…. Cambodia No More ….

My new life in Cambodia came to an abrupt and busy end on Saturday 2nd April.   The last week at work proved to be rather hectic.  We had a couple of pretty significant meetings on the English project,  then on the Friday I had to go in to introduce Charlene to the folks in the Department, as she will be keeping in touch with them on an advisory basis after I have gone.   She also met up with Carol from Peace Corps who will take over some of the organisational stuff from me – setting up meetings etc.  We had a great lunch in the salad bar, Vego.  I had to say my goodbyes to the Programme Office staff, while the DCD staff presented me with a nice scarf at their big Friday meeting and I made my last ‘speech’ in faltering Khmer.  On Friday afternoon, I was sketching out the bones of a funding bid for VSO Cambodia to carry on with some of my work (only better) and did not finish till around 6.  After that it was out for a night with whoever could manage from the PP VSO community.  We went first to a really interesting local restaurant called Ratanakiri.  The owner, out of principle, shares all the profits with the staff, who meet each month to examine the monthly accounts and decide how money should be distributed, including a distribution to different worthy causes.  We were about 20 in number so I hope we contributed to their profits this month.  It was a nice evening.  Saturday went by in a blur.  I finished packing, gave my bicycle and various other items (too heavy to pack!) to my VSO friend John then went for lunch with Vantha, VSO’s senior education officer in Cambodia.  He shared with me some of the terrible experiences he had as a teenager during Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge nightmare.  I have tremendous respect for how he handled himself then and now.  Later he presented Joan and me with a beautiful traditional Cambodian painting on canvas – two ‘apsara’ dancers.   As Vantha left, Or Siem, the Depute Director of DCD and my main partner in my work, arrived to take me to the airport and we parted there.    Despite many attempts to do so, I was unable to get my luggage down to the limit and was stung with an excess charge at the check in.    When I got to KL Joan was waiting at the main concourse and we shared a little time over coffee before a lengthy bus, train and car journey to Fuziana’s comfortable and welcoming house.  There’s still a lot of ‘processing’ for me to do about my Cambodian experience:  about aid and development, about dependency and empowerment, about democracy and stability, about wealth and poverty, about policy and practice, about individuals and social norms, about friendship and family.  For now it is enough that I am looking forward to this holiday, when I have the chance to revisit places I never thought I would see again and meet up with many of the friends that I made 35 years ago in my first VSO experience in Malaysia.

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4 thoughts on “…. Cambodia No More ….

  1. We miss you Danny, we’ll be sure to visit when we next south of the border (i.e. able to travel north of it…).

    Sounds like you had a great time in Malaysia, what a great way to end your six months here. I’m looking forward to reading your post-in-country reflections, if they’re out in time they may find a way into the summer issue of NSJ magazine.

    Look after yourself, Sam.

    • Hey Sam Great to hear from you. I hope GIlly is through the worst by now .. please keep me posted. Back two days now and just trying to cope with life here.. it’s a strange feeling. I’ve been telling people that I left a bit of myself in Cambodia which is still there.. and I need to bring that bit of me back before I can put the thoughts together. I will try to write.. but whether I can meet the standards of NSJ… you’ll have to judge. At the moment my brain feels a bit like jelly. Going to try to get a medical appointment first thing today to see about the sandfly bites. they’re getting worse. It appears that this can happen……. they may for example all be infected from the time of the bite and need anitbiotic treatment. I’m covered in them so scratching is a constant temptation. Take care and keep in touch. Danny

      • Ouch, that sounds painful, I had some in Thailand too. An old zen-like mantra I once taught myself was ‘mind over mosquito’, which is an essential discipline in making the itch have the shortest possible lifespan…

  2. Sounds like you had a really nice end to your trip Danny, spending time with people you didn’t know this time last year! Lesley.

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