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Internship in Cambodia (Week 4)

Posted by Shannon Morton '17

January 10, 2017

Category: Student Blogs

Happy New Year!!

Unfortunately, this week was less eventful because I spent three days sick. I started feeling bad Sunday night, but I thought I was just dehydrated from climbing the temples all afternoon and I felt a bit better after napping. By Monday morning I still wasn’t feeling right though. I probably slept 40/48 hours on Monday and Tuesday. I think I had a fever, but that is hard to judge in 90º weather. I still have no idea what it was or what caused it. I ended up missing a city tour of Phnom Penh (for the second time) and decided to stay at the house for the weekend instead of trying to organize travel to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam with Diane. But, by Cambodia standards of being sick I think I got off very easy, and luckily there wasn’t too much going on at work that I missed. I managed to go in for half a day Wednesday and conducted my first interview with the CEO of MKK, which I think was a success. Then, I came home and napped more.

I think between the holidays, being sick, and it being my fourth week I have gotten a bit homesick. I want a salad more than anything, but I was told raw vegetables and cut fruit is likely to make me sick. Unfortunately, Tracy and Diane have both left me for other travels. There are 23 new people coming next week though, which will put the house at full capacity.

By the end of the week I had fully recovered and spent some time seeing the city. Between work and traveling on weekends I had yet to really explore my own backyard. 

I have been trying to get a picture that really captures what crossing an intersection is like. This was Friday on the way home from work and it took us about two minutes to get though. But, let me clarify, this is not Friday at 5 traffic, it was about 2pm, because I would never try to go anywhere at 5. The picture does a decent job, but still doesn’t show all the noises and smell of exhaust fumes.




 These are the traditional royal outfits. Interestingly, they look like just like one of the ten outfits worn by the bride and groom at a wedding one of the other volunteers was invited to.




It seemed customary to wash you arms and face before going up to one of the small temples.




Saturday we went to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. It was a beautiful day with a high of 81º; I think that is the coolest it has been. We were hoping to see all of the palace before it closed at 11 for lunch, but between a late start and them actually closing earlier than that (Cambodia time) we had to come back in the afternoon when it reopened at 2. In between we walked along the riverside, took a leisurely lunch, and sat in the only park I have seen in the city, which is right outside the palace. The palace was set up more like an estate with several small buildings. This one housed the Emerald Buddha and other figures with diamonds. Pictures weren’t allowed though.




 A mini replica of Angkor Wat




So apparently this used to be a statue of Napoleon, showing the influence of French occupation, but they cut off the head and replaced it with a Cambodian figure




 For New Years we went back to the Riverside- except, this time it took about an hour to get there instead of 15 minutes due to the traffic. Our tuk-tuk driver dropped us off about two miles away from where we were actually trying to go without us knowing. After about an hour of walking we decided to give up on meeting up with the other volunteer and went into a random bar … which just happened to be the FCC. This was actually on my to-do list anyway because the FCC was a hub for journalists during the Vietnam War and subsequent conflicts in the area. There are signs all over the walls explaining the history. It is actually a bit of a landmark now and still a hub for ex-pats living in the city.




 Watching the fireworks over the river from the rooftop of the FCC.As we were walking down the street, we saw a man take off running through the crowd. Apparently, he had stolen something from one of the old ladies that had a little vendor set-up on the sidewalk. There were really four reactions: everyone Cambodian started shouting at him, one group started chasing him down, another group jogged after to see that was going to happen, and finally, the foreigners were just a bit confused, per usual. The group chasing him down was quite sizeable though and when they caught him I don’t think it ended well. Further down the street, there was a large circle of people with camera phones out, but we decided to keep our distance. It was a very different reaction compared to the bag snatching that is common against foreigners.




The park in front of the palace was absolutely packed. Really the whole riverside was packed. I did not expect such a turnout because this is considered International New Year; the Cambodian New Year is in April. But, I guess any reason is a good enough reason to get together and have a celebration. There were plenty of food vendors selling crickets and snake on a stick.



 Some Interesting Things I Have Observed 


It is very common to see monks walking around, receiving offerings of food and giving blessings. But, I find it interesting to see them using modern technology. For example: using an iPad, or riding a motorbike. I have never approached a monk because I don’t know all the rules and customs. I do know that if I accidentally touch one (as a female), that is considered very bad and he will have to fast, so I generally just keep my distance.

There are only 69 intersections with traffic lights in Phnom Penh, if that gives you more of an idea of what my morning commute is like. They have a countdown next to the light for when it is going to turn green again. So, if there is a lot of time left, some people will turn off their motorbikes to save the gas. But, once there gets to be about 5-10 seconds left, everyone will start trying to go through the intersection early. And, of course, if there isn’t enough traffic to make it impossible to pass though the intersection the light will simply be ignored. Interestingly, Japan is working to install more lights, but these won’t have the timers from what I hear.




The US dollar can be used literally everywhere for purchases. For change, I usually get back USD, but anything less than $1 is in riel. So, for as much as they use the US dollar I have never seen any US coins. The exchange rate is 4,000 riel to $1, so it is easy to end up with a lot of paper worth practically nothing. For example, this is worth less than $4.




Somehow it became common to use old glass pepsi bottles for make-shift gas stations. The prices seem to be lower than normal pumps, but I don’t know how because where else would she get it?




A lot of the lotions are whitening, like instead of tanning.




Catawba senior Shannon Morton of Millington, Md. is a double major in Economics & Finance and Accounting.  An honors student, she is working on a thesis on microfinance and economic development with Dr. Eric Hake, professor of economics and chair of the Department of Business, serving as the chair for her thesis committee, along with Drs. Norris Feeney (professor of politics) and Buster Smith (professor of sociology). In the summer, Shannon mentioned to Dr. Hake that she wanted to pursue international travel associated with her honors thesis in order to do research.  She researched, found, and applied for a program entitled UBELONG on her own.  The Ketner School of Business and Honors program provided her with some financial support and her international experience in Cambodia began on December 4 and will continue through January 14.

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