought was strange but to be expected since Cambodian schools don't even go over the genocide in their classes.

That was our last day in Siem Reap and after a night out with some of the people from my group, we packed up and made our way on a bus toBattambang. I can't tell you about the ride there because I was asleep the whole time but it was different from Siem Reap. Not as developed and there was more poverty here. Tomorrow we are going t an HIV/AIDS clinic and school and that is going to be so hard. Most of the people there are children and no one ever likes to see kids suffer or be sad. We are going to start serious interviews tomorrow, and I am looking forward to that. The trip will definitley be more emotional for the next week.

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