Thursday, April 21, 2011

I just realized that I have not blogged since February. I'll try to give you a brief update:

1. Health Camp Glow: At the end of April, the 5 volunteers in my province had a girls' camp for 25 of our female students (5 from each district) and 5 of our teachers/or midwives. We brought everyone into the provincial town for a weekend of fun and sessions about leadership and health. It was an amazing success! The girls learned a lot and had so much fun (none of them wanted to go home)! As volunteers, we were excited to see that something we've been planning since September actually happened and finished without any problems. The last stage of the project will be completed this month as our girls plan a community activity to educate people in their respective districts about the issues they learned at the camp. If you have any more questions about this, please just send me an email...I'd love to share more!

2. Dengue Fever: Right after Camp Glow, I biked the 2 hours home and then later that night began to not feel so well. I just thought that because I had been so busy and because I biked both ways I was just exhausted. However, the next day I felt bones ached and I was tired. However, because I was leaving for vacation to Indonesia that Friday, I had so much to do, I just took some un-asprin, and tried to get stuff done. Then later that night I had a high fever and when the un-asprin wore off, my bones would ache- even to the point that it would wake me up in the middle of the night. Then on Wednesday, when I arrived in Phnom Penh (we flew out of PP) I realized I had a rash all over my body. Then I was certain I had Dengue Fever. So, the nurse took my blood (I was also anemic) and I was ordered to rest. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to even go on my trip. However, they were able to move my flight to a day later and I was able to get on the same flight as my friends who were leaving a day later. For those of you don't know about dengue fever, it is a mosquito borne illness that you contract from mosquitoes that carry the disease. There is no medication to cure dengue fever, just un-asprin to numb the aches and lots of water and rest. Dengue is very common in SE Asia and Cambodia, specifically. A lot of volunteers get it; however, no one in my province had gotten it yet.

3. Sumatra, Indonesia: Northern Sumatra was AMAZING! There were 7 of us (all PC volunteers) that went, which turned out to be the perfect number because we could rent our own van making travel very, very easy. Also, we are all really good friends so it was so much fun to travel with everyone.
Bukit Lawang: The first destination was Bukit Lawang. There we went on an overnight jungle trek to see orangutans. We saw lots of mother orangutans with their babies. Some were so close we could have walked up to them to touch them. We also saw different types of monkeys and a monitor lizard. Trekking through the jungle was intense (the Dengue probably didn't help). It was very mountainous and difficult because it was muddy from the rain. When we arrived at our camp for the night we all went swimming in the river and relaxed. We then hiked 3 hours the next day and then rafted the river back to town. It was amazing.
Berastagi: The second place we visited was Berastagi. There we stayed in a cozy guesthouse outside the city at the foot of a volcano. Here we all froze because it was high in the mountains and we came from Cambodia where it is eternally hot. The next day we hiked the volcano and then after our descent went to some hot springs to relax!
Lake Toba: Our final destination was an island called Lake Toba. We had to take a ferry to get there. Lake Toba is the largest lake in Southeast Asia. While the rest of Sumatra is very Muslim with mosques everywhere, Lake Toba is almost entirely Christian. Moreover, these Christians used to be cannibals (before they were Christians). You could see the mixture of their animist beliefs with with Christianity. Anyway, we had a great time relaxing at our guesthouse overlooking the lake and the mountains, going off the diving board, and exploring the Island. The second day there, my friend Kellee and I randomly discovered a German bakery/guesthouse that had the most amazing food- and freshly roasted Sumatran coffee! We went there one to two times a day until we left! I also bought some of the coffee and have been enjoying it here in Cambodia ever since. There are coffee plantations all over Sumatra and it is really some of the best coffee in the world!
I was catching a flight a night earlier that everyone else, so I headed by myself to the airport in Medan to catch my flight back to Cambodia. I had a layover in Malaysia where I drank Starbucks coffee twice! Definitely an amazing vacation. I had never considered going to Indonesia; however, it is now a place I MUST return after I'm done in Cambodia. The food is amazing, the people are nice and it is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. I also want to visit Java, Jakarta and Bali. Indonesia has over 17,000 islands so there is not a shortage of amazing sights to see. If you want to read more about my trip, check out some of my friends' blogs which give much more detailed accounts:,,,

4. Khmer New Year: I planned my Indonesia trip so that I could return to Cambodia before Khmer New Year per my Khmer family's insistence. Khmer New Year was a lot less busy this year than it was the year before. I only went to the pagoda one day as opposed to last year where I went for 4 days! However, there were still lots of parties to attend and games to play. Overall, it was good and I'm glad I was able to celebrate with my family and community for the last time. Usually, Cambodia's New Year is all about being with family, going to the pagoda and parties! Last year, I celebrated for about 15 days in a row. However, this year because I was in Indonesia and am now in Phnom Penh (finishing a Health Manual I'm writing) I reduced it to 5 days.

5. Life these Days....My time here in Cambodia is coming to a close. It is absolutely crazy to me that I've been here almost 2 years. It has gone by so fast. I have applied to help with the training of the new volunteers which if I am selected I'll be here until October. This also means that I am done living in my village at the end of May and will move to Phnom Penh for a month or so and then to the province where the new volunteers will be doing their training. Until then though, I have weddings (my host sister's included), traveling in Cambodia (hopefully) and our Close of Service (COS) Conference in Phnom Penh. In the meantime, I'm just going to try to enjoy my last month as a volunteer in Cambodia in a small village on the boarder of Vietnam! Definitely, lots of hanging out and eating!

Monday, February 21, 2011

About three months to go....

Sorry for not posting in such a long time. My previous excuse was that the government blocked blogspot, but it is now working, I decided it's time to post again after a VERY long time of not.
Things here in my village are starting to wind down. I actually have only about 3 months left! It's completely crazy for me- and, actually, VERY sad. The month of June I'm thinking about doing an internship (not sure where yet?) so I'll be done here at the end of May. My host sister gets married then so I thought it a good time to finish up- since they will share the room next to mine.
I've heard rumors that they are going to replace my site with another volunteer and it made me sad because the reality of me leaving is so much more of a reality. I mean, I don't really want to stick around another year, but I've really just started to become very comfortable with my life here. People understand me when I speak and I understand them. People know my habits and aren't scared to talk to me. I love riding my bike around town and hearing my students ask me "teacher, where you go?" It truly will be bittersweet to leave this place I've lived at for 2 years.
Despite being almost finished here I'm still keeping very busy. Next month we are having a girls' leadership camp that Peace Corps volunteers do world-wide called Camp Glow. We will focus on leadership skills and health issues. It's been a lot of work organizing and getting proper approval, but we're all looking forward to it (and hoping we can pull it off). I'll post more about this later. I'm also helping write a health manual for current and future volunteers. This, too, has kept me very busy. Other than that, I've been going to weddings and house parties. It's funny because if I've not gone to a wedding in a week or two I get really excited to go to one. It's always something to do and you get to see tons of people outside of school, the health center, or their work. Who doesn't like parties??

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Blonde, Again

Yesterday, while visiting my market ladies (something I do daily here at site), one asked if I wanted to change my hair color. Now, I REALLY did not want to change my hair color- especially, in a small village in rural Cambodia. I especially didn't want to because I have finally arrived at the stage of hair growth where I have discovered my natural color- after years of not knowing. Now, I've been asked before if I color my hair and if I want to here, but always I've said "yes, I did in America, but here I don't want to change it to black. I like my hair its natural color". This has usually satisfied people in the past. However, yesterday all my usual excuses did not work and it became clear they weren't going to take no for an answer. Also, I'm going to a wedding with them on Tuesday and, apparently, you must color your hair for weddings. So, after insisting that I was "scared" to color it black or red, they found two boxes of "blonde" for me in the back of the shop with dust on them. Both had hair samples attached so I could see the end result. One had a greenish tent and the other looked blonde. So, I let them do it. I let them color my hair blonde right there in the market. I was a bit apprehensive at first because the bowl and toothbrush that they used had leftover dye that was black. As I was sitting there, I was thinking about how disastrous-not to mention stupid- this truly could be. However, luckily enough, all went well and I am- once again- a blonde. After I washed it out I returned to the market and everyone loved it. When I went this morning they have already begun asking when I'm going to color my hair red. I think I'm going to hold off on that as long as possible. Another woman who was there yesterday when they were coloring my hair, stopped by this morning with cool-aid colored red hair (apparently they had talked her into going red after they got me). She was buying black dye to cover it up. I think her "fire colored" hair was too much and definitely a lesson for me to not venture into the realms of red hair......