Journey that never ends

Journey that never ends
Sapa trekking

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Racing Up Mekong To Trek in Vireak Chey National Park - A Memoir

This blog tells the memory of the experience I have organizing the Mekong Youth Camp and how it helps me appreciated lives, nature, the interconnection between People and Environment.

“Early Morning at the port of Mondul Yorn Ecotourism site” 
29 March 2018: The golden ray of sunrise gives so much hope and pleasant feelings to any onlooker to this spectacular view. The river is so calm and gentle, like it is just in a peaceful sleep and surrounded by a very beautiful feeling of calmness. The O’Tabok stream, the tributary off from the Sesan River offers one of the means to reach this ecotourism site. The water is rather shallow at the dry season and the machined boat could manoeuvres its ways around different rocky site. Nevertheless, the expertise and local knowledge of the driver provides you a comfort feeling that you will reach your destination. 

“Learn to live with Nature”
26 March 2018: The organiser of the camp arranged for the silicon-based bottle water – introduced by team of young Entrepreneur - who won the second place of the award from a mobile company. The Community in Mondul Yorn offers the bamboo-made cup for the entire stay during the camp. One cannot deny but see how both option could complement each other. The youth at the camp were really excited toward this offer and many of them use the bamboo cup during the event day and the bottle water during the trekking time. Both item brought back so many memories for the trip. When you sip the water from the bamboo cup, you can’t help but smile with the aura generate from the bamboo of Vireak Chey National Park and recall the bamboo forest you went through in your trekking route. When you pour water from the silicon based bottle, the key message and ChanChav shared with you at the evening of 28 March resurfaces. How our individual action and choices could contribute to protecting the environment. Can we be together and protect each other Bamboo cup and Silicon bottle? 

The participants are paired up during the camp and stay in the shared tent. During this period, they are sharing many things together, look out for each others, and take care of each others. The Mondul are quite spacious and clean and each corners hosted a pair of tents where four people camp. Female participants are generally place in home stay in group of 3-4 persons. 

"Camp Fire: Earth-Fire-People-Spirit-Protection"
Indigenous Brao who are the ethnic group of the Mondul celebrate their tradition dance and share with the regional youth participants the culture and dance. Dress in their traditional costumes, they dance in group of men and women and sing along the songs that describe about their resources and their lives. 

"Rice Cooked in Bamboo containers"
29 March 2018: At 6am in the morning, I woke up to jog in the village compound. I came across a group of women preparing the breakfast for us before trekking. It's 15Kg of Rice, cook in a row of bamboo containers and straight into the fire to get it well cooked. This is pretty much the indigenous way of preparing meal. Al very much replies on the resources they take out from the forest to prepare. Nothing involves chemical product or modern-day industrial products. I really appreciate how they live their lives, so simple and meaningful. 

"Breakfast in an extraordinary Way"
The Camp organisers and participants enjoy breakfast which comprised sticky rice in bamboo containers, dried fish, pickled radish and fried eggs. Simple but could give us enough strength to start the beautiful day ahead with the National Park. This type of communal meal is a symbolic way of our everyday meal. But today, it is out in the open space at the very 7am in the morning.

"Inside Vireak Chey National Park"
The local host - staff from Provincial department of Environment, unit of Community Protected Area, and Vireak Chey National Park Rangers, Mondul Yorn Committee Leaders lead the way of the trekking route. The rest of the youth participants are divided into four groups - each group with a team of local guide, camp organisers and park rangers. Along the way, they show the trekkers various types of tree, their benefits and use, the trace of wild animal, the route of the solders during the Indochina war in 1970s etc.
Here is an areas where we could see the golden leaves of the trees during the peak of the dry season in Cambodia. Trekkers arrive at the park during this season got a different view of the landscape as mostly the Green View is mixed with the golden colors of the forest and fallen leaves. 

Wild Mushroom grow from a fallen tree branches. By itself a very beautiful objects.
We could see and offer our appreciation and leave them the way they are. 

Look like a Reddish flower, colour is outstanding and catch my eyes.
This is neither a leave, nor a flower. it is the opened-half of the skin/trunk from what might be call a fruit of tree. The other half will complete as a fruit. Insides are some seeks and we could witness them when they are freshly fallen down. Its shape is like a sea-shell but once it rips, it falls open and present itself beautifully which catches the eyes of the trekkers. I was told by the local guide that we can clean this and boil it to serve as tea. I brought quite a few for my father - who enjoys the traditional herbal medicines.  

"I love the Environment and Nature and my whole work as a National Park Ranger is dedicate to protect the resources in the park."
This is the declaration that everyone of us heard when the ranger presents themselves. Recruited by Ministry and Environment and took the oath to serve their role, the ranger bravely leads the way during our trekking and never fails to stop and share with us his knowledge of what we just come across. Here, he presents to us the tree that is about 40 years old, the whole that wild animal such as squirrel make to hide itself during the day time and the trace from wild animal, such as tigers, left on the tree trunks. 

