Sunday, December 11, 2011

Last Days in Siem Reap

It is time to pass on the money raised, even so it's not much at £130 total.
Looking at local costs and the difficulty of accessing a further out farming family I am considering to split the money between Nakry and his immediate family and his cousin who is 16 and was taken out of school to work as a day labourer on other people's fields. This work brings at most $4 a day for skilled labour and my hunch is that women get a lower rate than that. I'd love to be able to send her back to school to finish at least the basic education (High School) + ideally a language qualification that would help a lot also.

Good and verified / recognized Language classes here cost around $110-$190 for a 3 month term of 45 lessons. The changing price depends on the level taught. Academic language training with international IELTS testing is available as well, but the Basic Language skills have to be learnt first.

If I had a steady income I would love to be able to say: I will pay for you to take the full program of lessons over the next 3 years. It really makes me feel strange to not be able to help. It's a matter of $50-$70 a month. (help would be needed with transport costs and that could end up being $10 for each trip she makes to town to attend lesson as there are no local busses and transport relies on pick-up trucks and scooters and tuk-tuks charging $5 for a single journey). That's not much money.

I'd love to send Nakry, too.

The bottom line is probably that I should offer Nakry something to teach her and try help him to gain qualifications in order to pass them on. As he is more independent in the first place, with being a male (which makes him safer on longer journeys to town and also culturally it is preferred for women to not travel too far - I imagine a lot of this is about security.)

I wish I had an income and could help others make positive changes themselves... argh...

Women and girls are so much safer when educated! A study I read somewhere found that there is a direct relation between the schooling of a girl and her future children. It showed that approximately for every term that she would remain in education she would make sure that her future children would remain in education a year longer.. That's quite an equation!

Also given the levels of poverty here and the uncertainty of tourism (which often seems the only real source of income) girls are really vulnerable to the sex trade. It's not a Myth, it's not dramatization, it's a real but hidden and secretive problem. The trade of girls and women is real. And it is proven that education helps.

I speculate that of course the more girls are ins school the more want to also be in school and even if they are not able to attend the general dynamic will create more knowledge and more self determination among girls and women of any age.

It often seem strange to me how here even graduates of English Literature Studies have not heard and much less read authors like George Orwell. I would have thought that any english literature course would read 1984, I would certainly wish they would. But the way things are I think Cambodians here in Siem Reap are a long way off from Critical Studies. It is easy to be dismissive of degree programs at home that are called "Critical Studies", " Media Studies", Gender Studies... it all sounds a bit wishy-washy at times, but seeing it from here those are amazing testaments to the freedom we have to really think about who we are and how we fundamentally and subtly affect each other and the world around us. Here people learn to english language but I am not sure if they learn much in terms of content.

I am by no means meaning to imply an absence of intellect, but rather an absence of available course programs and not enough opportunities to access what is available in limited quantities.

I'll change the ££'s into $$'s today and take as much as I think is right to Nakry's family.

Green Gecko Projects

Thursday, December 01, 2011

settling into Siem Reap / unedited

I am at a hotel near my very cheap guest house, having very expensive espresso to use their great wifi. It's my first time here and it's wonderful. I'd like to spend a week's budget on a day on their terrace! :) I'll restrain myself. I only ordered yoghurt.

Their noodles and vegetables are almost $4 and for that I get 3 portions of fried rice with a sprinkle of vegetables in another place right by my guesthouse. But then again... I am tempted by deluxe noodles... hmmmmmm

Yesterday I peeled myself out of bed and hired a tuk tuk to take me the 13km to the Silk Farm where my friend Nakry works. I think I was too sick to go but I really had had enough of laying in a boring room day after day. So I AT LAST saw Nakry and we are meeting again on his day off on monday. I'm making progress finding out where to buy baby chicken which will be part of my little help-package. :)

The tuk tuk to the Silk Farm and back is $10 and there is no way to get there cheaper,which is a bit steep. So much money wasted really.. (grrrr)

