Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Save Poor Children in Asia Organization (SCAO)

Posted in Cambodia on March 11th, 2010 by Vagablonding – 1 Comment

For the past week I have been volunteering every day at the Save Poor Children in Asia Organization (SCAO). SCAO is both an orphanage housing 19 children and an English school where about 100 village children total each attend 1 of 4 English classes every day except Sunday. SCAO charges nothing for the classes; it is a non-profit NGO. Located 7km North of Phnom Penh in Boeng Chhouk village, SCAO is run by Mr. Sath Samith who is one of the kindest people I have ever met.

English School at Save Poor Children in Asia Organization (SCAO) - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

English School at Save Poor Children in Asia Organization (SCAO) - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

English School at Save Poor Children in Asia Organization (SCAO) - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

English School at Save Poor Children in Asia Organization (SCAO) - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

English School at Save Poor Children in Asia Organization (SCAO) - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

One of the lessons for the Lets Go 1 and 2 kids. English words with Khmer translation written next to them. Notice that coat, jacket, pajamas, and sweater are all the same word in Khmer. It doesn’t really get cold in Cambodia….

English School at Save Poor Children in Asia Organization (SCAO) - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

English School at Save Poor Children in Asia Organization (SCAO) - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

English School at Save Poor Children in Asia Organization (SCAO) - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The 19 children, Mr. and Mrs. Samith, their wonderful cook Poly, and usually 5-7 volunteer English teachers all live together in a 4 bedroom house. Hanging out there is amazing; I have never seen a more cohesive and loving family. The children range in age from 3 to 20. Most are from poor single-parent families that can’t afford to support them. Many of the older children lost parents in the fight against the Khmer Rouge. 2 of the children are Mr. and Mrs. Samith’s own.

Save Poor Children in Asia Organization (SCAO) - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Save Poor Children in Asia Organization (SCAO) - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

SCAO always needs volunteers to teach the English classes. If you want to volunteer it is best to first call ahead and then come sit in on one of the classes and meet the kids. If you like it you are welcome to come volunteer as much as you want, and even stay at the center if you choose, after talking with Mr. Samith of course.

Save Poor Children in Asia Organization (SCAO) - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

SCAO also needs donations of money, food, clothing, and school supplies. If you visit you can also buy a tshirt, or a wallet or purse made by students at the school.

Save Poor Children in Asia Organization (SCAO) - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

If nothing else, just drop by to play with and read to the kids for a couple hours. They love having a chance to practice their English!

Please visit the Save Poor Children in Asia Organization website to learn more, and consider making a donation to SCAO, or sponsor one of the kids so they can go to Khmer school.

Save Poor Children in Asia Organization (SCAO) - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Battambang to Siem Reap via River Boat

Posted in Cambodia on February 17th, 2010 by Vagablonding – Be the first to comment

Wednesday, February 17th, was mostly spent in transit via boat from Battambang to Siem Reap. At 7am we boarded a little boat with 2 rows of seats, a roof, and a tiny 4 foot tall squat bathroom so precarious I was the only one that dared to use it, which I did twice. I have good balance. We floated down the Battambang River for 5 hours; it was much more fun than I was expecting! We’re probably the last Intrepid group to go to Siem Reap by boat rather than by bus this season because the river is getting very low and we got stuck a few times. From our boat we saw a side of Cambodian life that few tourists get to see. The people that live on the river live in either little huts on stilts, floating huts, or their boats with rickety walls and a roof. They bathe in the river (which is filthy), wash their clothes and dishes in the river, and fish in the river to get their food.

Battambang River, Cambodia

Battambang River, Cambodia

Battambang River, Cambodia

Battambang River, Cambodia

Battambang River, Cambodia

Battambang River, Cambodia

Battambang River, Cambodia

Gas station - Battambang River, Cambodia

Battambang River, Cambodia

Battambang River, Cambodia

There were lots of ridiculously cute kids along the river that would run up to the edge of the water to wave at us and yell “bye bye!!!” I got quite the arm workout from all the waving. I’d post pics of them but I think I would get in trouble with the law since most of the kids were half or fully naked.

After 5 hours on the river we got to the Tonle Sap Lake. Tonle Sap lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, and it is the reason the ancient Khmer civilization was centered at Angkor (and why the temples were built there). But from my vantage point on the boat, Tonle Sap Lake was large, brown, and boring. I took a picture for posterity.

Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

We crossed the lake in about an hour and were soon at the docks near Siem Reap.

Siem Reap docks, Cambodia

We got off the boat and onto a bus that took us to Siem Reap proper. I was tired so I spent the rest of the evening sleeping. Tomorrow is temple time!

Phnom Penh: Colorful Cambodia’s Capital City

Posted in Cambodia on February 13th, 2010 by Vagablonding – 2 Comments

Mom and I landed in Phnom Penh late at night on Friday, February 12th, after many hours of flying. The immigration process was painless; the visa cost $20 and customs stamped a lot of stuff I couldn’t see and took my picture. Unfortunately the official taxi stand closes around 10pm so we had to hire a random taxi which cost $9. From the taxi I saw a guy getting the crap kicked out of him by two other guys on the side of the road. Ouch.

