Amazingly Productive Trip of 2019 – Mar 20th-24th

Do you want to hear a fabulous new from this trip?! You guess it. We finally surveyed our block! We were extremely excited and again, ready to rock and roll! Ordinarily, MCC had always organized the schedule for us when we are there, but this time and from now on, we take the initiative to make our own. To be honest, I feel that this trip is the most productive trip we ever had. I personally learn a lot from this trip.

Here are the three day summaries written by all of us when we were there.

Day 1: “Learn from mistakes and failures.”

LMRT’s back on the island! Not eight students but 11 (including three younger students from Liger!) Everyone was excited to be back again and, for some of us, for the first time. We started our first work day by surveying our first deployed artificial reef block!

Here are what we learned.

  1. To snorkel! Our three newbies snorkeled for the first time in the ocean! To them, “it was so weird and strange to breath under the water, but at the same
    Our three newbies: Soucheng (Left), Mariya (Middle), and Vanreach (Right).

    time it was an amazing experience to get to explore all of those marine species. We also got to see how the artificial reef block and clusters help to create the habitat for lives under the ocean.”

  2. To be more focused. Our first survey wasn’t successful, part of the reason being the lacks of planning and communication. When the first team laid the transect line for surveying, there were confusions that led to inefficiency. If we were more focused, we would have known to Stop; Breathe; Think; Act.
  3. To learn from mistakes and failures. We are young scientists and
    My friend, Sythong (In front), Amick (At the way back), and I (in the middle) are the laying the line team.

    conservationists, and we aren’t perfect. Mistakes and failures are inevitable, which we can’t fully prepare for. But what we can prepare for is how we response to them. Like today, we were struggling with diving, but that’s a sign we need to review. Besides that, the visibility did not support us with the survey, and there’s nothing we could change about it because it is SCIENCE, but what we can do is learn from it.

Life goes on no matter what; same with our project! Things didn’t go as expected, but it is all about how we response to and learn from it, like we did today.

Listening to one of the MCC volunteers about coral reef.
Everybody was searching for something called “Plastics!”

Day 2: The Liger Marine Research Team was finally able to conduct his survey this morning at our old artificial reef site; the visibility was still not the best, but it was at least good enough to see some species. We saw a burst of biodiversity at our survey site; there were a lot of java rabbit fish, black spot snappers…. there was even a huge grouper!

60 kg of trash!?? whoooh, gotta take a group photo.

From one of newbies: We had a fun snorkel this afternoon and saw many types of fish. We saw two long-beaked coral fish along with many other cool ones that we don’t know the name of (yet…) 😉 particularly the big ones under the pier. We also saw our very first seahorse (there were two of them)! But we were a bit scared by the sea urchins 😛

Data log!!!

To end the day, the whole group did a beach cleanup and collected 60kg of trash in an hour. Well done, team!

Day 3: We hope everyone is having a great weekend so far; we definitely are! At 6 am, bright and early, two teams took off to do a boat-based dolphin survey–with the assistance of our younger LMRT members–and a reef survey, conducted by the older LMRT members with MCC’s facilitation.

Loading up the equipment.

After hours of searching through the binoculars, the dolphin team finally spotted 7 individuals! Two were traveling together while others were diving individually and exhibiting a variety of behaviors.

The newbies were doing the dolphin survey.

Meanwhile, under the water, the surveyors were roaming along their 100-meter transect line scanning for fish, invertebrates, and substrates. Fortunately, the visibility was decent enough for them to conduct a baseline survey in the afternoon at their soon-to-be second artificial reef site.

The Flexed Back Fingers

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

The Flexed Back Fingers

Changol: My right index finger points to the ground, imitating the plantation of a new seed. Slowly, I point upward to the sky, imitating the transformation of the seed, growing roots and forming into a tree.