I am volunteer teaching German at a Cafe called Peace Cafe, and I have 5 students.I have split them up into one-to-one and even smaller groups because they have all different levels of German speaking practice. It's great to be able to offer something and to work with people who are so keen. At last I have a sense of purpose. I started on monday, even so I was still really sick, but I didn't want to let them down.One woman is a local NGO worker, Noungh, she is a real inspiration. A strong personality but also really nice. She's saved me at least $4 so far by giving me a lift on her scooter afterclass and to the Photography evening slideshows; stubborn as I am I only missed the first opening evening and attended at least the slideshows - beginning at 8.30pm - every evening. The first evenings I could barely manage to lay on the big mat on the ground which everyone sat on. But am progressively becoming better. The Photo Festival finishes on saturday evening.And of course I haven't really managed to fill my quota of 'achievements' at all. But I think I did ok given how sick I was (and still am) - hurrah to stubborn-ness........

Today is a rest day. I'm not doing anything except sit here with wifi for a couple of hours, then some rest in bed and then a german lesson with 3 students. Interesting people. Super nice people.

It is much easier to relax here in Siem Reap, once you figure out how to escape the tourist mania.It is easier to have something to do here that is useful to others. In Chiang Mai it is harder to do things without spending money. Much easier here. But much hotter, too. The heat is pretty exhausting.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cambodia #5

The month long flooding destroyed thousands of crops of rice. Most affected are small families who rent fields to plant rice on. The quantity of rice lost varies with size of field but my friend Nakry lost 150 kg (minimum expected yield). His family rent a field 10km away from his home.. The roads are too bad for cycling and can't be navigated by motorized vehicle either (now even worse after the flooding).

Nakry used to walk to this field and work on it on his day off work (typically one day every 10-12 days). His family use around 100-120kg of rice a month! Bear in mind that rice is their main food source. 10 kilogram of rice cost about $7-8 - this is the cheapest rice. A safe assumption would be that a kilo of rice may soon shoot to $1 per kilo (hopefully not more!) as so much of Asia was affected by the flooding that food shortages are to be expected. A huge quantity of rice was lost this year in Cambodia, Thailand, and to my knowledge also Laos, Vietnam and I don't know but assume as it is the same region also Burma (Myanmar)

Back to Nakry and his family. He is extremely hard working, currently giving regular French and English Language lessons to extended family and some others. Extended family in Cambodia really means VERY extended to the point that in Europe we may barely know of people's existence.. His salary supports a whole bunch of children in his immediate and extended family to eat and receive adequate schooling, I have no idea how his salary of $130 per month support so many adults and children. 5 adult family members were at home when we went for lunch on Nakry's day off work yesterday. I understand that there is not much work but that what work is available people jump at.

Nakry's 16 year old niece left school at 15 because the family couldn't afford to pay for her to attend schooling any longer. She now is effectively a day labourer when all that would be needed for her to remain in school would be $1 a day! That's how little money would be enough to help keep a girl in education which ultimately would mean she would be stronger in society, a better income earner and certainly more protected against poverty. It seems mad to stop education before it is complete when a girl is so close to complete the basic education!

Here many whom I have spoken with know that education is what is needed and still sooo many residents of rural areas have not got the means to access the minimum education that would help so much to empower their communities.

where are they now?
Still in an envelop in English currency. I am waiting to see how best to spend the little money we collected. It's really very little. I am toying with the idea of giving 50% each to Nakry and his family as well as a local NGO worker to support her in remaining high spirited and supporting larger projects involving whole communities. Her engagement means that a village of 100-150 people will soon have a school /health centre building, the villagers are educated about recycling and waste-reduction and re-use while benefitting from a flood relief scheme where they are the recipients of a reward scheme which exchanges rice, cooking oil, blankets (it gets surprisingly cool at night, very hard to sleep for old and weaker people) and mosquito nets as well as school bags and exercise books for successful participation in the recycling project arranged by HUSK and coordinated by Noungh.

