Greeting from Phnom Penh!
Hi everyone! It is a great pleasure for me to introduce myself. My name is Mara Pho (Pho as Po not like Pho as the Vietnamese noodle soup). It is worth mentioning as I have my last name pronounced incorrectly all the time and you should know that I won’t be upset if you can’t get it right. Anyhow, I and Jan Wolf will be your in-field instructors this summer.
I first started working for Where There Be Dragons back in 2006 as language teacher and homestay coordinator. It was not until 2009 when I had my first full course. Since then I have led a number of courses for Dragons most of which are summers courses including a school partnership course in 2012 However, having seen the obvious evidence of skills mismatch among graduates, I shifted from teaching career in Touristy Siem Reap and moved to Phnom Penh and joined the Cambodian ministry of education in 2013 to work in the field of vocational education and training. After having finished a master’s degree of Education in 2017, I settled down in Phnom Penh with my wife and two daughters. Currently, I am working to promote technical high schools in Cambodia.
Leading Dragons courses has been something I have been passionate about and proud of doing. I have a long-standing dream that Cambodia will be known not merely about Angkor Wat or the killing fields, but for a vibrant culture, striving people who live in it, its untold history of a civilization that has stood the test of time, and other remarkable places beyond temple ruins. To an extent, leading Dragons trips enables me to work towards achieving my dream because they immerse students to local cultures, people and places that usually are off the beaten paths. Also, when I am in the field with students, it enables me to help students grasp an understanding of religion, culture, history, and politics from a local perspective.
This course in particularly is very appealing to me as it emphasizes on Buddhism and reconciliation. I was fortunate enough to be born post Khmer Rouge regime. Who knows what would have happened to me had I been born during the Khmer Rouge? It’s entirely possible that my fate resembles those of a fifth of Cambodians whose vanished during that period. It sounds comforting in a sense, yet the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge was prevailing—the eminent famine and prolonged civil wars—and I was born right into it. Growing up during those times is a hell of an experience. It has always been fascinating to me to see those who survived, but traumatized for life, figured out ways to reconcile and are able to content with their lives moving forward. Their exceptional sense of forgiveness and compassion are truly remarkable and respectworthy. This is something I would like to discuss during our course.
I hoping to see everyone’s introduction yakpost in the coming weeks or so. And I hope everyone is excited about our journey just as I am. As you are starting to get things ready for our trip, you might have some course related questions. If you do, we would encourage you to post those questions on our yakboard, so I and Jan can answer them.
I am really stoked and can’t wait to start our trip.