At the age of nine, I enrolled in my first dancing class after watching delicate dancers performed Khmer Classical Dance on TV. Since then, I have been a practitioner of that ancient and sacred dance form of my Khmer descendants. Every single day, the chhing sound of the finger cymbals chimes through my headphone and echoes in my ears from the Khmer classical songs. Simultaneously, there is the high-and-low-pitched voice of the singers, narrating the tale of angels. Listening and dancing to this music, I feel as if I am pilgrimaging to sthansuokr, the sacred place where I can offer my prayers of beauty, love, and peace to all the Tevoda, past dancers, and Preah Kru (sacred teachers). Khmer Classical Dance is the essence of my identity, my “Khmerness.”

Lea: My four fingers bends backward, and my thumb bends forward. I am a tree, growing out my leaves and reaching for the sunlight.

One evening not so long ago, I saw myself standing in front of the mirror. My reflection looked back at me; he was wearing a folded crimson garment known as somput bot, a set of glittering jewels, and a gold​​ pointed crown, symbolic of the great era of Angkor. At that moment, my back arched. My knees bent. My toes curled. My fingers flexed back and my elbows flexed up. Moving slowly side to side, I mimicked the fluidity of water and the impression of a serpent—a celestial nymph conveying the beauty and immortality of the earth.

“What are you doing?”

My younger sister stood behind me, frowning.

“Do you want to be a girl?”

Her words paralyzed me. I started hyperventilating. My flexed-back fingers no longer bent; instead, they quivered. Fear rushed through my veins uncontrollably. The ching sound stopped echoing in my ears and my hands fell to my sides.

After the tree grows its leaves, can it continue to flourish itself and grow its flowers?

With this, and a million other moments I have experienced in response to my dancing, I have questioned who I truly am. I know expressly that it was not my sister’s fault; I assume it was just her misunderstanding, but I was confused. I felt that I had been teleported into a dark hole, losing the courage and optimism to dance. I felt as if I lived in expectations of my community instead of my reality. I felt as if I was not dancing to express and celebrate my cultural identity, but dancing in defiance of it.

In ancient Cambodia, dancing originated for both male and female dancers, who were known as the “living bridges” between heaven and earth. Throughout time, society started to discourage males from dancing because of the societal stereotypes placed upon gender: dancing is for girls. Now, Cambodian society is persistent in trying to preserve the culture of Khmer Classical Dance, but it allows for only women and girls to dance. But how will our culture be preserved when this gender-bias is involved? Why must my gender restrict my relationship with my culture? Why can’t I dance, too?

Chhib: My index finger and thumb touch each other, and my remaining fingers bend backward—the gesture of a flower.

So, I decided: I can. I will not stop dancing. Dancing helps me discover part of my identity and through it, I celebrate my culture. I will not let the contradiction of society stop me and other silent seeds from dancing because denying this ability is the same as stripping away my cultural identity, my “Khmerness.” The tree that already grew its leaves now has to keep flourishing and grow out the flowers.

Khuong: My middle finger touches the thumb, forming a circle and my remaining fingers bend backward—the imitation of a fruit.

This is my time to transform my Chhib into Khuong. My time to absorb the Khuong’s power, to break all the gender stereotypes and cultural barriers surrounding Khmer Classical Dance. My time to shout my glorious aspirations and fearless love of my culture to the universe because I am the seed that keeps growing into a tree until my fruits flourish.

From now on, this is the cycle of my journey. Soon my fruits will drop their seeds and new trees will thrive and be the next generation of dancing warriors.

 

LMRT’s Back! First Trip of 2019 – Jan 31st – Feb 3rd

After 8 months, getting back in the water, I be like…

After a long break from LMRT–about eight months–we were finally back on the island. The reason of having a long break is the rainy season. We always survey our block and dive during the sunny season because the visibility is better. Sadly, for this trip, the visibility was still bad due to the illegal and destructive fishing and seasonal change. Therefore, we could not survey block, but that did not mean we could not visit our block.

My first time seeing “bat fish!!!!”

During our journey visiting our block, there was a surprise: our block’s structure changed its shape. About one-third of the block buried in the silt. Furthermore, there are four hollow cubical blocks in the middle of the main structure; one of them was found under the main structure. Last, our cluster was missing. Nobody knew what knew how did that happen neither the LMRT nor the MCC. However, we hypothetically think that the main cause is from the illegal and destructive fishing: trawling.

