Thursday, April 23, 2009

2 Month experience has come to pass.

Well, this is my last Post! Thanks for keeping in with me. It's Thursday, April 23, and I'll be flying out of Phnom Penh tonight headed for the states. I should be back sometime on Friday evening. Here's my flight schedule:

Phnom Penh (April 23, 11:55 PM) to Seoul (April 24, 7:10 AM)
Seoul (April 24, 4:30 PM) to Los Angeles (April 24, 11:30 AM)
-I Cross the International date line; wierd time change stuff. But I'll be back in the states!
L.A. to Denver
Denver to K.C.

I should be touching ground by 10 PM Friday night in Kansas City.

I have lots of photos to process from the last two months; I look forward to sharing my experience with you in person.

Thanks again!
Cory Rutledge

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kep (Kipe) & Rabbit Island on Easter

I got a break for Easter. Marc and Ann Hall were planning a trip to Kep (sounds like Kipe) and Rabbit Island for Easter. (Yeah, Rabbit Island on Easter... Ironic). The only problem is that another family going with them got a sick kid the morning before they left. Since there was an extra room booked the Halls asked if I wanted to go too, so I did along with a guy currently at RDI from Germany, Adrian. This was a nice get-away weekend and a unique way to celebrate Easter.

Our first day there, Adrian and I rented motorbikes and toured a couple of caves outside the Kep and Kampot areas. This Cave had a monument built inside it predating the Angkor temples of Siem Reap.
A kid from a local village took us on a tour through the caves.
Both of the caves had entrances and exits. This was an exit out of the cave with the temple.
Both of the caves are found within small mountains which oddly rise amongst rice fields.
One of the exits of one cave opened up to the top of the mountain. I had to rock climb15-20 ft through a hole in the ceiling of the cave to get to this view.
To get to Rabbit Island you have to take one of these small boats.
The Halls brought a small raft for their kids to play in... and I had to keep the sun off of me some how during our boat ride...

Some cute kids who live on the island.
We had an Easter egg hunt for Eli and Cali Hall.
The local kids weren't quite sure what we were doing with all the colorful plastic eggs, but everyone enjoys getting a little candy.
I met a guy from Unicef while on Rabbit Island; we were both treking the island and ended up doing it together. It took about 1 1/2 -2 hours to walk all the way around the island.

If you're thinking about making a trip to Rabbit Island the accomodations are very typical for a Cambodian, but maybe not a westerner.

Your room comes complete with one foam mattress on the floor, two pillows, a couple of sheets, and a bug net. Also you can see the ground through the cracks in your floor and sunlight through small holes in the side of your bungalow.

The beach was enjoyable, though, I got a lot of reading done. I lazly layed on the beach, listened to the waves, and swam in the ocean. Not a typical Easter.
This was our last night and the sunset was exceptionally colorful. Although just about any sunset is a good one when you're watching it from a hammock on the beach.
Now back to the grind. I have 9 days left in Cambodia and I still have plenty of work to finish!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Latest things

I have two and a half weeks left in Cambodia and it will be gone before I know it. So, I'm trying to make the most of my time here. I'm still working hard on a mural for RDI. It should be done soon, but I have no idea when. I had a really good birthday on Saturday. I lazyly spent the day in Phnom Penh, drank lots of fruit shakes to beat the heat, and got a massage (they're only $5-8 for an hour, I couldn't pass it up).

Next week is Kmai new year, because the Sampsons will be leaving soon to go back to the states for a month we started celebrating it early for the kids. Last night, lots of people from the village all went over to one of the larger houses to celebrate. I ate the best meal I've had since being in Cambodia. It was amazing, it's hard to describe what we had because we don't have anything like it back home. We had some kind of spicy cold salad (looked kind of like cole slaw) with strips of chicken mixed in it. Then we had rice noodles with some kind of cabbage like substance that was really really sweet. To top it off we had a pot of duck meat with spinach and hot peppers. And of course rice was served with all of this too.

I think I may start celebrating Kmai new year in the states:
After dinner everyone was handed a small bottle of talcum powder (some powders included menthol). And as you can guess the fun soon began. There was a white cloud hovering around us in the yard and every once in a while you'd catch the strong minty smell of menthol. We were told to hope and pray we don't get it in our eyes (which I did). It was a lot of fun and everyone joined in from the three year olds to the old men in the village. No one was exempt. You had to constantly watch your back; you never knew who would sneak behind you and smear powder across your face or dump it in your hair. This continued for about 15 minutes until everyone was out of powder... but the fun wasn't over.

Next came the water. Those small talcum powder bottles quickly became containers for water once you removed their tops. Anything that could hold water became a weapon (coke bottles with holes in the lid, cooking bowls, powder bottles, etc). The water fight lasted a long time. It's a wonder no one got hurt. There were clothes lines you had to dodge on one side of the yard and a slick concrete slab beneath the house.

Our games lasted about 45 min-hour. But this is just the beginning, next week is the big celebration. Almost every business closes down for the week and travel becomes nearly impossible. People will set up regular road blocks and have powder and water waiting for their victims. Usually they will ask for a bribe; you either pay or you'll be coated in powder and drenched with water. 4000 riel= one dollar. Marc Hall said he usually stocks up on 100 riel (.o25 cents) and gives them out if he doesn't want to get attacked; it doesn't take much. It's a lot of fun! I guess most of the road side markets capitalize on the celebration and sell 6-8 packs of talcum powder for a cheap price.

Recently, village children have begun waiting by the road with buckets of water to hit people passing by. No one in the villages owns cars, so they have no protection. Most ride bicycles or motorbikes and if several people need to get somewhere they usually ride on massive flat-bed carts pulled by a motorcycle (looks kind of like a hay ride). Yesterday, girls going home from the local garment factory were caught helpless by their young water wielding tormentors. But today the girls were ready for the onslaught with water balloons to fight back. The fun has just begun....
I need to finish my mural. I may work on it next week, but I have a feeling I may be a wet paste most of the time.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Me and my trusty steed, a single speed bicycle that gave me aches and pains for 3 1/2 days. But it was cheap, $1.50 a day, I guess I can't complain.

The Bayon, notice the famous faces on the top.

A walkway and one of the most photographed trees in Cambodia in the temple of Ta Prahm.

Their stone carvings were amazing!

I'm not sure what kind of stone this is but it looked like square sponges. Most of the outside temple walls were built with this stuff and some interior.

Another famous tree. You have no idea how big some of these trees and temples. Pictures don't do them justice.

One of my days exploring, and several monks at the Baphuon Temple.

Don't tease the monkeys they steal things. Some Russian guy had to trick that monkey into coming out of the tree to get his sunglasses back. The monkey wasn't too happy when the Russian took them from him. He enjoyed them in the tree for a good 15 minutes, looking through them, puting them on his face, chewing on them, etc...
And if you've ever wondered if monkey's like bananas... there's proof for ya.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Away for a While

Hey everyone,

Sorry I haven't updated this thing in a while. After Mickey's death a lot of people including myself went in to the city (Phnom Penh). I stayed there a few days and then took off to the city of Siem Reap for a week. Mickey was supposed to help lead a conference on arsenic testing in ground water in Siem Reap. There were a lot of people from the states who were here for the conference and they went ahead conducted the conference, so I went with them. I thought it would be a good time to give space to those who needed to grieve and almost no one stayed here. Wendi Sampson, the kids, and several others went to Thailand to get Mickey's body. They didn't get back to until Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday was a private funeral for the village of Kien Svay (where RDI is located). The village and RDI staff are like family to the Sampsons, so many people had to process this loss.

Today, Saturday, there was an open funeral at 5:30Pm. I unfortunately didn't know about this until this morning when I was leaving Siem Reap. I left just past noon and endured a 6 1/2 hour bus ride to Phnom Penh. I made arrived back just after the service was over; everyone was still giving their condolences. Plus in Kmer funerals they have a dinner; I made it back just after it had been served.

I was glad to be able to make it to the funeral and I had originally intended on making a trip to Siem Reap during my stay in Cambodia, except not for this reason. Just outside of Siem Reap is the world's largest ancient temple complex. It's most commonly referred to as the Angkor Wat temple complex, but the Angkor Wat is only one of 200+ temples which span several square miles. I'll try to post photos when I get the chance.

Please continue to remember the Sampson family, RDI, the village of Kien Svay, Cambodia, and all of South East Asia. All of which Mickey had a direct and lasting impact on. I'm unsure what will change when I get back to RDI. There is some art work that I had started I need to finish, but besides that I'm unsure what I'll be doing. I'll try to keep you better updated.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mickey Sampson

Mickey Sampson

I don't know where to begin... but, Mickey Sampson died last night. Please pray for Mickey's wife Wendi and their four kids, the two girls: Michael (16) and Madeline (14), the two boys: Isaiah and Zach (12).

About 1-2 months ago Mickey complained of chest pains and numbness in his hands. He had is heart checked out and went through a few scans. Everything seemed to check out and it was diagnosed as bacterial, he started to recover as a result of this treatment. After ending treatment, though, about a week ago the problems returned. His wife told him to go to the doctor, after an examination the doctor wasn't too worried but noticed some things they wanted checked out. He was referred to a hospital in Thailand, because hospitals in Cambodia aren't any good. This morning a man was supposed to meet Mickey at the guest house he was staying at and the man found Mickey's body. They think there might have been a possible ceisure, but they're not sure. Doctors are examining the body.