We stayed the night at the Town View Hotel where we had a room with two twin beds, air-con, hot water, mini-fridge, and tv for $17 a night. It was very nice.

On the morning of Saturday, February 13th, we went to the top floor of our hotel and enjoyed the view before walking to a restaurant for breakfast.

View from hotel - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Buildings - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

For breakfast we got bread and jam for $1, Chinese fried noddles with veggies for $1.50, coffee for $0.70, and free tea. It was yummy; the bread here is delicious thanks to the French influence.

Breakfast - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After breakfast we decided to wander in an arbitrary direction and we ended up coming upon a market full of fruit, flowers, meat, fish, and tons of people buying their food for the day.

Vegetable stall in the market - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Meat stall in the market - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Fruit stall in the market - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Market - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

In the market there were many beggars. I gave this lady a dollar because she let me take her photo.

Beggar in the market - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

We stopped to look in wedding shop with lovely dresses and over the top tiaras inside. There we met the people who own the shop. The man knew perfect English because he escaped from Cambodia to Australia during the massacre. He told us about the places he had been in the US, and introduced us to his wife and daughter. They invited us in and gave us cold bottles of water and a banana. The wife and daughter are learning English. The wife was too shy to practice on us, but I chatted with the 13 year old daughter for a while and her English was quite good. I exchanged emails with her and told her she can write me and keep practicing her English.

On the way back to the hotel for a rest we passed a celebration for the Chinese New Year. Men and boys dressed in red played music while men in dragon costumes danced into the temple.

Chinese New Year celebration - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Chinese New Year celebration, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

There were lots of locals watching the celebration as well and when the kids saw me taking pictures they wanted me to take their pictures too.

Local kids - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Also I saw this sign near our hotel, I think it’s hilarious:

Rambo sign - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

In the late morning we rested before checking out and taking a tuk-tuk ($3) to our new hotel, the Sokha Heng Guesthouse. The guesthouse is near the Royal Palace and the waterfront where the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers meet, a much more touristy part of town. Our room has all the same amenities as the Town View Hotel. I don’t know how much it costs per night because it’s included in the trip cost of the Intrepid Travel tour we are about to start.

Family - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After checking in, mom and I wandered down to the waterfront to get some lunch. When we passed a Lebanese restaurant called Le Cedre I knew I had to get a falafel sandwich ($3.50) because they’re tasty… and also to make Ryan jealous 😉 it was very good, but I think the ones in Costa Rica were just a tad better.

Me at the waterfront - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Flags - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

There were more Chinese New Year celebrations going on at the waterfront. People were burning incense, leaving flower offerings, and releasing little birds into the air over the river for good luck. We sat in the shaded grass and people watched until it was time to go back to the hotel for our Intrepid welcome meeting.

Fruit seller - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

This guy wasn’t celebrating, just sitting on his motorcycle looking intense:

Man - Phnom Penh, Cambodia

For dinner we went out with our Intrepid group to a restaurant that employs orphaned kids, helps them learn English, and teaches them food service skills they can use to get jobs later in life. I was still full from lunch so I had a small plate of fries for $2 and an Angkor beer for $1. The kids that work there and also the beggar children know our group leader well. One little girl aged maybe 7 or 8 who was selling copied books started making fun of him saying ‘no way you don’t have a girlfriend!!!’ It was too cute. Not cute enough to get anyone to buy a book, though.

In the restaurant were THE most annoying tourists I have ever been around. This drunk middle aged fat Australian guy, along with his obscenely loud and equally pudgy daughter, was causing quite a scene when he very loudly and repeatedly asked the waiter if he could buy a marijuana cigarette from him and got douchy when told no. Apparently they are staying at our guesthouse because as I am typing this they are here in the lobby. His daughter is telling her brother about how he apparently crashed a bar playing music after leaving the restaurant, sat at the drum set and tried to play, then tripped over a stage light, broke it, and refused to pay for it, and finally got kicked out. Now he is eating a banana I just saw him pluck from the Buddhist shrine. What. An. ASS. I am trying to be all Dalai Lama and see this as just an opportunity to practice my patience but man is it hard.

Anyway, tomorrow we are going on a cyclo tour around the city in the morning. In the afternoon we are going on what our group leader has dubbed “the misery tour” where we will see evidence of Cambodia’s very dark and recent past at the Tuol Sleng torture centre and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek.

Three days in peaceful Amed and Sanur is a Sewer

Posted in Indonesia on June 12th, 2009 by Vagablonding – 7 Comments

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

We left Ubud for Amed at around 11:45am with our driver from the Jalan-Jalan tour company. The drive was through some lovely scenery on some not-so-lovely windy roads so we both got a little carsick. We went through the rice fields and small town of Sideman, then up to Amed on a road between Mt. Agung and Mt. Seraya. The drive took about 2 hours and cost us 250,000.

