Welcome to all of our supporters! Day's 1 and 2 of our amazing journey have just been completed and we would love to share some of our initial experiences so far. Please bare with me, this is my first ever blog post!! So if you think its too long, let me know and we will adjust in the future accordingly!
For those that are not fully aware of the organizations that will help us ensure our journey lives up to expectations, the following is a brief description:
Global Agents For Change - This is the organization based out of Vancouver that has recruited close to 18 riders, including myself, Laura and Karen, to head to Cambodia
PEPY - This is our partner organization based in Cambodia. They offer "responsible tourism" based cycling journeys to individuals interested in going on an adventure while learning about Cambodian culture and issues related to poverty. They then take those funds raised from the cycling journeys and run a fantastic set of innovative education related programs
Day 1 - December 29, 2010
We began our journey in the tourist centric town of Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat, by being introduced to the rest of the Global Agents and PEPY tour riders over a delicious Cambodian dinner, a few local beers and some juicy purple mangosteen . This orientation also included introductions by the amazing team out in Cambodia that have made PEPY a successful organization. We spent the dinner briefly learning about each other and it was becoming excitingly clear at that point we were going to be on our grueling bike journey with amazing and inspiring individuals. Other things we learned:
-How to properly use a squatting toilet....Yes, regular toilets are apparently rare in rural Cambodia...good thing we brought toilet paper!
Day 2 - December 30, 2010
When I signed up for this trip, it did not cross my mind that the tour would consist of mostly really early mornings...but alas, the news broke that we would be starting this day by waking up at 6 am for breakfast, which included an option of either banana pancakes or fried noodle soup :)
After breakfast, we were transported on a big bus to "Metta Karuna", a site operated by Jesuit Service Cambodia, who offer a broad range of social, development, pastoral, spiritual, educational and formation programs across Cambodia. We continued our team orientation here with a bunch of interesting and fun group exercises in the morning, designed to make us all comfortable with each other. Again, it become clear that we were going to be traveling with cool, like minded people with a wide array of interesting backgrounds!!! The group includes a lot of Canadians, Americans, Australians and locals!
After having another great Cambodian lunch and touring more of the site, we hopped back on the bus, traveled on a large unpaved road, in order to visit the most interesting sites of the day....
The first school built by PEPY was completed in the area of Hun Sen Chanleas Dai in 2005. The school consisted of a few simple buildings and a large open grass area that included a volley ball net. Although the infrastructure was basic, the most fascinating part of the trip was meeting the children and school staff members...
We were greeted to a classroom of Grade 7 students and their teachers. The most amazing thing was how energetic these kids were to learn. It became apparent that in a country like Cambodia, children actually look forward to school! In Canada, I know I usually hoped for a snow day to close school down!
The children spoke a mix of good Khmer (local language in Cambodia) and English, partly as a result of PEPY's influence in designing and implementing the school curriculum. We performed group activities together that culminated in some entertaining Cambodian dancing lessons! We then continued our tour of the neighboring library and spent some time learning about the challenges and accomplishments in setting up a library and ensuring it was filled with proper books in both languages.
Daniela Papi, a dynamic individual and co-founder of PEPY, provided a great Q&A!
PEPY's 5 year anniversary
We carried on our long day into the evening by attending PEPY's staff party to celebrate PEPY's 5 year anniversary. There were close to 40 PEPY staff members in attendance, almost all locals. It was clear from the interactions among all the staff members and management that there is a great amount of love and appreciation by the locals, and that the organization has had a major positive impact on the community.
Well, that's it from us! Tomorrow we officially get on our bikes, get to wear our tight padded shorts and start at 6:30 am! Happy New Year to all our friends and we will chat again soon!