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Settling into Phnom Penh

October 12, 2009

Hey folks,

Sorry for all the not-so-cheery news in the last few days. Between reports of new landmines, john schools in Worcester, alarming child rape statistics, and a crackdown on free speech in Cambodia, most of my reading and writing has been focusing on some heavy topics. When I haven’t been behind my computer though, things have been wonderful. Here are a few updates:

  • Last week, a Jesuit friend was in town from Battambang for five days or so. We just met this summer, but we have become fast friends, and it was great to have him here for awhile. He actually worked for Jesuit Volunteer Philippines for a few years, first as a volunteer and then as an administrator, so we speak the same language and share a similar vision for our lives in Cambodia. And we laugh a whole lot together.
  • Totet, my boss and good friend, was also in town for a few days. Spending time with him is like a breath of fresh air for me; I always walk away feeling understood, validated, supported, and excited for what’s next. We spent a lot of time talking about what the role of the church in Cambodia should be, especially since we have named our community work in honor of Oscar Romero. I’m working on a piece about Totet’s approach to working for justice here, which centers around the imagery of taking off our shoes as we enter into the lives of Khmer people as invited guests. On the surface, his way of working appears dramatically different from Romero’s, but it is inspiring and humbling for me. More to come!
  • Yesterday I went to my first Democrats Abroad meeting, which was a brunch discussion about healthcare. It was nice to connect with other people from the US here in Phnom Penh, and I learned a little bit about the differences between the proposed health care plans. I don’t expect to get too involved with this group, simply because I’ll only be in Phnom Penh for a few more months, but it’s cool to know that there is a structure in place to help me be politically involved even when I’m living abroad.
  • I also visited the Killing Fields for the first time yesterday afternoon. Not too much to say about it yet, except that it was an intense and humbling experience. Maybe I’ll post on it more soon.
  • I’m still studying Khmer like crazy. Class every morning for 2 hours, and at least several hours each afternoon reviewing and practicing. I’ll probably be fluent within the next two weeks.
  • Networking with women’s health NGOs is going slow but I’m making progress. More updates on this soon!
  • I’m going to Battambang this weekend! I’ll have some pictures when I get back.

Much love from Phnom Penh!

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