Saturday, August 6, 2011


Our last week in Cambodia: Action!

Here in Cambodia I have spent a busy, exciting and fun month working on a Corporate Service Corps assignment, learning about the country and its people and getting fresh perspectives professionally and personally.

The four weeks had passed by very quickly, and before we knew it was our last week in Cambodia. And there were so many things still waiting to be done!

At work I completed my training program with two more sessions on web design and usability, and a brief overview on search engine optimization and web application testing. The Cambodia Retirement Village website started to look pretty good, and we launched the English version on Thursday as planned.

The weather was still not too bad although clearly rainy season had started, with more thunderstorms and sudden downpours of rain, and an increase in power outages. Power supply is generally not very reliable, with frequent fluctuations and short spikes, but we had more and longer outages this week both at the office and at the hotel. Work continues normally, only the lights are off and the beeping of the UPS boxes is somewhat annoying.

At Monument Books and Toys I wondered if they were closed since the location was pitch-dark, but it was just another power outage. The Blue Pumpkin café on the first floor had the cash register connected to a UPS so you could still pay the coffee which you could no longer get because there was no power for the espresso machine. At least I was able to select a cake for Baskar’s birthday in the light of two birthday cake candles, how fitting!

We had already worked on a press release covering the #ibmcsc Corporate Service Corps assignment with the communications team. The other piece of communication was the team video. The final cut is still in the works. No matter how the video will look in the end, the shooting of our introductions and statements, with camera man Baskar directing the “actors” and our first experience using a teleprompter, was already well worth the effort. Action!

On Wednesday we celebrated Baskar’s birthday with a “surprise” party. Well, we kind of gave away the secret over breakfast. Thanks to a great performance of Jose making up a story on the fly about a business event with catering that Baskar had to organize, we were able to at least secretly decorate the hotel lobby with a birthday banner.

பிறந்தநாள் வாழ்த்துக்கள், Baskar!

Srey Neang and the boys joined us that evening, as well as our colleague Andrea from the Philippines, who manages the corporate social responsibility programs in the region and came with our team for the final client reviews and to get feedback from the organizations which we had worked with. After dinner a few of us went for a blind beer tasking. Apparently our drinking habits have become very Cambodian, as we recognized the two popular local brands easily and considered them the best beers, almost guessed another one, and ranked the two European beers low enough that nobody wanted to finish those.

Our final ranking:
  1. Angkor
  2. Anchor
  3. Lao
  4. Beck’s
  5. Heineken

On Thursday the team at the office took me out for a lovely lunch at a Khmer Thai restaurant, in an elegant setting and with delicious food.

When the team told me we had a car, I was wondering for a moment how the whole IT team would fit into one car. I should have known by now …

The best was yet to come though: we had agreed to take a group picture in the afternoon, but there was obviously something else going on with people moving tables around in the lobby. The alleged photo appointment was really a gathering of the whole office staff to say goodbye with cake, a very touching framed thank you note with everyone’s signature, and presents for Marisol and me and for our spouses for having agreed letting us go abroad for the month. We had started our assignment with a very warm welcome, and we ended with an equally special farewell. Thank you to the fantastic people at HRINC, ITLINK, BDLINK and SHRM&P, we’ll miss you!

Also on Thursday I found a location for the long awaited Karaoke night. The Champs-Elysées hotel had the perfect setting, with a stylish VIP room with illuminated glass tables and a reasonable selection of English language music. We had great fun with two expert Karaoke singers, Jose for English and Vuthy for Khmer, a perfect dance choreography from Daniela and Marisol, and everyone chiming in, Betrand even on the Khmer songs :-) Only the staff seemed a bit unhappy that we managed to sing without consuming loads of drinks first, and my camera was obviously considered a weapon and had stay in a safety box outside.

Friday was our last day together as a team, and we ended the month were had started it, at the Romdeng restaurant which serves the fried tarantulas that we had already tried, and also a beef dish with red tree ants, so I tried that this time.

From Romdeng it’s only short walk to the usual places for evening entertainment, Howie’s Bar and Pontoon, where we took our last group photo on the dance floor before the group began splitting up.

Some returned to the hotel to complete their packing and get some sleep, some went dancing at Heart of Darkness, and we all knew that a few hours later the first colleagues would head to the airport and leave Cambodia. The assignment had come to an end. Goodbye team!

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