Monday, January 7, 2008

Siem Reap in Season

Boy is itcrowded!

I’ve been here many times but I’ve always arrived in the fall, before the real tourista season starts. I’ve never been here in the height of the ‘season’. Tourists everywhere.

First of all, if you remember my blogs from my last trip it was hot hot hot in September: 80 degrees and about 90% humidity. Well, it’s a whole bunch nicer here now. I got off the plane in Phnom Penh (PP) and it was in the mid 70s. The humidity was still high, about 60%, but it didn’t hit you like a stone wall.

This will be a very busy week. The Museum gets its ‘official’ certification on Thursday, and we are expecting 100 guests. VIPs in attendance will include the Secretary General of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority, Mr. Sam Sotha. This is quite an honor. Mr. Sam Sotha is the author of remarkable book detailing his family’s experiences during the terrible reign of the Khmer Rouge. In the Shade of A Quiet Killing Place is a book that will give you true insight into the horrors the people of Cambodia endured during this terrible time in their recent past. Find it and read it.

We have a big contingent of Americans and Canadians here also for the ceremonies this week. Project Enlighten is well represented, as is the Cambodia Landmine Museum Relief Fund. I’m here representing our group.

My main mission during this trip, as you all know, is getting Cambodian Self Help Demining registered and Aki Ra certified as a Cambodian deminer so he can get back to his passion: making his country safe for his people.

The folks at the Museum have made a lot of improvements since I was here in September. They’ve upgraded the solar system, added a 7,000-liter water tank, planted a garden, finished the fencing around the area, and you should see the uniforms. They are outstanding. Aki Ra and Richard got all the defused landmines inspected by CMAA, and encased in plexiglass so no one can pilfer or touch them. And the Cambodian and Canadian flag are flying out front big as can be.

I’m staying at the Ta Prohm hotel again. It is a wonderful place, right on the river; next to the market and a short walk into the middle of downtown. It is nicer than most of the hotels I’ve stayed at as a tour guide and the staff knew me by name when I showed up. That was very nice.

You may not know that Aki Ra and Hourt are expecting their third child, a baby boy, on the 25th of January. Hourt is a tiny young lady and is as excited as can be, and every time you ask Aki Ra about the baby he gets a big grin on his face.

There are 20 kids at the Museum right now. And most are not victims of landmines. That is a wonderful testament to the work that is being done in the country. But don’t think that the work is over. There are still millions of mines left, and because of that farmers can’t plant fields. So the move to the overcrowded cities and the cycle of poverty is perpetuated. Not until these horrible tools of terror are eradicated can the people of Cambodia truly enjoy the freedom they so want.

That’s what we’re trying to help do…with your help.

Well, enough for now.

More as it develops.

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