Peace Works Travel Blog

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Archer School for Girls - Cambodia - November 2017

November 6, 2017

Pre-departure: The crew of travelers:

November 8, 2018 : Pre-departure

Hello by Video: Connecting with students in Cambodia before we meet in person!

November 12, 2017

Day 1 -We Made It!

We arrived safely!

We’ve just spent a spectacular day exploring Phnom Penh and enjoying extraordinary meals. Now we get to indulge in a long night of sleep in preparation for tomorrow’s adventures.

So much more to come.

November  13, 2017

Day 2: Our First Full Day

     We began our first full day in Cambodia with breakfast at the Mito Hotel! So far, our trip has included a tour of the city, a visit to the Royal Palace, and exciting meals. After breakfast, we took a tour of the King’s Royal Palace, where we learned about Cambodia’s government, in addition to the integration of religion, government, and everyday life.
The food has been absolutely amazing so far. We have had rice and chicken every meal, and who doesn’t love rice and chicken?!  Both restaurants that we have visited played unique roles in helping the community – the first gave jobs and professional experience to less fortunate kids, and the second restaurant offered women in sex trafficking a way out of the viscous cycle.
     Thanks to our local instructors Rina and Tola, we’ve learned how to communicate our gratitude.
     Overall, our experience is already life changing! We’re looking forward to everything Cambodia has to offer.
By Meg, Sarah, Stella, Madison, and Rachael

November 14, 2017

Day 2: Monkeys: Peaceful Agitation

Hello families back home,
Our trip is amazing thus far!
After receiving a tour of the stunning Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, the group ate lunch at a restaurant, Daughters of Cambodia, that provides women with an escape out of sex trafficking. The organization goes to various locations and offers women jobs and training for jobs, which gives them a reliable occupation and in turn eliminates the possibility of once again falling into the depths of sex trafficking. The ladies at the café and shoppe were all very kind and made everyone feel quite welcome and safe. Additionally, we were given plate after plate of delicious food!
After lunch, we sped towards a dance workshop with Cambodia Living Arts, where we were given short shows of not only the various different types of dance(Classical, Folk, etc.) but the intensive yet often overlooked warm up routines, which can span up to an hour. We then proceeded to learn a short routine and in turn teach the dancers the “Wobble.”
Then, we drove to a local Pagoda where we met a very kind monk, who had taught both Bong Rina and Malia (our local guides) at a local university. He patiently taught us many things, including how to meditate, where we listened to the pouring rain and pounding thunder and lightning outside.
Feeling at peace and quite refreshed, we headed off to dinner at the Museum Café, where we were given quite delicious food, including pygmy shrimp, mango salad, curry with chicken. This was followed by a delightful performance of traditional Khmer dances by students of Cambodian Living Arts, which was very beautiful and inspiring.
We hope you are enjoying your week, too!
~ Julia

Connecting with Arn Chorn Pond: An Absolute Honor

November 15, 2017

Day 3: Balancing the Heavy and the Hope

     Like yesterday, this morning was really heavy. Visiting the Killing Fields in the outskirts of Phnom Penh had a profound and necessary impact on me. Being in the place where thousands of people suffered seemed both unreal and too real at the same time. At one spot, I sat overlooking a lake which held mass graves underneath them. I listened to a horrific story about a man who was forced to leave his home and watched his cousin die. All the while the sun hit the lake beautifully and birds chirped; it was so serene. I asked myself, “How could such inhumane atrocities take place here? How can I at once be so overwhelmed with sadness and also serene?” I struggled with balancing those different emotions. But the end, the narrator on our personal audio tour noted that April 17 used to be known as the Day of Anger. Now, it is known as the Day of Remembrance, which brought me to peace. Instead of dwelling on the pain that occurred there, I thought about how I was actively promoting forward movement for the country by just being there and listening. Cambodia has moved forward with such resiliency. I am blown away every day here.

In the afternoon, we went to a school in a rural area to spend time with the children. We read to them and played games. The director’s mission really hit close to home for me, personally, because his goal is to educate his community, Cambodian children especially. Education will allow them to dream and make their dreams a reality. It made me realize that we are so fortunate and privileged to a) live in a country that makes going to school mandatory and b) that we have access to a quality education. Seeing them in their classrooms, joyful and curious, was a great way to balance our earlier trip with positivity and a sense of hope. It was just incredibly touching to see the children with a kind of hope, glimmer, kindness, and curiosity in their eyes.

