Speak in English, Eat in Khmer
After rising with an asana practice and some free time this morning, we found our way to JWOC. http://youtu.be/-mwTaT0l8Q4
We were able to meet some of the staff and participate on the English Conversation class. We really enjoyed seeing the location and were amazed by how big JWOC is.
After some rest, some of us headed out to town again. Some for Italian and some for adventure!
Our photos cannot do justice to the scale and magnitude of use temples, carvings and history held within the walls of Angkor. The city of Siem Reap holds much history and strife. The temples, fallen by nature and the Khmer Rouge as well as thieves have stood the test of time incredibly well. As we walked, miles, through fallen stones and restored facades, we still could not imagine the people who, 6000 years ago, built these buildings.
I'm on a boat!
Today, we traveled for 6 hours by "speed boat." Our ride took us from Phnom Penh City to Siem Reap. The experience was quite different from the airport arrival just a fee days ago. The boat traveled at around 40mph. There was seating inside or on the roof. Once outside of the boat there was nothing to keep you on except for your own balance and strength.
Siem Reap is an area of mixed lifestyles. The water front holds residencies of floating villages and slum huts. The stench of rotted garbage is so powerful you can barely breathe. As we traveled to our hotel we saw houses up on stilts and lavish palace-like homes built above the levy. The separation of the classes couldn't be more obvious.
At the market, they cater to tourists, seeking goods and food that are both authentic and surprising.
We all agreed that today was a very full day. We began with a public by-donation practice at Nataraj Yoga. The group was a mix of our yogi retreaters and some of the teachers and practitioners at Nataraj.
After a quick lunch, we hopped onto the tuk tuks and headed to the Children's Surgical Center. Our visit theory really put a positive spin on things. The hospital is a non-profit supported by generous donors. Opened in 1998, they offer free public surgery on a "no appointment needed" system. People will arrive throughout the day and sign in. Most often, they are seen the same day, or, the stay overnight on mats or benches outside of the hospital so they can be seen the next day.
It's all about the experience
Meeting Piseth and the Nataraj board members before receiving a presentation, making out donation and offering a Master Class.
Chelsea shares some photos with the orphans a portion of our group visited at an orphanage just outside of the city.
Our work began today. We visited and made donations at a yoga studio and an orphanage. We were graciously received at each. They were honored to accept the donations and grateful for our visit.
Afterward, some of us traveled to the market. There are three main open markets; Central, Russian and the Night Market. You can find just about anything there.
A little history lesson
We wanted to give our group a true introduction to Khmer culture. Therefore, after arrival and some freshening up, we headed to the Killing Fields. It's hard to grasp that just 20 years ago this country won it's independence. The population had been devastated and their citied destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. The monument dedicated to teaching about this terrible time was well worth the visit.
Our Destination: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
This is the capitol and largest city in Cambodia. Many of our travelers have already arrived in Cambodia and have been taking the time to acclimatize and adjust to their new environment. Susan, our trip manager, has been updating Jenay, the director, on the general environment of the area. According to local sources and her observations, the city is safe for American travel. The most exciting sight is the flier for Lake Tahoe Yoga hanging up at Nataraj Yoga!
Checking out and taking off
It's time to close the office, turn off the phone and shut the suitcase. Our team departs in shifts this week starting Monday at midnight. We are reading that Phnom Penh is in turmoil with anti-government protests and garment worker strikes. Our friends in the city assure us that the protests are distant from where we are staying and that we will not even know anything is going on. We plan to be safe, avoid crowds and just do our good work.
The donations have been distributed to each participant. Itineraries have been finalized and are being printed up. Monetary donations are still coming in and at this point we have raised funds for four wells. Friends and family have been generous with both donations and encouragement!
Tomorrow is departure day for me. The first few days will be spent scouting some other locations in Cambodia for future visits. I will meet rest of the group on Saturday, February 1st, in Phnom Penh. Our work will start then..................Stay tuned!!!
Blink and you are there...........
Our group leaves in three weeks for Cambodia with suitcases filled with donations and lots of enthusiasm for our still expanding projects. Our original vision for the trip included a yoga project and a school project. As we prepare for our final group meeting, we are coordinating projects that include teaching at an orphanage, clean water, sustainable agriculture, hosting an art class for village children, teaching English in the JWOK school, distributing eye glasses and a health project for young village women. This is in addition to the yoga projects that were originally planned! We are packing school supplies, art supplies, donated yoga mats from Manduka, hand made eye sachets and straps for yoga practice, children's books, first aid and health materials, safety lights, donated lap tops, donated digital cameras, photos, videos, numerous gifts and donations for three wells. Our suitcases are full, along with our hearts, as we prepare for this adventure of a life time!
Nine weeks away!
Our travel dates are only nine weeks away, all spaces are filled and we are finalizing the projects with the NGOs (non-government organizations) that we will be working with. Our friend and colleague, Piseth, from NataRaj Yoga in Phnom Penh, is assisting our group leaders with the yoga projects. Krama Yoga, Asia’s first yoga-based NGO is run by NataRaj Yoga in Phnom Penh. It is a Cambodian organization run by young men and women who have changed their lives with yoga and now provide Kids Yoga, Teen Yoga and Yoga Therapy classes for others. Krama Yoga brings yoga classes to over 300 Cambodian children and adolescents each month, most of whom are impoverished kids and young women rescued from abuse and sex trafficking.
Our first project with Krama Yoga will involve a free community class with Satsang after. The NataRaj community is a wonderful mix of the Khmer and visiting yoga practitioners. We will also be offering a workshop to the Krama Yoga teacher trainers and young teachers. Our final evening in Phnom Penh, we plan to offer a free evening yoga class along the river front.
According to the U.S. Ambassador’s webpage, Cambodia is getting fit! People are doing aerobics, playing hackie-sack, and using the training equipment. It’s a very social atmosphere, with people not only exercising, but also meeting up with friends and catching up on the latest news. We look forward to being part of the Phnom Penh community, if just for a short time!
Jenay Aiksnoras, Experience Curator