Tag Archives: Cambodia

Get Yer Hillbilly On Pep Talk

Sj’s Pep Talk Debut


An idea’s been brewing in my noggin for a bit.

Sj’s Pep Talks.

What the heck’s an Sj’s Pep Talk?

It’s me talking candidly on a topic I’ve chosen. Unscripted. Off-the-cuff, and from the heart.

Deep inside of me (and not always so DEEP inside : ) is a natural cheerleader. A natural encourager. A voice which loves to yell, “Go for it!”

Go for it! Go for your dream, whatever it is!

And I mean it; I really, really do.

Go for your dream. It’s time. NOW. : )

And so, after talking to two new friends–one in Hawaii and one in Cambodia–I realized it was time. It was time to launch this particular ship in my personal voyage.

My hubby kindly assisted me in getting started in a way that I can easily continue on my own, with a good work flow, a good system. Thanks Tones!

Without further ado, I bid you welcome to Sj’s first Pep Talk: Nice to Meet You!.

-Sj out : )

FLO Graduation 2013

Jumping for Joy

FLO Graduation 2013

We were literally jumping with joy to see each other again. : )

FLO, Future Light Orphanage is located outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In the early 1990s, after having lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for over ten years, Madame Phaly founded FLO. When telling her story, she wrote, “By the time I left Site 11, I was responsible for 91 children. Some were orphans, but others were children of parents who could not take care of them. They were the nucleus of what would become the Future Light Orphanage, and some are still with me today.”

Unfortunately, Madame Phaly died in November 2012. She is greatly missed, but her legacy lives on.

Two years ago I happily stumbled upon this wonderful organization and taught English language classes during the children’s summer break. The following year I felt the pull to return. And now, on my third visit to FLO, I realize that our lives are forever connected.

You can visit past posts from when I was teaching at FLO to learn more about that experience.

You can visit eGlobal Family and sign-up to be a e-foster parent.

You can form a connection with a place like none other.

FLO is a global family. A community born from one woman’s generous and courageous spirit. There’s room in her and everyone’s heart for YOU too.

Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat

From Wikipedia: “The name Siem Reap means the ‘Flat Defeat of Siam’ — today’s Thailand — and refers to the centuries-old conflict between the Siamese and Khmer peoples.”

And also from Wikipedia: “Angkor Wat lies 5.5 km north of the modern town of Siem Reap, and a short distance south and slightly east of the previous capital, which was centred (sic) at Baphuon. It is in an area of Cambodia where there is an important group of ancient structures. It is the southernmost of Angkor’s main sites.”
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be said about this area. I recommend that you visit Wikipedia (or go to the library) and discover more on your own; I think you’ll find it interesting and intriguing.
Meanwhile, the following are my selects from the many photos I shot. Yes, this represents my favs; I took a lot more pictures!
Enjoy . . .
Arriving via tuk tuk (after a 4+ hour ride in a minivan).
Sunrise at Angkor Wat.
Dogs are everywhere in SE Asia.
:  )
Angkor Wat complete with the possibility of a balloon ride.
Dragonflies at Banteay Kdei.
A remodel at Ta Prohm.
There are lots of trees growing out of the rock walls at Ta Prohm.
Ta Keo.
I was riding with my new gal pal friend, Laura, a chef in Australia.
Moi at Ta Keo.
One of four “gates” at Angkor Thom.

Within Angkor Thom is one of everyone’s favorite.
Bayon Temple.
With lots and lots . . .
of faces!  :  )
The mode of transportation the first and third day of touring Angkor Wat.

Four of us shared a tuk tuk to go far north of Siem Reap to visit . . .
Kbal Spean.
Needless to say, we didn’t swim!
Very, very old prayers are carved into the rocks. Like the wind carries the prayers (on prayer flags), the water carries these prayers (all the down the river to Angkor Wat).
That’s Shiva.
It was a 2 km walk in pleasant, drizzling rain to the above carvings.
The rain and warmth brought beautiful clouds on the horizon.
The tuk tuk sharing gang.
I thought they looked colorful; they smiled and waved back.
The second wat far north of Siem Reap that we visited via tuk tuk.
It’s unusual because of its reddish coloring.
It’s also the “women’s” temple.
Name is Banteay Srey, one of my favs.
We were enamored with these tiny frogs which we saw practically everywhere!
More of Banteay Srey.
Can’t remember the name of this one . . . sorry!
(though it might be Banteay Srey as well . . . it is reddish!)
We saw all kinds of things while riding in the tuk tuk.
Moi and my gal pal, Laura.
Tuk tuks weren’t the only way to see the temples.
Following behind the work crew.
Liked the orange . . .
Even if it just came from that guy’s shirt.
On my own I went to Preah Khan.
It too had trees that were “taking over.”
I just wandered all over . . .

