1. Seeing Phnom Penh + Silver Pagoda's infamous diamond, emerald, gold, stone and million other Buddha statues
2. Learning about the Cambodian legal system (or what seems to be the Cambodian legal system)
3. Working at IOM (which, I might add, is a POWERHOUSE in the international NGO community)
4. Visiting the provinces (Sihanoukville, Siem Reap, Battambang)
5. Observing "the largest religious monument in the world"
6. Riding on the back of a motorbike in absolutely crazy traffic
7. Having my wallet stolen out of my purse
8. Being towed out of the mud by a dinky fishing boat that had a dying motor and a small hole filling it with water
9. Attending a totally Khmai-speaking Christian church
10. Singing old R&B songs like "Slow Jam" by Monica + Usher with my 3 American classmates (all girls) and one Khmer taxi driver (male)
11. Eating dog at a North Korean restaurant
12. Dancing on stage at the US Embassy's 4th of July party
13. Haggling over $1.00 for $3.00 scarves at the Russian Market
14. Visiting a prison and interviewing Cambodian juvenile offenders
15. $8 1-hr massages (in the hugest pair of PJs I've ever seen in my life!)
It's been an amazing and dreadful, uplifting and heartbreaking, crazy and down-to-earth adventure. Thanks for the memories and thanks for this world-changing opportunity. I definitely encourage all Americans to come out to Cambodia at least once and experience life from a different perspective.
P.S. JAMAL! What ARE you talking about in your last post? Too smart for your own good, sir, too smart!
History proves (if it proves anything) that hastily drawn plans or quick, zealous prosecution of even the most articulate plans leads to naught but disaster. Please see, The Great Leap Forward, the Patriot Act and The Producers - though not the producers of The Producers.
It was another short week in the office as everything was closed on July 9 for Argentina’s equivalent of July 4th (the 5 extra days must have been lost somehow, due to the metric system perhaps). The shortened work week has meant that between the world cup and national holidays there has been 3 days the office has been closed in my 4 week placement here. I’m going to miss this when I go back to the US. To celebrate the short week, Jersey, Geoff and I went to a reputable Parilla in Palermo called La Cabrera. We went early to try to beat the crowd (arriving at 9pm) but there was still a wait. I attribute it to the large amount of English (people of England) tourists there eating way earlier than the Argentines normally do. We had some fantastic steak and wine that came with about 2 dozen traditional small plates sides somewhat reminiscent of going to a Korean barbeque place. After gorging ourselves for a few hours we returned to the apartment with the intent of taking a short nap then going out after 2am but I quickly succumbed to my food coma with no chance of resuscitation.
We slept in the next morning to enjoy our day off work and then the three of us walked down to the Congresso Nacional. It was very cool to see the building that houses the national legislature. It was apparently modeled after the US Capitol, however it had a somewhat more European flair that I would describe as somewhat more French and Baroque. However, I study law, not architecture so I’m not quite certain how accurate of a description that really is. After being impressed by the building (the dome of the US Capitol is better...I’m just saying....) we sat in a café and watched the world pass us by for a while. Although it seemed somewhat appropriate to visit the Congresso Nacional on Argentina’s independence day, we were apparently some of the only ones who thought so as the whole area was practically empty by Buenos Aires standards. There was even a small protest going on about the pollution in the river that even seemed minuscule. I guess even protesters were taking a holiday, but their brass band did play some impressive soccer songs.
Saturday morning, Jersey and I got an early start and ventured up to Recoleta Cemetery, where the rich and famous of Buenos Aires pay a pretty penny to spend the rest of eternity having their final resting place photographed by tourists. The narrow avenues were jammed packed with mausoleums of all kinds. Some were hundreds of years old and in disrepair, some extremely modern and built within the past few years. All were grandiose and extravagant, even the ones that were considered relatively modest by the cemetery standards. (One of the modest ones housed the body of Evita Peron.) Most of the mausoleums had windows or glass doors so you could look inside and see the coffins housed within. Some held just one, others had several stacked on top of each other and staircases leading down to lower levels which I assumed only contained more. All of this got me thinking about what kind of mausoleum I’d want if money was no object. I settled on just paying a famous designer/architect a ton of money to do something different/crazy. It could be awesome or it could come out ugly, but either way I won’t be the one who has to look at the thing so I figure "go big or go home."
