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