Saturday, February 25, 2012

Day 4 Reflection

Today was sadly our last day in Phnom Penh, but it was a great one! We started our morning early with a walk through the market right next to our hotel, something that has become somewhat of a routine. It never fails to truly wake us up and get us going for the rest of the day. Notable sights were the bins of squirming cat fish and rows of pig heads.

Our first stop of the day was a visit to the Harpswell Foundation Leadership Center for Women. Finding it proved to be a bit tricky since the directions we got told us to "turn at the house with the blue roof", and as you may expect, there are more than one of those in the city of Phnom Pehn. Founded by Alan Lightman, the Foundation brings girls from the rural provinces of Cambodia into Phnom Penh and offers them a place to stay, that way they can have the opportunity to study at a university (almost all of the dorms in Phnom Penh are solely for men). The dorm itself was beautiful--I think we agreed it was much nicer than any dorm we've seen in the states. There we were met by a woman named Sokeang, who had graduated from the Foundation herself a few years ago, and now works there. She showed us around to places such as the kitchen, where a group of students were preparing a meal, as well as the computer center and the library (they had Harry Potter written in Khmer!) Perhaps the most beautiful space was the Hall of Great Women, located on the top floor of the dorm overlooking the city. Sokeang and the Foundation were truly inspiring. Sokeang described the environment in the dorm as very supportive. She told us that each girl learns from each other, as this is the first time any of them have lived on their own. Visiting was truly a wonderful experience, and as I heard Kate say, I don't think any of us will taking having a dorm to live in at college for granted after visiting.

Our afternoon was quite different. We began by spending time in the Russian Market and got to practice our bargaining skills. It was very overwhelming at first, because there was just so much stuff! It was hard to know where to begin. I found that wandering the market and observing the eclectic mix of goods (paintings to school supplies to car parts) was most enjoyable from the experience.  After comparing purchases, I think we came to a consensus that Kate and Yijin made the best ones; they got Hello Kitty and Angry Birds manicures, something I was personally very jealous of.

Our last stop of the day was to the Sorya Shopping Center, an intimidating shopping mall that could probably rival any of the ones in the U.S. While the mall was filled with the usual amenities of fashionable clothing stores and restaurants, the highlight had to be the roller blading rink located on the top floor. Sabine, Rohan, Dan, and I were brave enough to try it. I really mean brave. People were whizzing around so fast, often without really looking, and there were lots of jumps and bumps to fly off of. There were also few hand rails, something I definitely could have benefited from. Rohan, Sabine, and Dan attempted to go down one of the ramps and over a jump, but Dan was really the only successful one. Sabine and Rohan had their share of falls, something the onlooking Cambodians got a kick out of.

Overall, our time in Phnom Penh has been incredible. Tomorrow we will head off to Preah Vihear, the province where our school is located! While I'm sad to leave such an exciting city, I can't wait to explore such a different part of Cambodia. This will be the last blog entry for a few days since where we are going will have no internet access, but we'll be sure to catch up in Siem Reap. Talk to you in a few days!


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