After the cemetery we grabbed a lunch consisting of some excellent empanadas and then walked through the artesian market nearby picking up some wares from local artists to take home as gifts. We then took a million pictures by the Flor Generica. This is a huge silvery statue of a flower that reacts to the energy of the sun, opening in the morning, following it as it moves across the sky during the day, and then closing at night, just like a real flower. Then we checked out the Museo de Bellas Artes, a free fine art museum that housed Argentine and European masterpieces of all kinds. It made me long for more free Museums back home in SF!
On Sunday we planned to watch the World Cup Finals at home, but our cable AND internet went out literally as they were singing the national anthems. Knowing that there would be no one working to fix it due to it being Sunday AND the game being on, we were forced to watch the game at a nearby restaurant. That night Jersey and I returned to a great Parilla called La Brigada for steaks and Malbec. I’m REALLY going to miss the steak.
KATE EMMINGER, IRELAND
USF Study Abroad Program: Dublin, Ireland
June 13th – July 3rd, 2010
Saturday June 12, 2010
"A La Huie?"
Arrival very early this morning in Dublin after a red eye from Chicago post my San Francisco departure . . . Wandered off the airport shuttle with only a vague sense of where I needed to go. In a fit of "new arrival" stubbornness, I refused to ask anyone for help or directions. However, the luck of the Irish was already upon me as I stumbled in front of my hostel after walking straight for five minutes. I've decided to avoid the expensive campus housing for this leg of the trip, so I checked into the hostel that will be my home base for these three weeks. Everything seems fine there - free breakfast, free wi-fi, and literally two blocks from Trinity College, where class is held. I've some concerns about the close sleeping quarters – I share my room every night with 5 other girls, but I figure I can always change my mind mid-visit. I dropped off my luggage and ran out to explore, feeling exuberant about my new surroundings. I held my own for quite awhile; I started at the elegant cobblestoned entrance of Trinity, wandering through the the commerce of Grafton street and sat in the peaceful aged shade of St. Stephen's Green. Sadly, jet lag quickly took over and no americano could fight it off... Off to bed at 6:00pm. The 5 roomies were fine, though I did overhear some French girls enter the room to get ready to out to a pub. They whispered as they changed, but I heard them say in shock "a huit??" (translation: at 8:oo??) . . . how do you say "jet lag" in French?
Monday June 14, 2010
Flakey, Potted Salmon
The rest of the weekend passed pleasantly. I jogged along the quays of the River Liffey to The Phoenix Park, completed my first class's reading in Merrion Square and met up with my new classmates for some 'welcome drinks' at the Dakota. This morning class began. I'm taking "International Human Rights Law" with USF's Professor Leighton. Later next week, I'll take a one credit course on the "European Convention on Human Rights" with Trinity's lecturer, Dr. Ryan. I'm enthusiastic about this coursework, but we started class this morning with a rather convoluted chart of the United Nations. It made me wonder about how much I had to wrap my head around in only three week's time.
After class, I ventured back towards Grafton Street and sat myself at Avoca café to eat lunch and do my reading. I ordered a dish off the menu described as "flakey, potted salmon". Visions of pot pie swam in my head and hunger pangs floated through my stomach. The meal arrived - a glass jar of salmon salad, greens and brown bread. I had a vibrant feeling of culture shock, wondering "how do I eat this?". I slathered the salmon salad on the brown bread (the Irish love mayo) and wondered if people were watching me eat and laughing at my methodology.
Later in the day we took a walking tour of Trinity College, which is rich with history. History usually doesn't pique my interest, but something about walking among these majestic buildings, feeling the cobblestones through my keds makes me appreciate the age of the buildings as well as Ireland's vivid recent history. Our colorful tour guide stopped the tour in front of a George Salmon's bust on the main college green. Salmon was the provost of Trinity in the early 1900s, when the college didn't admit women. Salmon declared that "over his dead body would women would walk through the front gates of Trinity." The college board overruled him and admitted women in 1904. Salmon died a few weeks later. His grave is at Trinity. Our tour guide encouraged us (a mostly female group) to walk over his grave on the way to class. The Irish, I'm finding, have a great sense of humor.
Wednesday June 16th, 2010
The Right to Self-Determination
This morning in class we discussed the right of self determination. This right is one of the few codified in both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. As an American today, I don't often consider my human right to the government of my choice. However, the discussion was particularly powerful set against the backdrop of the Irish rebellion of 1916. Less than 100 years ago, men and women fought and died for the right to govern Ireland free of Britain's rule. Yesterday I walked by the Post Office building where the 16 revolutionary leaders read a proclamation to the Irish people about the Irish right to be free from England's reign. This rebellion sadly failed and 7 of the 16 were executed by the British as punishment for the uprising. As I considered whether ruling ones' own people should be a right recognized by all governments, I was struck by the youth of the country I'm visiting and their long struggle to seize this right.
