Dated on May 31st, 2005, from Phnom Penh

/ Cool Wind Before the Shower /

       I have come back to Cambodia. "The last journey with terminal cancer," the Mainichi newspaper reported. But I sense that I have been gradually freed from the high dosage of anticancer drug. We are in the rainy season here and it is very pleasant to feel a cool wind before the shower comes. I believe this is the country where once you come, drink local water and feel the wind, you will want to come back again. Why don't you come to Cambodia some time?
       This time I borrowed one of the two wheelchairs donated by the Noda branch. It is very helpful for me to move around as I have been exhausted from medical treatments. Later on, one of these wheel chairs was given to a boy in Sala Damnak elementary school in Campot and the other to a literacy class student in Batheay village. Both suffer from Polio and I am sure the chairs will help them a lot. Thank you very much Noda for the donations!

/ Shower, Blackout, Holidays! /

       The rainy season has set in. There is a bright blue sky decorated with snow-white clouds in the daytime. In the evening, a gust of wind blows and covers the town with dust. And then dark clouds bring rain and big raindrops beat the ground. This is the typical weather pattern in this season. But something is wrong this year. There is a shortage of rain reported everywhere. It is customary for the Power Plant to cut off the electricity supply for safety as soon as they see dark clouds over-head, whether it is going to rain or not. As long as it rains, we do not mind if the power is down. But if we are not favored with a rainfall, we are to be steamed in humidity!
       I came here and soon found that there were a series of holidays. And a substitute holiday after holidays! When do people work here? Most of our local staff members double as students and I guess their studies for the mid-term examination went easier.

/ Morning Scenes in Phnom Penh /

       You can have food such as Kuteav (noodles), Kokor (beef sinew stew), Boubor (rice gruel) for breakfast at many places in town. The town has developed at a fast pace. We still see unruly drivers sometimes but since median strips were set up on main streets, no driver drives in a wrong lane anymore.
       Early one morning, I got on a mortorbike-taxi and rode a long distance to have my favorite Numpangdaksach (sandwich of French bread). On the way, I was surprised to see so many traffic signals and gentrified streets. Another new scene was middle-aged women chatting and eating at breakfast tables in a diner. They seemed to be on their way back from a sports club.
       Most of the pedicabs (cyclo) used to have shabby sunshades made of ragged cement bags. But these days, sunshades are all neat and clean. Kut-Kuts(Thai cyclos) which were once widely used in Thailand but are not so popular now have shown up here.
       There was a stall on a quiet street which supplied freshly fried bread. I found the shop still at the same place and it was doing the same thing except now a wrinkled plastic bag covered the loaves of bread. I wondered whether those ugly bags helped but I guess they are at least concerned about hygiene.

/ Capability of the New Government /

       It took a whole year to organize the New Government after the General Election. It eventually began to function in July last year. Hassle over the ministerial positions ceased after increasing the number of ministers and high ranking office positions. The number of positions for Vice Ministers has doubled or tripled making a total of seven or eight, and in fact they function less efficiently. People say that now the red tape takes more than twice the time.
       The preparation for the opening ceremony of Kampot Krong junior high school started a few months ago. Nevertheless the event was postponed the day before the opening was scheduled. I suppose this incident has something to do with the expanded government. Fortunately, there were no tour groups from Japan visiting the ceremony, and I was in Cambodia. Finally the ceremony was carried out without any trouble.
       For our part, we will be satisfied as long as the school opens and students and teachers are happy. But local people seem to have a different concern. It seems that they really want to have distinguished people from the government attend the event by using their political influence in order to dignify the event. This time the scale of the school was rather big with two buildings and twenty classrooms. So people in the village tried so hard to have Prime Minister Hun Sen attend. They prepared an invitation with ostentatious signs and seals of eight people. But they could not manage to have the Prime Minister after all, maybe because there was no date for the ceremony mentioned in the letter. Instead, they received a note that Vice Minister Sok An was coming. But the date was still undecided at that point.
       A school opening ceremony was finally realized after a bustle over deciding on the date, program, and the means of transportation. As it turned out, the event had 7,000 participants( ten thousand people in total with guards and traffic controllers included) and amazingly, it went on in a smooth and solemn manner. Minister Sok An prepared a helicopter for myself, as a consideration for my health. From the helicopter, I looked down on the spreading thirsty ground, and felt so sad, when I should have been happy about the school opening. However just as our helicopter landed, there was unexpected welcome rain. My superstitious power, as I am known as the Woman who brings rain, was still alive!

/ Send Encouragement to our Young Staff /

       Boramy, a former manager, who built the foundation of ASAC, is now active as a representative of another local NGO. His job was such that he was invited to the Cambodia's Donor Country Conference as one of the NGO representatives. Let's cheer for our young staff so that they study hard and are able to contribute to the reconstruction of their country someday, in Boramy's footsteps.

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