The happiest time together. Making a boat and testing it out.

We are not consider this situation as a failure. It was actually the starting point for LMRT, to finally understand what is “real science.” We cannot keep thinking that our study is always perfect. This is an experiment in a “real” laboratory; anything can happen. From now on, we still keep surveying the block. We want to see how the modification of the block affects the lives there. Will there be new species? We do not know, but we believe that no matter what happens, our block is still doing its job, protecting the ocean.

Learning Third Language: 1. Khmer 2. English 3. KOREAN

Independent Discovery: Korean Language, Hangul

Student(s): Venghour Than and Rika Chan

Progress in percentage: 50%

Round: 4 and 5

Overall time (including personal time): Approximately 8-9 hours

Lessons:

  1. Alphabets (consonants and vowels)
  2. Vowels (double vowels) Consonants (double consonants)
  3. Vocabulary (noun, adjective, and verb)
  4. Numbers (simplified numbers and traditional numbers)
  5. Grammar (articles, ending phrases, plurals vs. singular, etc.)
  6. Pronunciation
  7. Time (for example, today, tomorrow, year, day, hour, minute, etc.)
  8. Typing (learning how to type in Korean on the computer keyboard)

Over the courses of round four and five, we are the beginners of learning the Korean language, Hangul. It is our goal to be fluent in this language right after our mother tongue (Khmer) and second language (English). The main reason for starting this personal learning is that we are sharing the same personal interest in Korean culture, specifically, K-pop−a very trending music industry in South-Korea.  

At the beginning, we started to gather all the resources that are accessible to our study. We were searching for available books, online courses, websites, and videos. As a result, we came up with a list of resources that are including:

  1. Korean 101 – Learning Korean online with Podcasts
  2. Duolingo – the world’s most popular way to learn languages. Their platforms exist in website and app. Furthermore, we also use Duolingo to learn other languages, for example, learning Spanish with Cara.
  3. Ewha Korean textbook – a series of textbooks for Korean young learners.

These are the main three resources we were mostly used for the study. These resources cover up all the lessons that are listed above. Both of us already knew the basics before we started this Independent discovery: alphabets, pronunciation, and some vocabulary. But we were still struggling with them. Right at the start, we had organized our system of learning by starting with the books, Ewha. We learned everything from the book, page by page, and simultaneously, having notebooks to jot down some notes. We had learned many new words and grammar from Ewha. We usually jotted down the rules of the grammar and new vocabulary. Here is an example:
 

 

 

(list of words at the left side)

(grammar rules at the right side)

Learning from Korean 101 is another alternative way to enhance our Hangul. This is an online course consists of many helpful lessons and activities. It mainly helps us with our diction. Korean 101 provides us “word of the day” that is very beneficial for daily living. In addition, it does not only provide words, it provides us with many example sentences by using the word of the day. Furthermore, it has many videos with pronunciation.

Last, we did use Duolingo to learn how to type, new basic grammar, and vocabulary. It was extremely difficult to learn how to type. It is actually the same as having a hard time, learning how to type Khmer for the first time. Duolingo is the perfect platform for learning Korean because it is very organized with its system of setting all the basics for the beginner. It gives us time to review all the basics including the alphabets, pronunciation of the letters, and of course, some spellings.

Here are some of the things we learned from Duolingo.

  1. 는, 가 = without consonant/은, 이 = with consonant
  2. 사과가 음식입니다. = An apple is a food.
  3. Noun (들) = plural
  4. 과, 와, or 하고 = and

Having only an hour each work was not enough to be fluent in Hangul, therefore, we were finding our own personal time to study. We did not limit ourselves to only these three main resources. We even further researched through many videos on Youtube. Listening to Korean songs and watching all the Korean dramas are not a bad idea at all. Personally, I actually can hear and able to define some words and phrases from the lyrics.

Besides watching movies and listening to music, I even have a Korean novel on my bookshelf. Of course, I do not understand everything, but sometimes, I just went through page by page to know if I see any familiar words or sentences.