Professor Leighton guided our class discussion about the difference between human rights and civil rights – human rights being those that we are entitled to out of our human dignity and civil rights being the ones our government decides to give us. The right to self determination, now so universally recognized, had to evolve into a civil right. But as Ireland illustrated, the right always existed as a human right – which is why centuries of people have risen against oppressive governments and demanded the right to rule their own peoples. It reminded me of the evolution of other rights in our country and how painful a struggle it can be for the oppressed. Consider the history of slavery, voting and segregation. Each resulted in a codified right because we, as a human race, kept striking out against the government - seizing the right over and over and over. Now, as our country watches the struggle for the right to marry and the struggle for the right to health, it's striking how human dignity does demand certain rights. Humans will continue to press on until those rights are recognized and properly handled by our government. The fight seems neverending, but studying the evolution of these rights is encouraging. Too often human rights activists don't actually witness the result of their painstaking efforts. But, thanks to the human rights activists of the past, we can enjoy the rights we have established - even if we are still struggling for more.
Friday, June 25th
Skeletons in The Car
This morning on my way to class, I passed by a parked van with a full size skeleton in the passenger seat. I laughed and, for the enth time, appreciated that the Irish sense of humor is prominent and robust. In my (albeit) limited experience, I find the Irish don't take much seriously for long; I love that. The man who works the front desk of my hostel will be muttering to himself one minute and cracking jokes with a guest the second. Often people approach us and ask, in a thick Irish accent, "Are you from the States?" "Yes," we reply. "Where in the States?" "California", we tell them - to which they reply heartily, "Me too!!". At first the line struck us as cheesy and fake but as we heard it over and over, we realized its simply an example of the Irish humor and tendency for tall tales. It brings to mind one of my favorite cultural clashes thus far. One day at a pub I began talking to a gentleman and complimented his pink collared shirt. He thanked me and continued to say, "It's funny, 5 of us arrived to work today wearing pink shirts, and we don't usually wear shirts to work." I gave him a puzzled look, wondering what exactly he did for a living that he wouldn't wear a shirt at work. After a roundabout of questions, we determined that in Ireland 'shirt' meant 'collared shirt', as opposed to 't-shirt'. When we finally figured it out, he got a disgusted look on his face (but a sparkle in his eye) and declared "What were you picturing us with hot oil and all?"
Sunday June 27th
The Vegas of Ireland / Silly Americans!
This weekend was an eventful one. On Friday we hopped a train to the Western Coastal town of Galway. We expected a getaway to a quiet, quaint fishing town. But Galway, as it turns out, is a huge Irish destination for Hen and Stag parties (aka Bachelorette and Bachelor parties). Not only were there three hen parties in our cabin on the train, but everyone we met that weekend seemed to be celebrating someone's wedding. The groups spanned every age group and included friends, bridesmaids, mothers, and even relative strangers. Costume themes were common and the best one we saw was a group of female sailors.
Despite the celebratory mood, it was easy to tell that the rest of Ireland is very different than Dublin. Dublin is cosmopolitan and (around Trinity at least), tourists are almost more common than locals. The Irish we met in Galway were incredibly friendly and quick witted. I told one gentleman that we came to Galway expecting a 'sleepy sleepy town' and he said 'no, galway is wakey, wakey." We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast and it was everything I stereotyped it to be. From the key that looked like it opened a secret garden to the owner, Joan, who clucked about us like a mother hen, it was perfection. On Saturday we took a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher, which took my breath away. People have been flocking to them for hundreds of years and once again I was struck by the rich history of this land. Our bus driver sang us a traditional Irish song and we took pictures of the beautiful countryside. We even passed a golf course that was covered with more sheep than sand pits - the golfers didn't seem to mind.
We came back Sunday morning and joined up with the group for a Gaelic football game. Gaelic football is closest to soccer, but really not like it at all. The players play with a soccer ball, but they are allowed to use their hands and pick up the ball to run. Similar to basketball, they can't run more than 5 steps without either dribbling it or kicking it off their foot. The goals look like field goals from American football, with the bottom part covered by a soccer goal net. Kicking a ball in the top part of the field goal results in 1 point and kicking it into the "soccer goal net" results in 2 points. As we sat watching in wonder and confusion, asking the most basic questions, the locals around us were actually pretty tolerant. I was reminded of a trip to Spain during high school when we went to a bull fight. A classmate started crying upon the death of the bull and the old Spanish man behind her pointed and laughed. Gaelic football wasn't nearly as brutal, but it did incite the pride and enthusiasm of the packed stadium, which was the size of any standard professional sports arena. We later found out that all the players in the league played as a hobby. They weren't paid, had separate full time jobs, and the entire stadium and league was funded out of private donations. Once again, I was reminded of the strong Irish identity and appreciated the rights of the culture.