You would have had to know Mickey or have been to RDI to know the scope of what he did for Cambodia and for many other places in the world. I want to tell you about Mickey. The Sampsons have lived in Cambodia for 11 years. Resource Development International (RDI) was started by Mickey, who has a Ph.D. in Chemistry. Because of his knowledge and skill, RDI has been able to give clean drinking water to thousands of Cambodian families. But not only Cambodia, the scope of his influence is felt all over South East Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, etc...) Just over a week ago he was one of the key note speakers at a conference in Atlanta for the Center of Disease control on his work in Cambodia. And just last week he was working on the finishing touches for a portable, ceramic water filter factory with the intentions of sending it to Sudan to help the refugees of Darfur. These are just a few of the many accomplishments of Mickey. With only 11 years on the field, he was able to accomplish hundreds of milestones for the developing world on clean drinking water.

Mourning has begun on the RDI compound.Things won't be the same, but many things will go on. One of the things that Mickey did well was training the people. Because of his efforts, a lot of what RDI does can continue working as normal. The filter factory, the rope pumps, the rain water harvesting tanks, the water testing, etc... will continue to work because it was run by Cambodians. Marc and John are the other two permanent Americans invested in this facility. They will be able to carry on Mickey's work. The one area that is questionable is the lab. That was Mickey's baby and pet project. Monday was supposed to be the beginning of a conference on water led by Mickey. Several people were flying in from universities for the conference, like: Stanford, Dartmuth, University of Manchester (England), Univesity of Guelth (Candada), etc... The list goes on and on.

I don't know how this will affect my stay in Cambodia. I'll keep you informed as I learn more. Much of what RDI does was pioneered by and centered around Mickey's work.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Some things I've learned and come to understand while in Cambodia that need to be told:
For those that don't know anything about Cambodia; one of the worst parts of Cambodian history is the reign of the Kmer Rouge from 1975-1979. The Kmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, pushed for communism in Cambodia. Their goals for a Communist Cambodia would not be hindered by anything or anyone. Therefore, millions of people were murdered because of racial ethnicity, religious afilliation, or even job title because they were either seen as hurtful to the communist cause or in the way of forward progress. A rough estimate of those killed ranges from 1.5- 2 million. With approximately 8 million people in the country at that time, that would account for about 25% of the population beeing put to death.
The Photo to the Right was of people put to death in the Toul Slang Prison, which is now a museum to the Cambodian Genocide.

To save on ammunition other methods of killing individuals were used, such as: axes, knives, sharpened bamboo, etc... On many of the skulls, blunt force trauma to the head is evident by large gaping holes. There are many much, much worse than this.

People were burried in mass graves in fields. This is why the term "killing fields"was coined. Some were forced to dig their own grave. The pits in this photo were some of those mass graves. Many of the bodies here have been exhumed, but there are many that still remain underground.

Women and children were not spared. Anyone in the way of the Kmer Rouge was put to death. Many people were tricked into going to their death. They were told the government wanted to give them further education in the city, but when they arrived it was anything but that.

This tree was coined the killing tree. Infants heads were smashed against it before they were thrown into the grave with their mothers. This tree stands next to a grave of women and children. Most of the women were found naked.

What's disturbing and somewhat surprising is many of the bones and clothes which are found are simply left out in the open. Cambodians don't clean up any of their trash, so it should come to no surprise that their dead aren't cleaned up either.

Bones and bone shards can be found littering the ground everywhere. This one I found along one of the small trails between the grave pits. Rain has been a problem at unearthing some of the graves. A dike also had to be built in 2000, because annual floods also unearthed some graves.

People's clothes are still easily found sticking out of the ground. It's a little eerie because in you're head you want to think this happened a long time ago, but it was only 30 years ago. And the effects are still felt among the Kmer People.

Much of the blame is put on Pol Pot and the Kmer Rouge, which it should be. But, what many are reluctant to admit is that this attrocity is a direct result of Buddhism.
In Buddhism, if you're born into poverty or high status that's because of your Karma. So, many here feel that your status in life is deserved, and if you are in a place of authority it is your right and duty to rule those under you. I was recently told a story of a local man who stated that: "There is no eternal benefit for helping the poor. They've gotten what they deserve. Why should anyone help them? Suffering is good." Budda believed that suffering existed in the world because of want and desire. To need or want something is sinful and suffering is not only unavoidable but good for you.
I've heard many say, how could anyone do this to another human being? But, because of their world view it's completely justifiable. Those who were killing children simply believed they were killing off bad seed. In their logic: their parents were bad, therefore they must be bad.
It's very sad to realize the lack of hope. In Buddhism, if a poor man wants to improve his status it will take hundreds of lifetimes (re-birth and death) to even slightly improve his status. What's also disturbing is how the Western media portrays Buddhism. It's not glamorous and there is no mention of the despair and lack of hope.