My love affair with Montana

I cannot believe time flies faster than what I thought. My first week with host family has gone yet those fresh memories and all good experiences with them, my professional coordinator and those who I met during the week are in my thoughts. Let me share with you what I encountered, and my first experience with an eye doctor in Missoula.

April 15 was the day that we all were ready to leave the hotel to be with our host families in order to learn more about American life, culture, daily habits and activities. Morning of the same day as we planned my professional coordinator showed up in front of the hotel, and I ran into his car and headed to the host family which is located not far from the Montana University. A day before the April 15 I had sat down and discussed with my professional, John at his house to figure out the entire plan for the coming weeks. After the discussion, I was so excited with all the arrangements and couldn’t wait to be with my host family as I thought the best way to learn about American life and culture is to live with them and experience everyday life. I was right, as it was my second morning at the host family that I felt something wrong with my right eye so I asked Kathi, “would you mind helping checking my eye in case there is some dirt or something in it”? She says sure I could do that but once she looked at my eye there was nothing stuck there. I was ready to go on a field trip that morning before the problem happened .As planned Jill was going to take me there, however once Jill arrived I had already made the decision with my host family to not join the field trip. So after Jill left Woody took me to hospital (NOW CARE) to see what was wrong with my eye. It surprised me when I arrived the NOW CARE front desk, the nurse and doctor were so friendly and helpful. After Woody helped to fill out the patient’s form, it wasn’t too long before my name was called out and we went into the doctor’s room. Once my eye was checked I was told that I got pink eye…..PINK eye !!!!!!!!!! To me it was so strange and funny to hear the word PINK eye. Back home in Cambodia I never heard of the word pink eye, however I heard of Red eye which I considered to be same problem. PINK eye here is considered to be seriously contagious , and I was not allowed to touch things or shake hands with others. It is very different in my village. PINK eye could spread through touching things that we use, however in my village- Cambodia once someone got pink eye, it was ok to touch things and shake with otherxs, but not to look straight into the others eye as we believe it is contagious through looking, not through shaking hands or touching the same things with others. I had to cancel some important meetings and activities that I had planned with my coordinator, John and my host family for the week due to PINK eye. I would call Woody my care giver and Kathi as nursing mother. Honestly, thanks to having PINK eye, it allowed me to see how much my host family Woody and Kathi care for me as well as my professional coordinator, John and Jerri. They called me from time to time to check on my condition.

One day after, I had my pink eye as some important meeting were already cancelled so Woody and I decided to walk along the trail, it was a beautiful long walk as the sun was shining and weather was clear which allowed us to see all the beautiful mountains and the surrounded nature. Montana I fell in love with you already. Three days after, I felt so much better and we started to make plans again. My host family arranged for me to meet with Betsy the Director of the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center. I felt so honored to sit and talked with her for almost two hours and to learn about her work and what her view point is on creating peace for our community. I was so amazed with her commitment and what she has been striving for the cause of making peace is possible. I really love one of her quotes. She said to me look at my quote card that I keep for reminding myself: “We need to have peace within ourselves first before we can share it with others”. Beyond all these insights, the next morning Jerri took me to visit Montana Public Radio Station. During my visit we had GUS Chambers show us around and every single room which was full of instruments for operating broadcasts. GUS is funny and amazing, he got me to check on some offline tool for broadcasting which was quite an experience. After our visit with MTPR, John took us to Taco Del Sol Restaurant for lunch. It was my first time to have a taco here in Montana. It was great. I had big fish burrito. In fact, there is so much to share, however this won’t allow me to share everything in one page here.

Over all, I have really enjoyed being in Montana and integrating the knowledge and experience which I never thought I would be able to expose or to see from my own eyes. Sometimes I almost don’t believe myself that I was able to join this amazing program- Economic Empowerment through Mansfield Center. I love the idea of having a host family involved in the program. This is amazing. It allows us to learn and experience even deeper the culture and American way of life. I felt so positive about my host family since the first I minute I arrived at their home. Kathi and Woody are truly amazing people. Also, I won’t forget my professional coordinator John and his wife, Jerri. Both of them were so kind and helpful with the program all along the way. Thank you Deena and Kelsey for your big heart and for putting so much energy into making this program possible.

I am so excited to see what the coming will have to offer as my journey continue.



3 responses to “My love affair with Montana

  1. Wow! Montana and UM Mansfield Center are so lucky to have you there. Thank you Chhunny for sharing your impressions of U.S. with such open, honest eyes. I am missing Cambodia and happy knowing you are here in America too. I look forward to hearing more about your journey. If you can to come to Colorado I would love to see you. Anyway it is a small world and I will see you soon.

  2. Chhunny is very generous in his comments of the role Jerri and John have played in his stay here. But it has truly been our pleasure to have met not only Chhunny, but also his host family, Kathi and Woody, whom we probably would have never had the opportunity to meet. It is clear that Kathi and Woody have done an excellent job of hosting Chhunny in their home and caring for all of his needs, including his medical emergency.

    Chhunny himself is not just enjoyable to be with, but also very bright, personable, eager to learn, and eager to put his new knowledge to use. As I’m sure is the case with all our fellows, he is deeply committed to the project/business he will be pursuing once he returns to Cambodia, and his passion for this project is what will make it successful. Chhunny will FIND a way to make it work, and I’m looking forward to maintaining contact with Chhunny by email and Skype over the following months to follow his progress. In the meantime, now that they’ve experienced our late-April snows, I’m looking for some way to bring a few days of warmer weather to Missoula so they can also experience our phenomenal springtime.

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