Two Weeks In Montana

By Sek Sovanna, Cambodia

Two weeks have been passed so quickly, it’s like a Cambodian say “Time Flies” when we are enjoying our lifetime.

Well… my thought is not much different from other fellows who have expressed so far their excitement, their joyfulness, their passionate and their lesson-learned in this two-week time in the beautiful town Missoula, Montana. I would like to echo it is a GREAT OPPORTUNITY to be here!

I will pick up a few highlight things out of those great experiences: 1-My work placement with American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), 2-Homestay and 3-Outdoor Activities.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

From a very start, myself and another fellow, Lan from Vietnam, got a very warm welcome from the director of ACLU, Mr. Scott Crichton who agreed to be our coordinator during our time there. Mr. Crichton along with Ms. Kileen, ACLU’s staff, picked us up from the hotel to their office, is that cool?!? If in Cambodia, you won’t get this hospitality: ‘Director won’t come take you in person but they will send their staff’.

We started our day with an introduction of ACLU at length and a pile of materials to read, it looked really intent but we enjoyed it. We are so impressed of their works and accomplishments: they won so many cases over the pass since its operation in 1920. To give you a quick look, ACLU’s main goal is to ‘protect their constitution’, it means everyone can enjoy and have equal access to any right stated in constitution.

Crichton and his staffs try their best to accommodate with our schedules and needs. With this context, we were allowed to observe and participate in many activities of ACLU such as donor meeting through conference call, dinner with donors, setting up meeting with Disability Rights Organization and other activities in the coming days. I wanted to highlight you a donor meeting! Prior the meeting, I was so concern and many questions put before the organizers: how we supposed to dress up, how we gonna present ourselves, and in what extent we can ask and communicate… But it was totally different to what I expected, the dinner meeting was very casual, the donors were very friendly and we charted a lot on the general issues. It seems pretty easy but I believe ACLU has done a lot of work to gain their trust.

Another highlight, it was an interview of Crichton who was invited to talk at a TV program called ‘Face the State’ of KPAX. Crichton did a very great job in camera session. I am very proud of him and very proud of myself to have him to be my coordinator. Bravo! During his interview, Crichton has mentioned about Cambodia and Vietnam to support his argument in relation to the abolishment of ‘Death Penalty’. Here I want to notice that what we have shared to our American counterparts, they eventually use it.

Homestay

Homestay is one of the rewarding experiences which I ever have, it allows me to have a closer look to a real-life of American family.

At my first day to move in with my host family, Ms. Sally Weaver, I felt and still feel I am like a PRINCESS. My room is very pretty and a box of chocolate is there ready to serve me. Isn’t it incredible? Sally drove me around on that day and in sudden she got me a book ‘Missoula Book’ after I mentioned about this publication (so far I have just finished 6 chapters out of 30, I am a slow reader!) and then she brought me to a very wonderful dinner at Café Dolce. What a day!

As Sally lives alone in the house, I do not experience what is the interaction in the family but what confirms me is that American really LOVE their pets. Sally has three dogs: two are 15 years old (they are pretty old and need lot care assistance) and another is 9 months old. Part of her daily routines, Sally really takes care of her dogs. One day her dog ate a chewer (like a dog toy), she was freak out and immediately called to consult with the vet.

Though we do not have many activities at home, Sally often time took me to any event such as a Forum to discuss the Missoula Book (but I eventually went with ACLU), Fundraise for victims suffered from Earthquake in Nepal (I again contributed a bit of $ I had and I hope if everyone out there makes some contribution of anything they have, it will help support the victims) and the Luna Fest.

Sunday known as a Mother’s Day, I wanted to surprise Sally something, I told her I would bike around the national park but I didn’t. Well… it took me for a while to figure what I should buy, Kileen from ACLU threw some ideas and Tom from Thailand who I ran into him at the shop helped me to get the stuff home, it was such a great team work, right? Red Rose and a Bottle of White Wine got sneak-in the house. I then handed to her the flower and wine along with my Cambodian post card which features one of our famous temples. I hope it means something to her though I am not her child neither her relative.

Outdoor Activities

This Saturday, Bison Range where Sally drove me all the way there. It’s worth to be there. The historical geology of the area overlooking the valley below, it’s just AMAZING. Experience and witness your own eyes of wild animals, it is a great opportunity. Bighorn sheep were approaching us, it made me feel I am in a promise land. I also saw from the distance some other types of animals: mule deer, pronghorn antelopes, and Bison.

Rock Climbing was another activity which I explored on Sunday. Kileen from ACLU took me to somewhere (sorry, could not remember it) it was 30mn away from Missoula. I was taught how to climb the rock up to the top and how to make myself down. It was three times I made it. It’s so AWESOME, what an EXPERIENCE! However I have not experienced to belay other climbers yet that will be my next chapter!

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