Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sights and Sounds in Siem Reap

Our temple tour, post-blessing
   The next day was our only non-Yut day, where our guide was Sarah instead, of PEPY tours. After our breakfast at the hotel (at which the waitress laughed at me a little because she brought me like... three breakfasts), Sarah met us to bring us to the temple where we would receive our Buddhist blessing. We sat in a way that was more difficult for us than the Japanese seiza has become, and a group of three priests chanted and flicked water on us. It was really nice, as I like spiritual things. I was a little self conscious of the skirt I wore that only just covered my knees. We had heard from Yut about the life of a monk, since he'd been one for ten years; they have strict rules about what and when they can eat (no dinner, no food after lunch!), and they aren't permitted to touch women at all (not even their family members!). A youngish monk gave us a tour of the temple's grounds, which were generally bright and peaceful.

Our next stop was the PEPY offices, where we would learn get to see more about who they are and what they do. We heard first from the PEPY Cambodia side, the NPO, about their programs in Chanleas Dai, both currently ongoing and also those previously tried and phased out. I have a lot of respect for the work they're doing there, not least because it's very hands-on (it's so frustrating when decisions are made "high up" at a level from which their effects "on the ground" aren't clear), but it's also community focused and driven, meaning that they're veering hard away from giving a man a fish, so to speak. They're teaching the children to fish, instead.

An example is the Child-to-Child program, where children work together to think about issues in their own communities. They have to identify and research issues that they see around them, and then discuss possible solutions. But not only this, PEPY is working toward the eventual goal of phasing itself out, which is logically the goal of any NPO in a developing area -- the idea being, the area gets underway and once the ball is rolling, such NPOs and their help become unnecessary. A good percentage of PEPY's personnel are Cambodian, rather than it being made up of westerners. Because, heck. It's Cambodia's issues they're working with, so it's Cambodia's people that ought to be doing it, eh? All part of the avoidance of just giving fish (stuff), and developing people instead.

Cambodia is a really young country, and in that way, it can feel like the opposite of Japan. Japan's problem lately is falling birthrates and an aging population. Too many old people, and not enough youngsters to support them. This is of course a problem economically, but it also changes the feel, and that's not something I really noticed until I contrasted it with the Cambodian thing. Cambodia is full of young people and kids, and their issue is not a matter of lacking vigor/energy (like Japan?), but their need is wisdom (the kind that comes with age) and teachers. The old need the young for their strength, and the young need the old for their knowledge.

Katie and I in the tuk-tuk on the way to PEPY office
Because of the experience I have, education is my pet issue. In general, I'm a fan of the idea of teaching kids how to learn, how to ask questions, how to think critically, how to problem-solve, rather than just giving them facts and information. In today's world, memorized facts are less and less useful. There are so many things I either never knew or have forgotten, but I know how to find a lot of them (I confess that mostly the method is "google that shit"), and that's good enough for most situations.

Next we visited the PEPY tours office, right next door to the NPO. For me personally, it's nice to see things in real life, so I can imagine them better. For all that I like writing, written descriptions of things fall rather flat on me. I like to stand with a thing or in a place to really understand it.. I have to be there to get it. A lot of PEPY people were either out in the field, or else getting ready for the PEPY Ride, their big bike trip across the country (which I kind of.. er.. hope to attend next year, so I'll be working on that soon, hopefully!), but we did get to meet some of the staff, and I noted that their offices had a friendly, warm feel to them.

Food side of market
More of food market
Sarah took us to get a delicious noodle lunch, and then we were off to the market, which was jam-packed with goods and sights and smells, all kinds of fruits and vegetables and meats, prepared foods in one section (Kameron got a banana leaf of sticky rice), ingredients elsewhere, and in another area, souvenirs and clothes, odds and ends. Anytime you paused or even glanced at something, you would be immediately accosted by the voice of the booth's proprietor (at least in the souvenir section) urging you to buy something. I've never been especially good at haggling or bargaining, and I kind of hate having someone hang right on me as I shop, so this didn't always play well with me. But, I do like to get things on the cheaps, and in Cambodia in the market, a lot of things are on the cheaps, so it was a dilemma indeed.

After the market, we walked back along the river, stopping for an ice dessert along the way. She brought us back to the hotel, pointing out other places of interest along the way, then sent us on our merry 'free afternoon' way. We returned to the market and ran a few 'errands' (I needed some more knee-covering pants for the temple visiting), then had an early pizza dinner, before beginning the search for a pool we'd heard about. We thought we found the building that had a pool on the roof, and as we climbed the stairs we heard music and crowd-like noises... but it was just a skating rink! We laughed about that for a bit, then redoubled our search efforts. Eventually we did find Aqua, a bar apparently frequented by expats (one of whom had a really cute dog that reminded me a lot of Karma), complete with in-pool bar facility. We swam around, then caught out tuk-tuks back for a reasonably early bedtime, since the next morning was to be a super early start-- up at 4 again, this time for sunrise at Angkor Wat!

Skating rink, not a pool


1 comment:

  1. I cannot WAIT to hear about sunrise at Angkor Wat! I've always wanted to visit, but to be there at sunrise? Damn, EmLem. :)