Land Seizure, Art, and the Circus

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On Friday the flowers we so much fun! I wasn’t expecting so many kids to come in that day because they were still taking exams, but after 10AM nineteen kids showed up! That hit a new record. It was a hectic, crazy, fun morning with them. Three girls also made me little origami gift boxes to take home! The told the library assistant to make sure she tells me not to forget them when I return to America. How could I ever?!?

Later in the day we had a lecture on the land displacement in Cambodia. Because the Khmer Rouge wanted to create a completely equal society they destroyed everything- homes, money, social status and families and began life again at Year Zero, when no one had anything. During this regime, everyone lost their documents to owning land if they were lucky enough to have one to begin with. After the Khmer Rouge though, people started to go back to their homes but ownership of the land was tricky. You could “possess” land for free, but needed to pay for documents to completely own it. So anyone could “possess” land, but that means anyone could steal your land and claim possession too. It’s a complication situation, but the effects on the people of Cambodia today are that few, if any, people have documentation of land. So the government will sell their land to big businesses without any consent of the people and will bulldoze their homes down on the spot, relocating them to places in the middle of nowhere, with no farming land or opportunity for jobs. Professor Hansen believes that this is the number one societal problem in Cambodia, and after realizing how devastating it is to the people and economy I finally understand why. We ended the discussion with a video of a land seizure and it completely broke me. We’ve been learning about so many problems in Cambodia, its history, trafficking and current societal problems, but seeing homes being torn down as the families watched was something that could not have been explained to me. The pain and suffering thousands of families have gone through at the hands of the corrupt government is absolutely repulsive. But as wrong as it is, there is little anyone can do. After that video I felt hopeless. Our speaker has been harassed, beaten and has had his life threatened trying to change the current status of land seizures. Very little can be done except families taking the government to court, but because no one has documentation of owning the land they are sent away with nothing. It was definitely a lot to take in.

After the discussion, Sara, Taewee, and I went to visit Morgan in the hospital. She’d been in and out the past four days with a fever and flu like symptoms. I brought all the magazines that had weighed down my suitcase and nail polish and Sara and Taewee brought face masks and chocolate. Although we didn’t do much besides read and catch Morgan up on how the rest of the trip was it was really nice to see her! After our powwow at the hospital the three of us met the rest of the group at Ivy’s Guesthouse to enjoy another Friday of the $1 tapas!

Yesterday we had the morning off so I went to the market to find a few more gifts for friends and family with Sierra. I’m getting pretty proud of my bargaining skills! 🙂 Later in the day we had an arts empowerment workshop with Oun Savann, a local artist who gives children the opportunity to express their creativity while also giving the art a purpose. During this workshop I was paired with two Cambodian girls who were about ten and twelve. The purpose of the art was to paint endangered birds in Cambodia to raise awareness of the foundations trying to save them. We were assigned the Saurus Crane or “Kriel” in Khmer. It was a blast!!

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Just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better, we were off to the circus! It was incredible! It was a group of nine men who were gymnasts, dancers, and had other various talents like fire juggling, unicycling and other crazy things that normal people’s mothers won’t let them do. They formed all their acts around a skit on how they were performing to be in the circus. When they needed a volunteer, Lee How (Sarin’s son, and women who runs an NGO we work for) was called to the stage. He was adorable! I think he’s only five and the clown kept trying to teach him a magic trick. It’s hard to put the performance into words, but I can guarantee there was never a dull moment! If you’d like to see some of their acts check out their website at http://www.pharecambodiancircus.org/circus/ 🙂 The night of popcorn and thrills ended quietly on Facebook just catching up with friends. This weekend has been my favorite so far!

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