Last but not least, my favorite moment of the day was hearing one of our awesome guides, Tola, sing a Khmer song on the bus! His voice is so beautiful!!! We are leaving for Siem Reap tomorrow and I’m going to miss our guides so much!!! Parents, I hope you haven’t been too worried because we are in excellent hands. They’ve truly touched all of our lives, and we will never forget them. Last night, I went to bed with a heavy heart. Tonight, I will go to bed a little more at peace.

By Madison Tyler

November 16, 2017

Day 4: Phnom Penh Market and Goodbyes for Now

Jum reab soo ah! Hello everyone!
Today was not heavy like yesterday, but it was just as memorable.
After breakfast, we drove to a place of hustle and bustle, the Central Market. There, we separated into two groups and explored this exciting place. We bought different clothes like Alibaba pants (my personal favorite), bracelets and gifts for friends back home, and even a refreshing mango smoothie. We saw (and smelled) different seafoods, fruits, and some bugs along the way. What was most interesting for me was bargaining. We expected that sellers would increase their prices for oblivious foreign travelers like us, so we decided to prove them wrong. With our cunning strategies (and the help of our guides), we bought six-dollar pants for four, twenty-dollar dresses for eighteen. Hopefully, I can practice this skill back home!
Before we left the market, our sweet guides, Rina and Maliya, bought Magnolia flowers for us to wear, even one for Mr. Jacobson. Mine is still pinned to my hair!
Soon after, we drove to Daughters of Cambodia; we voted to eat there for our last meal in Phnom Penh. We ate a delicious food and bought a few items in the shop below. It was fun yet sad; we would soon have to say goodbye to Rina, Tola, and Maliya, our amazing guides.
We drove to the Mito Hotel for the last time to pick-up our luggage and drop-off Rina. Our sweet Rina gave us all a farewell gift, her favorite black, beaded earrings. We took pictures, said our goodbyes, and left to the Phnom Penh airport.
When we arrived, I reminisced about my first moments in Phnom Penh. It was hot, stuffy, rainy, amazing. We were greeted by mile-long smiles from Rina and Tola. We saw our bright, pink bus that accompanied us during these last, four days. Who wouldn’t want to experience that special day again?
Once we unloaded all our luggage, it was time to say goodbye. However, it wasn’t an ordinary goodbye. Being with our guides for four days definitely sparked a special connection; we were family. We took lots of pictures and shouted our last “OMG!” (Tola’s favorite line). We said goodbye again and again, hoping we can extend our last minutes together.
Now, we are here. Waiting for our next adventure. Eating, playing cards, and writing a blog. In this very moment, I realized that coming here was the best decision I have ever made. I am super stoked for Siem Reap and the different experiences/friendships that will come with it. Stay tuned everyone.
By Hannah

November 17, 2017

Day 5: Out With the Old Men’s Wars

     I confess from the very beginning of our trip abroad, I was anxious to get to Siem Reap.  Siem Reap would mean I’d spent nearly a week in Cambodia, a week full of self-discovery, newly found friendships, and knowledge I never could’ve received at home.  And, if I made it this far, I thought I’d feel comfortable enough in this new country to confidently take the plane to our next location.  Only the first sentence came to pass.
     Today we woke up in an unfamiliar space, surrounded by sights and people I’ve (probably) never seen before and might never meet again.  Everyone seemed a bit disoriented, myself thoroughly included.  After experiencing a taste of Phnom Penh and accruing knowledge and wisdom and friends, my mind still felt trapped between past and present.  I think breakfast tasted amazing, but I couldn’t tell you; I was in another place.
     Luckily once we arrived at the Cambodia Self-Help Demining base and stepped off our bus, my thoughts caught up to my body.  There we met Bill, a Vietnam War veteran and a director of one of four Cambodian NGOs dedicated to dismantling the devastating remnants of battles fought here, explosives in the land and from the air.  He spoke with vigor, moving his hands as he informed us so that I couldn’t help but focus on him.  This incredible man dedicated his life decades ago to opposing futile wars and (later) to aiding Cambodians in their own fight for life and life more abundant.  He recognized when he agreed to help build Aki Ra’s demining organization that this abundant life meant safety for the Khmer men, women, and children.  After we left, I smiled at a young boy riding his bike beside our bus and hoped this gesture would convey the new hope I felt.  He smiled and waved back.
     After our lunch we went to another site dedicated to banning landmines and other threats to human life created for warfare.  We built wheelchairs for people with disabilities and the group got to meet the man and woman behind it all: Nobel Prize co-winners, Bong Reth and Sister.  Mr. Reth spoke about his change in mindset from bitterness to love, a shift which took place when the two accepted their prize for successfully banning landmines in over a hundred countries.  At one point, he’d wished for all people to bear the same burden he carries, to have both of their legs taken by terrible remnants of old wars.  Now he only wants safety for all of humanity, his extended family.  His words reminded me of something important: whatever our current mindset might be, there’s always hope for positive change.
     I hope that I may enter tomorrow with all the clarity and readiness for the future that I can muster.
~Lena Jones

