Monday, July 30, 2007

Buddhist Lent at Wat Dam Nak

Today was the first day of the Buddhist Lent (or Vassa). They were celebrating it at Wat Damnak right after class so we go the chance to participate in the ceremony. It was one of the best experiences from the entire trip!

Information from Wikipedia:
It is the traditional retreat during the rainy season that lasts for three lunar months approximately from July to October. During this time, the Buddhist monks remain in a single places, generally in their temples. In some monasteries, monks dedicate the Vassa to intensive meditation practice. During this time, many people give up certain thing for a more ascetic leaving style like alcohol, meat, or smoking and reinvigorate their spiritual training.. This is why it is commonly called "Buddhist Lent." The focus of celebration by the laity is the first day of vassa during which worshippers donate candles and other necessities to the temples for the monks since they are not supposed to leave during that time.

So the entire community gets together to bring the monks all of their necessities. They were prepared in these Easter basket style platters covered in the colorful cellophane. They had a huge variety of things in side of the platter with anything from soap, toothbrushes, pepsi, and even antibiotics. Everyone carried them three times around the wat saying "Ah kun" or thank you! The boys carried these huge yellow candles that you can normally seen in the place where the statues of Buddha are kept.

The monks were wearing their dress robes which has many more parts than what they wear everyday. Everyone was very dressed up and even the nuns were there sitting in long columns. We sat with people in the community but we didn't know what they were saying. I believe that they were reciting the five precepts of Buddhism in Khmer, but I guess I can't be sure!

1. Do not kill.

2. Do not steal.
3. Do not indulge in sexual misconduct.
4. Do not make false speech.

5. Do not take intoxicants.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I haven't been doing much of anything other than sleeping and eating once in a while lately. I'm still not feeling completely well. I guess one plus is that I can get out of going to classes ^_~ Hopefully I'll feel well enough to go to classes next week.

It's really a weird sensation though to be as tired as I feel. When I was in Phnom Penh, I couldn't even walk up the stairs without feeling absolutely winded and light-headed. Now, I just feel tired all the time. I can tell that I'm slowly recovering though.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

......Crazy...... Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh

So this has probably been one of the craziest weeks of my entire life.

July 13: We left early in the morning for a 10 hour (at least) bus ride to Sihanoukville (aka the beach). After getting there we were so happy to be there that we had a crazy night walking beach, watching fire spinners, and essentially throwing each other into the water. It is a night that I will NEVER forget and very wet. I had an amazing time!

July 14
: I went for a long 1 1/2 hour walk on the beach early in the morning because our guest house room was FREEZING and it woke me up. It was the coldest I've felt in a long time! Afterwards, we all decided that we were going to go to a secluded beach ... in a tuktuk. So there's 7 of us in the tuktuk on a very very muddy road. Of course the tuktuk gets stuck, lol! We hung out at the secluded beach just relaxing despite the overcast sky etc. That night we spent it at the Blue Dolphin a busy bar on the beach and had some interesting experiences.

July 15
: Got up early to get on the bus. We forgot someone's ticket so I offered to take the later bus with some other people. When I got a moto to take me to the ticket office, he definitely didn't speak English and took me on a very scary tour of Sihanoukville essentially because I had no idea where we were going. I yelled at him and made him take me back to the bus, where they told me that they were able to look up my ticket and let me on. Thank god! Made it to Phnom Penh for a river boat cruise + dinner at night.

July 16:
Various things around Phnom Penh including going to Wat Phnom and getting my fortune read nearby. We also talked to a couple of NGOs. That night we went to Suki Soup which is an awesome restaurant (there's on in Siem Reap too... explain more later) and went to karaoke that night. It was lots of fun.

July 17: We went to REYUM art school, which is a place where students who are talented in art have an opportunity to learn better skills to hopefully be able to turn that into a trade someday.

July 18: So this is where the crazy stuff starts. Essentially this morning... I felt really sick so I went to the international clinic where a couple days later and after being poked a lot, they tell me that I have dengue fever. So the rest of the week was a blur and got back to Siem Reap on July 23.

being sick sucks

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Here the counting system is based off of a somewhat base five system. It's very interesting to learn numbers and takes some getting used to! It's kind of fun, once you get the hang of it. Definitely, shopkeeprs are somewhat surprised when foreigners are able to count in their language.

1 - muy
2 - bpi
3 - bei
4 - buan
5 - bram
6 - bram muy
7 - bram bpi
8 - bram bei
9 - bram buan
10 - dop
11 - dop muy
and so on

Reamke (Ramayana)

Sorry that I have been posting in a while. I mentioned before that we have a ton of reading to do....

Today we had the honor of seeing a traditional shadow puppet performance of the Reamke (which is the Cambodian version of the Ramayana). The puppets are leather cutouts that represent different characters. It's kind of hard to explain unless you look at the photographs. The put up a huge white screen and started a blazing fire behind it. They also played traditional Cambodian music and explained the story in Khmer, which I obviously didn't understand. Luckily, I know the story of the Ramayana well enough to know what was going on.

Here are some pictures of it:

Rama and Sita (I'm pretty sure)

Young girl playing an instrument that I've never seen before.

Monday, July 9, 2007

I tried...

I tried ostrich, crocodile, kangaroo, and squid today at Cambodian BBQ...

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Well classes are starting. Somewhat sad after all of the fun that we've been having in our adventures and hanging out during orientation week.
We take the classes from Monday through Thursday (w00! Fridays off!) at Wat Damnak (wat = pagoda) in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It's a really beautiful place with trees and grass. They have a public library for people in the community, but mostly researchers and students use it. Also, the monks there run English classes for young students in the community who come at 6pm.
Anyway, I'm taking two classes: Nation-building after the Khmer Rouge Genocide (3 credits) and Cambodian History and Culture (3 credits). It's my first time taking a large block of liberal arts classes, so this will definitely be a new experience for me! I'm really interested in the topics that we're going to be covering, although the classes are definitely going to be a lot of work. We have a lot of reading to do for them, so I'll probably be spending a lot of time at the Blue Pumpkin (air-conditioned cafe in town). I'm also planning on taking Khmer language class in the morning. I think that it's worth getting up a little bit early for.

Our classroom from the outside

The library

In the classroom Thanks to Sandy for the pictures :D

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Angkor, Cambodia

Angkor was breath-taking. It was definitely one of the most awe-inspring places I have been in my entire life. I will never forget the pure energy of these monuments in the spirit they exude and ideas that they represent.

It would take days for me to discuss everything that I loved about each of the temples that we went to but I will attempt to give a brief synopsis of each temple along with a couple of pictures I took at each one.

Every temple that we went to was absolutely gorgeous. It was interesting to see the gradual transition through the centuries that the particular temple was built.
Our program bought us a weekend pass to the temples. On Friday we were on our own to go and explore the temples. This also gave us the opportunity to see some of the temples that we wouldn't be able to on Saturday or Sunday. On Saturday and Sunday we were scheduled a tour with an official Angkor tour guide who also works in the restoration in the temple called Preah Khan.

Here our my favorite pictures from each day (some with description!)

June 29
Day on our own. Went to temples with Bryan, Joanna, Kristine, and Sopheap.

June 30
This was our first day with the official tour guide.

July 1
Our second day with a tour guide. We did some hiking in the forest (yes!) and saw the River of a Thousand Lingas (Kbal Spean). We also finally saw the biggest temples of them all, Angkor Wat!

These are all photographs that I took. If you would like to see more of my photos or these in a bigger size you can check out my Picasa Photo Gallery