Krista Stanley 2017-2018 YAGM
Savannah Phelan 2016-2017 YAGM
I am now in my last month in placement, what???? So, in an attempt to reflect on my year I have been writing one short post a day on my blog about some of the small parts of my life here that have meant a lot to me. Thought I would share it with you all in case you were interested. You can find the link below.
Wishing you a happy summer wherever you might be!
May 2017 Update
I hope this email find you well! Attached is my newsletter for May. In it I mention a lot of things that I wish I could go into more detail about but I have a feeling you didn’t sign up to read an entire novel about my experiences in Cambodia so I limited myself to 2 pages. That being said, if you have any questions about some of the holidays, ceremonies or projects I mentioned, please feel free to email me about it!
Also, *SPOILERS* if any of you are still wondering each and every day about the answer to Sarun’s riddle from the last newsletter, here it is: The rich man no longer wanted his guard to work for him because the guard, even though it had saved his life, fell asleep while on duty and therefore wasn’t actually very good at his job. If you figured it out on your own, Congrats! Sarun would be proud!
My last newsletter should be coming your way sometime in July and until then, sok sabbai, samnang la’or nung soka peip la’or (essentially means, “I wish you happiness, good luck and good health”)! And as always, thank you so much for all your endless support.
March 2017 Update
I hope that this message find you well and enjoying your spring. I still can’t quite believe that it is actually March already, but things are continuing to go really well here!
For this newsletter I decided to ask some of my coworkers to help me write parts of it so that they could share some of their culture with you as well and I hope you enjoy their contributions as much as I do.
I also plan to (hopefully) finish a couple more blog posts in the coming weeks, so if you’re interested be sure to check in there over the next month or so.
As always, if you have any questions feel free to send me a message (or if you have questions for Veary, Sarun and Pol). Thanks again for all your support!
Sending love your way,
January 2017 Update
Happy New Year!
I hope the last two months have included lots of laughter for each of you! November and December have been a bit of a whirlwind for me as I have to continued to settle into my new home, traveled a bit around Cambodia and got to experience a very different holiday season from the one I am used to.
While Cambodia doesn’t really celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas, I still got to spend both holidays surrounded by both my YAGM family and host family, finding new ways to honor and celebrate the holidays. I also have had the opportunity to celebrate and take part in several new holidays and celebrations including Bon Om Touk (also known as the Water Festival), Human Rights Day and several weddings. I got to bring in the New Year in Phnom Penh (the first of three New Year’s celebrated here- International, Chinese, and Khmer) and am excited to see what the rest of 2017 will bring!
I hope that you are all doing well and that this message finds you rejuvenated and ready for the new year. My next newsletter should be coming out in early March, but as always feel free to reach out to me with questions, thoughts, jokes, stories or anything else you want to share.
Thanks again for your support and have a wonderful day!
October 2016 Update
Happy (almost) Halloween everybody!!
I hope that you are all doing well and if you are currently in a place that is celebrating Halloween, eat lots of candy for me! Also if you see anyone dressed up as a gnome or anything really funny, send me a picture please.
Attached to is a copy of my first official newsletter telling you a little bit about my life here in Cambodia, Khmer culture and the organization I am now working with. If you want to hear more about anything you read please feel free to send me a message!
You should be hearing from me again in December or January with my next newsletter. But in the meanwhile, have a wonderful holiday season and please send me thoughts of cold weather that I can use to cool me down as we head into our dry season!
Lots of love,
September 2016 Update
I hope that you are all doing well and experiencing a beautiful September wherever you might be! While I only plan on sending out official newsletters every 3 months, I thought I would send out an update to let you know how I have been settling into my site placement here in Cambodia.
First of all, a couple people asked for my address so I thought I would include it, but also, mail is pretty expensive to send to Cambodia so I by no means expect it. Friendly emails, links to cute animals and interesting articles however, are always appreciated.
Matt Bishop (or Jen Engquist)
Attn: Savannah Phelan
P.O. Box 3278
PP Cambodia, Post Code 12000
I am now starting out my third week here in the village of Meanok (I may have told you that I was going to be in Sameakki Meanchey before, but it turns out that is actually the name of the district) and already I am starting to feel at home here in small, comforting ways. I am living and working at the Life with Dignity (LWD) Kampong Chhnang office along with most of my coworkers, who stay here during the week and return home (primarily to Phnom Penh) on the weekends. My first week was spent mostly lurking around the office, listening to my new coworkers tell me about their remarkable lives and work and asking for help with everything. Literally, everything. Putting up a mosquito net, ordering breakfast every morning, using a bucket shower, washing my clothes, keeping the fist sized spider away from me, how to ride on the back of a motorbike, the right way to eat certain Khmer food and how to say various words and phrases in Khmer, like “I’m sweaty” (Knyomn bie neuh.) I knew that part of being a YAGM volunteer was being vulnerable, but it wasn’t until my first week at my site that I really started to appreciate what that means.
Last week we had a group of Australian teenagers come visit the office as part of a trip they were taking to Cambodia with Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS). My coworkers had arranged a week long trip to one of the villages in our area set up to share with ALWS a sampling of the work that LWD does, which ended up being the perfect introduction to LWD for me as well. We were hosted by several beautiful families who gave up their own beds for us to sleep on, we met with an agricultural cooperative, a village and rice bank, a health center, preschool and elementary school students, several local farmers, stopped in on a training taking places on community empowerment, were taught how to plant rice and every night had musicians come play traditional Khmer music for us as their children taught us how to dance. By the end of the week, not only was I amazed by the magnitude of the work LWD does, but I was also unbelievably honored that I have the opportunity to be a part of it for the next year.
As the Australians drove off (and by the way, they were also a wonderful group of individuals) my coworkers all turned to me and with feigned shock stared at me and said “Oh no! They forgot one!” But then laughing, they took my arm and told me that when I do leave they will all be crying. And with those words my heart filled with joy at the companionship I am now surrounded by and the new home that I have here.
And so, now here I am. I’ll be heading back to Phnom Penh this upcoming weekend to celebrate my first Khmer holiday, Pchum Ben’s Day, with my supervisor Sarun and his family. In October I’ll be heading to the coast for a week to attend the LWD Annual Consultancy Workshop with all of the LWD staff from around the country, including a few of my fellow YAGMs. And shortly after returning from that I will start teaching English a few days a week at the public school in our village as well as to my coworkers at the office. At LWD I have been assigned the role of unofficial staff photographer and have been asked to conduct research on water resource management which I believe I will begin in the coming weeks. I have even picked up cross stitching, which the YAGM Cambodia ladies from last year will be excited to hear! In many ways it’s hard to believe that it has only been a month, but also exciting to realize how much I still have ahead of me!
Thanks for sticking with me through this long email, and thanks again for all your endless support. I wish you all the happiest of Octobers and think of you often. My next email probably won’t be until November but if you want to hear more in the meantime you can always check out my blog, I update it a bit more regularly. https://savannahyagm.wordpress.com/