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.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Here's a few pictures for your viewing pleasure... enjoy :)

Check'n out a Buddhist Wat

Night time photo of a "stupa" next to RDI

Typical Cambodian housing
It's very common to see cows used for plowing, doing farming tasks, or in this case crossing the river (their heads were barely above the water in the middle of the river).
It's very dusty over here. There are very Few paved roads. It makes staying clean a problem; dust gets on everything!

I've also learned you can do almost anything with a motorcycle or scooter... haul hay, pull a cart for tourists, or let your whole
family ride with you (I've seen 5 people on a scooter several times). I've also seen a 15 passenger van with at least 15 people on it... not in it.

The bricks on the ground next to the window are used to block in the window while the pots are being fired. This is one of 5 brick kilns. They use wood as fuel.

Some of the clay pots after being pulled from the hydraulic mold
A large shot of part of the factory (there are clay pots on racks; they're drying and waiting to go in the kiln).

This is where I live. Those are shipping
containers in the left of the picture. To the right
and behind them are "stupas," or burial places.
It's hard to tell from the photo, but the stupas
sit behind a wall which belongs to a Wat next
This is a close up of my bungalow. I have my own bed and bathroom. It was a white container, but for some reason they put a woven covering over all of it. The rest of the bungalows have bare metal for an exterior.
I hope this gives you a quick visual of where I'm at. I'll try to post some more photos.
Thanks for keeping up with me!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lots going on at RDI

I constantly feel overwhelmed by all that is going on here. You can ask anyone here how it all happened and how it all came together and all they can say is... it just has!

There are students that rotate through on a regular basis from several universities. There are currently three people from a university in Canada, and one from Australia that are doing work on testing the capabilities of the water purifying clay pots. The two main filter systems that are being used in developing countries is the clay pot method and a sand filter. RDI is testing both systems. Both methods have been around for a few years but there is no research into what the filters can and can't take out of the water. For example, the initial research on both of the filters confirm that they remove water bacteria, but no one knows if they can remove heavy metals, pesticides, viruses, etc... RDI is the only company doing direct and on going research into these matters. As a result, there are several universities that are associated with and in cooperation with RDI, for example: Stanford, University of North Carolina, Buffalo State, etc... There are several more.

It's kind of exciting to know that you're on the field witnessing the cutting edge of science for developing countries for something as essential as water!

Other things that are going on here. Today, I took a tour of a studio that RDI has that records t.v. progams for kids. They put on a Cambodian version of Sesame Street using puppets that educate children on a myriad of things. For examble: they teach them how to brush their teeth, how to deal with bullies, how to have proper hygene, how to wash things properly. And they usually involve songs that are written and recorded on the premisis. Currently, there are people working on coloring books for kids. They take images from their programs and make coloring books.

Something interesting, the studio and the "bungalo" where I sleep were built from old shipping containers. It was cheaper to use them than build something from scratch. It's kind of neat, I'm sleeping inside of a retrofitted shipping container with my own bathroom and bunkbed. Also my "bungalo" or shipping container sits on top of another one... so I guess you could say I'm sleeping in a Cambodian high rise.

Monday, March 2, 2009

I'm starting to get a glimpse of how my time here is going to be.

Today, Monday, I went to a school and worked with four Cambodians and a couple of guys from Daytona Beach. We applied finishing touches of concrete to the insides of a water tank. We worked all morning, ate lunch, slept for an hour, and worked a few more hours. I think I could get used to taking a nap after lunch. It makes me wish America would follow this custom along with most of the world.

Food... would you like rice with that?

I eat rice three meals a day. Today's Menu:
Breakfast: Rice, small strips of pork, with a fried egg on top.
Lunch: Rice, with chicken, cabbage and carrot soup poured on top.
Dinner: Rice, with fish and spinach cooked with basil and some type of really, really spicy sauce.

I honestly don't mind it. It's starting to feel somewhat normal. The Cambodians don't think you've eaten until you've had rice. I will get to eat some western food on the weekends though, they go to the city on the weekends.

Thanks for reading. I'll try to continue to keep you updated.