Thursday, November 27

Happy Thanksgiving from Siem Reap

Happy Thanksgiving! The TBB group had a nice meal together at the hotel -- impressively Thanksgiving-like, considering we're in southeast Asia.  The chef made us pumpkin soup, mashed potatoes, chicken with gravy, and vegetables.  No pie, but otherwise it was great.  

We've had a really relaxing week, visiting temples, renting bikes, taking a river boat to a floating village -- though that was a kind of questionable trip.  Basically, we took a boat ride an hour and  a half to a community that lives entirely on stilted buildings in the water, and we were surrounded by school children trying to sell us notebooks to donate to the school.  Many of us bought notebooks and pencils, which were then given to the teacher.  It's possible that they just resell the books over and over each time another tour group comes to the island; I just hope the supplies are getting to the kids in some form.  It just felt very invasive to motor on through their community, all snapping away on our cameras, for a mere fifteen minute visit.  How often do foreigners come peering into their town?  How is their culture being affected by tourism, and are they actually the money, or does it go to the tour agencies?  It raised some important questions about ethical tourism.  Of course anyone would be curious to see a lifestyle so different from their own, but how to approach the sightseeing in a respectful way?  

Other things we've been up to: seeing a documentary on the Cambodian genocide, going to the Angkor Photography Festival, renting bicycles, going to the market, relaxing by the pool.  This morning a couple of us went to a cooking class where me made local dishes.  The best one was a pineapple-coconut curry soup.  

Some of our itinerary may be up in the air at the moment.  First,we heard about the coup in Thailand.  With all the unrest, that seems like a long time coming.  We're scheduled for an enrichment week there in about a month; it may be sorted out by then, but otherwise we may not be able to enter the country.  Furthermore, there's this whole mess in India right now.  It's in Mumbai, which is nowhere near where we'll be, but it's still being played out, so we'll see.  

Off to Phnom Penh tomorrow for a couple days at the killing fields memorials.  

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