Tuesday June 29th
Not like Lucky Charms?
This week is marked by a frantic need to coalesce all the information we've covered in class the last two weeks. The topics are fascinating and we're covering a lot of ground, but class is two hours every morning, and now two hours in the afternoon as my second class has begun. Add in nightly reading and it doesn't leave a lot of time to synthesize information. This week during the gap of time between my morning and afternoon class, my study group meets to outline at a local café or pub. Today we gathered at The Lombard, which is right across from the campus dorms at Trinity. The Lombard is a stereotypical Irish pub where you can truly tell the culture here revolves around these locations. In any moment, you can find patrons sitting at the bar, friends huddled around tables watching the World Cup, couples and families out for a meal and foreign students studying while taking advantage of the free wireless. In the States, The Lombard would be broken into four distinct businesses – a pub/dive bar, a sports bar, a restaurant and an internet café. The location makes a great meeting place and no one seems to mind if we sit there for hours, studying and enjoying a Bulmers, Smithwicks and/or Guinness.
This afternoon we rewarded our studious-ness with a trip to the National Leprechaun Museum. Yes, you read that correctly, the National Leprechaun Museum. Tourists and locals alike snicker when you mention it, but we thought it sounded like a fun experience – and it was. The museum was really a tribute to the heritage of storytelling and the preservation of Irish folktales. Our first tour guide bantered jovially and thanked us, as Americans, for babysitting the leprechaun. He explained that during the Great Hunger (the politically correct name for the Potato Famine), thousands of Irish immigrated to the United States. Being lovers of tall tales, the Irish would then tell tales of the leprechauns of Ireland, and soon the legend was stronger in the States than in Ireland itself. Case in point – as he said – is that "You Americans do St. Patty's Day wayyyyyy better than we do." He did say though that the story was a bit warped in the States. He went on to explain that we all think of leprechauns as little fellows, wearing green, with a green buckled top hat, red hair, big shoes, and a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. "Nope." He said. "That's wrong. That's the Lucky Charms mascot." We all laughed as he pointed to the box of cereal behind glass. He went on to explain that leprechauns were actually red capped shoemakers and could be found throughout the world in various folk stories and legends. We explored the rest of the museum – which was less gallery and more experiential – and posed on giant chairs with huge teacups that made us feel like wee leprechauns ourselves. At the end of the museum, we were deposited into a coffee and gift shop, which featured one of the highlights of our visit – a storyteller. The gentleman there offered to tell us a story and we allowed him his choice. The five of us sat there for twenty minutes in awe of the Irish folk tale he told. True storytelling is a valuable and fascinating skill.
Saturday July 3rd
Final Day in Dublin :o(
Our program in Dublin officially ended today, as we took our finals and said our goodbyes. I'm surprised to say that I'm really sad to leave Ireland. I didn't expect to like it here – I decided to attend this program because I needed the credits from USF and am interested in international law. Initially, I was disappointed at the lack of culture shock – Dublin is a very westernized city, and I'd hoped for exoticism and intrigue. But the real Ireland snuck up on me and I truly loved my time here. For the first time in my life, I've appreciated history; Ireland is rich with ancient and recent history. It's a land where you can trip over cobblestones and look up to a 16 floor state of the art building – each floor commemorating a leader of the revolution. You can tour the excavated walls underneath stately Dublin Castle and minutes later you can enjoy the commercial bustle of Grafton Street, listening to Jason Mraz played on a traditional flute by a street performer. The friendliness, sharp wit and quick laughter resonated with me in a way that makes me appreciate my Irish heritage. Truly the Emerald Isle is a land of joy and beauty.
Tonight I'm off to Athens, where I'll meet my best friend from high school who now lives in Israel. We'll spend a night enjoying the culture of Athens and then it's off to the beachy island of Santorini. I'll stop in Rome for two nights before heading to Prague for the second part of our program and two more classes on International Law. I'm hoping these locations will give me the exoticism that I initially craved in Dublin. But, post-Dublin, I understand that delight and fascination can be found even among the familiar.
