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Cambodia Trip Report, Part 6

Dec 19, 2017

On November 17, 2017, the day after Setra’s engagement ceremony, we loaded up the car and drove about 2 hours to the middle of a rice paddy region to give poor school children some uniforms, books, folders, and even a snack package. The little community stood at a dirt crossroad, and the school consisted mostly of children whose parents had abandoned them to find work in Thailand. The local policeman was taking care of them to make sure they got to school each day.

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We drove past the school, which had been recently abandoned. I took this photo from the front of the new building.

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The new school had been built by a Japanese charitable organization. The students lined up with considerable excitement to receive their materials.

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We unloaded the back of the care and began to distribute the materials. The first thing that D did was to pick out those students whose uniforms were yellowed with age—and those who did not have uniforms at all. We did not have enough uniforms for everyone, but she made sure that these, at least, received nice white shirts and dark blue pants or dresses.

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We did clean up the grounds after all the packages were opened.

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I then was given the privilege of giving gifts to the teachers themselves. This was important to D, because she has a Facebook page where she posts pictures to prove how the charitable donations are used. That way every donor knows that she really is using the money in the way that it was intended. And, of course, it never hurts to have a westerner in the picture for further credibility and to send a message to the government officials watching her.

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When we finished our work in Battambang and the surrounding areas, we checked out of the hotel and packed up the car. During our stay, we had noticed three large (giant) images in roundabouts in the town, where the Lord directed us to pray on behalf of the Cambodian people as a whole. The first represented a god of war on a horse.

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The second represented a god of oppression.

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The third represented men’s government.

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These three run parallel to the three giants (Nephilim) that we had encountered in America a few months ago. We finished this prayer work by late morning and then met with D’s parents, a friend of hers, and the driver, who rode in the second car. We drove all afternoon and evening, heading south. At first the highway was quite good (for a change), and we made good time. But I knew this was too good to last very long. Eventually, we turned off that highway and began traveling on back roads. We finally arrived at a small town in the middle of nowhere and found a guest house, where we spent the night.

The next morning, we ate breakfast at a local open air restaurant and then waited for our guide to arrive, who was to take us to another remote school where children needed school supplies. We finally got back on the road, but when we turned off the main highway, the road progressively got worse and worse.

It was a red clay road that was still wet from the recent rainy season that was just ending. The road ran through a forest, where loggers had illegally taken huge trees. They normally did this during the rainy season when no one was looking. Officials did not want to patrol such remote areas during the rainy season. So the loggers come, and their loaded trucks get bogged down on the roads, creating huge ruts and potholes the size of a small town.

Only 4-wheel drive cars could travel this road, although the locals drove their motorcycles.

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After about 2 hours of driving slowly from one mud hole through another, I thought I might have to send out an SOS to let people know that we were lost at sea and presumed drowned. But we finally turned off that road on to a side road for about a mile. That road ended at a river, where the local policeman demanded to know our business.

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The conversation was in Kmer, of course, so I did not understand any specifics, but he called headquarters from his phone to clear our passage.

Meanwhile, a dozen mini-Shirpas showed up to help carry the school supplies to the school.

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We did not have to cross that river, thankfully, but we had to walk carefully through wet clay down a ravine to cross a smaller tributary on the makeshift bridge and back up the other side along the river.

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On the other side, I was given a ride on the back of the little motorcycle, but I was too busy holding on for dear life to get a picture of it. Brad rode the cart that was pulled by the tractor engine. I’m not sure what to call it, but such vehicles are used widely in Cambodia. Here is a picture of the front end and steering mechanism.

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Here is a side picture of the carriage.

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About a mile down the path, we reached the elementary school.

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I got to the school before Brad and the others arrived, and I was met by a delegation of children to welcome me.

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When school is ready to be in session, they ring the school bell.

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I was brought into the school, where the teacher showed off his students by having a few of them go to the blackboard and read the Kmer alphabet for me. If I recall from what Setra told me later, they have 33 letters in their alphabet, plus another dozen vowels. They have 55 students. As you can see, the school is air conditioned.

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We unloaded the supplies and brought them into the school.

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Then we passed them out to everyone. D’s parents were there and helped also.

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Somehow, two other school principles heard about our mission and came to help. We gave them school supplies as well for their own schools, as much as they were able to carry.

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We then said goodbye and were transported to the house of this grateful school principle, where we climbed the ladder and had lunch on the floor of the living room.

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We finally got back to the main road and returned through the same potholes and ruts, which by this time were quite familiar. The return trip was less fearsome, however, because we now knew that we would not be swallowed up by an extra special pothole. And, of course, even on this back road, we passed the usual Communist Party signs that reminded the people of who was responsible for them and for the upkeep of their roads.

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Category: Trip Reports
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones