Posted by Eddie on 07.18.2012 at 3:19 pm
The trip is over. As I sit down on the 14 hour flight back to Atlanta for seemingly the first time in weeks, I’m overcome with emotions. I feel fortunate, proud, a bit sad, and inspired. You see, I work at a desk; at any given point in the day, I am staring at a spreadsheet on a computer screen, on a conference call or both. My goals and objectives are based on revenue and profitability. Most would say my job is fairly normal. Except it isn’t at all. Read more…
2 Comments » | Tagged Literacy Trips, cambodia, literacy trip, pepy, room to read, vietnam
Posted by King on 03.14.2008 at 12:23 pm
[This is Part Six of Aaron's "Campus Division in Cambodia" story. Here's Part Five and this is the final installment!]
Friday January 4, 2008
I think it can go without saying that we began our day with a delicious breakfast at the hotel. Our first stop today was to visit a couple of floating schools; schools actually on large boats in the river. Apparently as the seasons change, and the fishing areas change, and the level of the river changes, this school can be in several areas up and down the river. We were told that one challenge is that sometimes during the rainy season, some families will leave the village, and the students are unable to attend school.
Upon our arrival we were greeted by all the children and a beautiful bouquet of flowers. On the floating school we saw first hand a library that RTR had created. We were able to ask the students and teachers what it was like before this library, and it was as we expected: without fun books to read, the students had no real passion for reading. But in the middle of this library filled with children’s books, there was genuine joy and excitement amongst the children, their passion for learning was being fueled by this library.
We got a chance to speak to some of the school children, and again we were all infused with a great respect and love for the people there.
We got to go on another beautiful boat ride along the river before returning to town for lunch, this time not at a buffet. Our food was really good.
In the afternoon, we concluded our school visits with a trip to a large school in the heart of the city, 6000 students we were told. RTR was able to give this school a computer lab, a language room and a library, which all seemed to be huge helps to the school.
In the library, we saw the same exuberance in the children as we had seen in the library on the boat. The kids are so much more inclined to love reading and learning when they have books to enjoy! A couple of the girls here actually knew some English, and we were able to have some candid conversations for the first time without our translator. Speaking to these young girls in English, knowing how difficult their lives are was a uniquely exhilarating experience.
We concluded the afternoon with some Q and A with some teachers and administrators at this school, and then we were off to a dinner.
This time they had selected a fancy restaurant in downtown for us, and we again narrowly avoided international incident as we ordered our vegetarian specialties, deviating from their standard meal. I believe the waitress said to me “sure, I can make that without fish, but I don’t think it will be any good”
We had some good final conversations with the RTR staff, and then went off to relax and enjoy our final night in Cambodia, hoping beyond hope that everything great we had experienced could truly sink in. It was sad to leave at the time, and it is sad still to remember, but I have a sense of renewed vigor to work harder, better, faster stronger, and hopefully provide even more support for our non profit literacy friends, and count down the days until the next big adventure.
Posted by King on 03.12.2008 at 8:49 am
[This is Part Five of Aaron's "Campus Division in Cambodia" story. Here's Part Four and look out for the subsequent tales in the coming week...]
Thursday January 3, 2008
Believe it or not, we again began the day with a phenomenal breakfast. We met up with a few Room to Read staff, and then took a van out to see the first school. Upon entrance, all the students were lined up and clapping for us. Similar to the fanfare of our first night, this was quite humbling; these students were so appreciative of Room to Read, and I was left feeling like I hadn’t done enough.
We spent some time doing Q and A with the teachers at the school, learning a lot more than we ever knew about what these schools and areas are really like.
We then got to meet the parents of the girls who were receiving Room to Read scholarships. This was a group of amazing people. I do not think I had ever seen true hardship before meeting these folks. Most of them labored all day as farmers, not even making enough to completely support their families. They had to sacrifice even more to allow their daughters to leave, not help on the farm, but instead go to school. But they were all willing to do so, to give their daughters a chance at a better life. I could see real love in all of their eyes.
We next got to meet the scholarship recipients themselves, again a heartwarming experience. They were all eager and cheerful and really loved school. It really made me want to do even more to help.
After the school visit, we again had lunch at the buffet, which sadly was no better than our previous excursion there. But our energy and spirits were so high from seeing that school, those parents, and the students, that I am pretty sure they could have fed us dirt and we would have been content.