And happened upon the “behind-the-scenes” area.
Back to work after a break.
I stopped for a lunch break.
This dog was so darn fascinating to look at.
He and the other guy were waiting . . . Yes, I  shared!
And then it was time to grab a tuk tuk for the ride back (after I had a flat tire!).
That night as I sat down in the hotel lobby to join fellow FLO teacher, Andrew, for dinner (he was in Siem Reap for his work), this movie just happened to come on. Remember fellow Kauaians?

And with that I bid you adieu from Siem Reap, Cambodia.


Phnom Penh photo highlights

Hi Everyone,
I never really told you much about Phnom Penh, and that’s not my intent now! Rather I’ve got a few shots from the time I spent there.
When I would go to Phnom Penh, it was mostly just to take a break from working at FLO, i.e. doing things like going out to dinner with my new friends (including other volunteers), hanging out in the groovy hotel room I found and getting some rest, and practical things like procuring supplies for teaching, and getting a visa for Vietnam.
There aren’t a lot of shots of the classic touristy attractions . . . I just wasn’t into those subjects on this trip. If you want to know more about the history, go to the library or wikipedia. : )
Kay den, here are the pixs:
This was from the first Saturday I was in Cambodia (end of July); it was a special day, and lots of people had gathered to pay their respects at the pagoda.

I enjoyed watching the “egg lady” as she crossed the busy street; when I was a kid, we used to have an “egg man” who delivered eggs to our house ! The tradition continues in Cambodia (and SE Asia, as far as I can tell).

The smaller building is the very same as the first picture on this page; recognize it?
It’s so fascinating how they use bamboo for scaffolding. (and very practical since there’s a lot of bamboo growing in Cambodia!)
The contrast between living abodes is quite extreme.
These kids were having so much fun waving at me!
You’ve seen this one before, but I just like it. I like how the lady in yellow was caught in her stride.
That’s the National Museum as seen from the balcony of “my” hotel room. Did I go to it? Nope, not even once.

That’s all on Phnom Penh folks!

Random tuk tuk day on video . . .

My last full day at FLO in picture form . . .

They’re bringing food . . . it’s a gift.
Some got a snack along the way.
These guys are buds!
I watched this building being built during my stay at FLO.
See the wat (pagoda) ?
Now in the complex . . .
That’s a lot of rice!
Then came clean up time . . . I didn’t take any photos during the ceremony.
Wanna help?
See the one about the big flood?
My turn next!
: )
Take our picture!
Now YOU!
No more rice . . . just kids!
Monks gotta do laundry too!
One more picture, Auntie???

My last full day at FLO . . .

On Wednesday, August 25, 2010 I posted the following (and more, this is an excerpt) on my glob: susansbackwardsglob.com:

