Sunday, July 22, 2007

My Journey To Siem Reap

I've arrived safely in Siem Reap. The flight was delayed though for the first hour of the delay the airline claims that my ticket, itinerary, and all related documentation actually listed my flight time wrong. Though my ticket said 7:30pm departure from Seoul, Korea the airline staff were adamant that the flight was actually scheduled for 8:30pm. Ok, whatever, Í'll go with the flow. Since I had several hours to pass, I sat down for some traditional Korean food-- double boiled beef short ribs in broth. A couple years ago I learned how to make Korean style bbq short it was fun to experience the authentic cuisine. I think I was the only non-Korean person in the whole restaurant.
The flight took off until about 9:30pm and I arrived in Siem Reap about 5.5 hours later. Of course, just my luck, there is a 2 hour time difference between Korea and Cambodia (3 between Mongolia and Cambodia) so it might have only been 1am in Cambodia but as far as my internal time clock new it was 3 am!!
Though my hotel was supposed to pick me up from the airport, when Sophanara, the UNFPA Cambodia representative who was meeting me in Siem Reap, stopped by the hotel to make sure everything was set for my arrival., the hotel manager said that her staff had gone home for the night and sorry, there is no one to pick me up. Sultan, also from UNPFA Cambodia, saved the day, and though he too was exhausted from driving Sophanara from Phnom Phen that afternoon. He graciously offered to pick me up and stood waiting, smiling at the airport to greet me.
What a difference a friendly face makes upon arrival in a new place. I felt at home immediately.
Even though it is so late at night, it is incredible humid out. The road from the airport to the hotel felt very dismal. Unlike Ulan Bator, which felt somewhat industrialized with pockets of great disparity, tonight my eyes only saw what felt very much like a low income country in need. It was strange to have the immediate feeling that UNFPA's help was needed. I was also reminded of Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka the road from the airport is pretty dark and dismal, but as you approach the city the strips of hotels feel like Las Vegas. I know Siem Reap is known to be a huge tourist destination, so maybe it's the just the late night arrival and the humidity. We shall see.
My days in Cambodia are very, very packed. I'm not sure when I'll be able to post next. In the mean time, I encourage you all to read my friend Rebecca's blog. She traveled to Cambodia with Americans for UNFPA in January with a delegation of about 12 Americans. Because staff and guests of Americans for UNFPA were here so recently, my trip is focused closely on meeting Ms. Ket Noeun, 2007 Americans for UNFPA International Honoree for the Health and Dignity of Women. Ms. Noeun is the provinical coordinator for the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center and runs a shelter for women. Her Center is heavily involved in the legal aspects of the work and has unique community partnerships to ensure health, dignity and justice for vicitms and the community at large.

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