We found a hotel quickly, mostly because the first place we went was so nice and also I had to pee really bad. We stayed at Kembali Beach Bungalows in a one room bungalow with a big comfy bed, a nice open-air bathroom with a western toilet and hot water shower, and a deck with chairs, right on the black sand beach, all for 365,000 a night.

Kembali Beach Bungalows

In the afternoon I went for a solo walk down the East end of the beach to the bay of Jemeluk. On the way down and back I was met with hordes of local kids trying to sell me hand made baskets of salt and little wooden boats. At one point I had a group of 8 of them walking down the beach with me trying to sell me stuff while I distracted them with questions about what they were learning in school and how old they were. They’re very sweet kids but they are incredibly poor so I didn’t mind them hounding me for money, though I didn’t end up buying anything.

Amed, Jemeluk bay

For dinner we ate at the Three Brothers’ Restaurant and I had some delicious vegetable curry for 18,000. Ryan had the Nasi Goreng Special for 17,000 and we split a large Bintang for 23,000. We talked with a drunk aussie guy who was there on holiday with his mate and their Balinese dates.


Thursday, June 11th, 2009

We got up early to watch the gorgeous bright orange and pink sunrise, then we went to the complimentary breakfast at our hotel Kembali where we both had toast, scrambled egg, fruit, and of course, a pot of Bali coffee.

After breakfast we went for a walk around the one street very small town which consists of little hotels, restaurants, dive shops, and one small convenience store, where we bought Coffee Soda, a delicious concoction that I wish we had at home!

coffee soda

We arranged for a driver to take us to the Japanese shipwreck that was 20 minutes away for 150,000. Our driver was a nice young looking guy who has one kid and said this is his first job. The snorkeling was fun but the visibility was so-so to start with and just got worse the longer we were there. It was the first time I had snorkeled around a shipwreck and swimming down to touch the ship was a cool experience. I let Ryan use my fins so I was extra tired by the time we were done.

We went to lunch at Three Brothers’ again and this time I had Gado-Gado which was also very tasty, though it took them about an hour and a half to bring us our food. That’s a pretty good example of how time goes on Bali: no one is in a hurry and you shouldn’t be either, so plan your stay loosely.

In the evening we talked with three local boys for an hour or so who were walking the beach selling stuff. We talked about what they were learning in school and looked over some of the English lessons they had written in their little torn up notebooks. They asked us questions about America and Barak Obama (he lived in Indonesia for a while, you know) and about the airplane ride that we took to get to Bali. We didn’t want to buy anything from them but they said they were hungry so I made them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and brought them water.

Ryan’s throat and tonsils look like they are getting infected again like they did at home a few months ago, so he started on a course of antibiotics today. Because of this we decided to go to Sanur instead of Padang Bai (we were planning on heading to the Gili Islands off of Lombok via boat from Padang Bai). Sanur is a larger beach resort town with a pharmacy and doctor on call, and it’s right next to the big city of Denpasar and the airport, so we figured it would be smart to hang there for a few days and see if his throat gets better before heading off to the middle of nowhere on the Gili Islands where we would be a day’s boat ride and a long drive away from medical help.

Friday, June 12th, 2009

We got up early so we could go snorkeling in Jemeluk bay which is just a short walk along the coast from our hotel. The visibility was much better and we had fun chasing fish with my canon camera with the underwater housing for a couple hours.  I got stung by a jellyfish but we were having so much fun we just kept going.

Goodbye Amed, you were a peaceful break from the pace of the city. On to Sanur!

We hit the road at 11:30am on our way to Sanur. The drive was pretty and the drivers we shared the road with were crazy! Giant tour busses passing each other on these narrow windy roads while motorbikes dart between them. I would not drive here. We stopped at Candi Dasa for lunch on the way. We paid 250,000 for the ride and we’ve been tipping our drivers 50,000 in addition to the fare (which we usually bargain down first).

Shortly after we entered Sanur we nicknamed the place Sewer. It’s a boring town with no charm, a sub-par beach, and over priced dismal places to stay. We’re staying in a place called the Swastika. Yes, you read that right. Comically only a skip away from the German consulate, and filled with blonde haired Germans… The rooms are dark and dismal with annoying fluorescent lighting, stains on the bed and walls, and one of the worse bathrooms I have seen in a hotel, all for 300,000 a night. They do have free wifi and a decent pool, though.

To pass the time in this crappy town we decided to go get massages, which were lovely. Ryan got an hour long foot massage for 30,000 and I got a half hour back and half hour foot massage for 50,000.

The only other noteworthy thing about this town was the multi-level Hardy’s supermarket we visited that had a nasty fish smell to it. I bought a pear, a snake fruit, peanuts and gum for myself, and a tub of neapolitan ice cream for Ryan which was promptly devoured outside the store. The best thing about this supermarket was the girl giving out free vodka samples!


This town is lame so we are leaving tomorrow to go to Padang Bai, which we wish we would have done in the first place. Ryan’s throat isn’t getting better yet but we figured we should at least be in a place we’re enjoying while we wait to see if it’s healing.

Goodbye Sewer, on to Padang Bai!