"Hug a tree"
Even both of them connect together through their extended arms - is not long enough to cover the body of this beautiful tree. In her life, this tree must have gone through a lot to grow to this tall and stand so brave and tall. we shall pay our respect to her for her courage and protect her to continue to shower so much lives who depends on the shade, the leave and the benefits it offers. Do not look to the left or right because we ourselves as individual could start and add the bit to the protection. 

One of the group of the youth trekkers - the green box contains first aid materials to help provide emergency support during any immediate needs. We spend three hours trekking through the park to arrive at the high points where we stops short for lunch/break and continue the returned journey back via the water-way.

A splash to cool us down: All participants return to the camp site via the O'Tabok stream after the 3 hours walk through the bomboo and rosewood area. 

"Forest Fire in the Middle of the District area"
29 March 2018: along the way from Taveng to Banlung, we drove through area where forest fire is visible. We did not see any attempt to put them out. There are different opinion as to whether this is human-being burn it intentionally or it is burnt becuase of the carelessness of the passerby. whatever is the reason, nature suffers due to the human action and one day, the price will be paid - at a rather expensive cost. 

Collective action, working together toward a common goal. No matter it is an animal, human being or any living being, the power of the collective action prevails any attempt to harm the many by the few. 

"Racing Up the Mekong for Humanity and Nature"
Yes, the space has been created; the awareness is arranged; the real lives experiences has been shared. The leadership training is conducted; Resources, network, support is available. The platform is there
You witness with how people can leave live in a simple and meaningful way. Depends on what value you place, there is always a way to make it possible. And if you want to make it possible, now is the chance to do it. Start from You, Now and Today. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

One Billion Rising 2018: Solidarity, Rise! Resist! Unity!

It was through a song i have heard too many a times that drawn me back to  recall its origin.  when it was composed, by the then a former colleague of mine, the song described the feeling a daughter had toward a mother who suffered regular violence from the husband; the experience of being taken out of the school to join the many women garment factory workers to earn income to support the family; the harsh working condition women workers faced (and continue to face these days) under poor working environment and vulnerable working condition and often abusive and violent; the many vicious cycle of violence that as woman growing up in this society, face on the daily basis. 

Song performed @ One Billion Rising 2018
by The Messenger Band. Video by author.

The artistic way that the song was performed, depicting the trauma as victim of violence push away and yet it pulls back upon them, haunting them from time to time - The Messenger Band revitalises that powerful memory once again. 

There were many more stories being re-told through role play, songs,  discussion, and questions and discussion among some 300 audience - many of whom are youth from universities and social workers -  of the event at Chenla Theatre. However, there is something I was hoping to get featured during the afternoon. I wanted to share it but by all means this reflection could reach few readers who bother to spare their time for the note.

We have more than enough means to know and hear firsthand experiences of the cause of violence, the consequence of it at individual, family, community and as society and the cost it takes to fix the hole in the victim head and heart throughout their lives.

The audience discussed how change needs to take place systematically, individually, collectively; how law and regulation needs to be passed to prevent alcohol consumption; how patriarchal system rooted in Cambodian society needed to be uproots and every woman be recognised as a human being; how the victim shall get access to counselling services and psycho-social support and network from friends, family, community…. The list could go on…

I am not arguing that those lists are not important, of course they are… but as a participant at this very event, I would like to see how we take the experiences back home and how we could put it into practices.

For change starts with one step, one action, one determination

If we truly believe in change that we hope to see, how do we then see ourselves in the context and as actor of change?

If we were to be in the position of the perpetrator who raped the disabled girl, would we took a different action knowing the end result that this criminal act cause such adverse impact on a person’s life…

Will a declaration by a man – perceived as good man and - which got too much attention and recognition - be the solution… maybe?

Will the government passing the law preventing alcohol (sell? Consumption?) be the solution to curb the root cause of violence… maybe?

Or is alcohol truly the root cause of violence happening in our society…? As the MC/moderators pushed back, there are other men who drink but don’t commit violence….  

And how will we suggest the many other laws, covenants, CEDAW, treaty that Cambodia has passed and been a signatory to could be truly enforced to seek justice for the victim, whether it is the woman, man or child victim of violence?

If we could take one moment, to put ourselves in the position of the victim, the mother, the father, the grandmother and societal members whose the story features their flaw and what they could have done… what action will we take to mend the wrong to be the right?

And that is the question that I hope the audience take home as a key ask, that their individual action is truly powerful to change the situation to be better, to contribute to eliminate violence against women, girls, children and any other person in society.

The One Billion Rising Performance featured at least four times during the afternoon,
each time with a few more dozen dancers joining it.
Photo by author - 11 February 2018