A Travellerspoint blog


Cambodian Children Against Starvation and Violence Association

I've been here almost three weeks now and I figure its about time to write a bit about work. I work for an NGO (defined above) that works with street children in phnom penh. In the mornings, I go out with a field worker to various parts of the city to look after street kids and help some get vocational training/school. The problem is parents don't want their kids to go to school because if they do, they aren't on the streets making money for the family. To make matters worse public school in cambo isn't really free and the teachers demand money from the kids to pay their salary. Boils down to lack of gov support but we won't get into that...

Yesterday, I was in the most unbelievable slum area. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before in my life - even worse than some of the slums I've already been to in cambo. It was made up of alleys (narrow walkways really) lined with dirty shacks made from whatever materials people could find (usually tin, wood, and debris.) The ground, including that inside the houses, if a mix of mud, shit and trash. Some of the houses are on short stilts that actually sit on heaps of trash. As you walk through the alleys you pass by dirty naked children running around playing with scraps of plastic and trash. There are flies everywhere and you bat them away at first but then realize that it's not even worth it- there are too many. The people living there don't seem to even notice when they land on their faces- they just let them sit there. We stopped to talk to a girl who had stopped going to school. But how do you explain the importance of education to someone whose family relies on them to beg so they can eat. As the field worker spoke in khmer to the girls mother, I listened- but I could only make out that the mother had AIDS. I've since visited slum areas almost every day and you do get a bit hardened to the scene- but hardened isn't to say that you arent appalled or will ever forget it.

On a lighter note, I absolutely love it here. I've been here almost three weeks and I can already tell that it is the most unbelievable experience I've ever had. This crazy country, with all of its poverty- but also beauty, is really starting to grow on me.

Posted by jmalsch 06:12 Comments (1)


Weekend Trip to Eastern Cambo

So this past weekend was the pchum ben festival where pretty much everyone leaves phnom penh thursday to visit their families in the provinces. 8 of us decided to take a trip to Mondulkiri (about 8 hours east of PP) for the long weekend. 5 people left wednesday but three of us still had to work wed so we left thursday- anyway, we bought tickets to take a truck, which is just about the only way to get there since more than half of the ride is on dirt roads which are made even worse by the fact that its monsoon season. So we show up for the truck and find that all 3 of us are squeezed in the back seat with another woman and a baby (yes that would be 4 people and a baby in the back seat of a pickup truck). Wow, where to begin... first there was the baby. I was wondering to myself what would happen if the baby had to pee (or worse) since no one here uses diapers. Well, my question was answered when the mother took out a small bucket and held the baby over it every so often! - and then put it back on the floor by my feet! Then there was the driver who must of had a chest cold or something because he kept making the most horrid snorting noise every few minutes and then he would spit whatever nasty stuff came up out the window. Absolutely disgusting. Then, the toddler sitting in the front seat turned around and spit at us!! Did I mention that the truck broke down and the ride ended up taking 11 hours!! On the other hand, the trip there was so horrible it was actually hilarious!

Mondulkiri itself was really amazing. We did a two day elephant trek through the jungle to this remote village that can only be reached by either elephant or walking. The village people killed a chicken with a slingshot for our dinner! It was pretty amazing to see these people whose lives had remained pretty much unchanged for years, even as other parts of Cambodia developed. We slept overnight in a thatch roof hut on a wooden plank with mosquito nets. It was pretty damn uncomfortable but a really interesting experience nonetheless. It was a great weekend but we all were happy to get back to PP and clean hot showers!

I'm still trying to upload all my pictures but its been taking a really long time, so bare with me! Hopefully I'll get them all up in the next few days. The site for those is at the top of the page!

Posted by jmalsch 03:57 Comments (0)

Wat Phnom, Royal Palace, Russian Market

I spent all of the weekend exploring Phom Penh with a flatmate. We started at Wat Phnom, which is a pretty important Wat. It sits on a hill (the only hill in Phom Penh). You can walk through the temples and around the grounds, which are really beautiful. From what I understand, people go to this temple specifically for good luck. There are hundreds of statues inside holding 100 riel notes (note: 4,000 riel = $1 US).

The Russian Market is a HUUUGE market with things like clothes, carvings, silver, dvds, etc... It also has a food section that smelled like dead fish and god knows what... You can even buy fried spiders and crickets from stands outside!

I spent most of Sunday exploring the Royal Palace grounds. The grounds themselves are huge and house the royal quarters, the Silver Pagoda, and various other ornate structures. (see pictures)

Posted by jmalsch 03:42 Comments (2)

My Cambodian Introduction

Boeung Tom Pon

So after 24 hours of traveling I'm finally here! I've never been a diary type of person so anyone who reads this will just have to bear with me a little...

So I arrived on Saturday morning (Friday night US time) and found that after I got my visa straightened out, my bag was still in San Francisco. Luckily I had most of my stuff in my backpack so I wasn't in too much trouble. Someone from the program met me at the airport and took me to the flat I'll be staying in for the next 2.5 months. It's in an area called Bueung Tom Pon, which isn't very developed (no land line phones yet). Most of the buildings on our road are just shacks that are open in the front and on stilts in back (there is a swamp/lake behind our house.)

After I dropped off my stuff I decided to go right out and see the city with one of my flatmates. We got on a moto (small motorcycle thats the most common from of transportation). It was pretty surreal to be on a plane one minute (actually many MANY minutes) and then riding around on a moto through this crazy city the next!

Phnom Penh is a really interesting city. There is so much diversity in the buildings. You could pass a nice store with glass doors and right next to it could be a row of dirty tin shacks (see photos of my street!) There are Wats (temples) all over the city, which makes for a really exotic landscape. At first I was terrified to go out on my own because I thought I'd never be able to find my way back but by Monday I'd pretty much worked out some main landmarks to direct moto drivers. There is a monument called Kbar Knarl right near our street which is a good tool for direction. All moto drivers know where that is, even though they might not recognize Boeung Tom Pon.

Posted by jmalsch 03:25 Archived in Cambodia Comments (3)

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