Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January 16, 2012 4:04 P.M.

January 16, 2012 4:04 P.M.

The last two weeks have been incredible. I think I have Hillary Clinton to thank for making this project possible.  I said a little about the program at the beginning of this journey; here’s a bit more. The Professional Fellows Program, funded by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, brings emerging leaders from around the world to the United States for intensive month-long fellowships designed to broaden their professional expertise.

The fall 2012 program brought together 241 young professional fellows from 51 countries representing regions around the world. The fellowship offered participants a chance to build networks with each other as well as with their American colleagues, and creates an opportunity for the next generation of world leaders to develop a deeper understanding of U.S. society. , The University of Montana Mansfield Center coordinated the fellowship for ten SE Asian women in Missoula, matching them with local women in their field so the fellows can learning firsthand how the issues they care about are addressed in the United States.
Bopha was selected as a fellow, and I was matched with her as her fellowship partner. The second part of the exchange brings the fellowship partners to visit the fellows in their countries. Lucky me.

Now that the official fellowship program is complete (I’m writing from the air somewhere between Tokyo and Seattle), I’m reflecting on the Top 10 things about my Cambodian adventure:

      1.      Lunch with Bopha’s family.  Though Bopha’s siblings all live within a few miles of one another, it is not that often that they all have free time at the same time. It was incredible to spend a few hours gathered with Bopha’s family, feasting on the most delicious pork/omelet/salad situation ever. After the lunch I was offered a shower and a nap, which is a very sweet tradition. Following lunch there was a family weigh in, which is a very funny tradition (to me). At first the kids were weighed and everyone was happy at how they were growing, and then one by one the adults took turns on the scale...Bopha’s mother was shocked at how much I weigh. I am very large by Cambodian standards. She took some convincing that I’m really ok with how many stones I weigh (especially since I have no idea what a stone is).
The pork/omelet/salad situation. 
Some family and friends. Bopha's parents are on either side of her.

      2.      Tai Chi traffic[1]. At first glance the road seemed an unorganized jumble of bikes, motos, tuc tuc’s (the open air moto-pulled taxi), cars (there are not many, but every other one is a lexus) and the occasional pedestrian. There are stop lights, but not many. There is a general principle that one should travel on the right side of the road, but it is very loosely followed. For instance, it is quite common to make a left hand turn into the left land and drive among oncoming traffic until you can make your way to the right. After a few days of walking through Phnom Penh I came to think of Cambodians as expert surfers, predicting force and volume of a wave and entering flow through openings imperceptible to my untrained eye. There is a shared agreement that the slow and/or small give way to the powerful and/or large. If you are a pedestrian – even if you are already in the middle of the street – you yield to a bike, bike to tuc tuc, tuc tuc to moto, moto to car, everyone to lexus.

It all happens so seamlessly- people taking their place in the order of things – I wondered whether it was reflective of their Buddhist orientation or years of yielding to someone else’s control. Nonetheless, nobody seems to be really speeding and nobody has to stop for too long. Everybody moves steadily forward, some just more slowly.  There was something beautiful about the gentle organized chaos of it all.

     3.      Moto-travel.  I was ridiculously impressed that Bopha buzzes around on her moto in her business-best, and it was a treat to get to ride along.  It turns out you get a lot of time to engage with other travelers from the back of a moto in all that traffic. Given that I know about four Khmer words, “engage” meant me grinning a lot and Cambodians laughing at me. The moto seems to be the preferred/affordable family wagon. In the mornings I would often see grandfathers driving grandchildren to school, the littlest one in front of him at the handlebars, the middle sandwiched between him and grandma, and the oldest holding onto grandma’s waist from behind. A five person transport. 

      4.      Compact bathroom. I have a lot of appreciation for my little bathroom at the Golden Gate hotel. I ate everything/everywhere I was invited to eat – from people’s kitchens to street vendors to restaurants – and my stomach did just fine but for one long, painful night. On that night it was incredibly helpful to be able to reach the bathtub with the upper half of my body while the lower half remained firmly rooted to the toilet. I will spare you any pictures. Thank you, compactly designed bathroom.