It was back to the grindstone as we started our first full week of work. I spent a lot of time this past week translating documents and working on research for one of the partners while I was in the office. The translating starts out slow but gets easier each time. I try to treat it a little like homework and I’m fairly certain is doing wonders to improve my Spanish. The research project I’m on can be trying at times as I’ve found that some of the issues I need to address are actually very rooted in accounting in addition to the strictly legal issues. However, I’ve been on the right track most of the week when I’ve had time to research and am hoping to compile most of what I have in a memo I can hand in on Monday to get some feedback.
On Friday, Jersey’s firm (Claria Trevisan) invited me to join Jersey in attending a lecture on sports law being held at the AFA (Argentine Futbol Association) training facility. Essentially it’s a giant complex outside the city where the national team lives and trains for weeks at a time leading up to major tournaments and matches. It became evident that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity as most Argentineans would give almost anything to step foot inside the place which, as a general rule, is closed to the public. I got to leave my firm a little early on Friday to make the trek out. In the modern and sleek facility we got to sit in the hall generally used for press conferences and hear about the AFA’s efforts to provide programs for disadvantaged kids. We were then given a tour of the facility which was probably the most exciting part of the afternoon. We got to see the gym, locker room, pools, physical therapy area, dining facilities, and living quarters. The highlight for me was definitely getting to go into Maradona’s room. It was a little surreal and it was great to see what he kept on his nightstand: 4 remote controls (but there was only 1 TV and no DVD player or stereo), a bottle of cologne, and a pack of Marlboro reds. We also got to see the whiteboards on the walls that still had their tentative starting lineup drawn on it left from before they departed for South Africa. We then got to sit through a lecture/Q&A regarding the FIFA rules and procedures for setting up matches. It was really fascinating to hear about all the prep work that gets done in and the planning that is sometimes done down to determining at exactly at what second teams will exit the tunnels, shake hands, etc. There were a lot of heated questions from the intimate audience of only 2-3 dozen people, especially regarding uniform colors, doping policies, and what sanctions should be brought against Mexico for their complaining about an Argentina goal by an offside player that had (wrongfully) been allowed in the last World Cup match. After returning to the city Jersey and I shared a huge Milanesa which is essentially a giant ham pizza, only the crust is replaced by a pounded thin chicken fried steak. God I love this country.
Saturday became a very somber day as Argentina was dismantled by Germany 0-4 in the World Cup, leading to their elimination. Rather than mope about not having a joyous riot in the streets to join Jersey and I took advantage of the free schedule to do a little sightseeing. We walked down to the Plaza de Mayo which is now most famous for the weekly protests there by the mothers/grandmothers of the victims of the “desaparecidos” (the people who were disappeared by the ruling junta during the Dirty War). We also made our way to the Casa Rosada, home of the executive offices of the federal government, including the president. When we got there we expected it to be like the White House where you can really just stand behind a fence and take pictures unless you have a congressman do some special arrangements for you. However as we got closer we found we could walk through the gate, then through the front door, then go on a free guided tour, then go into the president’s office to take pictures. Alas, Madame President Kirchner was not there at the time but it was pretty cool to just show up and have so much access.
On Sunday Jersey and I checked out San Telmo, the oldest barrio in the city. It was market day so one of the main streets running through it was closed off to traffic and was wall to wall people, vendors, and street performers (from your standard people dressed up crazy charging for pictures to entire 8 piece tango bands that had even dragged a piano out onto the street). So far it has been my favorite neighborhood as the cobblestone streets and old buildings gave it a much more charming old world feel. It was a nice change from the modern hustle and bustle of the city center where we are staying. We capped off our afternoon with a late lunch at a parilla called La Brigada where we had huge steaks that were cooked to absolute perfection. What better way to celebrate the 4th of July outside of the US than an decadent portion of red meat and garlic fries. I will definitely make it a point to gorge myself on as much steak as possible in our remaining two weeks as I think it will be the thing I’m going to miss the most.
I'm sitting here shirtless at the International Organization for Migration offices in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I was caught in an epic monsoon of biblical proportions while motorbiking to work today. I've got a towel wrapped around my waist, boxers underneath just in case, and the rest of my clothes drying on exposed piping in the bathroom. Now here I am, wondering how it came to this.
The security briefing at the UNDP did not tell me what to do in this situation. Which is not shocking, since the UN is also frightfully unaware of the recent epidemic of motorcycle gangs infiltrating the city comprised entirely of legal interns working for NGO's.
The ride home will be interesting...
Member, Room 305 + Paige moto-gang