wrapping up Cambodia

My first two entries were short and diluted; perhaps a product of feeling overwhelmed or frustrated with my progress. These feelings have almost disappeared entirely, however, as I have become more accustomed to the culture of processes and communication in Cambodia. When volunteering and interviewing, it has been vital that I tread softly to adhere to the subtleties of Khmer culture, giving each individual his due respect and following all the correct channels of communication. It may take a longer to accomplish a task in this manner, but it ensures that everyone saves face and relationships are kept in tact.

In addition to my anthropologic findings, I have been lucky enough to further my research through observation, participation, and discussion. It has been a pleasure to interview a number of NGO staff and directors, and when I am not interviewing, many people have been happy to talk about what they see as the perfect NGO. This dialogue, while not part of my official research, has undoubtedly been the most elucidating part of my visit. Simply talking to other NGO workers about Cambodian politics and history, NGO organization theories, and the future of Cambodian civil society gives me a greater understanding of the reality of NGOs in developing countries.

I have been doing what I can to help the organization with which I am volunteering –sometimes I help to edit or write reports, sometimes I design a template for a newsletter, and sometimes I help a teacher during an English class. When there have been other volunteers in the classrooms, I have given a hand when needed. I feel if my net impact on the organization has been positive, I will have done my job. While this seems an easy goal, it’s not. Especially when a volunteer is in a new environment, an NGO must use its resources to orient the volunteer and provide a schedule. This takes time, and the volunteer must be quick to adjust in order to be helpful. I believe I have made a positive net impact.

While weekdays have been moderately busy, my weekends have provided some time for relaxation. Last weekend I travelled to the temples in the Siem Reap province, the weekend before I went to the fourth of July party at the United States Embassy, and three weekends ago I attended a wedding. With luck, my last weekend in Cambodia will be memorable, but will still allow time to prepare for my last few interviews – which are scheduled for the day of my departure.


  1. andrewsquires says:

    hey dude your research looks pretty cool. i actually talked to your parents about this blog and gave them the website so they can see it. sorry. maybe.