      5.      Make your own barbque. Even though it may have been the cause of my difficult night…I loved our last night in Phnom Penh at the make-your-own barbque place. The food was delicious and fun to make, and it was so good to see Bopha get to be with her husband and Sok Heng (Bopha’s boss) be with his wife. After days of serious work and me wondering what rest looked like for them, it was lovely to watch them let their hair down, laugh hard and be silly. Being motivational speakers to literally hundreds of thousands of Cambodian youth comes at a bit of a price. Part of the price is paid in long hours and time away from family (Bopha and her husband only spend one day a week together these days). Another price is a loss of anonymity, and what at times looked to me like a rigidly maintained performance of “success.” So often under public scrutiny, they work to embody what they see as success in their speech, dress, and overall appearance. On this night, for at least a couple hours, there was no need to impress anyone, earn credibility, or gain legitimacy. Just time for some-low key married-people dirty jokes.

Bopha, Sok Heng and Olivia.

     6.      Girl time. I loved every moment of unstructured pall-around with Mealia, Bopha, and Olivia. It was such an enormous gift to travel with and care for one another, to  talk and share and challenge one another as women, to ask hard questions and stretch to understand across contexts and languages. Our conversations were rich and honest and painful and ridiculous, covering  the politics of skin bleaching to raising girls who know their strength to the best fruits to relieve constipation and/or firm up stool (depending on the needs of the day). And it was a privilege to be asked to type up their family histories as they begin to document their life stories. It is difficult for me to remember exact historical names and dates; these stories I will never forget.

     7.      Olivia. I have loved Olivia for some time from a distance, but this was our first time really being together. Olivia works in Missoula as co-Director of Montana Women Vote, and was the fellowship partner to Mealea. Most of our days were spent apart, but we united on the rooftop of our hotel at sunset to recount our days. As a verbal processor, our time together helped me make more sense of what we were seeing and experiencing and learning. And she brought me electrolytes and crackers when I was sick. I love you now for real.

     8.      Community dance class. There isn’t a lot of greenspace in Phnom Penh, but there are these wide paved boulevards that fill up in the mornings and evenings with people recreating. Public dance classes are all the rage. Most of the teachers are young men, and they bring a little amp and speakers and a Cambodian techno mix and lead a class…very jazzercizey. Olivia and I went to an evening class with Mealea and her husband.  There were at least a dozen classes happening throughout the boulevard; the one we attended appeared to be a local favorite with some 60 people all ages and abilities participating. Three teachers rotated in to teach different sections, and took turns playing DJ. As it grew dark, one guy held a shop-light rigged to a tall pole to illuminate the equipment and instructor.  I started out very strong but quickly tired in the heat. After what felt like hours I asked Mealea how much longer…apparently the instructors stay from 5-9, and people just come and go as they want and make a contribution equivalent to fifty cents. Amazing and funny and a fun way to be in community.
Why am I the only person bouncing around?!

     9.      The Angkor Wat temple complex. These temples are truly stunning and awesome, and an incredible testament to human ingenuity, strength, persistence, and inspiration.  I was especially struck by the connection between the earth and the animal creatures and the human creatures and the spirit. All are represented in the intricate carvings: beautiful trees and birds and monkeys and lions and elephants and humans and gods and Buddha. It took all of those things to build the temples  - the mountains to produce the sandstone for carving and lava rock for building; the elephants to haul the stones over 60 km; humans to set and carve the thousands of stones; and spirit to inspire the creation of such glorious places of ceremony and worship of all that is, was, and will be.

     10.  Hello, Elephant. And, while visiting the complex I got to say hello to an elephant. They still have some wild elephants in Cambodia, but this was a working girl who carries people up a mountain to visit a temple. She was available for a hello as we were walking by, and it was a thrill for me to get to have a little visit. She was beautiful and curious and, it appeared to me, very kind.

       Agent 47, over and out. 

[1] According to Wikipedia, Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art…”characterized by the use of leverage through the joints based on coordination and relaxation, rather than muscular tension, in order to neutralize, yield, or initiate attacks.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January 15, 11:45 P.M.

January 15, 11:45 P.M.

I have led two presentations during my time in Cambodia, one last week at the Sihanouk Buddhist University in Phnom Penh, and the second Monday at Pannashastra University in Siem Reap. The focus of both sessions was conflict transformation, and I worked from the NCBI assumption that the students are experts in defining the causes and consequences of violence in their community, and already know critical prevention strategies.

 NCBI Training at the Sihanouk Buddhist University 

In both sessions, students identified both individual and structural types of violence at play in Cambodia – sexual harassment, illiteracy, poverty, gangs. They were quick to share conditions in which they feel pulled to behave in ways that harm others, and also quick to identify strategies to self-regulate – meditation, singing, playing, laughing. We talked about the feelings that fuel violence – frustration, vulnerability, shame, pain, isolation – and I asked the students what strategies can we use when we see people who are feeling things things…what can we do to prevent this pain from turning into violence? At the Buddhist University one young woman said, “I think these people need us the most.” We talked about how challenging it is to move toward people who are manifesting pain, and in the end the Director of the University reiterated the importance of this point – move toward pain to transform it; greet anger with love.

After this week’s session, Sopheap, who works at the University in Siem Reap, offered to tour us around. We rented bicycles and rode a half hour out of the city to visit his village (the word here is commune – a few hundred families). Along the way we stopped at an amazing little music school, called “Music for Everyone.” The instructor has received funding from a Korean NGO to offer free music education to anyone under 24. The students were bright and determined; they played for me, and I taught them the spiritual, “we will stand the storm” (thank you, Amy Martin).

We continued on to Sopheap’s home. He is 26, and an only son. He assisted his mother to cook an incredible lunch for us –lemongrass, chicken and young bamboo soup; stir-fried chicken and cauliflower - all food from his farm. We learned that he is a rising leader in Cambodia, one of four youth representing the youth voice in debates with the three leading political parties (remember – 70% of Cambodia’s populous is under 35, and they have almost no representation in government).  

After lunch he toured us around their land, proudly showing the abundance of fruit, vegetables, fish, chicken and cows. He showed us how they make their fertilizer and animal feed, and how his commune works together to care for each other and their agricultural projects. He hopes to grow their farm to provide more jobs and economic opportunity for his commune, and at the same time be a motivational speaker to other Cambodian youth.

In the OPRECY course last week, the trainer said, “Happiness is having what you want. Joy is wanting what you have.” Sopheap was the most joyful person I have met in a long time.

Later that evening Bopha and I walked around the city of Siem Reap, every few minutes encountering people asking for help: landmine victims, mothers with infants, and many very young children. Begging is a hard way to make a life. Thinking about Sopheap’s community, where there is ample food and an established web of support, I asked Bopha why people come  to the cities at all – why leave that community behind? She said Sopheap’s community is unique, that after the civil war people stopped trusting one another, stopped looking to one another for help. After years of Cambodians killing Cambodians, survival became dependent on looking out for oneself. Last night the President of Pannashastra University, a determined 33 year old, took us to dinner.  I asked him the same question, and his answer was the same. “The Kmer Rouge cut almost all ties between Kmer people. That’s what Bopha and I are doing, what our generation of leaders are doing, trying to reconnect people to each other and rise up our country.”

To an outsider the work that remains to be done is daunting. Yet over and over in this short time I have been awed by the clarity of purpose of those I have met: From Mealea engaging women in democratic participation, to Bopha inspiring youth to dream for their future; from the Director of the Buddhist University providing free college education, to the young music teacher offering free music training; from Sunee, working through U.S.A.I.D  to end human trafficking throughout the country, to Sopheap working through his commune to offer a model of sustainable local agricultural development.  These young leaders have an incredible vision for the country they want to live in, and I cannot help but believe they will make it so. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

January 13, 2013 10:51 A.M.

January 13, 2013 10:51 A.M.

The last few days got away from me.  I spent four days in an OPRECY training, the premier training offered through Bopha’s organization. Bopha was excited that I was able to attend this particular session, as it was led in English (I'm only up to about 5 words in Khmer) by Cristopher Lee, the founder of the Human-Earth Development Center (HEDC).  Cristopher is in his late 60’s, an Australian citizen of Indonesian and Chinese heritage, who has lived and worked in Cambodia for much of the last 16 years. He spent 34 years working on the technical side of community development in developing countries. His specialty is in fisheries, and trained rice farmers, who he said all over the world are poor farmers, to add value to their farms by also raising fish. However, after years providing technical training he found that most people did not change their behaviors. He came to the conclusion that "it is wrong to assume if you teach people to know, they will do what they know."  He started HEDC in 1999 to build leadership capacity through personal empowerment. His vision is global, but his approach is individual. HEDC works to awaken the individual’s sense of purpose and meaning, their fundamental love of life, in order to help free them from the self-limiting thinking that holds so many people back from achieving their goals, or even setting goals.

Christopher talked about the way that the scarcity and danger become an operating system for so many people – their every decision is filtered through the belief that inevitably the world is not safe and there will not be enough. And while the message he delivers is that all people were born to succeed – the truth remains that for many people in Cambodia, and all over the world, resources are limited and conditions are unsafe. People are picked up every day here for being perceived as a threat to the government. Three times in two days Olivia’s driver was forced to pay bribes to law enforcement. Children attend schools where teachers are paid $30 a month – ½ the salary of a garment worker, who make poverty wages – and the way many teachers survive is to charge a “fee” for grades. The hundreds of begging amputees I have seen in this short time are testament to the landmines that still litter the country side. Every Cambodian is born to succeed- but if they do not, it is not simply because they did not believe in themselves.

