In the words of Bon Jovi “Whoa, we’re halfway there!” It’s hard to believe that our international seminar is just over halfway complete. Before we loaded the bus to head back to a Phnom Penh, Christy began the day reviewing the Community Capitals that we have seen in the previous days. Cambodia might be a developing country, but there are so many assets these communities have. Since change has been a constant for all of us, Toby then had us get into our EQi groups for us to contemplate how we have dealt with the changes that happen on a seminar such as this.
We then said goodbye to Siem Reap and headed back to Phnom Penh. Along the way we visited a Cashew Nut farm and saw how they process the Cashews.

One of the things that has struck at all of our hearts are the stories of the Khmer Rouge history from 1975-1979. Millions of people were lost, but the stories of survivors, like Dr. Noy Shoung, help us to understand a bit more the complicated history of this place. It is great to have someone like Noy to help us in our journey.

As we arrived back in Phnom Penh, we turned our attention to the next leg of our journey-Taiwan.

Curtis Mahnken

The day started off in Siem Reap at the hotel with a large breakfast of traditional and non-traditional foods. Most of us chose to grab a couple fried eggs or an omelette with a couple pieces of toast instead of pho or congee. After breakfast we had a reflection on the previous days activities as well as a breakdown of the schedule for the day. After the meeting we loaded the bus and left Siem Reap on another adventure.

 

Our first stop was at Dr. Noy Sun’s diversified agriculture farm. At his farm we saw livestock, fruit trees, and water management. At the farm we learned about the differences in the different livestock in country. Dr. Noy raises a cross between brahma and Nellore for a smaller body frame and better meat production. He also had chickens, ducks, and geese that were grown for egg and meat production. The farm was 85 hectares and located along a river. It was intriguing to learn about how he was using solar power to manage water through wells on his farm. We also saw on his farm how they were alternating coconut trees with banana trees which was a new concept in the country. The coconut trees are unlike the trees that most people are use to seeing as they are short enough that the fruit can be picked with a short ladder from the ground. It was also very interesting to learn that when banana fruit is picked from the trees they always leave 100 bananas to maintain the health of the tree.  We then loaded the bus for the trip to the Run-Ta-Ek Cooperative.

At the cooperative we were greeted by the cooperative leadership and some distinguished guests.  It was apparent they were very excited to have us there and welcome us to experience their culture and the community.  We were seated for lunch and were served an authentic Cambodian meal including fish, pork, chicken, papaya salad, moringa soup and, of course, white rice.  Like most of our meals we had fresh fruit as a desert and we had some extremely delicious mango from Dr. Noy’s farm.  We viewed a short presentation about the Cooperative and what they do there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following the lunch and presentation we delivered the bicycles and educational supplies that our class purchased to give to the students.  There were 90 students in the Cooperative and 30 students were chosen the receive a bicycle.  It was a very rewarding experience to see the expressions and emotions that the students and families expressed when their names were called.  Having a bicycle provides a much easier lifestyle for people and can often be the difference in going to school or not.  We then handed out a Magnadoodle board, a pencil pack, and some snacks to the remaining students and again saw how excited they were to receive those.  It was a great experience that made many of us think a little deeper on our own experiences and how  life is much different is other places.

 

A tour of the homestay dwellings followed and we got a chance to see the amenities.  They were built on legs, had concrete floors with seating below and an enclosed sleeping area above with electricity. The sleeping pads had mosquito nets Around them and fans to help with air movement.  There was a western toilet in the commode and a bathing area attached as well.  These are what the Cooperative families live in and would provide an intimate insight into life as a Cooperative family.