The afternoon of January 3rd was probably the most astonishing, incredible, phenomenal, breathtaking experience of them all. We embarked to visit a remote village where we visited the homes of 3 Room to Read scholarship recipients
I used the word remote to describe that village, but I don’t think that begins to capture the real nature of this village.
We began by piling into the van, and driving far from the city, deep out onto an extremely bumpy road for what seemed like an hour. The whole time we were thinking “wow, this is pretty far from everything”. We were mistaken however, because by comparison, this dirt road was actually pretty close. At some points, the road was so bumpy we thought the van would overturn, our heads almost hitting the ceiling. We then stopped, thinking again, “ok, this is far out and remote”. We were not there yet, but rather we were just switching from our van to more of an all terrain vehicle, for the road had in fact become too bumpy to continue. Somewhere somehow some Cambodian must have gotten a deal from an army surplus dealer, because this truck was ridiculous. Imagine a mix between a pick up truck and a Tank. Well not quite a tank, it still had actual tires and not treads, but the tires were pretty huge. We all sat in the back on the bed of this truck like school kids on our way to a barn dance. Several times we felt like we might bounce out or tip over, and that poor van certainly would have ended up inverted had we not switched vehicles. On the bright side, there was no roof to bump our head into. At one point I peered forward thinking “there is no way any vehicle could every traverse that”. Well we did, and from that point on I decided it was better to not peek ahead. Some stretches of the road looked as if it had survived a meteor shower. I also noticed that the front part of the truck where the driver sat, did not technically have a floor, you could in fact see directly down to the road below. Since the driver did not seem too worried, I did not bring it up, but it certainly added to my experience.
The sun and breeze were both fantastic during this truck ride, and even with the bumpiness, it was one of the best journeys I have ever been on. You could even look out across the fields and see people working in the rice patties, exactly as you would expect it to look if you had seen it in a movie. I am also running out of synonyms for the word “surreal”. There was no “civilization” for miles in any direction. All we could see were beautiful wide open fields, mountains in the far distance, and a bumpy road that seemed to extend indefinitely in front of us.
Again we thought “wow, we are pretty far out here”, and again we were mistaken. After what again seemed like an hour in the back of this truck, we finally came to the end of the road. We were not at the village just yet, we were actually at a spot where the road dead ended… into a river. And so, it was time to change vehicles yet again. We climbed off the truck, dusted ourselves off, and made our way onto a large covered motor boat. The splendor of this area continued as we made our way through this river, alternating between patches of thick brush, and wide open areas with an amazing view of the countryside. After another long while, our boat emerged from a thick patch of brush, and we saw what looked like a large log cabin build up on stilts sticking out of the water. Our jaws dropped as we turned the corner and saw an entire array of these stilt houses. We had arrived at Broken Palm, the most remote village we had ever seen.
The village existed as a large number of these cabins built up on stilts, some in the water, others set along what was basically a long dirt alley that we could walk through. Most of the stilts were at least 12 if not 20 feet high. We were told that during the rainy season the river actually rises up above the stilts, and a boat is required to enter the home. Sometimes the water had even risen above the floor level, and the family would have to quickly build another level within their home.
Amazingly enough, in spite of the harsh conditions, this felt like a true community, I sensed true happiness around me.
We were welcomed with open arms into the home of a single Mom whose daughter was off at school on an Room to Read scholarship. The scholarship actually allowed the girl to board at the school, which makes a lot of sense after the ridiculous commute we just experienced. If the parents we had met that morning showed love in their eyes, this woman was beaming love out of every pore. She spoke with such pride and care for her daughter, and we had the most priceless of interviews. This same mother has also taken in a young boy (nephew?) who had lost his parents, and during our conversation with her, he was lying in the back room, working on his alphabet. We finally comprehended what it really meant for a young girl to be able to leave a village and go to school. This day will forever go down as one of the most amazing of my life.
The ride back was even more epic than the ride out, because by this time it was getting dark. I could look up from the bed of the truck and see stars, and I again felt that I could have stayed there for days and been happy.
Upon returning to town, we went to dinner with a couple of the Room To Read folks at a different buffet restaurant. Alas, this buffet had nothing amazing about it, but our day leading up to it was so incredible that again, we could have eaten dirt and been the happiest travelers in the world.
