Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Must See Flick: "Gran Torino"

This post was originally written on January 11, 2009.  I still love Gran Torino and still think it's worth watching.

I just saw one of the best films on the entire planet that is playing at this very point in time. Gran Torino is some of the best stuff to come out of Clint Eastwood. He is genius. His part is geniusly played.

I love this film on so many levels. It accurately reflects the state of the world as it is today: evil prevails when good people do nothing. However, the converse is also true: good prevails when good people do something (even if their intentions may appear selfish at first).

Not only that, but it depicts the role prejudice can play in a person's life when they have never known anything different and have never been challenged to walk in another person's shoes. Prejudice is something that is developed over time through ignorance and lack of willingness to understand someone who appears different from you.

Gran Torino also spectacularly demonstrates both the good and bad effects of cultural and generational differences. We can all learn a lesson how to be more generous in heart and accepting of that which may not appear as it seems.

To me, Gran Torino demonstrates how persistance and integrity should always be our aim in life. When it all boils down, it is the condition of our heart that matters and not the situation of our life.

This is a MUST SEE film. I recommend that it be part of high school social studies/history curriculum across the entire country. This is a life-changing movie, especially if you are headed in the wrong direction. It is never too late to make the right choice.

GO SEE Gran Torino NOW

To NGO or not to NGO?

Why start another NGO?

In Siem Reap there are more than 300 registered non-government organizations.  Let that sink in for a moment...more than 300 registered NGOs in Siem Reap Province alone!

However, I am certain there are hundreds more groups that are calling themselves NGOs or charities or non-profits or social enterprises, but have no idea what they are doing.

This is a problem.

Cambodia, a country of about 14-15 million people has probably more do-gooders than the rest of the world.  Why is this?

There are no black and white answers.  I see and hear a lot of people coming here charmed by Cambodia and deeply affected by the poverty they see, and don't know what else to do.

This is where Learning Services comes in!

The Learning Service - Improving Volunteer Travel Facebook page provides lots of thought provoking links to consider and re-consider what it means to volunteer and/or start an NGO.

There is also a book coming out.  Find out more about Learning Service at their website.

Here are a few more links to continue researching the whys and why nots.

When Volunteering Becomes Big Business on Al Jazeera

Lessons I Learned by Daniela Papi

Good Intentions are Not Enough website and blog - very informative!

The Trap of Saving Cambodia film trailer and information.

Orphanages not the solution a website aimed at informing and educating travelers about the realities of orphanage tourism

Many of these websites are jumping off points for further reading and information about the volunteer industry.

Despite the negative image that is often portrayed about volunteering and NGOs in Cambodia, there is still a lot of good and amazing things happening.

Why YOU Should Take a Gap Year

I've had a long absence from blogging, and this article, "Why Tina Fey Should Have Taken a Gap Year," from the Huffington Post caught my attention.

Unlike Tina Fey, I did this by becoming an exchange student after I graduated from high school just over 20 years ago. That year in Denmark changed my life.  The benefit was that even though I went without knowing a soul, I was still under supervision of the exchange program and my host family.

The key is finding a well-managed program or project that has the ability to respond to emergencies and the various emotional and physical challenges that can occur when you're away from your comfort zone.

My year in Denmark was a year full of highs and lows, but nonetheless, one that changed the focus of my life forever.  I have never been able to survive a normal work life in a cubicle or otherwise, hence the reason I have been living in Cambodia on and off since 2003.

It's vital for young people to leave their countries/hometowns for at least 3 months and experience a different way of life to confront their in-grown worldviews and see the world differently no matter where they come from.

Since that year in Denmark in 1992-93, my life has never been the same, and I like it like that!

I live outside the "bubble" and push the boundaries of my comfort zone.  I force myself to do this in order to confront the assumed beliefs and perspectives that I grew up with due to being born in the United States, and more specifically in a small town on the Central Coast of California.

My logic and world view is constantly being challenged, and I've learned to be OK with that.  Can you say the same?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Deported, disoriented, forgotten

I can remember when I was first living in Cambodia, I encountered my first "returnee" in a internet cafe. I could hear someone speaking Cambodian like I would (see this Khmenglish video for a laugh), but acting as if he should be understood better.

