First Things First



Greetings from Phnom Penh! I did indeed arrive here safe and sound and have just finished up my second week of work.  The time has turned in a stealthy manner… it is hard to believe that October has come upon us already!

My life here in Phnom Penh still feels rather preliminary, though I am beginning to make sense of the chaotic numbered streets of no particular order.  When I first arrived I was overwhelmed, delighted and confused by the sights, sounds, smells, the traffic, the trash.  I know I still am, though now just a little dulled to it, probably for survival’s sake.  But this city is one full of contrasts and I have much to learn.

While I’ve been feeling like an unbearable novice at everything, as I sit down to write this I realize I actually have learned a few things since my arrival. Aside from beginning a new life in a very different part of the world (which is perhaps a million thoughts in itself) I’ve also begun a new job… and have finally met the likes of Hagar International my whole reason for this side step into life in Southeast Asia.

Hagar primarily serves women and children who are survivors of sex trafficking, domestic violence, and sex sexual exploitation, though it doesn’t really stop there.  We have preventative measures touching a wide range of vulnerable populations through education initiatives, a country-wide water filter and nutrition programs, “The House of Smiles” for children with various mental and physical disabilities, career development, literacy, catch-up schools, community foster care, two restaurants, a five star catering business, a soy milk factory… and the list goes on…

The Hagar International office, though small, is quite ambitious and rides on the waves of the successes of the expansive programs Hagar Cambodia has fashioned in its 15 years in Phnom Penh. It is now our job to plant these promising seeds of social programs and social

enterprise into India, Vietnam and Laos.  My job as “social program coordinator” (yes, I have an admittedly giddy and rather sophomoric excitement with my first true job title in this field!!) is to facilitate the implementation of the social programs in these countries.  I’ll also be doing many other things, like working with stakeholders to raise funds, as these things must happen in order for social programs to exist.  But after this week, I am finally beginning to get a grasp of my role here and the work I will be engaged in Phnom Penh (and beyond!).

Ox or Mule?

Ox or Mule?

Life in general is good

I am searching for an apartment (currently living in a guest house where a rather small and grumpy disabled

gaurd rooster + pooch comrade

guard rooster + pooch comrade

rooster patrols the entryway, often accompanied by his very lazy pooch comrade that looks like a tiny version of Atreiu from “Neverending Story”).

I finally got myself a bike (it’s purple and I’m considering naming her after my old Dutch bike, Wilhelmina). My independent spirit relishes in freedom and relative anonymity it brings (and the delights in turning down the eager Tuk Tuk drivers who basically function like public transit, except it often involves haggling and takes the form of a motorbike rickshaw). So now I can get around fairly well on my own and am getting used to my sorely obvious “barang” status (think gringo but Khmer style).

I am meeting new people everyday from Finnish humanitarian workers to Nigerian nurses, to Cambodian-American’s running NGOS and writing dissertations, to Kiwi Art dealers, Swiss financial officers, Korean missionaries, Vietnamese Foster parents and even a rather business savvy Australian dairy farmer.  I recently began volunteering with the Democrats Abroad and did indeed help

matching umbrellas

a nice Republican American man register to vote for John McCain… (my dad would be proud).  And of course, I’ve met a few lovely Cambodians as well :*).

So, in between the power outages (our office has a generator, thank goodness), the swarming motodups, monk sightings in their bright orange robes (often with matching umbrellas), the skinny cats with crooked tails, the Cambodia toddlers playing in muddy puddles, the crowded sidewalks where you’ll find at once 10

Wat Toul Tompoug

Wat Toul Tompoug

motos for sale, a crowded Cambodian eatery, a barber, a mom squatting over her family’s dinner in a bulky black iron pot, a wedding processional (if you are lucky) and the occasional team of bony mules peddling pottery…. you’ll find me here as I sort through building a life here in Phnom Pehn.

Please feel free to say hello anytime! I’m only halfway around the world for most of you :*) It is GMT +7 where I sit in the world.  So post a comment, write an e-mail and if you want to brave the 11/12 hour difference (Eastern time/Central time), of course Skype!! (my Skype name is betsybramon).

BUT above all, I am overwhelmed with gratitude at the generosity and vision many of you have had in your decision to support me in my work with Hagar International.  Without you, I would not be here today.  So, I am eager to share and learn along side you in this journey.  We shall see where it takes us together.

With love and great thanks!!



7 Responses to “First Things First”

  1. lacy Says:

    beautiful betsy….thanks for letting us come along for the ride. post often, and I’ll keep checking back in and praying.

    love-love, lacy

  2. laura Says:

    you freakin rock. send me a guard rooster plz kthxbai.

    love, l

  3. Catherine Says:

    Yay! I have been thinking about you and am glad to hear you’re doing well. Lucky Cambodia to have you!

  4. roy Says:

    Great… Thanks for sharing!

  5. Wendi Says:

    Thanks for sharing! Eagerly anticipating stories from your life-changing, world-saving adventure.

    Praying for you!

  6. Tara Says:

    So good to get your update. I have been thinking about you and am glad to hear that you have arrived safely. I am so proud of you for your dedication to helping others. You will remain in my prayers. 🙂

  7. Helen Says:

    Glad you are loving it in Cambodia. You are going to do such great things in life!!

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