 

After the homestay visit we had a chance to make sticky rice, paper lanterns and observe the roasting of the whole cow that was being served for the evening meal.  The sticky rice is traditional snack that is served often in the mid-morning/afternoon containing white rice, beans, sugar and coconut milk.  We each had a chance to see the mixing and got to pack it into our own bamboo shoot.  The bamboo shoots are then placed over a bed of coals for 3 hrs to cook the rice mixture inside.  We then all took turns helping to construct the paper lanterns we were going to release that evening.  Finally, we went behind the building to see the cow that was being roasted.  It was smaller than any of us expected as it was maybe 500# live weight and we learned it was 18 months old to get that big.

Our final activity before the evening meal was a tractor tour of the Cooperative farm to see what they grow and learn about their operations.  We loaded up in 4 Kubota wagon tractors which have a 9 hp 2 stroke engine coupled with a transmission and 2 hand brakes to help with steering.  The wagons supported about 2,200 lbs and are used to transport everything from produce to people.  We saw their Moringa and Velvetbean fields first and learned the uses of those crops.  The moringa is a shrub and they harvest the leaves to be used in soups, tea and as a herb.  The velvetbean is used as a stimulant to improve dopamine in the brain and is paired with different extracts to create many products.  The tractors then took us to see some Roselle plantings that are used in a sweet tea followed by their corn plantings.  The corn reaches maturity in 8 weeks and planting is staggered to provide a continuous supply of corn throughout the year.  We then headed back to the gathering area for our evening celebration.

To finish the evening we went back to the shelter where we began the day to take part in a traditional evening celebration that included music, a meal, and dancing. The cow that was being roasted earlier in the day was served as an appetizer to start off the evening meal. The cooks would carve off chunks of beef, marinade them in a sauce pan, then grill them over a bed of wood coals. The meat was sliced thin and served with a fish sauce. The meal included many authentic Cambodian dishes including; the sticky rice that was made earlier in the day, mango salad with tiny fresh water crabs, a bean sprout, chicken, and shrimp egg and rice flour pancake that could be dipped in a fish sauce, roasted chicken and pork served with a spicy chili sauce, beef liver, tongue, and tripe also served with a spicy chili sauce, chicken livers, white rice and fried rice with shrimp and vegetables, fresh vegetables, and to finish the meal we had fresh watermelon and papaya. We enjoyed this meal as we sat next to one of the many small lakes in the community and enjoyed traditional Cambodian folk music. After eating our program leaders were pulled out in front of the group and were taught Cambodian dance. After a few minutes we all joined in the dance and you could

feel the happiness of both the community and our group. We finished the evening lighting off the lanterns we had made earlier in the day which in our opinion was a magical way to end the evening. The co-op leadership was thanked for the wonderful day of learning

and sharing and prior to departing we left the community with a gift of many household items and groceries we had purchased in Siem Reap during one of our MARL activities. What a day and what a special opportunity to meet new people and create new relationships

through learning, food, and dance.

Austen Germolus

 

 

 

For some MARL participants, the day started off at 4:30 am to see the beautiful Angkor Wat sunrise. The insects and birds seemed to come alive in song within a matter of seconds just before sunrise to accompany the view.

After breakfast, the participants jumped on the bus to travel to the ancient city of Angkor Thom. There the group visited the temple named Prasat Bayon, which was built in the late 12th century. Next, a visit to the temple Ta Prohm was made. This was very special because a tree in the temple was featured in Lara Croft Tomb Raider movie.

At noon the classmates ate lunch followed by a market basket exercise. The large group broke out into small groups and bought items to compare United States and Cambodia’s food and household economics. The fifth stop of the day included the famous Angkor Wat temple. The highlight was climbing the steep tower steps for a beautiful view of the compound.

The next activity was a dinner with a special cultural Cambodian dance performance. The day ended with an evening of shopping in the Siem Reap night market.