As I chatted with him, I was interested to hear about his own culture shock as he was ethnically Cambodia, but culturally American. I like to call these Cambodian-Americans "Khmericans". He grew up Cambodian in the US, but didn't fit in Cambodia. He could barely speak Khmer, and had a very hard time relating to relatives that never left the mother land.

One step further, can you imagine if you were deported for criminal behavior having never lived in your "home country," but suddenly waking up to find that you're on an 18-hour flight because the country you grew up in suddenly decides that it's politically correct to crack down on "illegals."

According to the Phnom Penh Post article of this same title:
...advocates in the US familiar with the issue of Cambodian deportations are quick to point to a shift in enforcement strategy on the part of the Obama administration as the cause. “I think it has to do with the [2012 presidential] campaign,” says Jacqueline Dan, staff attorney with the Asian Pacific American Legal Centre in Los Angeles.

Dan says that amidst escalating criticism from immigrant rights groups in the US regarding heightened deportations, the Obama Administration has expressly shifted its priorities to removing individuals with criminal records, as revealed in an ICE memo leaked last June. This move aimed to appease critics while at the same time positioning the administration to look tough on immigration enforcement, she explains.
This may not be popular to believe, but I doubt it's far from the truth.

The reality is, that organizations like RISC in Phnom Penh, need more support. They are doing as much as they can to respond to the increasing influx and return of Khmericans to Cambodia, but their budget is getting smaller while at the same time the number of returnees is getting larger.

No matter what your opinion is about the past crimes of these Khmericans resulting in their deportation, help is needed to reach out when they want to change their lives for the better.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

This is a letter written to a friend of mine from her mentor. I feel so inspired by it, that I want to share it with you.
I’m sitting on an airplane thinking about what the best performers and most successful people do to continually outperform everyone around them.

As we enter what I hope will be the single best year of your life yet, I’ve come up with 35 Tips that I invite you to concentrate on. Share these tips, reflect on then, post them where you can see them - and allow them to infuse your mindset:

  1. Remember that the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your thoughts.
  2. Keep the promises you make to others - and to yourself.
  3. The project that most scares you is the project you need to do first.
  4. Small daily improvements are the key to staggering long-term results.
  5. Stop being busy being busy. This New Year, clean out the distractions from your work+life and devote to a monomaniacal focus on the few things that matter.
  6. Read “The War of Art”.
  7. Watch “The Fighter”.
  8. In a world where technology is causing some of us to forget how to act human, become the politest person you know.
  9. Remember that all great ideas were first ridiculed.
  10. Remember that critics are dreamers gone scared.
  11. Be “Apple-Like” in your obsession with getting the details right.
  12. Take 60 minutes every weekend to craft a blueprint for the coming seven days. As Saul Bellow once said: “A plan relieves you of the torment of choice.”
  13. Release your need to be liked this New Year. You can’t be a visionary if you long to be liked.
  14. Disrupt or be disrupted.
  15. Hire a personal trainer to get you into the best shape of your life. Superstars focus on the value they receive versus the cost of the service.
  16. Give your teammates, customers and family one of the greatest gifts of all: the gift of your attention (and presence).
  17. Every morning ask yourself: “How may I best serve the most people?”
  18. Every night ask yourself: “What 5 good things happened to me this day?”
  19. Don’t waste your most valuable hours (the morning) doing low value work.
  20. Leave every project you touch at work better than you found it.
  21. Your job is not just to work. Your job is to leave a trail of leaders behind you.
  22. A job is not “just a job”. Every job is a gorgeous vehicle to express your gifts and talents - and to model exceptionalism for all around you.
  23. Fears unfaced become your limits.
  24. Get up at 5 am and take 60 minutes to prepare your mind, body, emotions and spirit to be remarkable during the hours that follow. Being a superstar is not the domain of the gifted but the prepared.
  25. Write love letters to your family.
  26. Smile at strangers.
  27. Drink more water.
  28. Keep a journal. Your life’s story is worth recording.
  29. Do more than you’re paid to do and do work that leaves your teammates breathless.
  30. Leave your ego at the door every morning.
  31. Set 5 daily goals every morning. These small wins will lead to nearly 2000 little victories by the end of the year.
  32. Say “please” and “thank you”.
  33. Remember the secret to happiness is doing work that matters and being an instrument of service.
  34. Don’t be the richest person in the graveyard. Health is wealth.
  35. Life’s short. The greatest risk is risk-less living. And settling for average.
I genuinely wish you the best year of your life.
I want this year to be better than last year. 2011 was ho-hum. I had some major life changes in the relationship categories, but it was also a time to let go of unecessary baggage that weighed me down. I am now freer to do and achieve what I desire.

