Briefing – Day 1

They were very nice to us.. we did not start the briefing till 10.30.  Unfortunately that meant breakfast was not till 10.00 and with lunch at 12.00, it was a bit of overkill really.

Communal Eating

It did, however, allow me to write up the first part of this account.  Ella, Soklait and Cheamran ( not correct spelling!) introduced us to various aspects of how VSO works in Cambodia, with a tour of the office, introductions to the local programme staff (there are 26 local staff altogether!) who support the volunteer programme, seek funding for new projects and negotiate the local contracts etc.  In the afternoon, we had a security briefing (don’t carry handbags on your shoulder comes top of the list) and then met a couple of PP volunteers who have arranged our cyclo-tour tomorrow and will take us round with them in two groups.  It’s $6 for the day.  We will start at 08.45.

Ella doing the introduction to our training – we move to our language course a week on Monday: it is in Kampong Cham.  I am going to ask to do a reduced course – seven weeks before I start is too long!!

Vanessa, a PPP based volunteer  and Sokunthea (local office staff) and Uday (PP based volunteer) going over words we will need for cyclo tour.

All paying attention…..

At 6.00 we had a buffet type get together with a beer or soft drink, with all the office staff and some VSO volunteers from PP and some from other parts who happened to be in town.

That was a nice get-to-know-you session and will help with our work later I think.  I met a woman who works in Kampot (Charlie??) who is working in a teacher training college and knows about the work I am going to be involved in … so that was a good contact.  I also chatted to a short term volunteer who is just finishing his second placement here – he is involved in supporting the development of a Cambodian #ngo# – helping them to develop a strategic plan which will support their funding applications.   I liked the sound of his place . he is paying $500 a month and leaves the place next month  –which is $250 dollars more than VSO are prepared to pay.  The subsidy from me would be £160.  I don’t think I’ll take it, but I will go to visit him to see what it is like and to get a feel for what you get for your money.

The internet connection in the VSO accommodation is not great… so I would prefer to use a cafe, or to buy a ‘dongle’ and use the mobile phone connection.  Speaking of mobile phones, they also gave us a SIM card today.  It seems to work in the phone.. and all the numbers Joan had saved to her old phone reappeared when I put it in.  However there is no money on it just now.  I’ll text Joan once I get contact.  Mobile phone calls are reasonably cheap so that may be as reliable a way of keeping in contact as any.  I think my number if calling/texting from uk will be +855 78 80 99 38.

Tonight I went into the neighbouring Western cafe – prices were much more expensive (it cost $2 for a very nice, but small, latte with a beautifully crafted leaf on the top of the milk) but they do have wireless internet for free!  I may try to skype from there,  or I may try to buy a dongle before Sunday (will not be able to skype till then because of timings).

The other big think I’ve been doing is reading the autobiography (or partial autobiography as it’s really just about the Indochinese phase of his life) of Jon Swain – River of Time. It’s a compelling and very well written account of his time in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. He is the long haired English reporter in The Killing Fields. His account of PP at the time of the defeat of the Lon Nol regime suggests the film is very accurate.  He has a lyrical and punchy style in his use of language.  I am about half way through the book.  It is one of many well-used ‘multiple copies’ of books in the VSO library, including a large number of out-of-date rough guides to Myanmar, Cambodia and neighbouring countries.

thanks to leandra for the photos

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