By Melanie Dickman and Nick Godward

Today, MARL Class X ventured outside of the capital city of Phnom Penh with a 6 hour bus tour to Siem Reap, the home of Ankor Wat. The morning began with a recap of participant’s goals for the trip and a discussion on the larger vision for rural, and urban Cambodia as communicated by its leadership.
Once outside Phnom Pehn a different world came to life! Our first stop brought intrigued and insight into regional delicatessens. We enjoyed fried tarantellas, seasoned insects, dried and fresh fruits, fermented eggs, and whole baby birds. A big part of MARL is understanding leadership in a variety of contexts. The group had an opportunity to meet Mr. Leng Hour, Tami village, Samporoth commune, Tang Kok district, Kampong Thom province, a Cambodian cattle producer. He is raising a breed from India for local consumption. He graciously shared his insights on using rice stalks for feed and his vision to expand the farm. Even during the restroom breaks, the group continued to push outside its comfort zone as many were introduced to “squatty potties”.
The remainder of the drive included a quiet lunch break with eel and other Cambodian fare. Once in Siem Reap, MARL participants explored the Cambodia Cultural Center, stayed curious about the country’s history, and engaged in live presentations about various regions of the country. One participant even had the chance to be selected as the “Fire and Water God” during one of the shows.
To end the evening with a bit of extra adventure! The hotel and the surrounding neighborhood lost power, but no worries…one of the tools of a leader is learning to be flexible!
 

Today we toured and experienced the history and culture of the city. We were blessed with a wonderful guide, Sokahary and our driver Mor, to get us through the busy streets and sites of Phnom Penh.

We started at The Royal Palace. The palace is a complex of buildings which serves as the royal residence of the King of Cambodia. The Kings have occupied it since it was built in the 1860s, with a period of absence when the country came into turmoil during and after the reign of the Khmer Rouge.

The complex is divided by walls into four main sections. On the south side is the Silver Pagoda, to the north side is the Khemarin Palace and the central compound contains the Throne Hall and to the west is the private sector or the Inner Court. The buildings of the palace were built gradually over time, and some were dismantled and rebuilt as late as the 1960s. The most interesting part of the tour was seeing the golden throne. The throne has only been sat on once, during coronation. It is bad luck to sit on a throne more than once. We also learned there are a series of flags that represent if the king is home and today’s flag was blue, meaning the king was in the palace today.

  

Following the palace tour, we visited the King Norodom Sihanouk monument. King Sihanouk is known as the Father of Independence. He was crowned in 1941, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, and held on to some form of power for the next 60-plus years. He served as monarch, prime minister, figurehead of the Communist revolution, leader in exile, and monarch until he abdicated in 2004. When he died in 2012, it was during a full moon and since he was born during a full moon and the same month he is seen as one of the lucky ones. As a prominent leader and figure in Cambodia’s history, the monument was erected in his honor.

Following a traditional Cambodian lunch, we headed to the Killing Fields to learn about the very somber past of Cambodia. From 1975 to 1979, the Khmer Rouge dictated the country. Led by Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge pushed Cambodia towards communism which resulted in the killing of 1.5 to 2 million people, nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population at the time. The killing fields we visited was one of more than 300 around the country. The Khmer Rouge recruited rural, uneducated young people and children to help them eradicate the non-followers, (usually those who were educated and independent), to kill over a million people. The Killing Fields are a memorial of those who lost their lives during those troubled years and serves as a memory for the country of how far they have come since those troubled times.

A final stop of the day was an authentic Cambodian market. One of many around the city, this one called the Totem Pole Market, showcased a variety of items, from fresh fish and meat, to silk scarfs, clothing, artwork and sculptures to basic electronic items. The class enjoyed some time browsing the items and trying out their negotiation skills, bringing home several items for friends, families and loved ones.

The last activity before dinner, called a Cyclo ride, consisted of each class member riding in a cart in front of a bicycle. Twenty-seven bikes wove their way through the city streets with expert drivers as we took in the sights, sounds and smells of the city from a different perspective. The drivers dropped us at our dinner location next to the riverside and we spent the evening reflecting on all we had experienced throughout the day, what we learned, how it made us feel and what we will take away from the hands-on experience in this amazing city.

By Stephanie Loch and Jay Schmidt