This week I finally got to go on a trip to track down clients and interview them for articles I will right about them in the success stories section of IBJ’s website. The trip was fantastic, and a really great way to see a different side of Cambodia. Once I have finished the stories I will post a link to the site they are on on here.
It started on Tuesday when we left for Kampot where our first client was located. Kampot is about three hours away, I have been there before, so the drive was nothing too surprising. The countryside in Cambodia is incredibly flat which makes from some really great views of the landscape of the country. Having been to Kampot previously it was interesting going with my co-worker, Dalis, she is Cambodian and knew of local guesthouses and places to eat.
The next morning we called our client to find out where we were going to meet him, he informed us that he was no longer in Kampot as he had planned and was at his house, half way in between Kampot and Takeo, our next stop. So, we continued on driving, and made it there after about an hour and a half. He lived in a small house in a row behind a few others. We conducted the interview behind his house, and it was very successful. Dalis translated my questions and then relayed me the answers. Conducting an interview through a translator has its challenges, as there is a very defined barrier between you and the person you are interviewing. I was very conscious of this at first, but I think as the interview went on it became increasingly comfortable and the client was very responsive. After the interview, he invited us for a delicious lunch with him and we stayed and talked for a bit before going on to our next destination.
We continued driving to Takeo, and made it to the IBJ office in another hour. The staff were at lunch, so I went for a walk around and explored for a few hours. Once they returned, I spoke to the lawyer and legal assistant while we waited. They explained to me how worried they were about the prospect of IBJ shutting down for lack of funding as it would be an immense detriment to the province and people who rely on them to seek justice.
The client arrived shortly after, and I was really taken aback by how young he looked, even for fifteen years old. I was again very conscious about not making him uncomfortable with any questions, but he seemed entirely relaxed for the whole interview and had no problems whatsoever.
The following day we left to the province of Kampong Speu for the final interview. This was by far my favorite drive of the whole trip, our client was located in a small, very remote village and we travelled on many dirt roads, asking directions from so many people to try and find our way to the village. The roads were really rough with massive holes everywhere and impossible to avoid. At one point I started taking notes on where we were turning because I really wasn’t sure how we were gong to find our way back. Dalis got out of the car to ask a few people where the village was when unbeknownst to here there was a baboon chained to a pole behind her. She got a little bit too close and out of nowhere the baboon walked over and started pulling her pony tail. She was okay and not hurt, but definitely a little bit surprised.
After accidentally exploring many of the other villages in Kampong Speu, and seeing some stunning scenery we finally made it to the village of our client. Kampong Speu is one of the poorest provinces in Cambodia and is currently experiencing severe hardship due to a major drought which has extended back two years. When I met with the client there were about twenty other people who came to watch the interview, many do not leave the province so when someone comes from out of town to visit them it is a novel event. The interview went well and I heard from many different people as the case involved several different parties. Following that, we drove home and made it back by dinner time. This was a really great experience and I hope to have more opportunities for this in the future.