And, of course, I absolutely agree with the OPRECY model – change is not possible unless we first believe it is possible.

I was struck by many things over the four days, but perhaps most significant was an overwhelming awareness of the privilege of growing up positioned in a social location where my safety was assured in my home, my neighborhood, my state and my country . Where there was never a question that my basic needs be met. Where a sense of agency – of my ability to dream and achieve - was instilled early and reinforced often.  And this experience sharpens my purpose, to continue to build communities in my own country where this is increasingly true for all. 
Mudhita, Bopha's youngest, playing with a stem.

Monday, January 7, 2013

January 7, 11:42 P.M.

January 7, 11:42 P.M.

The days are here are full. On all fronts.  Seeing things I do not often see, surrounded by a language I do not know, smelling and tasting and feeling things that are new to me, and are sometimes welcome, sometimes less so.

Yesterday I attended a full-day training through Bopha’s organization, attended by 381 people. The topic was goal setting, and the participants were rapt through the 8 hours, hungry for any information about how they might transform their lives. I was asked to share a testimonial to the group about how I have set and achieved the goal of starting NCBI, and the context-gap felt hard to bridge. Talking about starting an organization to people who would like to not be hungry. I did my best.

Bopha’s boss wanted to take Olivia and I out that evening, and he drove us past the most developed parts of Phnom Penh – with sky-scraper casinos and five-star hotels. We passed a Kentucky Fried Chicken, closed for the day, the street lights illuminating a group of children eating out of the trash bags. We went to a Cambodian disco, an amazing muti-generational gathering who danced the waltz, traditional Cambodian dances, tango, and Gengham Style. It was quite a night.

Today is January 7, the day the ruling party celebrates victory over the Khmer Rouge. Olivia, Mealia, Bopha and I commemorated the day at the Choeung Ek Genocide Museum, one of the many places – called Killing Fields - where Cambodians were taken by the hundreds to be executed under the Khmer Rouge regime. Mealia had never visited this place before. Over three years and eight months, one in four Cambodians were killed, mostly by poor young farmers threatened into service. Choeung Ek is the site of 129 mass graves, where 17,000 men, women and children were executed. The deaths were horrendously brutal. Not wanting to waste money on bullets, the executioners used farming tools: hatchets, hoes, machetes, and for the youngest ones, the solid trunk of this tree.

Such inhumanity is unfathomable. And in such a place, moments of humanity persevered. We heard audio from one survivor about an older inmate who advocated on his behalf, pleading that he be released because he was just a child. The man did not know the boy, and the survivor does not know the man’s name. The old man was killed for speaking out, but, somehow, the boy survived.

The four of us cried, and prayed, and then traveled down the road a ¼ mile to the home of Bopha’s sister, Navy. Her husband Vanrith cut coconuts from their tree for us to drink. Her children Madeline and Michael gathered papaya and pear to eat. We sat in the shady breeze of their yard with chickens underfoot and I was awed by the tender humanness of it all. The potential within us to be awful and kind, to be violent and compassionate, to be disconnected and to be in relationship with all that is, was, and will be.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

12:29 AM Sunday, January 6

12:29 AM Sunday, January 6

We spent last night in Sihanoukville, a beach community with a beautiful natural setting that has been (oddly) developed by Russian immigrants over the years. This morning Bopha took me to breakfast with her student and friend, a 40 year old woman who has achieved great success. She came from a poor family and attended school through 6th grade. She worked various jobs as a young woman, eventually selling tickets at the bus station. Over time she rose in the ranks, and then eventually bought the bus company. She added an internet/phone service, then a hotel, and finally a restaurant. Her business was so popular, she decided to add more locations in her town – and started four more branches, each co-owned by one of her sisters. She hopes to be a role model in her country and inspire others to imagine a better future for themselves.  Having met so many training organizations here that provide “soft skills” – leadership development, conflict management, and empowerment, I have been thinking a lot about the role of empowerment. Given  the institutionalized inequality and persistent corruption, dreams alone cannot change a life or lift a country. None the less dreams are a requisite step toward mobilizing people to action.
 At Bopha's friend's business.

