After 5 days in Phnom Penh, the Luther class in Cambodia took off for the Mondulkiri province. Our days in Phnom Penh were filled with excitement and adventures, but it was time for a change of scenery.
The ride was quite a long one: 8 hours. However, we were fortunate enough to have a couple breaks to allow us to stretch our legs.
Our first break was at the Spider Village. There, we were given the chance to try traditional snacks: crickets, frogs, beetles, and fried tarantulas. There were some very mixed reviews about the snacks. Some students were excited about the new foods while others lived through others' experiences. If students didn't feel like the creepy crawlies, they were still able to buy fruit or dried fruit chips. We all had plenty of treats to take with us on the road.
Many students noticed that as soon as we got off the bus in the Spider Village, there were a lot of children who would run up to us and attempt to sell us their goods. Many of us wanted to buy goods from them, but there were some things stopping us. First of all, back in Phnom Penh, we were told by the Friends International organization not to pay children because it encourages the behavior rather than encouraging them to get an education. By encouraging the behavior of begging, it only perpetuates the cycle of poverty that they will find it harder to get out of. Secondly, the goods they were selling were bags of fruit. In Cambodia, we can safely eat foods that need to be peeled. If the fruit is already cut, we are at risk of it being contaminated by water that may make us sick. Therefore, we did not buy anything from the children. However, discussion among the students revealed that many of them thought it was odd for young children, approximately elementary age (we were guessing), to be out of school. We do not know what kind of policies enforce education in Cambodia, but it seems that it is not mandatory for children to be in attendance everyday. We have also learned that a majority of the population only make it through primary school, but secondary and upper education is reserved for those who can afford it and have access to it. It is different from our own education system and understanding their education system gives a little more insight in to how this country operates.
Our second stop along the way was at Wat Nokor, a historical temple. Built in the 11th century, it is said to have been the headquarters for Jayavarman VII during his reign. The students were able to walk around the temple and were given bracelets that were blessed by monks and tied to our wrists with another blessing by the women who tied them to our wrist. It is said that these bracelets will bring us luck and we are to keep wearing them until they fall off.
We arrived safely that evening to our hotel, Pich Kiri Hotel, with no problems. Stay tuned for more adventures!