Wednesday, December 31, 2008

History and language

In between essay writing for applications, I've been diving into the books about Cambodia. I read "A Short History of Cambodia" by John Tully, which was a well written and, at times, playful overview of Cambodia's history. The current Kiva fellow at CREDIT, Teresa, told me through a Skype phone call that it's important to try to find sources on the history and culture of Cambodia post-Khmer Rouge. Although in both Tully and Chandler's books that period comprises no more than a 20 page chapter, I'd venture to say that it's rather reflective of Cambodia's earlier years, in that real social change and reduction of corruption remain elusive, and the outlook for the short term is not so rosy.

The language has been fairly challenging. So far I've focused my efforts on basic pronunciation, memorizing the consonants and vowels, and just listening to the sounds of words. I took the audio from a couple videos on youtube and made my own mp3 tracks by cutting the useless bits. Then I wrote out the vowel and consonant symbols I memorized and taped them to the front of the exercise bike and looped over the set for about 45 minutes as I dripped sweat all over the papers.

I'm proud to announce that I got my first donation! Someone gave me $20, which means I'm almost there! Heh. I've got some other fundraising schemes including selling some of mom's unused purses and shoes on ebay, approaching local Rotary clubs, directly approaching dad's friends (who tend to have more money than friends who are my age...), and possibly a fundraising dinner. Be on the lookout, I might come for you next!

Other things on the horizon -- vaccinations, training, buying plane tickets, and lots and lots of studying, which I'll have to squeeze in between applications. That's ok, it keeps me excited!

Happy new year, if you celebrate arbitrary calendar events. I think I'll sleep this one out.... goodnight!

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Here's where I'll post actual expenses when they happen, and keep a log of what expenses I expect will arise. I'll also keep track of total donations and other funding.

1) Actual expenses:
* Plane ticket -- $1536
* Vaccinations -- $195
* Books -- $27
total: $1758

2) Expected expenses:
* (remaining) Vaccinations/anti-maliarials -- $200
* Visa -- $175
* Training costs -- $300
* Personal Items -- $50-100
* Research Materials -- $50
* Accomodations -- $1200
* Food -- $600
* Communication -- $400 (internet, etc)
* Personal travel/expenses -- $400 (I'll cover this myself!)
* Emergency Funds -- $1000 (for medical emergencies, etc. I won't use this, so not an expense)
total: $2675 (approx)
*doesn't include emergency funds or personal travel

3) Donations/Funding received:
Selling things on ebay -- $130
Donations -- $320
total: $450

4) Remaining deficit (1+2-3 = what I'll have to pay for myself):


A couple days ago, I got the official word that I'll be going to Cambodia! I was really excited since I had three choices (Samoa, Cambodia, or Azerbaijan), but was leaning heavily towards Cambodia. I like the idea of being in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country (plus, from my reading, it seemed to be a bit safer than the other two -- maybe or maybe not a cause and effect relationship, who knows). I guess that's my main reason for getting excited, but I'm also interested in SE Asia in general, and I'm interested to see how microfinance effects conditions there. As I mentioned on the homepage, I'm also pumped about tropical fruits. Heh.

I learned that I'll be working with an institution called CREDIT (Kiva page) when I'm there. They have a very long relationship (relatively speaking) with Kiva; they've been there from the start. I sent out a few emails to the Kiva fellow whose place I'll be taking in February, as well as some other key contacts. I'm really excited to learn more.

Maybe my assignment to Cambodia was at least in part due to the power of suggestion; I preemptively borrowed about 10 books from the library on Cambodia so I could start studying as soon as it was officially announced. I'm reading history, trying to figure out the language, and learning about the culture. I'm also studying a lot of microfinance literature that has been assigned to me by Kiva, plus some things I've stumbled upon by myself. It's a great feeling to be constantly engaged in some sort of study.

I'm searching for a tutor who can help me with pronunciation and some basic sentences. It's pretty hard! Khmer (the language of Cambodia) seems to have many consonant clusters in its words, sometimes up to 5 consonants per 1 vowel in a syllable. It's really great to have a reason to learn a language though. Anyways, back to various studies. Don't forget to subscribe with your RSS reader!