Thursday, June 25, 2009

Update 4

Hi everyone, I'm sorry that it's taken me so long to write another update, it's been a really busy week. The last time I wrote I was about to go on to the field with Cambodia ACTs. That was my first of two trips to the field that I have now done with them. On both trips I was picked up by the two members of the NGO that I've been working with most closely, and the driver at my hotel at 6:30 in the morning. We did a lot of driving on both days we went out which can really take a toll on you even though I was in a nice new truck, just because the roads and traffic are so bad. Since driving laws are not enforced and it's a free-for-all on the road with the many forms of transportation people are using, the horn is utilized quite often by the driver. This makes it impossible to take a nap, or even dose off for a second, which I wanted to do quite a bit. On our route we had to take a ferry across the Mekong River at a point that was too wide for a bridge to be built. When you wait in your car to get on the ferry with the many other travelers, by bus, or foot, or bike, or motorcycle, you are swarmed with people trying to sell you snacks or really anything. The driver pointed out to me that they were selling fried turtles in one stall on the side of the road, and sure enough when I looked close enough you could see the shape of a shell with spots or stripes.

The purpose of the trip was for Cambodia ACTs staff in Phnom Penh to meet with representatives of their partner organizations in the provinces. When we finally turned off the main road toward the site of our first meeting, we meandered along a one lane dirt road for what seemed like forever passing rice field after rice field and house on stilts after house on stilts. It seemed as though we were driving along a sand barge surrounded by an enormous lake of flooded rice fields. At each of the meetings I was able to take pictures and gps readings which I will share with Cambodia ACTs, which they may use for future reports or when they create a website. The second two places we stopped were to observe trainings that were going on for local law enforcement and village leaders, raising awareness to these important people about the issues of trafficking and child exploitation. Lunch that day, and all meals in general, were really interesting as I really had no idea what we were eating.

The second trip the I took to the provinces involved a stop at on of the border checkpoints on the Cambodian/Vietnamese border that is frequently cited for being a location through which people are trafficked. As I watched I did not observe much of a serious attitude by the immigration police about checking passports or goods, and the road that we were on was elevated and turns into a bridge during the rainy season as the surrounding area becomes flooded, which allows for easy access by boat.

Over the weekend I took a trip to the Cambodian coast on the Gulf of Thailand. The town of Sihanoukville, Cambodia's port city and tourist destination. I went for some R and R and was pleasantly surprised with the beach and the warmth of the water. The beach is lined with shacks (literally shack-like buildings, but each one has the work "shack" in their name) and these places serve as bars with lounge chairs during the day, and turn into barbecue restaurants at night. I had the freshest fish, caught that day, cooked on the grill, and it came with tons of rice, salad, and garlic bread for five dollars. If I had gone with piranha, chicken, or beef, it would have been three dollars. It was a really good time.

This week has been busy getting ready for interviews, Cambodia ACTs will be hiring three new people, one lawyer, one lawyer assistant, and one criminal investigator. We've been going through the applications and finalizing the short list, and arranging the interview process. I'm really learning a lot about the inner-workings of this organization but these skills can be applied to any project management situation in the future. I have continued to have meetings with local stakeholders and my list of resources and studies to consult while writing is also growing.

Everyone has left the office now so I have to go as well. Sorry this was so short, there's a lot more to tell. I'll have to continue this one soon.

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