Bopha had to leave town early to get back to Phnom Penh, and so we were four: Mealia, Olivia, myself, and our driver, Bpoo. We went to the sea to swim (Bpoo took pictures and laughed at us), and Olivia and I tried to teach Mealia to float on her back…she said, “I feel like I am flying!”


On the drive back I pulled out my computer and typed as Mealia repeated much of the life history she had told us yesterday. She shared some new stories, and didn’t want me to type others. I will send it to her tonight to review and think about what is right to share now, and what will have to wait for another time. At the end she reflected that her Buddhist beliefs have been a big part of what carried her through her life. As she talked about some of the ways these teachings had helped her, I asked if there was a book she would recommend for me. “Well, there are 110 books of Buddha’s teaching, but I think some might be not the right place for you to start. I can boil it down to three sentences: don’t do the bad things. Do the good things. Have a pure heart.”

We were travelling by van – a 12 person passenger van – and at that moment I noticed people on the side of the road looking for a ride and said, “I think the good thing would be to pick up these people.” Mealia said yes, and told  Bpoo to stop if there were people. He responded that he would have stopped sooner if he knew it was ok with us. We picked up a person or two every several miles, some men returning home from their work building roads, others women coming home from garment factories, and lastly a young woman and her baby, travelling with her mother. The baby had fallen from 3 meters the day before, and was having seizures, and they wanted to go to the free children’s hospital in the capitol city. The passengers all thought they were getting in a taxi, and asked, “how much?” when they boarded (we have learned in Cambodia the price is often good if you negotiate before the transaction – and not so good if you wait). Mealia explained there was no cost, it was just a free ride. The grandmother was very relieved – she had just come in from harvesting rice, and did not have time to borrow money or pack food before her daughter thought they needed to leave to get the baby to the hospital. We stopped taking in passengers at that point, and delivered the 10 in tow to their stops, finally dropping off the baby, mama, and grandmother at the hospital, and giving them a little money for food and transportation back home. They thought they would be waiting in line at least overnight to be seen.

When Bpoo dropped us off at the hotel, he said to us (through Mealia) “so, you got to see a little bit of Cambodian life. You did a good thing today.” We replied that we ALL did a good thing today and he answered, “yes, you gave her some money. I did not have money to give, but I had my hands and feet to drive them here.”

The challenges here, like everywhere, can be daunting. We can start with what is in front of us.

Friday, January 4, 2013

12:09 A.M. January 5, 2012

12:09 A.M. January 5, 2012

Yesterday we toured the Royal Palace, home of Cambodia’s King. Cambodia has long been a monarchy, and though they are moving toward a democratic system of governance, the people have a great deal of pride and allegiance to their royalty. I was struck by the beauty of the place – the incredible architecture and impressive riches: solid gold and emerald Buddha’s, silver tiled floors, enormous jewels.

And I was also struck by the fact that the Royal Palace sits just blocks away from the children’s hospital, where families with sick children wrap around the block waiting – sometimes for days- to receive medical care for their babes. As in my own country, the gulf between the wealthy and the poor is staggering.

After my first few days marveling at the beauty of the Cambodian people and the rich variety of their skin tones, body sizes, and facial features, I could not help but notice that the frescoes inside the Royal Palace depict masses of Cambodian people as tall, pale skinned, and with Anglicized features.  Since we have arrived I have been heartbroken by the prevalence of white women used in Cambodian advertising, to learn of our Cambodian friends use of skin-bleaching creams, and to hear one colleague remark of her beautiful baby girl, “I don’t know what happened, she was not so dark when she was born.” Oh, how the pervasiveness of white dominance continues to rob all women of a full sense of their inherent worth, value, and beauty.

Yesterday we also visited the U.S. Embassy and met with two representatives from U.S.A.I.D., who shared their perspectives  on the biggest strengths and challenges facing the country today, and the role of the U.S.A.I.D in meeting those challenges. 
(they don't let you take pictures in the embassy...they do make you check your belongings. And look, friends, what number my coat check was?!)

U.S.A.I.D are funding NGO’s working to support food security and economic development, to encourage transparency in the electoral process, to foster human rights and improve access to justice, to protect vulnerable populations from trafficking, and to promote public health, among other things. They had much to say about the challenges (entrenched economic disparities, cultural norms that subjugate women, pervasive corruption), and were a little slim on strengths. Bopha reminded them, “You know 70% of our country is youth (under 35), and they are our greatest resource. Many in our generation are passionate about their future, and they are not just waiting for employment - they are creating their own employment.” Framing her comments in the context of the 2015 move to Asian integration, she challenged U.S.A.I.D. to develop a strategy to prepare the country’s youth to not just be workers for the region, but to be managers and directors as well, so that Cambodians can have the opportunity to take the lead in industry and governance of their country's future.

