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Cambodia: Misc. Moments

February 27th, 2008

I’m getting a little beat down by the NGO politics, the country politics, the continual fight for access, connections, story leads; I am expanding the story and sub-stories but I have to keep circling back to make sure I’m following up with the earlier pieces.

This is a self portrait down near the Independence Monument on my way from the nearby Java Online to Freebird. Both are popular expat hangouts, both have wi-fi, but Pat and Kath were in Freebird and I’m always afraid of running into the wrong person in Java. I arrived in-country with complications and they’ve only proceeded to blossom. Yet another reason to be tired.

I was keeping a bit of a diagram on my guest house wall in dry-erase pen. One of the desk staff saw it on Allison’s last day–she was keeping stuff in my room before departure–and exclaimed “Oh my god! My boss!” but I assured him it would come off. It became a long-running joke, him threatening to visit my room and “clean” it.

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I met a 13 year-old librarian the other day. She catalogs the books by difficulty, both English and Khmer. But the fact that she was once one of the vulnerable, living at the city dump, foraging for recyclables to sell, and is now living communally with other orphans receiving an education speaks volumes for yet another NGO. Even though she doesn’t know the Dewey-Decimal system, she is 13 and it is her library.

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I’ve expanded my skill set to video. It’s only a consumer-grade HD camera, but it shoots video. It’s also makes my job that much more expensive to do, not to mention it’s something more to lug around. But sometimes you want a talking head interview. (It does other stuff too, as I’m learning).

Srey Neth (pronounced Sray Nite) is now on staff for Transitions Cambodia and will become a spokesperson for the NGO, not only doing home assessments and outreach, but putting a personal story to the world of trafficking and sex slavery. She was once a victim herself.

Our set up was nothing like the pared-down (a dozen) cases of gear used by the NBC Dateline crew. It consisted of a black cloth taped to the wall, a couple of florescent desk lamps, a piece of synthetic white lace, and the room light. I put a lapel mic on her, asked the other girls to quiet down at the center (and turn off the ever-present TV), killed the room fan and did take after take.

Like my difficulty with some Khmer sounds, Neth finds trouble with “V,” “X'” and the ubiquitous American “R.” But I think we did alright.

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I’d never been to the “backpacker” area, the well-known “lakeside” so I went with Phnom Penh local Allie and her visiting younger sister Jessie. Allie works with Build Cambodia and is the person who introduced me to the Andoung Relocation Site. She is currently introducing her sister to Phnom Penh, trying to show a troubled 20 year-old American the depths of Cambodia and in this the possibilities within her.

We admired a beautiful sunset amongst the fisherman-pant wearing, sunburnt, budget travelers. This is the budget crowd, the most temporary in Phnom Penh. However, I’m not so sure the room rates are all that great of a deal.

On an off-color note, this is where (so I’ve been told by a source who shall remain anonymous) NGO women can go trolling for temporary dates. “Unfortunately, you have to take them back to your place and give them a shower, but the great part is they’re gone in a few days.”

Later I got to check out Allie’s well-located and quite nice pad. I was envious of her outdoor kitchen; it has been awhile since I’ve had the opportunity to cook for myself.

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