Hello, from warm Phnon Penh, Cambodia!

Upon arriving last night, we (Jessie Koenig, Anqing 2007-08 and I) found that our reservations at a cheap hotel had not been honored. Sometimes rejection works for the better. The hotel had sounded good in the guide book but it in reality it was a dump. So we found a nicer place for $5/night each. This hotel even had A/C and cable TV with shows in English (BBC, ESPN, etc.). That’s great for me because I haven’t seen this much English TV since leaving Tulsa in August.

So far, it has been terrific being in Cambodia. The weather is warm without being Bangkok-hot! Some of you may have been to Bangkok and know that the temperature is either hot in the cool months or hot hot hot in the summer. I expected the same situation in Cambodia but so far it is warm but bearable. Certainly the temperature is a nice break from the below-freezing-and-snow weather of Anqing.

Today we roamed around Phnon Penh--a rather funky city. I think of Phnon Penh as a smaller version of Bangkok (minus excessive heat!): There are plenty of Buddhist temples and monks, very friendly people, slight chaos, and great food. Did I mention the friendly people?

Interesting things about Cambodia: There are essentially two currencies here: The Cambodian Riel (4000 R to 1 U.S. $) and the U.S. dollar. Yes, ATMs spit out American money! Dollars are commonly used by everyone!

The highlight of today for me, historically speaking, was the Toul Sleng Museum. This is the high school that Pol Pot converted in to a torture facility during the communist Khmer Rouge control of Cambodia during the 1970s. I have visited Dachau, the former German concentration camp outside of Munich and this Phnon Penh facility can rightfully take a place among the worlds' monuments dedicated to the senseless cruelty of which we humans are capable. Tomorrow we go to the "Killing Fields" for more proof that mankind has the capacity of truly ridiculous and heinous behavior when we lose our way in life and follow lies and darkness. (Watch the movie "Killing Fields" for more Hollywood info). As a history teacher, standing in the torture cells made me think of the strong connections that the atrocities around the world have had: that people can and have and still do blindly follow the commands and wishes of people who are so misguided.

After visiting the museum, we roamed to various parts of Phnon Penh taking in sights, tastes, and sounds of an interesting country.

The plan right now is to bus to Angkor Wat on Thursday for a three-day adventure at the largest religious site in world history. We hope to then take a boat down the Stung Sanker River to Battambang. There, we could spend the night, look around, and then return to Phnon Penh. Finally, I think we will take the $12 bus to Ho Chi Minh City on January 30.

This part of my “China Trip” with the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations gets me excited to once again teach history in class. Although the NCUSCR is China oriented, I am grateful and thankful for the opportunity to visit this part of the world as well. I know this experience will make me a better teacher. Thomas Aquinas is to have said, "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." As small as my mind can sometimes be, in my mind I am reading a few more chapters of the world, and those chapters can only be read by being here. No movies or textbooks or lectures can give me better insight into the history and culture of Cambodia (and Vietnam).

U.S.-China Teachers Exchange Program

U.S.-China Teachers Exchange Program

Between 1996 and 2014, the U.S.-China Teachers Exchange Program, established with funding from the Freeman Foundation, sent American K-12 teachers to China and brought Chinese secondary school teachers to the United States. Since the program began, 116 American teachers taught in Chinese secondary schools, and 332 Chinese teachers taught in American elementary, middle, and high schools. The Chinese teachers typically spent a school year teaching Chinese language and culture or English as a second language in American schools across the country.

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