Nakry: he already passes on his English and French speaking abilities. I would like to speak to him about a possible 'target' in exchange for the money we raised; e.g. a number of students and/or a level aimed for within a period of time. I am wondering if it would help to offer the students monetary incentive (i.e. 50cent to $1 for each lesson done well and attended on time, his niece for example often comes late or misses her class because she is working on a field for someone else who hired her for the day, I wonder if there is a way to get her to learn / give her access to learning, without loosing income..).

Nakry has a second little niece who is 10 years old but looks 6. Being so small is a probable sign of malnutrition early in life. I would like to find a way to support both girls to get as much education as possible.. In the meantime giving Nakry 50% of our raised money will help support the whole family and help with the lost rice crop.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Links to good things in Siem Reap

Great project!
I may use some of the money I raised (£60) to pass to this project as I think this is the best way to invest in positive change.
This leaves olny another £70 which I have earmarked for a family whom I know who lost their rice crop in the recent flooding.

If you can, please help make up the £70 or the £60 to £100.

Angkor Photo festival

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Festival time in Thailand.

Loi Krathong, a festival honouring and thanking the river,
perhaps with it's origins in the HIndu worship of the
holy river Ganges.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

journey south next week


we will be back in Bangkok very briefly next monday on our way to Cambodia, where we hope the flood waters have receded by now. This photograph is from the river crossing ferry terminal 2 weeks ago. The man on the left is Heng, he is pointing to the center of an elevated walkway which also is submerged. That day several passengers (tourists mainly) had fallen off the walkway into 1 meter deep water...

We promised to visit Heng before we leave Thailand. We left a handful of provisions with him (dried noodles and a big bag of roasted cashew nuts being the most useful of them).

We are looking forward to the bus journey south, all in all it will take around 24 hours to reach Siem Reap. I'm excited to soon be seeing my friend again and to be able to help out a little bit with the costs of recovering from the flood's damages. Hoping that acquiring seeds for re-planting won't be too steeply priced!

If anybody is still interested in contributing to the small support effort then do please get in touch. You can transfer money into my account and just let me know how much you put in, I haven't got my internet banking set up correctly so won't be able to view what's there without you telling me. (small sums from £5 upwards are definitely ok. Best would be £10-£20 if you are able. More is of course even better. To give some idea of costs: here in Thailand we are occasionally able to buy 600ml waterbottles for 5 - 7 baht. We never pay more than 10 baht a bottle. It's 48 Baht to the £. Ideally we should be able to buy 8 bottles of water for a pound. More often than not it's 5 bottles. But that's pretty good still.. Street meals can be found for 25 baht a meal. 50 pence.. - we aren't always that lucky, it's a little tricky with me being vegetarian and being particular about not sharing my plate with minced pork or similar).

More soon.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

We have safely arrived in Chiang Mai about an hour ago. :)

We have safely arrived in Chiang Mai about an hour ago. :)

I will post an account of the journey in due course.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We are taking a bus departing Bangkok at 20:35

We are taking a bus departing Bangkok at 20:35, heading to the North to Chiang Mai. If you don't hear from us in 48 hours call the German Embassy and American Embassy and mention we might be stuck somewhere, Jason Stropko and Birgit Deubner. Birgit's Thai telephone number: 0837829094 (haven't got the country code to hand). Do not worry if you don't get through on the phone, we are traveling through the whole country and reception won't be very good outside the main cities and tourist sites. We are looking forward to the journey but just thought it's best to have a back-up and let someone know what we're up to. x

Even if we get stuck we are well equipped with water and a ton of nuts and sensible foods so no worries, we'd just like to not be stuck for too long, that's all. x

Don't know the name of the bus company but it's a public bus service which is well informed several times daily about safe roads and routes.

