Before Mekong Peace Journey
I started to apply for Mekong Peace Journey 2012, MPJ, without really understanding what it is about. I did not have any background in peace before, yet the only one thing that motivated me at that time is to learn new things.
Luckily, I was selected among the five participants from Cambodia to join this program. Then my feeling somehow had changed, I started to become nervous and happy at the same time because many things happened at the very last minute.
My real journey started on the 5th of July on the bus from Phnom Penh to Bangkok and continued from Bangkok to Chiang Khong district, Chiang Rai province. We spent around 24 hours to reach the destination. It was a very long travelling which lead to an unforgettable moment. Nevertheless, we did learn something with the traveling by bus. We could observe people’s lifestyles and differentiate between Cambodia and Thailand, which flight on air might not give this sense to me.
During the Training
There were two main parts of training, in house-training and field trip. We spent around two weeks from morning until evening learning about some particular topics such as identities, nationalism, and pluralism, sources of power and conflict analysis. Most of the time, we linked the content to the situation within each country which could help us to understand more clearly.
In addition to well-prepared content, resource persons are potential and skillful in peace building who come from Mekong region. They usually introduced us games that are closely related to our lesson. It was not only for fun but also for reflection on something inside.
After the whole day session, we also had country presentation in the evening. Most of us dress ed out our traditional clothes in order to show our identities. In addition, all MPJ participants also played role in the process. We were divided into small groups which consisted of five people from different countries by acting as Timekeeper, Logistic, Kitchen, Recap and Icebreaker.
Icebreaker means a group needs to find games for the whole day sessions. However, by doing these activities, everybody got to know each other day by day through sharing and talking without prejudgment. I think each task is important. If there was no Timekeeper, the program could not proceed. Then if there was no Logistic group, the training would be messy. We played important roles in different ways. You must feel that every moment was completed by the sessions and our duties, yet we still had some times to relax.
There was also the culture night when everybody could eat, dance and sing freely to release our stress and tiredness. Plus, at every Saturday evening, it was a time for local market where we could see local people selling local products along the street.
I was hosted by a Thai family who do not know English during the Thai Community visit. I did not know Thai at all. I only know how to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in Thai. Besides this, I used the body language or translation by the Thai friend with my host family. Though we looked funny sometimes, I could feel that they are willing to have us and treat us as their relatives.
One interesting point is eating sticky rice as meal which is totally different from Cambodia. I was a little bit shock by this. A question came to me what should I eat if I could not eat this. Finally, I ate and I could feel that it had good taste. Then we continued our journey to Laos and Myanmar, we could not stay in the village due to the political situation and time constraint.
After three weeks of training, we asked each other what we had learnt, and what we had changed. I could not give the answer to this question by a word because of many things happened within this moment. We came to learn and grow, we came to share and discuss, and we respected and accepted the diversity of each person or country. I would say we are the same but different.
We have differences in a lot of things such as background, knowledge, culture, belief and so on, but we are the same in here MPJ 2012. Peace is so important for all to learn and understand. Conflicts are also important for us to acknowledge and help each other because we live in the same boat, same region. I would say I am not wrong to join MPJ 2012 since I can learn much more than I expected. If you would like to experience this, you can apply for Mekong Peace Journey next year.
According to MPJ website, if you want to apply for this program, you can keep your eyes on mekongpeacejorney.wordpress.com, which will tell you about the selection date. The application might be available at the early of May every year. At first, participants need to complete the application. Soon after that they will call for a meeting to listen to the orientation about the program, and there will be a discussion in which you have to share and talk to one another. Then, Working Group for Peace in Cambodia will look at the application and your activities on that day and call for an interview later. Interview is the last process and the most important step for all to go on.Article by: KIM Kotara
KIM Kotara is a sophomore of Media Management at the Department of Media and Communication (DMC). She said if she was asked to choose whether to write or speak about her mind, she would choose to write because she could express her ideas more clearly in writing. She started working for the CambodiaCircles in November 2011. "By starting writing from today on, I hope that I can sharphen my writing skills and inform, educate, and entertain my readers through my articles," said Kim Kotara.