November 19, 2017

Day 6: Siem Reap: First Full Day Night Activities

     Our day concluded with a beautiful meal at an Indian restaurant, and an exciting trip to The Night Market.
     The Night Market was similar to the Central Market we visited in Phnom Penh item-wise, but the entire atmosphere was different. Because it was night, all of the signs and displays were lit up. The stores, stalls, and carts were lined up along multiple blocks of a crowded street. While the Central Market was spread out and overwhelming, the Night Market was a bustling city street with gleaming items in the windows and beautiful hand-made products dangled in our every direction. I was captivated by the ‘night-life’ appeal and interactions with the vendors. Although the initial shock of the fast-paced streets of Cambodia has subsided, it is still fascinating to experience an entirely different culture. Not only does the language barrier create an obvious difference between us and those native to this country, but our group walks with wide-eyes through the streets.
     The overall thrill and cutting-edge appeal of the Night Market leaves us with a new memory of adventure. I have thoroughly enjoyed walking the streets with my peers and the exposure of foreign territory. Closing my eyes, I can still smell and hear the bustle of the street. And while so different to what lays in my comfort level, I am drawn to the beautiful differences in which I have been immersed. I am scared and excited by the short time we have left on this trip: scared because I feel as though there is not enough time to see and understand everything but excited because these 4 days could bring something unexpected and earth shattering to my being.
     I am excited for the day to come and to take each footstep with intent and an open-mind.
Bea Freeman

November 19, 2017

Day 7:  Siem Reap: The Temples and Cambodian Education

     The beautiful exploration of the Bayon and Ta Prom Temples is an experience like no other. The intricate and complex architecture of the 12th century astonished me. How could one put so much detail into such huge and beautiful  structures?! Pictures cannot do these temples justice; you will all just have to come to Siem Reap yourselves to comprehend their magnificence. I am still in awe and cannot wait until we see Angkor Wat tomorrow!
     In the evening, following our explorations, we had a workshop with our tour guide, Cho, that was absolutely amazing. In Archer, with all of our assignments and school-related stress, it can be difficult to stand back and just recognize how amazing and privileged we are to be in a high school compared to many students around the world.
     During our trip, we have learned about the different hardships Cambodian students go through. For example, most do not finish and graduate high school for various of reasons. We Archer students do not only have the opportunity to go to high school and graduate, but for many of us, university is a given. Many Cambodian children cannot even dream of doing the same because many have to work instead, to support their family.
     Before and during this trip, we also learned about the struggle of underprivileged kids in Cambodia. But actually being in the environment takes the experience to a whole new level. I am extremely excited for Cho to give us another workshop tomorrow where we can think of ways to help the education system, not only in Cambodia but in our own communities. I am extremely humbled and grateful to be able to go to a school like Archer, and this workshop has moved me even more to go back and aid my own community.
– Angelica

November 20, 2017

Day 8: The Day Has Come

The Day Has Come
It is 4 am
And it is time to wake up
Although everyone is cozy in their beds
An adventure awaits
We are heading to Angkor Wat
To watch the sunrise
Believing that we were going to be the only ones
I was surprised
To see other tourist
Looking forward
To see the sunrise
After “watching the sunrise”
It was time
To enter Angkor Wat
Inside Angkor Wat
I felt like Mowgli
When he was kidnapped by primates
And brought to the dais of King Douie, the monkey king,
Who reigned from within his castle
Of indigenous ruins
After exploring Angkor Wat
We headed to a mountain
Expected to reach the top
Where another temple awaits
On the top of the mountain
We had a marvelous view
Of our surroundings: nature and civilization
Reaching the bottom of the mountain
We drove pass a village
Full of farms and high-level houses
A different environment
That we are accustomed to
From home and our stay in Cambodia
Although we were sleepy and exhausted
The evening that awaited
Motivated us
To keep moving on
That evening
At last
We were going to meet
Our pen pals, PEPY students
During dinner
A table full of beautiful and marvelous people
We all shared our own stories
To realize
The similarities and differences
Of all of us
The time flew by
As fast as the wind
The time had come
To say goodbye
By Angie

November 21, 2017

Day 9: Finding the Words

While the words are still forming,
while we consider with wide eyes the extraordinary people who have informed and inspired us,
while we grapple as individuals and as a cohesive group with what comes next…
overwhelming gratitude, and just a few photos.