What I came here to do . . .
written 8/24/2010
I came here
to be
to live
to learn
to grow
to expand
to have fun
to laugh
to play
to rest
to love.
And more and more I wrote.
So, before I left for this 5-month trip to SE Asia, I meditated and asked, “Where? How long? What do do?” And I listened. Yes, I listened to my Divine Soul, or my gut, or my intuition; plug in any word that feels best to you. And slowly, it came to me. The school. Some travel time and time to rest. Two months to volunteer somewhere. And the final month to travel, rest, and reflect on all that I knew would surely happen.
Okay, I had the basic framework, the outline, if you will. I trusted that the particulars would arise in their own time. And they did.
The very first day at school in Bangkok, a new friend told me of FLO (Future Light Orphanage) a little outside of Phnom Penh.
Another friend of a friend told me to be careful; do my research, that a lot of orphanages in Cambodia are a scam; are fake; they bring in kids for the hour or two when sympathetic westerners come to look and most surely give donations. After, the kids go home, and the crooked people pocket the money intended to help the unfortunate.
“Okay, be careful, Susan Jane,” I thought, “Be sure it’s a legitimate organization.”
And, I realized that it was best to stay at one place for the entire 2-month period. It’s better for the kids, the organization, everyone. So in the midst of the intensive program to earn my CELTA certificate, I glanced once again at FLO’s website; it seemed legit. Okay, it really was just a glance; I was busy and preoccupied. I was mostly trusting that it came from a real recommendation from someone whose son had volunteered and BEEN there. I contacted the school; we had a dialogue back and forth; I told them I didn’t have a police record to send but that I could ask friends to be references. They willingly obliged; nothing more came of it. : ) (I suppose just that you say that you have references was the point . . . ) I set the dates; we made an agreement. Okay, 8-weeks volunteer teaching at FLO . . . focusing on speaking and writing . . .
And that was that. I put it out of my mind, went back to focusing on CELTA, made it through those laborious 4-weeks, passed, and sigh, took a rest, and when the moment was right, looked at the FLO site again. This time I really looked at it; I went through page after page. That’s when I discovered the Hawaii connection.
“Of course,” I thought, “Of course.”
I really wasn’t surprised. Hadn’t I asked my Divine Soul (gut, intuition, higher self, God to those who feel more comfortable with the norm . . . ) to guide me? Hadn’t I listened to what felt right?
Yes, I had. So of course there’d be a connection to Hawaii at FLO.
That first night when I arrived, I was nervous. “Why am I so nervous?” I wondered to myself. But I was; I was nervous.
So to arrive and see *HVB’s placard with Kamehameha in the silk shop (where I first stayed), made me smile.
And then, to enter the canteen where I was dining alone and see an ALOHA sign, made me smile again.
Relax Susan Jane! Don’t you know that you’re well loved! Don’t you know that all is WELL.
“Yes,” I thought to myself, “I do know. Thank you.”
And as you know, the next 8-weeks were magical. The students at FLO are such smart, funny, lively, wonderful people.
So, here it was Friday the 16th of September, my last day at FLO, and what should happen? I was invited to join FLO students who don’t have **family as they traveled to the neighborhood pagoda (temple/wat) because of this very special 15-day holiday to honor ancestors.
I was absolutely surrounded by love. Yes, surrounded. In the form of precious, wonderful, charming, and caring human beings. One little boy took my hand for the start of the walk. Another appeared for the next part. And another and another. And then, the first one came back again to be with me as we approached the pagoda.
Then, one-by-one two older students (a boy and a girl from my two classes) appeared to thoughtfully guide me through the ceremony, “Auntie, like this . . . Auntie, now come here. . .” And it was done with such love, such concern that I be included, that I understand what was going on. That I really participate in a ceremony that was so very important and sacred to them. And then, it was time to sit and be quiet, and yes, I meditated.
And it came to me, “Of course, of course my last day at FLO would be so very, very perfect, so very, very sacred. Of course. My Divine Soul who knows all, loves all, and only wishes good things for me and everyone somehow knew that this was the right day to end my stay at FLO.”
And as I sat with these most wonderful children, I gave thanks. I gave thanks for everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING: my life, all life, my health, my parents, my family, my husband, my friends, these children . . .”
What an absolutely perfect and wonderful way to end my 8-week stay at FLO. And it came to me, ask them to write their name in your analog iPhone (in both Khmer /kə maɪ/ and anglais). So I did. So when I see you next, ask me to show you my book. Ask me to show you their wonderful names and how they write. I’ll gladly share their gift to me with you. There’s plenty to go around for all.
Here’s another excerpt from that same entry to my glob susansbackwardsglob mentioned above:
And I thought of the people in my life who live in Light,
and I thought of the people I don’t yet know who received my text message back in April.
and I thought of how I’m going to meet them and others as one thing leads to another,
one heart leads to another.
Doors will be opened.
Introductions will be made.
And I will find my way around this planet
on the voyage
which will open up
to me.
Yes, of course it would all work out perfectly. Of course there would be bookends to mark this experience and that. Life is like that; it unfolds with the most amazing symmetry.
“What a coincidence,” we say to one another when some chance this or that happens. “What a coincidence that . . .” plug in the blank of your choice. A chance event? Or the beautiful orchestration of your soul and mine as they converse with one another in a plane that our human mind doesn’t see nor understand. Call it God’s hand, call it divine guidance, call it blind luck, call it what you will. Regardless of what you call it, I can guarantee that each and every one of you have had at least one something happen that you’re thinking of now. Admit it. You are! You’re human, and you’re having a human experience, so of course you have!!! It’s so very, very natural and common.
Alright, so there I was sitting on the floor of the pagoda surrounded by these most wonderful human beings.
“Stay and have lunch with us, Auntie!”
Of course I did.
It was soooo delicious.
“Who made this?” I asked.
“Many people, many, many people,” they replied.
“What did I eat?” you ask.
“***Fish. Curry with vegetables. Rice. Lots of rice. Noodles. Two different kinds of noodles. And bananas. Crisp, fresh bananas.”
Yes, I was stuffed. And they kept eating!!!!
“We eat a lot,” they giggled, as they continued to eat and eat.
“Are these children heavy?” you ask.
“No, they’re not.”
You’ve seen the pictures. They eat really healthily, hardly any processed foods. (The processed foods that they do have are candies or cakes that they buy with money given to them by their eFoster parents.)
“It’s time to clean up, Auntie. You sit; we clean up.”
“I can help,” I said. And I did. A little. Nothing in comparison to what they did.
“Are you ready to go outside, Auntie?”
“Are you?”
“Yes,” they replied.
“Kay, den, let’s go!”
And then they showed me some other things on the grounds of the wat  (pagoda, they said). We burned some more incense. We prayed, and then we just had good ‘ole plain fun looking at the beautiful murals inside another building. Then . . .
“Take photos of us, Auntie!”
I took photos.
“Now with YOU!!!!”
And more pictures were taken . . .
When it was time to walk back to FLO, that same little boy, who had first grabbed my hand when leaving FLO, magically appeared (he was in one of my Gogo Loves English 1 classes).
I smiled as I took his hand.

