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Recent Blog Posts from Cambodia

10 weeks already   (published in Cambodia)

August 19, 2017 by   Comments(0)

It feels like time has moved very quickly over the past months. Yesterday, I spent the final day of my 10 weeks working on the microfinance project already. Because I still have one week in Cambodia ahead of me to do some travelling, there was no need to say goodbye yet, but it did feel a little bit strange to leave the office for the last time though. 

During my last weeks on the project, we had a lot of new, potential beneficiaries that were requesting a loan from us. So we spent a lot of time going to the communities to give introductary trainings or to go over the business questionnaires with the small business owners individually. The most recent group that we visited, however, was in a quite different setting than the ones that I got used to so far. These people all lived in relatively modern and nice appartments in a group of very big appartment buildings near a community where we already had a group of beneficiaries before. The reason for this, as I heard from the local authorities, is that these people were evicted from their lands because of some new corporate developments in that area and in return they were given these new appartments to live in. From what I understood, most of the locals were actually rather satisfied with these new living circumstances, as I can imagine that their new homes are a lot more comfortable than the places where they used to live. It did feel quite strange to see the same type of people and businesses as I have seen here my entire stay in a much more modern surrounding though. But in the end, placing them in a different environment does not mean that their daily income and spending capacity for food and other basic necessities has also increased. So we could still do some useful work here. 

Apart from the daytime when ...

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10 weeks already
10 weeks already

The jungle of Mondulkiri   (published in Cambodia)

August 10, 2017 by   Comments(0)

Next to the cities, islands, countryside and temples, Cambodia also has some areas covered by a jungle landscape. So the last weekendtrip I went on was a more adventerous one and took me to the eastern province of Mondulkiri. Together with one other volunteer, we booked a weekend via the Mondulkiri project that consisted of a day visiting elephants and a second day hiking to a small village. To start this weekend early on saturday morning, we already travelled to Sen Monorom, the province capital, on Friday afternoon. Here we had a small dinner in the evening before going to bed in time. Evidently, we wanted to wake up well rested! 

On Saturday morning, there was a car picking us up in the city centre to drop us off a few miles further at the border of the forest, from which we walked a short time to the jungle lodge that would be our home for the weekend. Our group consisted of about 20 people, half of which would go back to Sen Monorom on Saturday evening while the other half would stay with us to do the hike on Sunday. After getting some introductary explanations from a local guide about the project and the elephants, we were ready to go a little bit deeper into the jungle to meet the 5 elephants who were living there. The Mondulkiri project bought or leased them from owners who maltreated them in the past in order to give them a better life. It was really nice to visit them in their natural environment and to see, feed and touch these animals while they were just walking around freely in the forest. They aren't forced to come to us, but luckily having loads of bananas made it very, very likely that they would come to us to enjoy our company. After this first encounter we headed back to the jungle lodge to enjoy our lunch and have a short nap in the hammocks ...

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The jungle of Mondulkiri
The jungle of Mondulkiri

The Kampot trip   (published in Cambodia)

July 31, 2017 by   Comments(0)

My weekendtrip to the city of Kampot turned out to be a very different experience than the other weekendtrips I already made. This was mainly due to two reasons, a lot of rain and a lot of people. Whereas most of the time it only rains for a couple of hours per day max, this weekend it has rained non-stop. But together with the other 16 volunteers who went on this trip, we managed to make it a nice weekend anyway!

Because we were such a big group, renting a private bus to take us from Phnom Penh to Kampot and back ended up being the cheapest option we had. This was quite comfortable as the bus picked us up at our appartments and dropped us off at our hostel in Kampot, no extra tuk-tuk rides necessary this time. On Saturday, we booked a tour through the national park close to the city. This took us on a small mountain, where we were able to see some interesting things such as the biggest statue in Cambodia, an old, abandoned church and an old, abandoned casino. It was extremely foggy and windy on the mountain and together with the rain this wasn't the most enjoyable weather we could have, but this did have the nice side-effect of giving the abandoned buildings a sinister vibe that otherwise might have been lacking. The biggest upside to the continuous rain however, became clear when we visited the waterfall on our tour. During the dry season, there is only a small stream of water running down these rocks, but now there was a very impressive and vast amount of water storming down. This was really the kind of view that makes you respect the power of nature, so thanks to the weather for that!

The next day, we made a trip through the countryside around Kampot. We started by driving past a salt farm, but didn't make a stop here because we were on a tight schedule to catch ...

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The Kampot trip
The Kampot trip

On the project   (published in Cambodia)

July 22, 2017 by   Comments(1)

As I'm just over halfway of my time here on the project, I already did 6 out of my 10 weeks, I thought it would be a good idea to give another update on the work that we do here. This has actually evolved somewhat over the past weeks. In the beginning there were only 2-3 volunteers on the project, which made it possible to go along on all visits to beneficiaries whether it were trainings or repayment collections or something else. This allowed me to really have a clear image of the people that we are trying to help. The last weeks we worked together with up to 7 volunteers on the project and as you can imagine, we can't just storm into someone's house with this amount of people to ask for repayments. That might come across as just a little too aggressive, so it has also become necessary to take on some projects on which we can work from the office. 

Although we can do some very valuable work from the office, for example by improving the processes used in daily work, my favourite part of the job stays the visits to the beneficiaries. This really makes it possible to see a side of Phnom Penh you would never see when you were here as just a regular tourist. Actually seeing and entering the houses of the local people in the poorer communities really creates a better understanding of the way in which they live. This still differs strongly amongst our beneficiaries, with some of them living in a small house with a separate bedroom and bathroom. There are others however, in the poorest communities we visit, who don't have anything more than an open wooden shack next to the river. Especially in this last group, an unexpected setback could create serious difficulties. 

One specific story that comes to my mind now to illustrate this, is a woman that heavily burned her ...

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On the project
On the project

Sun, sea, beach, Koh Rong Samloem   (published in Cambodia)

July 17, 2017 by   Comments(1)

After a couple of weeks in the city of Phnom Penh and a weekend of discovering temples and other cultural things around Siem Reap, I discovered that Cambodia also has some very paradisical sides to offer. Some of the other volunteers had the plan of going to the island of Koh Rong Samloem during my third weekend here, and I was happy to join them. I ended up in very French company, as the only non-French volunteer doing the trip, so it also was a good language preparation for my coming year in France!

We started our weekend with a bus to Sihanoukville, where we arrived on Friday evening to spend the night and to take a ferry to the island the next day. Our accomodation here was somewhat out of the city center, but next to a beautiful and quiet beach on which we had a drink, before eating dinner in a nearby restaurant. This was the perfect evening to give us a little taste of what was following the next days. On Saturday, we got up in time to catch a ferry to Koh Rong Samloem, which was only a trip of about 45 minutes once we were on the boat. 

The views of the island we got from the boat before arriving were already so amazing. Some green hills in the background, a lovely white beach in front of it with some bungalows on it, and that was literally everything that you could find in this place. We quickly noticed this, as our bungalow was at the very opposite side of the island compared to the one on which we arrived. So it took us a walk of about 40 minutes on the beach on the east side of the island, followed by about 45 minutes on a small trail through the jungle to get to the west side and another 10 minutes on the sunset beach before we arrived at the Huba-Huba bungalows where we booked a night. Once we were there, around lunchtime on Saturday, the rest of ...

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Sun, sea, beach, Koh Rong Samloem
Sun, sea, beach, Koh Rong Samloem

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