We went to bed this night in true awe of all we had seen: the landscape, the people, the community, the commitment, the remote village, the love. We smiled for having been able to have such a once in a lifetime experience, and I think it is safe to say we all felt a renewed vigor to work even harder upon our return, to do everything we can to aide the people we had seen this day, and all others like them around the world.
Posted by King on 03.11.2008 at 7:26 am
[This is Part Four of Aaron's "Campus Division in Cambodia" story. Here's Part Three and look out for the subsequent tales in the coming week...]
Tuesday January 1, 2008
5am felt more like the end of the night than the beginning of a day. Unfortunately, this was too early for the breakfast buffet, so we had to forgo it and instead have breakfast to go in a box. We drove and hiked out to the temples in almost complete darkness. To our surprise, there must have been hundreds of people out there making the trip to see the first sunrise of the New Year over the temple. When the sun rose up over the temple, and cast a reflection on the pool in front, it was quite astonishing. I cannot imagine a better way to ring in the New Year than the overall experience I had in Cambodia.
We continued on and saw several more temples that day, including the temple that appeared in Lara Croft, Tomb Raider 3.
For lunch, we were again taken to a local restaurant, this time a buffet. I wish I could say this was again a buffet filled with wonderful and delicious food, but alas, this story is not completely a fairy tale. Luckily, our group was not one to complain, and we survived with no international incidents of note. Due to our early start, we called it a day shortly after lunch, and went back to relax at the hotel pool. We spent the afternoon relaxing and getting ready for our upcoming time with Room to Read. For Dinner, we found a wonderful Thai restaurant in town, and we rode there on what they call a “tuk tuk”. Imagine a rickshaw, but pulled by a motorcycle. It was both relaxing and invigorating at the same time. Those of us who were meat –eaters decided to be team players, and we ordered 5 different vegetarian dishes that we all shared in the first of many Campus vegetarian food fests. This dinner more than made up for our subpar lunch. You may have heard that there is good thai food in Cambodia. You in fact heard correctly. I am also running out of synonyms for the word delicious.
We discussed our Room to Read plans and some other work issues after dinner, and then went to bed to be fresh for our final day of temple tours.
Wednesday January 2, 2008
We began early again, also enjoying the amazing breakfast at the hotel. After a morning of temple viewing and climbing, we had lunch at a restaurant within the Angkor Wat area. Sor told us he was taking us to “his restaurant”, but we are pretty sure something was lost in the translation. The food was again delectable.
In the afternoon, believe it or not, we visited more temples, bringing our total to 20 over the 3 day period. Trust me, that is a lot. All of them were amazing and all of them were decorated with beautiful engravings.
In the afternoon, we stopped at an orphanage where the children were learning the craft of leatherwork. Going in, I told myself that I would not buy anything… but then I saw the kids, and the artwork was actually pretty good. I only spent $10 got 5 different pieces. Some might say “they gave me good price”. We had bought so much stuff that when we left they all came out and waved good-bye.
After the orphanage we visited the final temple, which might have been my favorite. To get there we walked across a bridge over a small river; as surreal and mystical as all the areas were, this one took it to the next level. We sat on top of the temple and enjoyed another Cambodian Sunset along with traditional Cambodian music. I could have sat there for days and been happy.
We did not have days (4 minutes!), and we departed shortly after sunset to go to the Khmer Kitchen restaurant again and meet the Room to Read Staff. It turns out that the staff had to travel from afar, and so they were running a bit late. We killed some time browsing the local market, getting offered good price left and right. It then turned out that Room to Read was running too late, and would have to miss dinner. These are the facts of international travel. (So we discussed our itinerary and game-plan on our own, then went back to the hotel to get rested before our first school visits.)
[To Be Continued...]
Posted by King on 03.06.2008 at 9:14 am
[This is Part Three of Aaron's "Campus Division in Cambodia" story. Here's Part Two and look out for the subsequent tales in the coming week...]
Monday December 31, 2008
Before departure, we had breakfast at the hotel restaurant. This was hands down the most amazing breakfast buffet I have ever seen. Big trays of rice and noodles and stir fries and meats and eggs and bread and fruit were everywhere. The fruit selection alone would have been enough to put this breakfast over the top as one of my most amazing ever. I don’t think I even recognized half the fruits there. There was one particular fruit we all grew particularly fond of; it was white with little black spots (seeds?) all over it. We speculated what this delicious refreshing fruit could be, with guesses including winter squash, winter melon, white kiwi, and my personal favorite, 101 Dalmatian fruit. It turns out, this delicacy was called “dragon fruit”. Who knew you could grow dragons?!?1
After this delicious breakfast, we joined Sor and took a van out to the Angkor Wat temples, and began our whirlwind tour, where we saw 20 temples over 3 days.