He still holds a very special place in my heart . . .

So . . . now for the photos of this most wonderful closing to a most amazing 8-weeks . . .
I love you ALL and hold you too in my ****heart.
*Hawaii Visitor’s Bureau
**Some of them do have family; they’re at FLO because they’re family is very poor and can’t provide them with an education.
***My beautiful young lady friend pulled out prime pieces of fish for me and dropped them in my bowl. : )
****My heart is very, very BIG.

Mahalo for your generous donations!!!!

Dear Friends,

Some of you very thoughtfully sent funds my way in order to take a few FLO kids out to dinner in Phnom Penh.

Why did I want to treat them to a dinner out on the town?

First of all, I wanted to acknowledge the two student teachers for their hard work; they’re volunteer teaching the younger Ss at FLO, and I don’t know that many 17 and 20 year olds would would willingly add more work to their already full schedules.

Also, there were a few other Ss who continued to pour themselves completely into their school work; I wanted to let them know that I’d noticed their efforts and positive attitudes.

When I invited them to join me for dinner on Sunday, September 11th, I could tell that they were containing their excitement in order to give a thoughtful, quiet and, dignified, “Yes.” It was obvious that they were jumping up and down on the inside. : )

You all also gave so very generously that I was able to treat ALL the FLO students to apples twice! (using YOUR donations, of course)  They’ll be receiving the second apple in the coming week.

And lastly, the young boy who was one of the winners during the talent show in August (and who gave me his drawing) received some drawing supplies (paper, colored pencils, pencil holder, etc.) thanks to YOU!

All of this may seem small compared to others who have funded new buildings, scholarships, etc., but to these students, the gifts you gave them were HUGE!!!!

On behalf of them, I would like to thank you so very much for reaching into your pocketbook, sharing your hard earned dollars, and making their day a little brighter.

The following are some shots I took during our outing.

Enjoy and thanks again,


The gang! (LOVE the mural Dani!!!)
This was his first time in Phnom Penh; he was so excited. AND he devoured and LOVED his meal! : )
She got a hamburger with french fries!!! LOL And she ate it all! It was a gourmet one. Nice!
The two student teachers got the same thing . . . and the van driver whose hand you see; they all had clean plates at the end.
It just so happened that there was an art exhibition next door; we went and the kids couldn’t believe that they had pupus anyone could eat–for free! They ate more! This woman is displaying a special sweater she knitted before the Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge era; she kept it safe and had it on display to represent a time gone by.

More random tuk tuk shots from around Phnom Penh, Cambodia . . .

Let’s see how fast the internet connection is in Sapa, Vietnam . . . it’s freakin’ fast!


Random tuk tuk shots from my time at FLO outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Aloha Everyone,

I literally just shot these “off my hip.”

They’re for those of you who haven’t visited SE Asia yet. And for those of you who have, well, it’ll surely bring back some memories.

And, just imagine lots of noise of all kinds: tuk tuk honks, moto honks, car honks, truck honks, loud speakers broadcasting this and that (music, talking, chanting, who knows what-ing) . . . and oh, turn the fan on and let some dust and exhaust fly in your face. Ahhh . . . do you feel it yet? Are you there with me?

Love to my many friends around the world,

p.s. more to come . . . this is all the time I have for uploading . . . off to Hanoi and then Sapa.