by Donald Rallis ~ December 29th, 2011
Members of the 2011-12 UMW Cambodia Study Abroad program are in Phnom Penh, and keeping very busy. Students began arriving here last week, and our program began on Monday with a briefing at the offices of the Peace Corps.
The next day we met with Youk Chhang, Director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an organization dedicated to researching and documenting the Khmer Rouge Genocide of 1975 – 1979. This provided an excellent background for our visits later in the day to Tuol Sleng (a Khmer Rouge interrogation center) and Chong Ek (one of Cambodia’s ‘klling fields.’) Difficult though it was to visit these places, knowing about them is essential to understanding Cambodia today.
We had an opportunity to enjoy Cambodian food, multicultural company, and karaoke on Wednesday night at Phnom Penh’s Mother-in-Law Restaurant. Our dinner companions included a group of young Cambodians, a French NGO worker, a Swedish student, and an American English teacher recently arrived here from South Korea. This followed a lively afternoon visit to an orphanage run by a small local NGO, where members of the group chatted with and played games with some of the children.
Independent exploration and a meeting with USAID officials were on the agenda for Thursday, and we spent the Christmas weekend with a family on their farm in rural Takeo Province, a two hour bus ride south of Phnom Penh.
Members of the study abroad group are writing a daily blog as we travel, so please visit and follow along with us during the remaining two and a half weeks of the program.