I’m embarrassed… I wasn’t able to access the Internet everyday on my trip to the US for the funeral of my sister Ann, but I was taking photos so I could give a summary when I returned. Well….I’ve returned but I’ve lost the photos! I downloaded them from the camera but I don’t know where I put them on my laptop! I’ll find them… Hang on!

On the road…

Greetings… I am on my way to the Phnom Penh airport to head to Louisville, Kentucky for the funeral of my sister Ann Dittmeier who died yesterday. I fly through Seoul, San Francisco, and Houston before getting to Kentucky–about a 35-hour trip. I won’t be able to update the website here until I arrive in Louisville.

Trip to Kampong Cham #5

Our third and last stop this trip was in Tbong Khmum Province, a good drive from Kampong Cham city. We had another delightful group of young deaf people to work with.
Deaf people seldom get to tell their story or talk about themselves in Cambodia. They cannot speak to their families because the families don’t know sign language–and the deaf people here are themselves just learning sign language. When we get together like this, we have some topic to talk about so that everyone can speak up.
Deaf people around the world are isolated, left out of the flow of ordinary life, and so even a simple gathering like these visits is interesting and engaging.
A group photo with the Tbong Khmum deaf people and the DDP staff from Kampong Cham.
Parents, grandparents, neighbors, and passersby were on the sidelines of our gathering and we included them in another photo. We want them to feel their deaf children are part of the family and are valuable and to be respected.
This young deaf woman has a hair and beauty salon where we had our meeting, and one of our Kampong Cham staff got her hair trimmed before we left.

Trip to Kampong Cham #4

Our day started with breakfast of pork and rice in this little streetside rice shop. Notice almost all cooking in Cambodia is done on charcoal braziers.

Here I am catching up with our host, a deaf man I have not seen for a long time.
Our DDP staff preparing some pictures of vegetables to be used for teaching new sign language.
Getting into the sign language lesson. These deaf people in the rural area have just been learning Cambodian Sign Language for a month or two.
Our classroom–a tarp we brought for sitting under a shelter attached to a stilt house.
After the sign language class, as we prepare to leave. The photocopies are to help the deaf people remember the signs they learned today.
A group shot of the deaf youth, our DDP staff, the deaf youth’s parents, and a few neighbors who wandered in to see what was going on.
Then it was time for a snack of a variety of fruits.

Trip to Kampong Cham #3

It took us about three hours to drive from Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham. When we arrived at the DDP office there, we had a short meeting. Sorphany (L) is interpreting for one of the deaf staff (R).
Then we traveled about a half hour outside of Kampong Cham to a village where thirteen young deaf people had gathered. They come together once a month for education and socialization, a chance to be with other deaf people and communicate. We met under a Khmer house which is in practice the main “room” for a Cambodian dwelling.
I talked with the deaf young people to encourage them to continue to meet and build up the deaf community–one of the goals of DDP–and then the DDP staff had a teaching session with them.
Back in Kampong Cham city, Soknym, our DDP director, and I had dinner by the night market along the Mekong River.
Then Soknym and I walked along the river toward the bridge. When I first started going to Kampong Cham there was no bridge and we would take a ferry to cross the Mekong.

Trip to Kampong Cham #2

I just got back from Kampong Cham and Tbong Khmum a little while ago and it’s late now so I will just show one picture from our first gathering yesterday and start a fuller post tomorrow.

Our first gathering was with thirteen young deaf adults a half hour’s drive from Kampong Cham city. It was delightful to be with them again.

Trip to Kampong Cham #1

Today Sau Soknym and took a van to Kampong Cham to some districts where DDP has set up local deaf groups with funding from the United Nations Development Program. It was quite interesting and I’ll put more about it here in the next day or so.

One interesting feature for me was the Virak Buntham bus company we used. I had never encountered them but they are the best I’ve seen, going everywhere in Cambodia and with really good vehicles and professional staff. I wish I had found them years ago! Here are two of their vans at our first rest stop.

Retreat: Saturday

Saturday was a departure day. We had mass at 6:30 AM and then breakfast and then almost everyone was on the road by 8:00 AM, heading back to their parishes throughout Cambodia.

Looking downhill toward the sea–which isn’t visible anymore because of development that has taken place.
Looking sideways across the hillside. Just four or five years ago, there was nothing taller than the red tile roofs of the retreat center buildings in the foreground.
St. Michael’s Church at the center is a distinctive building, designed by Cambodia’s foremost architect. It is noteworthy as one of two churches left standing by the Khmer Rouge in their four years of terror. They used the church as a barracks for their troops.
Bishop Olivier was genuinely pleased to offer a gift of a wooden statue of Mary, carved by Cambodian craftsmen, to Archbishop Julian Leow who gave us a wonderful retreat.

Retreat: Thursday

This meeting room is so nice now compared to what it used to be. As you can see it is open on both sides and there usually is a breeze blowing across the room so it is fine without air conditioning.
Today Archbishop Julian continued his theme of relationships, talking about our relationships with society.
The food service students from the Don Bosco Vocational School are really busy all day. They will be glad when this week is finished and they can return to a more normal school day back in Phnom Penh.
The Catholic center is up high on a hillside, overlooking the sea. In past years the sea could actually be seen but now the view is obstructed by new construction.
From a far corner of the church property the port of Sihanoukville can still be glimpsed through the trees.

Retreat: Wednesday

At our services in the church, the guys have the option of sitting on the floor–as many of them do in their parish churches where they have no chairs–or sitting in chairs.
We do a bit of walking each day. These men are walking from the meeting hall a good distance away back to the residence buildings.
These young women come from the Don Bosco Vocational Training School where I have mass every Monday morning. The school offers commercial courses in food and beverage services. These girls are students cooking for the priests retreat to get real work experience.
There are 62 priests attending this retreat so the students prepare a lot of food.
The center hires some local people to wash dishes for the week. No stainless steel sinks in a sparkling kitchen for washing dishes here!