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 admin on 03.10.2008 at 10:23 am
At the conference, IMPACT invited Better World Books to discuss our awesome business model in a three hour forum entitled “Blurring the Lines: Public Good in the Private Sector.” Jack represented us on the panel, which also had a fellow Holy Cross grad, Ken DeBlois of the Venture Consortium in Providence, RI and some folks from the Willamette University MBA program. It was very interesting and the attendees had a lot of great questions, but it was very clear that we here at Better World Books are doing something decidedly NEW. So new and innovative (I LOVE our business model) that folks at times have a hard time comprehending it. The example that jumps to mind is regarding the triple bottom line – “Even if you do value social and environmental, won’t profit always be most important?”
Now I’m no business major, but I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand some business theory as Better World Books offers a unique opportunity to see something very exciting and new in the world of business from up close. I always start my research projects on the Wikipedia and while you won’t feel like you have an MBA by the time you’re finished with the article, you will have some ideas of good terms to use in your triple bottom line research!
If you want to hear a little more about the topic, a full podcast of this forum will be available later this month!
Posted by Jack on 03.07.2008 at 3:01 pm
We’re currently at the Northeastern IMPACT conference (see previous post) I just got back from my forum (which was awesome!). I’m going to do some editing of a recording of the forum so a podcast of the talk is coming up soon, great stuff indeed about mobilizing students and the differences in the sectors in the business world. People asked me hard questions and I gave them honest answers [insert warm and fuzzy feeling here].
Now I’m playing Scrabble with three students at Middlsex Community College in Edison, NJ, and let me tell you, despite their smiles, they’re rough customers. Erin just laid down “Quell” on a triple word score for 45 points and is absolutely killing us.
Garima, Erin (hustler), Barum and Ham from MCC
Have your say » | Tagged Uncategorized, boston, conferences, Impact, massachusetts, Northeastern
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 03.03.2008 at 9:47 am
Check out this month’s edition of our recurring feature, Worldfund’s Student of the Month. Worldfund is our Latin American non-profit literacy partner and we look to support them in any way we can as they support youths such as:
Seventeen-year-old Bruno was born and raised in Salvador, Bahia, where he lives with his mother, a domestic worker, and his two younger sisters.
Bruno has always liked electronics and is working towards becoming an engineer. When he was 14, he was accepted into the Steve Biko Institute’s three-year, intensive after-school Oguntec Program, which prepares disadvantaged Afro-Brazilian students for the vestibular (university entrance exam). Last year, at age 16, Bruno took his first exam for admission to the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA) and passed the first phase for Electrical Engineering. Bruno graduated from high school in December 2007 and hopes to begin his university studies in 2008.
Bruno believes that his participation in the Oguntec Program was the best thing that ever happened to him. It was as a student in this program that he learned that the word “quit” is not part of his vocabulary. He also learned that for a young man from a poor neighborhood, completing high school is not enough. He needs to dream of attending university. Bruno’s goals include attending university, establishing a career, and changing the economic situation of his family.
As Bruno states, “Attending university will make me the first, the first child, the first grandson, the first nephew in one generation to believe in the DREAM. Afterwards, I would like to return the Steve Biko Institute and become a professor in the Oguntec Program which I believe should always continue. It was at the Institute that I learned to have a social commitment.”
Have your say » | Tagged Impact, Our Partners, brazil, Impact, Our Partners, partner updates, worldfund
Posted by admin on 02.21.2008 at 9:40 am
As the resident evangelist and blogger I take whatever opportunity I can to talk about the great things that we do here at Better World Books. Considering the amount of positive emails I get, this is a relatively easy task, however sometimes, it gets even easier. Check out these letters from the Republic of Guinea written to Books for Africa from schools and missions expressing their gratitude. Through our book donations and funding and support, Better World Books is proud to be a part of a group that creates impact like this:
Posted by admin on 02.21.2008 at 8:55 am
The Prison Book Program is a partner you may not hear that much about but it’s an important one for us and one that Better World Books is truly proud to work with. Whether it’s us having organized the biggest book drive in Boston this fall (involving me and some co-workers spending two days locked in a Church sorting books) for their benefit or now more recently, shipping them 19 cartons (~23 books in each carton, ~440 total copies) of paperback dictionaries, we do whatever we can to help a most worth cause.
From Pam at PBP:
Thanks again for arranging to get those 19 cartons of paperback
dictionaries to Prison Book Program. These will be an incredible help
to us — approximately half of the requests from prisoners are for a
dictionary, and normally we have to purchase them in bulk. This
shipment will keep us up to our ears in dictionaries for the foreseeable future!
As always, we value the partnership with Better World Books, and take
every opportunity to sing your praises from the rooftops!
Pam and the whole PBP gang
Here to help, Pam!
Posted by Andy on 02.18.2008 at 9:38 pm
Recently I had the opportunity to visit Liberia with others from Better World Books and Books for Africa . Liberia is a small country in West Africa that has been through horrific civil war for 14 years before finally re-establishing peace in 2003. Needless to say, just about every institution in the country is starting from zero, slowly building back up, and that includes their universities.
Cuttington University (map) is a rural 4-year university in Liberia . It is the oldest coed 4-year university in West Africa , considered by many to be the country’s most prestigious institution of higher education. It also happens to be quite close to the farm of Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia who is currently on trial at the International Court of Justice in the Hague .
So here’s what I mean about “starting from zero”… four years ago, this prestigious university had no roofs on its buildings and no books in its library. The campus was ransacked during the wars… most of the books in the library were burned as fuel for fires.
Our group was able to meet with leaders from the university and hear their needs. Better World Books has committed to funding, through Books for Africa, the shipment of two 40-foot sea containers full of books (that’s 80,000 books) to Liberia for the country’s universities.
Cuttington is in dire need of books, so Liberia ’s brightest minds can be educated to help pull this country out of war-ravaged poverty. I think I speak for everyone at Better World Books when I say that we’re honored to be helping Cuttington.
Posted by admin on 02.05.2008 at 9:47 am
Liberia, courtesy of Justus
Over at Adventures in Liberia, Justus talks about an event that you might be interested in:
Today I witnessed a marvellous ceremony which took place at Aquilla School in Paynesville. Visions in Action is helping supply a million books to schools, libraries, and other areas to promot literacy. They are also training teachers how to use a library system so that the books are not just locked in a room as a valuable ‘trophy’ and not used by the kids! The children marched into the school joyously singing where there were speakers from USAID Liberia, Books for Africa, and Better World Books as well as members of the Liberian Ministry of Education. It was exciting to see all the smiling faces on the children. I met with the founder of Visions in Action who I am going to sit down with and talk about possibly volunteering with them as they continue to distribute the million books to the 15 counties around Liberia. I met Justin (on betterworld.com team) and Andy (CIO) from Better World Books which is an online book seller like amazon.com but they donate some of the proceeds to purchase books for children who need them. So if you are going to buy a book check them out at www.betterworld.com.
Thanks Justus! Keep up the good fight!
Have your say » | Tagged Impact, Our Partners, africa, Andy, books for africa, Impact, justus, liberia, USAID
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