Today Mealia, Bopha, Olivia and I drove four hours southeast of Phnom Penh through the province. Our Cambodian sisters wanted to take us to the mountains, where it is rumored you can touch the clouds, and also to swim in the sea. 
The view from the mountains

After two days in the city, I am soaking up the sights and sounds of rural life: Houses built on stilts to plan for the seasonal flooding, which double by offering a shady area for people and animals in the hottest times of the day. Plump water buffalo, tiny cart-pulling horses, and agile cows who work the fields and later feed families. Everything imaginable being hauled by motorbike, including a half-dozen butchered pigs, a semi-trailer full of plastic containers, and a father bringing four children home from school.

Mealia and Olivia at our roadside feast. 

Along the way Mealia, age 33, shared something of her life story, the first ten years of which were spent in the refugee camps after the Pol Pot regime. I asked her to consider having me record her story for her to keep, and perhaps for me to share. More on that to come. Now, sleep.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

11:28 P.M. January 2

11:28 P.M. January 2

Our first full day in Cambodia, and what a day. I felt  like I was working backwards a bit all day, learning about organizations' initiatives to empower their people before I really understood what they were being empowered from. I came here knowing basically nothing. Here's what I am gathering:

Cambodia has an incredibly long, rich, complex history, and is the proud home of the temple complex at Siem Reap - one of the seven wonders of the world (I'll be there at the end of this visit, where I'll learn more). Many other countries have tried to control Cambodia over the years, including their Thai and Vietnamese neighbors, but it was the French that claimed Cambodia as a colony from the 1864 - 1953. During the escalating conflict in Vietnam and Laos in the 1960's, Cambodia's King Sihanouk tried unsuccessfully to keep Cambodia neutral. The North Vietnamese army used Cambodian land for bases, and in 1969 the U.S. and South Vietnamese invaded Cambodia. According to my Lonely Planet guide, the US dropped more bombs on Cambodia than were used by all sides in WWII, killing some 250,000 Cambodians. Weakened by years of war, Cambodia was overtaken by the Khmer Rouge in 1975, a brutal regime that in under 4 years slaughtered between 2-3 million people, targeting the educated and professional class first. In 1979 the Vietnamese toppled the Khmer Rouge and installed a new government, and  for the next fourteen years the country struggled with famine, another outside leader, and the legacy of war and genocide- which include the destruction of infrastructure (government, education, health care, industry),deep ruptures of social and civil society, and the damage caused to the human spirit. It was not until 1993 that the country had their first partially democratic election and they are still working towards putting democratic principles fully into practice in their country. It is amazing, given all this, how much work has been done. And how much is left to do.

Here's a snapshot of my day.

9:00 Breakfast in the hotel, followed by a brisk walk to start to get my bearings on Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capitol city, and home to 2 million.

11:00 Visit VBNK - Cambodia's premier leadership development training organization, which works to inspire people to articulate a vision for their future and to take risks in advancing that vision - things which a generation ago were unthinkable and dangerous. They work in concert with technical trainings, like teaching agricultural workers to use new technology to improve their yields, and microlending, to provide capital to access new technology. VBNK recognizes that sometimes people's fears hold them back, even when the technical training and economic resource is available.

12:00 Lunch. Delicious Khmer buffet.

2:30 Visit Women's Media Centre of Cambodia - a women run tv and radio station that works to advance women's rights by process and product. They train and employ women and have news content that educates the country about issues critical to women's issues and status. The news director told me about visiting the concentration camp at Dachau, the pain of learning such a thing had also happened outside his country, and the bewilderment that it could happen at all.

4:00 Visit The Cooperation Committee of Cambodia, a coalition of over 155 NGO's working to promote a civil society in Cambodia that is just, transparent and effective. Their Director described Camodia today as stable, dependent and unbalanced. Stable in that there is an absence of war, dependent in that the government - and the people - don't stand on their own feet, and rely on aid, direction, and vision from others. And imbalanced in that much of the economic development that is happening is deepening the divides between the rich and the poor.

6:00 Welcome dinner. Another delicious Khmer feast, complete with morning glory, sour soup and sticky rice, and inspirational message of hope from Khim Sok Heng, training director of H.E.D.C. International (Bopha's organization). He said, "What we are doing is helping people to fall in love with life." And then we worked  on falling in love with each other, which is not so hard to do.