Monday, August 23, 2010

Koh Samet

So I rolled into Bangkok on Thursday night. I felt like I transported back to the States minus the white people. Bangkok is so much more developed and modern then Phnom Penh, they even have express ways. In Cambodia we drove from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh on a two lane road which was gravel half the time, and that is one of the major "highways" of the country. We met up with Ack's cousin named Tony and his girlfriend Gin. It has been fun going around with them because they take me to all the non tourist spots so I get to experience a more "real" Bangkok. I miss Cambodia a lot though, I miss being able to communicate with people. We left for Koh Samet on Saturday morning. I am one of probably 4 white people on the island and get stared at a lot. However, I did run into some Cambodian natives and was able to speak Khmer with them which was a blast. Today this lady was giving me a massage and she said she was from the Lao/ Cambodian border. Another guy we met the day before came and sat with us as well. My friend Ack was speaking Thai to them, I was speaking Khmer and English with the lady and the lady and the guy were speaking Lao to each other. We pretty much had a 30 minute convo going on in four different languages, it was pretty awesome. We also randomly ran into some friends we made in Siem Reap here in Koh Samet (white people!) I am not trying to be racist when I speak of white people, there is seriously hardly any white people ever since I got into Thailand. I miss being able to understand conversations between people rather then it all sounding like gibberish. The weather on the island has been okay but I do not expect to come home with a tan=(. The first day was cloudy, the second sunny and today it started raining around 3:30pm. We are leaving tomorrow to go back to Bangkok till Friday. On Friday we are going to Pattaya which is a beach location and the old Capitol of Siam. I leave for home in about a week which is nice. I am starting to get a little homesick, I feel as if I have been in Asia for years rather then months. I am not sure when I will be able to update this blog again because I don;t really have internet access, but I will try my best. XOXO

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Here is a picture of Angkor Wat. I leave for Bangkok tomorrow and hopefully I will have better internet there.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Siem Reap

So my time in Siem Reap went by extremely fast. I felt as if I was there for only one day rather then 4. We arrived Thursday afternoon and went straight to Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is Cambodia's most famous monument and is even on their flag (the only country to have a monument on their flag I believe). Being there was surreal but it was hard to really appreciate the moment with a billion tourists everywhere. Asian people from Korea, China and Japan take these bus tours throughout the country and they just drop them off everywhere. All the Asian tourist insist on carrying around umbrellas to block the sun and wear white make up so their faces are white and the rest of them is brown. After Angkor Wat we went to dinner then to the hotel. Our hotel was interesting, we had beautiful porches off of each room, however lacked a real tub. There was a drain in the floor and a shower head and you kinda just stood there and got the bathroom full of water. I am sure this is popular, but it is the first time I ever saw such a thing. I did not feel very clean. On Friday we set off to this mountain which i cannot spell the name of. There, we saw a river which had carved lingas and yonnis on the river bed. Lingas and yonis represent fertility, by carving them onto the river bed the water would be blessed. After the water was blessed it would go down to the fields and result in fertile and plentiful harvest. After the river we went to the waterfall Lara Croft jumped off in Tomb Raider. It was beautiful. While there were a few other tourist we largely had the place to ourselves. We didn't get to jump off the waterfall but there was a rope to swing off of, which I failed at. On Saturday we went to Angkor Thom temple complex and saw more temples then I can remember. We also went on a elephant ride around the temple, but it was pretty lame. It only went around one temple and we didn't even get to sit on the elephant but a chair thing and it only lasted for like 10 minutes. It was a long and exhausting time spent in Siem Reap. As for the town, it made me miss Phnom Penh a bunch. The whole town was completely geared towards tourism and depended on tourism. This has its good and bad issues but I wont get into that on here. As for now I am back in Phnom Penh with Ack. All of my group mates are gone and we are here until Thursday then off to Bangkok. I will try to get some pictures up. I was able to upload a bunch to facebook the other day so check those out too.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Off to Siem Reap

