Dated on October 17th, 2005, from Kashiwa

/ Long Awaited School Donation /

       I attended the school donation ceremony in Cambodia held in tune with the 50th anniversary of Funabashi Rotary Club. The club was founded in Funabashi 50 years ago. 50 years is just a little more than my age. The donation was finally realized with precious money made by many lecture tours of elementary schools and public halls in Japan by club members.
       I declared at the long awaited opening of Kampot Krong junior high school, that it would be my last journey to a school opening ceremony. But I joined another opening ceremony in the end, after being persuaded by many people. I met villagers and staff again for a short while. After the ceremony, people from the Rotary Club and I enjoyed lunch prepared by local people. Fermented salt marinated fish paste, together with buds and weed leaves (they are also flavoring leaves) are put on, what you would call, not beautiful plates. The food which had the most local taste was red rice. I have eaten village food for more than 10 years but this was the poorest food I had ever had. I worried that people from Funabashi, who were gourmets, may not be able to eat this food. They also looked tired after a long journey on bumpy roads.
       But there are always people who are very brave. One member tried it and said, "this is maybe good" and this made other people want to try some. It was not that the food was totally untasteful to the Japanese, as Japanese are acquainted with fermented food like Miso and salt marinated squid after all. But food is about the total sense coordination of sight, smell and taste. On the national road on our way home, Rotary members were eagerly eating boiled corn. They must have been hungry.
       Anyway, villagers were so happy. They waited for six years for their new school after they had been notified of the plan.


/ GPS /

       Nowadays we often find in e-mail sent from Cambodia how much it rains. The rainy season is coming soon. They get carried away with rain, and have festival after festival and holiday after holiday in September, October and November. So they only work a little during this time. In addition to that, there are many blackouts. I recorded the time of blackouts and found that electricity was off well over 20% of working hours. Adding the time of restoring everything and returning back to work, the amount of time we lose gives me headache. Surprisingly there were no blackouts during a short holiday including Saturday and Sunday. Now I have a feeling that they cut electricity services on purpose, considering the soaring oil prices.
       Still our staff goes off work, saying, "I have to go to school" or "I have to study for a test." I sometimes say, "Do you have your work finished?" Workers in Japanese companies would stay until they finish their work! But they just say "I was in the office as long as I was supposed to be." or "We work regardless of working hours when we have visitors on tour." What a spirit they have!
       A new technology surge is taking place in Cambodia. The most advanced technology is on the same level as Japan. Slim-type TV sets and mobile phones with the internet are becoming old hat. Now is the time of GPS. I hear that a GPS network plan, based on aerial photos, is underway with technical assistance from Japan, a $1 million subsidy from the World Bank and a $334,000 donation from Germany, and 11 provinces have already been mapped. We had difficulty finding maps which showed the location of schools we visited. And now we have navigation by GPS? It sill doesn't sound true. But one staff member, Socker is in high spirits and says "Which map do you want? I will get it for you."

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