Overall, learning Hangul is very similar to learning Khmer. It is just the difference in grammar. I discover that learning Hangul is also extremely challenging. By not having a native Korean speaker to communicate with, our progress is slow. Most of all, we could say that we are mastered in all the basics: alphabets (vowels and consonants), some words & phrases, and pronunciation. We know how to write and read; we actually on our way to master in speaking. We can have a basics conversation, but we are trying the complex conversation.

To demonstrate I have learned something in Korean, I will introduce myself in Korean by typing down on this document.

안녕하세요! 저는 뷔앵후어해요. 내가 열 다섯 살. 나는 라이거 리더십 아카데미에서 공부한다.

“Hello! My name is Venghour. I am 15 years old. I study at the Liger Leadership Academy.”

 

 

My Changing Cambodia of 2018

My fifteen-year-old heart was pounding against my chest rapidly and uncontrollably. With those high-frequent heartbeats, I felt like I was running the marathon across the arid Saharan desert. My blood, sweat, and tears were merged perfectly, transforming into an unknown emotion. I was standing there crying while investigating the enigmatic eyes from all facets of the room. First, I felt compressed within my heart; then, I felt released. At that moment, my new self was truly born, and it believes that “it is okay to be your own skin.” Now, I courageously sense where I live for more than five years is now home, the Liger Leadership Academy.

Since I was a little, naive boy, I used to tell myself that I will live a normal-boy life like others. With no doubt, I defined a “normal boy” as a person who is straight and masculine. Over the past few years—it was about two to three years ago—I experienced an unusual phenomenon. There was no clue of when did it infected me; it was genuinely unexpected. I started to sense the chemistry in my head altering its bonds intensely. The chemistry manipulated my whole spirit until everything was unmanageable. After experiencing an unsatisfied feeling, the essence of me had changed.

I attracted to a person who is a boy, but it was happening the same with the girl.

Confusion, depression, and loneliness were invading my life, and all I was feeling was dark. At that time, my heart, mind, and soul were like a roller coaster. I felt strange until I could no longer act “normal” around everybody. Being lonely and not having any support were the setbacks to my positivity and optimism. For many days, I was indecisive on whether I should tell my enigmatic truth to a friend, but I was lackadaisical; I thought I was like a dead leaf. I discovered it was extremely difficult to talk to someone who I could relate to.

I must say this was my rite of passage, and I admit that it is still now a worthy experience. This brings me back to a specific and very special day and time; it was in August, the 31st at evening about 3:30. My tears were flowing freely from the pitch-black prison. My fifteen-year-old heart was pounding against my chest rapidly… What can I say about that day? It was indescribable. “Change Agent” becomes the new me and it is my designated role. The 31st of August was my “coming out” day. I had been a skeleton in the closet for a long duration, and it was the time to unlock the closet.

“I AM BISEXUAL!” I said.

I continued, “There is nothing wrong with being different; I am still Venghour that you wish to see and friend with every day.”

“You are all my beloved people, and I am so happy to have you warm-hearted people in my life.” I ended.

The blood, sweat, and tears were then released; I can see everybody’s eyes filled with tears. They felt very proud by giving a rapturous applause.

My journey does not end here. I was pushing myself further to reach out for the bigger picture. I want to change something in my country after experiencing the plight of me dealing with my sexuality and identity. In December 2017, I was a part of the Gender Equity exploration. It was a seven-week project under the mission of “raising awareness about global gender issues with a focus on Cambodian society. In order to affect positive change, we must examine the past to transform the future.” By participating in this extraordinary project, I was gaining many aspects of gender. Throughout the exploration, much strife and plights were introduced; solutions were implemented; hope is empowered. We generated the summit and invited many teenagers from a variety of schools to have a family discussion about the Gender Equity.

There were cryings from the people during the summit. There was also silence. The person who cries is the person who has a strong power to express them self. Furthermore, it takes voice to appreciate silence. The moments of crying and silence are actually the beacons of lights to fight.