Sorry for the late post, I havee been pretty busy. I am feeling 101% better, no more fever so that is nice. Today was the last day if my field research. At our temple we recieved a water blessing from our abbot which was a great experience. He tooke a palm leaf and dipped it in water and chanted a special prayer After he dips the palm leaf in the water he kind of shakes it at me. He also blessed me with flowers. We had a celebration dinner tonight with our Khmer translators. It was sad having to say goodbye and not knowing if I would ever see them again. There is a language program in Phnom Penh that takes place in the summer, so maybe I will do that next June. Tomorrow (Thrusday) we leave for Siem Reap where Angkor Wat is. In Siem Reao I will finally be meeting up with my friend Ack. He is the person I am going to Thailand with on August 19th 8 more days! Time is starting to go by really fast and I only have 19 more days to go. I will be sad to say goodbye to my friends I made during the field school. All of them will be gone by August 17th. I will try to post some more once I get in Siem Reap. Hopefully I can upload some pictures there too.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Some pictures/ health update

The first picture was taken on the riverside where we spend most of our evenings. A lot of really good resturantes are located here. The second picture is the kitten I adopeted at my temple sleeping in my lap. aww so cute.

I heard from the doctor and I have a viral infection similar to the flu minus the throwing up part. They still think it may be dangy fever too so I have to go back to the doctor tomorrow (Friday). I am really bummed because that means I missed three days this week. Next week is our last week and we only go Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday we leave for Siem Reap.

Week 2 of Field Work

My second week of working in the villages and temples started on Monday. My day on Monday was pretty laid back. We walked about 1 1/2 kilometers with the monks on an alms round. Walking there took a little under 30 minutes, but it was nice to be able to walk through the rice fields and see more of the countryside. After a long nap at lunch we were able to get two interviews done.

Tuesday did not go as well. There was a ceremony in the morning, so a few of the high ranking temple lay people were there. We thought this would be our chance to get to interview them, but 2 out of 3 said no, and the one who said yes we had already interviewed. My translator got a little angry with him and started yelling at him. Something along the lines of "She is American and she paid lots of money to come study our culture, your religion, your temple, your village and you can not even talk to her for 5, 10 minutes! Se traveled so far..." At that point myself and my other translator (Surphon) cut him off.

Discouraged, we ventured out into the village to do some interviews. Near the end of the morning, I started having really bad hot and cold flashes, dizzy head, and my muscles were all super sore. I went and took an extra long nap and felt a little better. However, later that night I started to feel bad again. Wednesday morning we were driving out to the temples and stopped at the bakery we always stop at, and I knew I had to talk to my teacher. She made me miss the field school and go to the doctor, which I was not too pleased with.

The doctor did some blood tests, and I will know what's wrong with me Thursday morning. It could be dengue fever, but I think it's more along the lines of heat exhustion. I am just happy it's not stomach problems!

Anyways, that's how my week has been going. Hopefully Thursday and Friday will be a little better. When I get back to the village, I will take some pictures to post.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


On Saturday I went to Udong which is just north of Phnom Penh. It is pretty much a big hill with a big statue and a couple of stupas which house old kings. As soon as our van doors open kids were upon us like wild dogs. Each child quickly latches on to a forienger and "guides" them through the mountain, even if you dont want them too. At first I resented them because I wanted to be able to enjoy the view and sights in tranquility, but it's so hard to turn down these desperate children. So I was moved along Udong by a 12-year-old boy who rattled off a history lesson I didn't pay attention to, and an incredibly cute 10-year-old who fanned me the entire time. Of course it was expected to give them money at the end, but how can I resist giving money to children who have so little? Anyways the first picture is taken at the first stupa near the top. You can see other stupas in the distance, to get to them I had to walk up and down steep steps along the top of the mountain.

After Udong we went to a nearby temple which was incredibly rich. The temple houses the real life body of a famous monk who died and you can go view the body in all of its decaying wonder. I saw the feet and ran. I went outside and this little old monk calls me over, and I talked to him for awhile in Khmer! I was very proud of myself, and I think the little old monk was very tickled. The third picture is in front of the Vihear at the rich temple, and the second is a view of Udong from the Vihears porch.