Here goes to a bright and optimistic 2012!

By the way, I love even numbers.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Drying up and drying out

It has been nearly 2 weeks since the last flood waters covered downtown Siem Reap. All tourist areas are clear of water logged roads, though I can't say the same for some of the lakeside areas which are still facing high water levels.

As a result of all this drying out, several folks have been coming down with strange stomach bugs (me included). Who knows the exact cause, but considering how the water swept trash and sewage onto the roadways and into gardens, as it dries out we're being exposed to some rotten dust particles, and even potential water contamination.

I'm steering clear of fresh greens for awhile.

In the meantime, Bangkok is underwater and getting worse. Of course it gets all the international news attention, not silly old back woods Cambodia. But where you have higher population numbers and more developed industry, there is more death, destruction and high cost damage.

Maybe the canceled Cambodian boat races can take place in Thailand?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Post-flooding crisis response

There are so many amazing things happening in Cambodia right now!

I know that may seem strange to say considering that Cambodia has just been through some of the most severe flooding it's seen in nearly 50 years, wreaking incredible havoc across the country destroying homes, pagodas, schools and rice fields.

Most impressive are the efforts of a few of the local organizations who are teaming up with hotels and businesses to deliver much-needed food aid to communities severely affected by the recent flooding.

Here's a glimpse of just what's going on and how you can contribute to such worth endeavors. Your direct monetary donation or purchase of rice for them will go directly to the most needy.

Green Gecko Project with support from Hotel de la Paix, Heritage Suites, Golden Banana Resort, and Exotissimo. Just this weekend they delivered around 800 emergency food packs for needy villagers in Siem Reap communities, many of which have completely lost their homes.

Grace House Community Center with support from Raffles Grand Hotel has been providing emergency rice relief to many of its communities and others around.

MaD for Cambodia working in one of the poorest villages in Siem Reap province which is 50 kilometers from the nearest district town. They have been bringing emergency food packs in the $2o range, with top ups in the $12 range.

You can also read more on TravelFish about the situation and what is being done.

Learn why visiting an orphanage is

Another incredible thing to come out this week was the release of the Friends International website campaign against orphanage tourism.

They offer an excellent resource to be shared about why visiting an orphanage is NOT the way to volunteer.

The information is from Friends International who developed the ChildSafe program within Cambodia to protect the rights and safety of children. It gives very clear reasons why volunteering in an orphanage can do more harm than good, no matter what you think otherwise.

I am SO excited for this information and am trying to spread it far and wide. PLEASE SHARE!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Water, water everywhere

OK. So We're going through our 3rd flood in Siem Reap where the river has over flown its banks and spilled into the streets turning them into extended tributaries. From morning to afternoon, the river rose and spilled over so that you couldn't see its banks.

Lower Wat Bo Road and all its side streets are full of water. ACE has a muddy river rushing past its gates and even filled the ground floor of the school 2 weeks ago. The Wat Damnak area has been inundated since early September.

The Old Market and Pub Street area are covered in water, though businesses and restaurants manage to stay open. They're still suffering as many tourists opt to stay in their guesthouses and hotels rather than wade through the murky waters.

You would think this would attract some international attention, maybe even national attention. Unfortunately, not so much. It took nearly 2 weeks for local papers to even begin reporting about flooding. In the past week the death toll has risen from nearly 150 to just over 200 people. Apparently the Cambodian government is promising $500 USD to every family that has lost someone to drowning.

Thousands of hectares of rice fields have been flooded leaving a huge unknown gap in the futures of rice production for the year. At a time when rice heads should be maturing, they are being drowned on the stalk.

Despite all this, Cambodians just keep on keeping on. They just roll up their trousers, hop on a motorbike or bicycle and head on out to school, work, or just simply driving around town. Life goes on even with sewage infused water flowing in and amongst everything.

Saturday, June 04, 2011