In addition to the Gender Equity project, it had continued to be the lesson for literacy class. To reflect on all the love, ideas, and morals, I have gathered from the lesson both from literacy and exploration, I wrote an article called, “A Human or A Robot.” It is an article about my confession of defining myself as an effeminate boy, distributing the love and courage to other effeminate boys and men to confront the scars of criticisms, and being comfortable with their own skin. “And most of all, it is 100% okay to cry.”

Confession or coming out to the public about your true identity is very challenging and pressured. I explicitly understand that it has been like a teeter-totter; it is vacillating between voice and silence. I believe there are people who have the voice to speak and manifest themselves, but there are other people who are living in the silent, unilluminated, and hopeless world. They feel imprisoned by the world; in fact, they believe that they are having an endless journey of walking through an unrealistic world.

Therefore, it has to “change.” It is now 2018, and we are the inhabitants of this modernized civilization. It is now time for me to be the “real” change agent to change my country and the world. I wanted to be the advocate, the role model, and the support to other people who are conflicting with their identity. By sharing my personal story right from the beginning, I give others the permission to share theirs. There should not be any invasions of insecurity in our skin. Last, but not least, “Our true identity is to love without fear and insecurity. Our higher potential finds us when we set our course in that direction. The power of love and compassion transforms insecurity.” Doc Childre stated.

 

Khmer Modeling United Nations – The first one

On Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018, Our school, Liger Leadership Academy, hosted a conference called, “Khmer Modeling United Nations.” This event has been organizing by all the Seniors learning in Khmer Literacy essential. Across the globe, Modeling United Nations conference (MUN) had been conducted in English. Therefore, Liger had conducted the first MUN conference in Khmer languageas far as I knowwith all the participation from the seniors.

The plenary session is when all the delegates gathered.

  The whole conference was divided into two different assemblies with two different topics each. The topics were about biological weapons, internet privacy, the growing billions, and air pollution control. Conducting the conference in Khmer was extremely challenging. There were many requirements for preparing and practicing. I was one of the four chairs who was responsible to the lead the debate in the assembly. I partnered with my friends, and we were responsible for leading the debates and discussion in our assembly.

Our Khmer facilitator, Sokha, the Secretary-General
My partner and I (chairs) of the second assembly.

Speaking in Khmer for the whole conference was a worthy experience. It was very similar to English since they are using fancy and very technical words. It was the same for Khmer! We had to use many technical and difficult Khmer words to communicate during the conference. Before the event was approaching, we, the chairs, were already translating the chair scripts, printing out placards of distinguished countries, guiding and helping our friends who were new to the conference through research. All of these activities we did in class before were actually enhancing many of our literary skills including writing, speaking, listening, and reading. We learned to write an open speech in Khmer standard forms, research in different Khmer resources, and write a resolution of solving the problems.

I was assisting the delegate through the event.

On the actual event, everything was in place. Everyone was dressed up professionally and ready to debate and have a fruitful discussion. Each delegate was on their role and filled with information that was standing the position of their country. During the debate, many delegates were bravely engaged with formal manner. There were difficult questions (points of information) being raised up by delegates. There were many delegates who were serious during the conference, for example, the delegate of America. He was submitting many amendments, asking questions, and even speaking for his country position. Overall, the conference was a blessing and hopefully, we are going to do it again next year.  

Here is a short video of the whole event, and I hope you enjoy it!

 

The Last Trip of 2018 – May 24th-28th

LMRT was back on the island! We were ready to rock and roll! First of all, let me take a moment here that the first we were on the island, it was actually my birthday! Now, so far I ended my first three sentences with exclamation points; what’s good! Another one! Another one! Another one…..

I was so blessed to actually having LMRT trip on my birthday, I mean, what could have been better. My friends and I were so excited getting back into the water and checking our blocks! However, we could not do any of those things. Due to the illegal fishing, the visibility of the water was extremely bad, causing the sediments to stir up. Zero dive, but that did not mean zero productiveness. We already keep ourselves busy because that is LMRT.

We helped with and did many activities:

Continuation of cluster creation

 

 

My friends and I were splicing the ropes. 

 

 

Instead of splicing the rope, we braided each others’ hair. 

 

 

 

Dolphin Survey and Plastic Survey

 

My friend, Somphors, joined us this trip.