Lots of love from us.

Jason and Birgit.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bangkok / Thailand / Flood damage in parts of the country, but we have dry feet and are safe and sound

"The TAT and other authorities have stated that the most areas of central Bangkok frequented by tourists will not become flooded and remain fully accessible. In some cases, roadways and paths situated near the river may become flooded due to high waters of Chao Phraya." (–-october-25-2011/)

Our plan was to help some friends and families in Cambodia, now we are in Bangkok kind of surrounded by approaching floodwaters ourselves.. This was definitely not anticipated.
I think it is problematic that the Thai government seems to have downplayed the effect the Flooding would have on Bangkok, a lot of businesses and factories are submerged by 1 -2 meters of water. When I think of flooding I rather naively think of a passing surplus of water that is maybe destructive, but not 2 meters deep.. In the worst hit areas of Thailand places are submerged by 4 meters of water! How on earth do the people survive? Little information seems to reach out.

For now central Bangkok remains dry,
but many stores around the Touristy Khao San area closed early at 6pm when normally they are open until 1am. The Book shop owner apologized when telling us that they are closing early to prepare for the flooding.

After a brief heavy rain at 6pm the skies are calm again and I am just checking to find out the high tide times to be more aware when to potentially expect wet feet or maybe wet legs..

We are still heading to Cambodia to distribute the money raised, and probably around the originally intended time schedule: early November.

just out of interest a timetable for the local tides and expected heights: (the river is framed by a permanent high flood barrier, so high tide is not necessarily a problem, still looking to learn how high the tide can be before it causes any more serious problems).

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

new links for Our Cambodia Project and additional thoughts:

I will make sure that my friends know about this although I doubt the budget will be big enough to cover all 215.662 affected families.... I will make sure to buy and share food when I am there: spending more time with local families sharing meals that the families might normally not be able to afford - I'll bring along dried or fresh fish and vegetables for example and ask to be shown how to cook traditionally khmer.

This ensures they get more nutrition than they have budget for and I learn something which I will share with.... YOU.

And the overall bill is likely still not going to exceed what the tourist cafe Le Tigre de Papier (which I ) would charge for banana pancakes, fresh juice and an espresso.... Sharing is GOOD.

(Did you notice? The heart is a link...)

from a letter I just posted (October 11th)

This is normally a private blog, but I have a few posts that I am setting
aside for trying to raise what is possible for my friends and who I find
when I arrive in Cambodia.

My specific location will be the province around Siem Reap. While this
is very close to Angkor Wat the poverty just 45 minutes out of the small
town Siem Reap is clearly visible. I have been to India, too, I have seen
poverty in more than these two countries, and I know the needs are enormous
but I always feel that if the majority of people believed in small changes and
acted in small ways, rather than capitulate, then unbelievably huge changes
could happen. Sadly it seems inspiration and hope are a poverty affecting
too many of those whose small support would make such a great impact once

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Flooding in Cambodia, my friend lost his Rice crop, can we help?

This is what it looks like in the area where my friend Nakry lives:

He lives about one hour on a scooter away from Siem Reap, which is a major tourist hub for 4 months of the year as it is close to Angkor Wat.

For today I'll just cut and paste from my facebook posts, I'll tidy this post up later in the week. But I just wanted to begin to bring all the information into one place, easy to reference:


I have a friend in Cambodia whom I would like to help. His rice crop is lost in the current flooding near Angkor Wat. He and his parents rely on the extra food this crop would have brought them. I've visited him in 2006 and they are really very, very poor. Would you support me in this?

I am not sure what exact cost help will be. Obviously the more I can raise the more lasting an impact we are likely to make. But small help can be big help. I have a total of 3 friends whom I would like to help out. I am thinking the cost of some bags of rice and dried fish to tie them over to the next opportunity crop (I hope he gets two crops a year), and a couple of goats to support him. (goats are very hardy and get ill rarely, they meat is valuable but can also be used for milk) . Nakry (my friend's name) and his family are pretty malnourished (stunted growth).

Another friend is a little boy whose family are also pretty poor, if I can find him I would like to exchange language lessons for a couple of goats. Trade not Aid... But I would need help with the goats, effectively needing your aid to help these lovely people out.

What can you do? As little as $15 / £10 could make a huge difference. If I can find 10 of you to help me with that then that would mean a lot of rice. I don't know the price of a goat. But it would be fantastic if money could stretch. I will supply you with photographs and feedback. What do you think?

Even $5 / £5 will be VERY appreciated and WILL make a change as they will accumulatively make up a bigger sum of funding.

Flooding is ruining people's limited resources to help themselves. I would hope someone would help us out if this happened to us. Every penny would go directly to support!


my personal fundraising for personal reasons is 100% separate to this. This Fund is ONLY for these friends to help them stretch through to the next harvest without becoming even more malnourished


that's great. Thank you for supporting my mini NGO effort. I'll try and work out how to send the correct paypal details. Other option is bank transfer/ cheque. Which will be cost free... A dollar save is have a baby chicken if I find a good deal.

I am just cutting and pasting the below text in from the last friend who is participating in the chicken/ goat / rice - tie over till the next harvest project..

SO far you are person 2 to get in touch but I think I'll find a bunch more before I go. And it's never too late to participate, in case someone expresses interest after I've set off. I am arranging online banking, so I'll know what I've got available.
so here it goes:


Bank details:

Birgit Deubner
account number: please contact me and I'll forward it to you.
sort code:
account holding branch:

For a postal order to arrive by monday 10th 2011
my address
please contact me

I'll post photographs and a description by e-mail and blog when I get to Cambodia.

I have readjusted my plan and will ask one of my friends - Nakry-, whose english is very good- to put in a certain number of hours sharing basic literary skills in Khmer (priority) and English (secondary) with a group of local girls. I'll sit in for the Khmer lessons. That way it'll help strengthen the girls position. Educated girls even at basic level are much elss likely to fall prey to trafficking.

Nakry lives an hour outside Siem Reap, which is very touristy as it's the Tourist Hot Spot for Angkor Wat, but where he lives poverty is pretty visible and the benefit of tourism not much felt. Just the basic alphabet and some writing exercises in Khmer with the most rudimentary introduction to English will give the girls a little buffer protection and will improve their social standing, too.

In return I pay in goats or if not enough money or otherwise chicken and rooster (on feedback with local NGO organization if advised against goat - goat are pretty destructive, will get best advice when there, have been before and know a few active organizations who will help make the best decisions).

The other 2 friends: I will see what's most appropriate and how best to initiate a trade exchange deal with them.

Trade not Aid... To make sure the most benefit is had from our small support project.

More about this when I reach. In about 4-5 weeks.
lots of love.

Warmest hugs for the support.

And just to give you an idea that small help can actually be big help:

Chicken, chicklettes - what are they called? Baby chicken... should be available from a 2-4 dollar each (I've seen very cheap prices at $1 each, but they are for bulk buys of 1000 chicken babies, I assume individually bought ones up to just 10-20 will be more expensive).

I want to source chicks that are most likely to thrive and ideally are not full of chemicals to start with. I haven't established the cost of a rooster yet. I imagine much more. And some
chicken appropriate food should not be too much.

I have a total of 3 friends I would like to help out to stretch through to the next harvest. I'll post a blog post soon with more details. Please contact me if you would like to help out. A small help can be a big help.

Every penny that reaches me will benefit my friends and their families 100%. I would hope that someone would help us out if we relied on our crops and lost them..

I can give you bank details or paypal details, the catch with paypal is that they will charge a fee for using them. That's entirely up to you.

THis is what my friend Nakry Looks like:

My other photographs were on film and I haven't scanned them in..

this is Raksa, I am concerned about her family, also