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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

West Point Volunteers - Steven

July 9, 2007 Tokyo

After seventeen hours in the air, I doubt hell is that bad. No doubt, the high schoolers (of which there was around 30) combined with those sitting next to me, made the journey nothing short of memorable.

July 10, 2007 Bangkok Airport

Well, the day started in the Hotel Inn Come, in the heart of Bangkok. Last night we arrived in the city around midnight, met up with Zach Booms and took a $15.00 taxi to our hotel where the check-in was quick and the sleep followed soon thereafter.

The weather here feels a lot like the humid South around the Georgia area. I have yet to see any dirt since the ground is usually covered with thick vegetation.

So far our trip has not encountered any major trouble. The only cause for concern we have deals with Katie’s and Zach’s flight to Siem Reap today. Apparently they were booked on later flights than the other four (we leave at 1110, they leave at 1600 and 1800). We hope that their standby status will work out.

Oh and Thailand has a king… I’ve seen his picture…everywhere

July 17, 2007

Cambodia, what can I say about it? What I expected, I did not find and what I felt would never have been here, I have seen.

I suppose a good place to start is from the beginning. No doubt, my expectations of this place reflected the common belief of this country resembling the poorer, dangerous, and somewhat backwards area of the world. My old vision of the country involved no roads, dense jungle, rice fields as far as the eye could see, and cities that had next to no resemblance of their Western counterparts. Yet what I have seen of this country has astonished me.

Journeys Within Bed and Breakfast has all the modern convenience of any hotel, motel, or Bed and Breakfast in the United States. I was thoroughly surprised with the swimming pool, services, and hospitality shown at the B&B. Certainly, it was a breath of fresh air since it meant that my stay here would be both comfortable and memorable.

The temples around this area are beautiful – to the extent that I have made it my goal to revisit them at a later point in my life. Their size, history, beauty, and depth are all too much to take in within a mere weekend. I still remember just looking at the moat of Angkor Wat.

July 18, 2007

Its my birthday and for the record, there was a lot more to the previous blog entry; however, a power surge/spike forced the computer to reboot and erase nearly half of what I wrote… nuts…

The staff at the B&B prepared a wonderful birthday cake for me at lunch. It was a dark chocolate cake, with rich chocolate frosting and even more frosting within the cake. Without a doubt, they are some of the most kind people I have met in a very long time.

Today, teaching at the temple went well. I enjoy reading the students “Oliver Twist.” We’ve just reached the middle part of chapter two (page 9) – it’s slow going, but I read the book, make the students repeat what I say, then we go over the complicated vocabulary. Today Vincent had to demonstrate what “clumsy” meant… it was a good time.

Tonight I’m going out to celebrate my birthday. John recommended a Cambodian BBQ place that we’re all going to. I hope to survive tonight’s festivities.

25 July 2007

Yesterday morning I biked six kilometers to a small village with my companions and our guide. Though we set off early in the morning, the weather quickly became warm and I had a thin layer of sweat after the first kilometer. We biked over roads that lacked any sort of maintenance or upkeep: there were pot-holes larger than my bike and more than two feet deep, no organization to how or where people drove, and of course… no restriction to the number of people that could ride on a single motorcycle. I like to think of traveling on any Cambodian street is an adventure in itself. Quite literally, you will never see the same thing twice when you travel on these roads – from upside-down pigs on bikes, to dozens of chickens hanging, to a family of five on a small motorcycle… its simply amazing to watch.

Nevertheless we eventually reached the village where our guide lived. As with most of the area surrounding Siem Reap, the homes were raised off the ground and all the fields had rice. The only roads nearby were dirt trails which were both sandy and not maintained. When we came up to the house, the simply construction of the home became apparent. The walls of the structure were either sheet metal or a layering of palm leaves. The roof also made use of palm leaves. Chickens lived under the home and a small rice field nearby provided food for the family. When we asked our guide about the home, he informed us that the home was built in a single day with the help of family and friends.

After our brief visit at the house, we traveled on our bikes to a nearby lake and proceeded to load the bikes onto a small boat which took us to the lake’s center island. This island had the ruins of, what I’m guessing was, an incomplete temple. As we expected, with any temple there are vendors and after spending time with these locals, we again boarded the boat and went across the lake to the opposite end from where we started. At this end, we thanked the boatman and drank fresh coconuts before beginning the trek back.

Following the bike rides, our next task was to teach English. As always, I love teaching my students – they are some of the most dedicated, good-natured, and agreeable people I’ve ever met. Though I am saddened at the thought of leaving them next week, I am reassured that this group of dedicated individuals will do well in the future as long as they stay focused, determined, and goal-oriented.

Finally, if someone ever makes it their wish to come and visit Cambodia… bring plenty of Pepto-Bismol… that stuff is a life saver.

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