The scene was absolutely amazing, breathtaking if you would. It is actually kind of difficult to describe; it had a magical almost mystical feel too it. I would say the trees were bigger, the grass was greener, the sky was bluer, and there were elephants and monkeys everywhere . Not to mention the huge and ornate temples. It really was like something from a movie. I could close my eyes and see what it would have been like to see this ancient kingdom in full effect with the hustle and bustle of people in full regalia; this is really difficult to capture in words, but the feeling was very surreal.
For lunch, we were taken to a nice local restaurant. Unfortunately, our vegetarian travelers had some minor difficulties with the prepared food they brought us, but an international incident was avoided yet again as we were able to get them some good substitute food.
After the meal, we returned to Angkor Wat to spend more time at the temple. It was again a peaceful experience to walk around and just feel the history and greatness of the place. As the afternoon faded away, our peaceful trance was snapped as we were ushered away to go climb another temple to see the last sunset of the year. “Hurry up, the sun sets in 4 minutes!” we were told, and so we hustled up the winding side of a huge hill. It turns out we made it in plenty of time, but we gained a valuable joke, shouting “4 minutes!” any time we needed to hurry.
I am running out of synonyms for the word amazing, and even Shift F7 is not helping, but this sunset was indeed amazing. I cannot imagine a better way to say goodbye to the year than our experience sitting high atop a temple in Cambodia.
After the sunset, we headed back to the hotel. This was in fact New Year’s eve, and we were debating our options. To the question of “how can you have an amazing New Year’s Even in Cambodia?” there is really no wrong answer. Our one caveat was that we were scheduled to go on a sunrise tour the next morning to see the first sunrise of the New Year come in over the temple. Our itinerary indicated that we would need to be ready to leave the Hotel at 6AM. Sor quickly corrected this for us, and pointed in that in fact 6AM would be too late (4 minutes!), and we had better plan on being ready to go at 5AM. That is quite a daunting prospect to take into a New Years Eve celebration, but we refused to let it phase us. We did decide to stay at the hotel for their gala, so that we would not venture out into trouble.
The gala began with a huge feast, which we enjoyed thoroughly. The evening quickly digressed however, as a couple of singers struggled to entertain the diversely mixed international crowd with renditions of several timeless American classics. It would be rude of me to say it sounded like Karaoke, but I’m not gonna lie, it sounded like Karaoke.
We made the most of it, sitting on the balcony overlooking their performance, enjoying each others company and the ridiculousness of the situation. We reflected on all we had seen that day, and still letting it sink in that we were in fact in Cambodia. I think we collectively managed a couple hours of sleep before our 5AM departure.
[To Be Continued...]
Posted by King on 03.05.2008 at 10:17 am
[This is Part Two of Aaron's "Campus Division in Cambodia" story. Here's Part One and look out for the subsequent tales in the coming week...]
Sunday, December 30th, 2007
After a few hours sleep we got up to explore the city. Our itinerary was to take us to Cambodia later that night, so we had limited time. Our consensus was to visit a nearby Pagoda. There were golden statues and tributes to Buddha all around where people could light incense and pray to Buddha and hope for good luck. The atmosphere was peaceful, serene, refreshing and relaxing, a good omen for things to come.
(L-R: Me (Aaron), Natasha, Damara, Niko)
We regrouped at the hotel to catch our next flight to Cambodia.
We arrived later that evening in Siem Reap, the second largest airport in Cambodia. This was the type of airport that lets you step right off the plane into the fresh air before entering the airport. The night air was crisp clear and refreshing, but alas we were ushered inside to complete yet another round of customs forms and visa applications. For all the bureaucracy of international travel, it really is still worth it.
When we stepped out the other side, some Rood to Read staff, our tour guide and, driver were there greeting us with a giant Room to Read banner welcoming us to the country.
The fanfare and pageantry was far from over. At the hotel, some dancers in full regalia perfomed a traditional Cambodian dance, complete with flower petal tossing. At first, we did not even realize that this grandiose performance was for us, it was so over the top. It was quite a humbling experience. After posing for some photos with the dancers, we showered up and went out for a delicious dinner at Khmer Kitchen.
