Water Festival and PC Training in Battambong

19 11 2011

Although it feels like Tim and I don’t have much to report about what we’ve been up to the past few weeks, the reality is that plenty has been happening. We’ve both been moving forward with our work, deepening our relationships with the staff and further exploring the roles we will have within our host organizations for the next two years. Tim’s been working more hours per week than I have, but I’ve been trying to use my free time to meet people in the community, particularly the staff members at the NGOs in town.

Last week was a long holiday for us though, so we both got some time off of work. We had a five-day weekend for Water Festival. Water Festival is a holiday that celebrates the reversal of a major river in Cambodia, the Tonle Sap. Generally, the Tonle Sap flows into the Mekong River, but throughout the rainy season (June-November), the Mekong River rises, causing the Tonle Sap to switch directions and instead empty into the lake. Water Festival occurs at the end of rainy season, when the Mekong River drops once again, allowing the Tonle Sap to return to its normal flow. What that generally means for Cambodians is a lot of parties and boat races throughout the country. This year the festivities were cancelled by the government so the designated funding could instead be used for assistance for the thousands of flood victims.

We did not do anything special for Water Festival. Our town seemed to be deserted, as community members rushed off to see family and friends in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. So we spent a couple of relaxing days at home together and made a quick run to Siem Reap to do some errands and eat some ice cream. One night during Water Festival, we also had date night, which consisted of a $7 bottle of wine, some make-shift bruschetta and a pirated DVD. Exciting, huh? We both enjoyed the break but were eager to return to work on the following Monday.

However, I wasn’t at the health center long. I spent Monday there, but on Tuesday I took off with an NGO in my town to do health check-ups for children in the organization’s sponsorship program. In a village around 18 kilometers away, I conducted extremely basic consultations for around 50 kids between the ages of 5 and 12. And then, on Wednesday, Tim and I left for Peace Corps training in a lively town called Battambong, about five hours away from Kampong Kdey.

We spent the first day of training with our counterparts from the health center and school, talking more in-depth about our role in the community and how we can help support them. I very much appreciated having a translator to help facilitate a level of conversation that I have previously been unable to have with my counterparts due to the language barrier. I was able to learn a lot about the health center and what health-related challenges my director prioritizes. Then, the counterparts returned home and we volunteers focused on language for the next two days.

Tim and I are still in Battambong, but plan to return home today. Seeing other volunteers at this training brought up a lot of feelings and a lot of questions, but in the end served as inspiration and motivation to continue to move forward at site. We will both be leaving Battambong with new project ideas and more concrete goals and action plans for the upcoming weeks and months.

As a side note, we’ve really enjoyed Battambong as a city too. Tim says that Battambong is to Siem Reap what Jujuy is to Salta. (If you don’t understand that reference, and I’m sure most of you won’t, check here.) It’s an artsy town with a more vibrant personality than many other cities we’ve been to here. The river front has a beautiful park, where expats and Cambodians both go jogging or do aerobics in the morning. There are plenty of sandwich shops and bakeries, but it isn’t overrun by tourists. There are art galleries and a circus, language schools and museums. It’s been a great place to explore this week, and I’m sure we will be back.

So that’s a quick recap of what we’ve been up to. We’ll definitely keep everyone posted on how things shape up when we return to work.






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