Our last full day in Phnom Penh was a day mixed with equal amounts of both learning more about the program SSTS partners with that hosts us in Cambodia, and experiencing and supporting Cambodia’s culture through the Russian Market (AKA the blank Market). Following that we reflected upon the different tenants that SSTS offers us to learn, interacting in groups of two to discuss those topics in more detail.
While visiting one of CRDT’s locations, we were greeted by a man named Mr. Or Channy who took us back and told us more about their organization did and gave us the opportunity to ask more questions about them. He talked to us about what CRDT did, and their strategies in doing so. CRDT’s goal is to sustainably improve food security, incomes, and living standards of subsistence rural communities in support of environmental conservation throughout Cambodia. To be quite frank, their value of preserving the environment alongside supporting their locals surprised and impressed me. You would think that when the focus is eliminating poverty, you would do so as fast and as well as you could, focusing on what worked best for the locals. However, this method showed thought of the future and planning ahead to make a better Cambodia both now and in the future. Mr. Or Channy also told us about his personal stake in CRDT. He’d grown up in one of those impoverished villages and now spends time helping others who were like himself find and become something better. The village he grew up in was actually the first village that CRDT helped and impacted! It was quite interesting hearing from someone within the organization itself, and to be able to be given an almost private behind the scenes tour in a sense.
After leaving there, we went to eat then left for the Russian Market. The name comes from the many Russian (and other ethnicities from around there) people who would frequent this market area. The market was crowded and bustling and bursting with color and texture. There were vendors with patterned cloth clothes, figurines, little wooden puzzles, and even beautiful painting prints. The most shocking thing about the market was the ridiculous prices. A piece of artwork that would regularly cost at least 35 at its cheapest was 7 to 10 dollars. I almost felt guilty buying the art pieces and avoided haggling because I felt like I was ripping them off. I ended up buying five paintings that caught my eye, canvases that the vendors rolled up. Olivia and Scout had fun buying real looking rip-offs of popular brands like Gucci, for example, Kara and Esther bought fans, and Anne bought a really lovely skirt. Ellie followed my lead and bought a painting too.
We reluctantly left the Russian Market after an hour that passed far too fast, and dinner was fast approaching. The restaurant we went to looked innocuous at first, but by second glance we discovered there was far more than met the eye. We sat at a long table by a pool (yes, like a swimming pool), and there were quite a few excited comments after a glance through the menu. They served tarantulas and ants! The tarantulas were an appetizer and we didn’t order it, however, I ordered the ants which came in like a beef stir fry. I managed to get almost everyone at the table to try an ant, which I was quite proud of, and I finished the dish myself. Ants taste of nothing really, just like crispy bits of the sauce they’re dunked in. After an entertaining meal, we finally made our way back to the hotel to regroup.
It was at the hotel that everyone discovered the hefty overlap of all the camp songs we knew, and before long the whole group was belting out all the ones they knew! All girls from around the states sharing these simple experiences! We finished with a game of Concentration, a very loud and fast game that is quite easy to lose focus on, and we taught it to the 3 to 4 girls who hadn’t heard of it before that point. Disappointed to say I was out first, but everyone had fun as they finished up. And then, after long last, everyone finally retired to their rooms, ready to sleep and wake up early for the seven-hour bus ride the next morning.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]