We were joined by Tith from Room to Read, and were able to get some good preliminary information to prepare us for our upcoming days in Cambodia. We went back to the hotel, relaxed a bit, and then slept in amazing comfort. The next day was to begin our tours of the temples in the Area. Our fearless tour guide, Sor (yes, pronounced as in “sore nose”) gave us the option to start as late as we wanted. Let’s be honest, we chose 10AM, to make sure we were properly rested and ready to go.
[To Be Continued...]
Posted by admin on 01.22.2008 at 3:22 pm
It’s been about a week since I and four other Better World Books employees visited Cambodia to see first hand the incredible impact that Room to Read is making in Cambodian schools through their library, computer classroom and Room to Grow Girls’ Scholarship progroms.
The most soul stirring part of the trip was our visit to the family of a Room to Grow scholar named Yum Sophally. To reach her home we traveled almost 2 ½ hours each way using 3 modes of transportation. The first hour we traveled by car and to our surprise transferred to a hummer truck in order to traverse the rocky and practically road less terrain. Lastly, a 30 minute boat ride brought us to a small fishing community by the name of Thnot Leam Bot which translates into “broken palms”. This small village is the home of 17 Room to Read scholars.
Prior to Room to Read’s assistance these girls would have had to make the very expensive 2 ½ hour trek each day to and from school. However, thanks to the scholarship program, room and board is provided for the scholars close to the school where they are cared for by their teachers.
We were graciously welcomed into the home of Yum’s mother, In Lavy. In Lavy is a 58 year old widower and 16 year old Yum is her only child. As a testament to this woman’s generosity and warmth she has taken in her orphaned niece and nephew who did their homework in the next room as we spoke. In Lavy described Yum as a quiet, gentle, and studious girl who is incredibly cautious and thoughtful. In Lavy, knows that her investment in her education is crucial to Yum fulfilling her dreams of becoming a teacher or doctor.
Although, mother and daughter only see each three times a year they have fully embraced this opportunity as only 19% of Cambodian girls are enrolled in school at the secondary level. As we closed our interview In Lavy promised that “As long as I’m on the earth I’m committed to helping my daughter continue her education.”
- Aaron King africa ARC betterworld.com better world books fund Better World Books in the field blog book drive book drives book reviews books books for africa bookstore campus chicago children's books conferences dana barrett david murphy green festival green for all hilarious posts Impact invisible children library literacy literacy statistics massachusetts Natasha National Center for Family Literacy NCFL off-topic Our Partners partner updates Pat Plonski Phi Theta Kappa podcast Poll Wednesday press room to read Show Us Some Love social entrepreneurship Spooky Book of the Day worldfund Xavier Helgesen
- Africa 2010 (10)
- Antiquarian Ramblings (9)
- Ask the Dust: Notes from the Rare Book Section (4)
- Author Podcast (48)
- Better World Book Club (20)
- Book & Author News (49)
- book club (4)
- Book Lists (108)
- Book Reviews (67)
- Books on the Big Screen (7)
- Company News (81)
- Contests (16)
- Dispatches from the Green House (47)
- Flabbergasted (15)
- From our Friends (84)
- holidays (21)
- Impact (179)
- Impact Vignette (5)
- In the News (22)
- LEAP (14)
- Literacy Trips (20)
- Our Partners (184)
- Poll Wednesday (19)
- Show Us Some Love (29)
- Social Enterprise (19)
- South America 2011 (6)
- The Man Behind the Curtain (22)
- Uncategorized (375)
- Video Impact Story (6)
- Week In Review (18)
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008
- January 2008
- December 2007
- November 2007
- October 2007
- September 2007
- August 2007
- July 2007
- June 2007
- May 2007
- April 2007
- March 2007
- February 2007
- January 2007
- December 2006
- November 2006
- October 2006
- September 2006
- August 2006
Latest Commentsmy all time favorite was "The Pokey Little Puppy." When I got older it was "Ali...
I loved all things Beverly Cleary when I was a kid. That and, of course, Little...
At about age nine, I fell in love with Louise Moeri's "A Horse for X.Y.Z." This ...
Don't forget Freddie the Pig....
Baby Island - Carol Ryrie Brink Una and Grubstreet - Prudence Andrew Miss ...