Today I went to the Russian market and bought way too many things. Hopefully I am able to get it all home. I know I will have no problem from Thailand to home, but Cambodia to Thailand may be a little tricky. I will just have to buy a cheap knock off coach duffle bag,

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Research Work at the Temple

The first picture is from our school room in Phnom Penh at the Royal University
The second picture is of the Vihear at the temple I am doing research on. Everything at my temple had to be rebuilt after the Pol Pot regime because it was destroyed during the war. One of the main objectives of the Khmer Rouge (also known as the Democratic Kampuchea, DK) was to eliminate Buddhism. They de-robed all of the monks and killed most of them. They bombed and destroyed many temples, and almost every Buddhist temple today is still in the process of rebuilding. The vihear is only used a few times out of the year for special occasions. Its walls are covered in Jataka tales, and the ceiling has an interesting influence of Buddhism and Brahmanism. The last picture is taken from the back entrance into the temple complex. Every temple has a pond as a symbol on many levels. The most common being that of the 7 oceans of Mount Meru. The structures you see are stupas which house the ashes of the deceased. Each stupa is built not by the temple's funding but from families, similar to a family grave yard we have in America.

What a Week

Sorry for such a long time in between posting. This first week in the temples has been the most difficult week here. My very first experience was walking into a loud Sala Chan (where they hold their ceremonies). Inside the Sala Chan the monks were sitting on a raised platform chanting while 70-80 people sat on straw mats placed on the floor praying. As soon as I walked in all heads turned to stare at the foreigner. My translators and myself were quickly questioned about who we were, where I came from, how long was I here, what I was doing and so on. I could see the word being spread like wild fire through out the entire crowed. Then it was time to make donations to the temple which was extremely confusing and involved a lot of Soms Soms ( sorry sorry). I had trouble the first two days because of misunderstandings with my translators, but by Wednesday things started to pick up. The first three days we stayed on the temple grounds to interview the monks, lay people and Abbott. On Thursday and Friday we went into the villages which has been a lot more fun. The people at temple were really reserved in their interviews and as interviewers we were just learning still. So many people have offered their children to me ( and themselves) just wanting to get to the United States. They are always joking and not serious. I also get asked a lot if I eat Bi (rice) and they are usually impressed that I do. My khmer is getting a little better, but I was really nervous to use it with the monks so I didn't say to much to them. However in the villages I try my best to speak, but my memory is limited. I have made friends with the temple kittens and usually have one or two sleeping in my lap everyday, which only means I need to get one when I get home:)
I will try to get some pictures up here soon. I will also try to post more often this week. Miss you all. I only have a little over a month left here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Royal Palace

Hey all!

Here are some pictures! All of these except for the one of me were taken at the Royal Palace; the one with me in it was taken at the National Museum. The National Museum is my favorite place to go. I love being able to see all the things I have learned about. It's a great feeling to be able to look at a statue and be able to identify the statue, where it came from and the symbolic meaning behind it. It's like I actually learned something in school!

We start our field work in the villages on Monday.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wat Phnom

Oh my goodness I got a picture loaded! The picture is the front of Wat Phnom. The multi-headed snake on the railing is known as the Naga. The Naga is suppose to bring prosperity. During the Angkor period (Cambodias most prosperous time) there is a legend about the Naga and the King. It is said the Naga would come to the king every night in the form of a beautiful women. As long as she cameto him every night and he laid with her, the kingdom would continue to thrive. However, one night the Naga rejected the king. Soon after the kingdom was abandoned and prosperity no longer came.

