General Update 1/14 to 1/23

On January 14, we arrived at Phnom Penh, which is way bigger – and noisier – than Siem Reap. Here, there are no charming thatch or wooden huts-on-stilts, at least in the part of the city our hotel is in. It’s much less tourist-based, as can be seen by all the shops displaying bamboo furniture, roof tiles, and teeth (pictorial teeth – they’re dentist offices). These shops replace Siem Reap’s stands of more tourist-friendly scarves, bags, and carvings.

Another thing you notice right away here is that people don’t feel as carefree about night. Unlike the all-hours night-life of Siem Reap, in which some restaurants and bars don’t open thier lighted doors until after dark, most shops here close around 5 or 6. And they lock the pointy-topped steel gates, drizzled with coils of razor-wire, behind them.

Friday (1/15), we stopped in on Handong Global University (HGU) and Handong International Law School (HILS)’s project, Global Entrepreneurship Training 2010 (GET10). It’s a weeklong seminar sort of deal, with six or so Cambodian universities participating. The students get to learn from Handong professors about markets, accounting, business plans, etc (don’t ask the engineer). They also get put in groups to come up with an idea for a small business, and make a business plan, which they present before judges at the end of the week, after which they receive a diploma and graduate from the program. It’s a great idea for Cambodia, which needs people to create new jobs.

GET10 is the brainchild of the Korean-American Professor S.K. Lee (we all just call him SK), a passionate, venerable, and grandfatherly Christian man. I don’t think any of us have met someone quite like SK before… and of course there’s some culture shock over Korean patriarchy involved as well 🙂

Monday morning (1/18), we visited the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC – I know, it’s so catchy and easy to say!) headquarters. From what we’ve seen, CRWRC really has the whole sustainable development thing going on! Besides immediate disaster relief, they specialize in training Khmer people to help their own villages develop leadership committees which will allow them to advocate for and deal with their own problems. It’s very well thought out, typical of the CRC – in a good way!

CRWRC sent us to several NGOs that they’re connected with; also, we got to spend the night in a village that they’re involved in. I’m especially hoping to write again about a very progressive farm that we were sent to (but don’t have time just now).

Finally, we visited a prison camp and a killing field today. They say that the Khmer Rouge years here from 1975-79 were worse than the Holocaust. I’m not sure that it’s possible to decide what crimes against humanity are worse than others, but percentage-wise, the Khmer Rouge was definitely worse. Effect-wise, too; bad as it was, Nazi Germany’s main aim was not to return Deutschland to the stone age. I’m sure there are many more posts to come on that topic.

Amanda Hayes


1 comment so far

  1. myrnaanderson on

    Slight correction on Amanda’s post: GET 10 is the brainchild of Handong professor George Kim. S.K. Lee helped out on the Cambodian edition of GET 10.

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