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Saturday, July 21, 2007

West Point Volunteers - Kevin

Well, we just arrived in Cambodia and I could tell immediately after leaving Siem Reap International airport that we were in a developing nation. The six of our group piled into a taxi van with all of our luggage and the feel of the air conditioning blasting from the vents was such a relief coming from the hot and muggy weather outside. The cab drive spoke broken English, and we all found it very interesting trying to communicate with him across somewhat of a language barrier and ask him all about Cambodia and himself. Though the conversation was intriguing and we were all bursting with excitement after finally arriving from our two days of non-stop travel, our attention turned to outside the van.

The streets were very busy; motorbikes speeding by and an occasional car or van weaving through both lanes of traffic. Small little markets lined the streets of intersections with woman selling fruit and gasoline from makeshift storefronts. Little children road their bikes along side the busy streets; some carrying their school books in their hands and dressed in their school uniform. Other children had two plastic bags attached to the rear of the bikes and searched the sides of the road for recyclables. Cows walked along side the road; packs of dogs barked at passing motorbikes – it was an interesting scene to say the least.

Mesmerized by the passing scenery, it took me a second to realize we had just turned onto an unpaved side street. As we dodged potholes on the road, we began to see small groups of houses. These houses were small and raised above the ground on stilt-like structures, obviously to avoid the water levels of the country’s long rainy season. It looked like the entire family was outside – the children were playing right outside the house and the mother was washing clothes at a nearby well. We passed various other kinds of buildings, one that looked like a newly open resort/spa and another that appeared to be completely abandoned. Finally, we saw a sign for Journeys Within, which would be our home in Cambodia for the next three weeks.

Crossing the tiny little wooden bridge, we were greeted by an almost out-of-place villa surrounded by a Cambodian countryside. Once we opened the door, the rain started pouring down and several of the employees ran out with umbrellas and began unloading our luggage. We next met John, our host for our time here.

July 31

The past three weeks have just whizzed by. I have had such a great time and have learned so much on this trip. From teaching the students at Wat Tamei, to visiting the temples at Angkor Wat, to traveling down to Phnom Penh for a weekend, I am truly grateful for the many experiences and memories that I will take back with me to the states and that I will remember for a long time to come.

Leaving Wat Tamei on the last day that we would be teaching was a great deal harder then I had expected it to be. Somehow the students all knew that we would be leaving the next day and that we may never see each other again. They really did not want us to go and kept asking us when the next time would be that we would come back to visit and to teach. Many of the students had email accounts, and we all exchanged email address so that we could continue to keep in touch with each other.

Though I am leaving, I am really looking forward to sponsoring one of the bright young students that I had in one of my classes. He is currently in grade 10, at age 14 no less, and really wants to continue his studies at a local university. He is a diligent worker and strives to succeed at everything he does. When he completes high school, I plan to work with John and JWOC to sponsor him for at least one year of university. I also hope to involve my family in sponsoring him for the remainder of his education at university.

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