Touristy Things

These first couple of days in Phnom Penh have been very interesting. The initial shock is starting to wear off and they city it starting to feel more like home each day. On Wednesday we met the students from the Royal University of Fine Arts who will be acting as our translators during our time in the villages. The university was very pretty and the students friendly. Everyone in the city wants to talk to the Americans or take pictures with us and the students at the Royal university were no exception. One girl came up and talked to me for a good forty minutes, we discovered our shared love of the Powder Puff Girls. She then proceeded to tell me when I spoke Khmer I "sound like baby learning to talk for first time". Oh Great...On Friday we went to Wat Phnom, the Royal Palace, the National Museum and the Russian Market. Wat Phnom was pretty and had monkeys and bats all over the place. One of the guys on my trip got cornered by a lady who kept saying she was very happy to see him. She says "I so happy to see you, I have gift" and gives him a fake acrylic nail out of her purse. We are still trying to figure out what possible meaning a fake nail could hold. We dont think she was a lady of the night because she also paid a man to have her picture taken with the guy from my group. Anyways the Royal Palace was breath taking. There were large courtyards, sculptures and pagodas everywhere. I took a video which I will hopefully be able to upload at some point! The National Museum was by far my favorite place we have gone so far. The museum mostly has sculptures from the Funan, Angkor and Post Angkor periods. I have been studying about these different time periods for the past two years so to see sculptures from these times was an amazing experience. I plan on going back again today. The Russian market was one of the smelliest places I have been. My friend and I skipped trying to buy stuff and went and had a few Angkor Beers in the food area. Saturday was one of the most depressing days so far. We went to the Toul Slang prison and the killing field used for that prison. The Toul Slang prison also known as S-21 was used to torture people during the Khmer Rouge. After they gave up their "confession" the prisoners were then taken to the Choung Mek which is a big field with pits. There they would be clubbed, throats slashed and thrown into the pit. Often these prisoners were never guilty and the reason for their deaths are in explainable.

So that has been my week thus far. Today (Sunday at 8 am here) we have free so I think the girls are going to go get foot massages, pedicures and manicures for a total of $9. The place should be okay to go to health wise because it is part of a NGO project which teaches street children different service skills so they can later be employed. This upcoming week we will be at the Royal University hearing four speakers and learning different field methods. I will try to see if I can maybe set up a flickr account which might let me upload pictures and video bet tr then blogspot. If anyone has any suggestions for any other good sites please let me know.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I hate flying

I arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on the 13 around 11:00pm. I flew Chicago-Seattle-Korea-Phnom Penh. I was suppose to have about two hours inbetween each flight, how ever it was actually about five minutes! I had motion sickness for the majority of the flights, I really hope I can find some drammine before I fly to Thailand. The hotel we are staying at is very nice and we all have our own balconies which is cool. Across the street is a sala, or school and a carpenter shop. I am happy I have been studing Khmer for the past two years. My Khmer is limited, but I was able to order breakfast and dinner for myself and my roommate, negotaite a tuk tuk and talk prices down for some sunglasses (supposibly they are Ray-Bans I bought for $5). The food is very yummy. At the hotel we have Khmer noodle soup for breakfast and I had wontons with spicy chicken for dinner. Today things will finally get rolling with lunch, orientation and a trip to the market to exchange money. One nice thing about Cambodia is that the green back is accepeted just as often as the local money (riel). Sorry no interesting pictures or videos yet. I just wanted to post and let everyone know I arrived safely. Sorry if there are mispelled words, my abc check button is not working. Also, sorry there is no pictures yet, the internet is pretty picky and I had a little trouble uploading the video I took.

Friday, July 2, 2010

One week to go

Other then some passport issues, planning for my trip has gone well. I will be leaving on July 12th and returning September 3rd.

Where I am staying in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for 4 weeks

Where I am staying in Siem Reap, Cambodia for 1 week

Where I am staying in Koh Samet, Thailand for a week and half or so

Monday, March 29, 2010

What, Where and Why

Almost two years ago I fell in love with the Khmer Language. Now, I am one of three Southeast Asia contract majors and am about to embark to Cambodia and Thailand for 7 weeks. I established this blog to share my new experiences with my very worried parents, family and friends.

What: A field school with Dr.Ledgerwood and 7 other students. We will be researching "The re-emergence of Buddhism after the Khmer Rouge." On the weekends I will be conducting further research focusing on age groups 16-26. The field school ends on August 15th. My friend Ack will be joining me in Cambodia for a week, then we will be staying in Thailand for two weeks.

Cambodia-Phnom Penh, Battambang, Ta Keo and Siem Reap
Thailand-Bangkok, Ko Samet, anywhere!

Why: I am doing this trip to gather research for a paper I plan on writing. Also, since Southeast Asia is my major, some experience in the region would be nice.