 

 

 

 

 

Nina, our plastic survey data collector, explained us the structure of the survey. 

 

 

Dolphin Survey.  

 

 

 

 

The MCC volunteers and LMRT were participating in the dolphin survey activities. 

 

Fun dives (forget the visibility)

 

 

I was blowing the octopus to check my buddy’s air system. Buddy checked!

 

Art project with rubbish we collected around the island.

 

Making the basket out of drinking straws and the fan frame. 

 

 

Preparation of presentation and poster for the upcoming conference we will attend: The 5th International Marine Conservation Congress in Kuching, Malaysia. Unexpectedly, we are the youngest attendee there!

Staring at the sunset (very pleasant)

 

A footage of sunset taken by one of us. 

“What Do Blind People See?” – Color Optical Illusions

Have you ever wondered how a blind person see? Do they live in a different kind of universe? What do they “actually” see? Well, we have an answer now. It is not an “actual” answer, but it is an explanatory answer which it could explain how a blind person sees.  We read two different articles that explain about blind people and the optical illusions of colors. Right down below are the two questions I answered in physics class of my comprehension from the article

 

  • What do blind people actually see?

 

Blind people actually do see the thing that is indescribable. It is this nothingness that they see. A “normal” human cannot explain this nothingness because nothingness that could be explained is “how it “looks” behind your head.” Nowadays, blind people can live their normal lives like us; it is just that fact that they do not have that one sense of vision. Mr. Wächter is the subject of the experiment of the article. He is a blind man who has put on a belt whose ability can release out the vibration, which it can tell Mr. Wächter any direction. But when the experiment was over, without the belt, Mr. Wächter can still feel some vibration known as, but he was lost. “He was experiencing the same thing you do when you try to look at what’s behind your head.”

 

  • Why colors can trick us?

 

Colors can trick us when our brain tries to perceive or figure out what is the object’s color. According to Wired’s explanation, when you are concentrating on the figuration of the object’s color, our brain will neglect the background colors and light around it. Colors are also tricky when it comes to your eyes need to subtract the lighting or background colors because it is not happening rapidly. As a well-known example, some people might see the dress in white and gold while others see it as blue and black. For the people who perceive the color in white and gold, you cannot just tell your eyes or brain to neglect the right background colors and lighting. Consequently, all of these theories or ideas have become an inspiration for many artists to create the art of optical illusions. Humans know what is the optical illusion, but it takes to make us realize that it is a trick from colors.

“Golden Trevally” Trip April 5th – 8th

Learning many different knots for the making the cluster.

This was the most exciting trip out of all the LMRT trip because finally, we were able to take the first official survey of our deployed artificial blocks from March. Again, we deploy the blocks with the cluster about 300 meters away from the island. For the previous trip, we were really hopeful to see the lives rehabilitate at our place which it had been destroyed by the trawling. Therefore, this trip, we were so happy to see the first result.

Final product: Cluster!

For this April trip, it was a shorter trip, but we were still involving in the same activities: making cluster, surveying the blocks, and cleaning up the beach. Specifically about surveying, my partner, Soliday and I were responsible for the invertebrate survey. While surveying, there was not many invertebrate organisms besides some different types of urchins, volutes, and shells. The sea bed was entirely covered with silt; the water turbidity was bad. But when we arrived at our blocks, there were a lot of different sized fish swimming around. Interestingly, we had never seen a single catfish, but when I looked under the blocks, there were at least 50 of them. In data, on average, the number of species increased from six to 17 species.  

Buddy check with Sythong before getting into the water.

The survey was not finished. On the day we had to leave the island for Liger, I had to woke up early around six in the morning to do another survey: fish survey. My partner was Nilroth. My most memorable moment from that the survey was that I saw a “Golden Trevally!” It is an immense fish. It was swimming above my head calmly, trying to find food in the early morning. In fact, mostly, we have to do the fish survey in the early morning because that is the time when all the fish is trying to hunt.

 

                          GIANT STRIDE!

Overall, spotting the Golden Trevally–to me–was everything.