Tuesday, July 13, 2010

James Whitler - West Point Cadets

Today, as I sit in the sun reflecting on the last few weeks, I cannot help but feel fortunate. My time spent in Cambodia has been very rewarding, and my experiences with JWOC have helped me see Cambodia in a ways I would have never imagined. Over the course of my stay here, I have worked with JWOC handing out water purification systems to villages, monitoring wells, teaching self-defense classes, and helping small business owners who have taken microfinance loans from the NGO. These experiences have shown me aspects of Cambodia that I would have otherwise missed and has helped me to develop a genuine appreciation for Cambodian Culture.

Traveling to Cambodia as a westerner can seem a little overwhelming at first, but after a while the people and the culture will make you not want to leave. It pays to have an open mind though. While in Cambodia, I have had to change my perceptions on many things—including what is edible, and my idea of safe travel. The locals here eat just about anything you can imagine, big spiders, baby frogs, crickets, small birds, among other things are all considered treats here. While I was hesitant at first, after trying these local treats I will admit they aren’t too bad, in fact the baby frogs were really good! Another thing that surprised me about Cambodia is the roads. The first time driving on a road in Cambodia is an adventure. It will not take long to see that traffic laws are more suggestions, and the idea that a vehicle may have a caring capacity is notional. However, this too only added to the trip’s overall fun and excitement.

While eating crazy foods and driving on crazy roads was cool, the best part about the trip was the people. Cambodian people are amazing people. They are fun, they love to laugh, they love to smile, and they seem to just love life. All of the people working at JWOC and the people at the B&B were amazing and more than happy to share their culture with you. Of all the things I love about Cambodia, I have to admit it is the people that I love the most, and it is those people I am going to miss when I finally have to go home. All I hope is that some of the happiness and joy the Cambodian people showed me will stick with me when I finally have to leave.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Michael Tollerton - West Point Cadets

Almost every year The United States Military Academy sends a handful of cadets to Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC) to help conduct humanitarian efforts in Cambodia and Laos. The students sent to JWOC in 2010 were given three particular group tasks such as leading self defense classes, Clean Water project, and a microfinance project. In order to complete our tasks, JWOC assigned translators for each person. The translators were the scholarship students at JWOC who study at University and would benefit from the situation and in turn teach us. Working with translators was a whole new experience for me and I can definitely say I learned a lot more than I thought when I began. The great thing is that working with the scholarship students as translators is very applicable for my future profession as a 2nd LT in the army. Not only did I learn a lot of Khmer words but I also worked with male and female translators from an entirely different background and culture. The language barrier made it challenging but informative. Sometimes I needed to speak slower and pronounce more clearly but sometimes there was still a language barrier. At times I would write things down and then they could understand, which was interesting and wonderful because I have the same problems the students do when learning a new language. I loved learning from them and spending time with them. When we weren’t interviewing and conducting the tasks I ask him questions about Cambodia and his life while he asked me about the United States and my experience as a student. My eyes were open to a whole new language, culture, and people and I got to learn through translators and spending time with the people.

JWOC has made this traveling a new experience for me personally because it has combined leisure and volunteering. I have only traveled for pleasure before and with JWOC volunteering in Cambodia and Laos has been enjoyable and fulfilling. I would highly recommend volunteering with JWOC to everyone interested in traveling to Cambodia or Laos.


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