Ponheary: My Impression of Our U.S. Trip

By Ponheary Ly

I have visited a few European Countries such as Russia, France and Belgium. At that time I had no idea to admire thing around me, I was only focused on studying. The US trip made me admire things around me. I loved all cities I’d been to.

New York is beautiful.  The first impression for me is the dogs wearing the coat and tied with the chain. I feel they are decorated prisoner. It’s funny too when I thought to design the shoes for them too so that we could sell well because dog has 4 legs! But then I saw that many dogs already had shoes also!

PLF University Partner Jaskiran Dillon and some of her students.

I appreciated New School students and teachers, especially PLF University Partner Jaskiran Dhillon who guided me through he city every day. I loved the museum, but was sad when I saw many carving and statues from Cambodia staying abroad like that. The September 11th memorial made me sad, made me think about the innocent people in the world who were killed because of the politics of the countries.

We are very lucky in New York when we had many people coming to visit us , had dinner or lunch with us. They all invited us for meal and brought the donation. Thanks to Maura, her sister and her Daughter Maggie. We got to meet PLF Director of Instructional Technology Diana Gross’s parents, the Rothchild Family, Kathy and Anne, Anita and Jeff . All old PLF friends who came to meet us.

Rothchild family joined with New School students and teachers to celebrate my birthday on Sunday March 2nd because they all were free.  Thank many people who drove so far to join our event and make the donation. A lady surprised me with the photo she took when I guided her family in 2006.  I really appreciated New School who organized the event for us to talk about our work, about my story through the war and genocide.

Ponheary's favorite restaurant in New York was the donut shop.

The 6th of March after meeting Lao Leng at the BreakFast, we catch the train to DC . Trip in the train was very nice. We left at 10.35am and we got to DC at 2pm at the hotel. It was raining (we supposed to have snow but not). Micheal Mass came at 6.30pm to take us around at night and have dinner in Lao restaurant (in Virginia area).

I love Washington DC very much with the structure of the city, the history, the monuments, and the museums. March 7th Lindsey toured us around the city. She organized our visit to the White House. She toured us to the Washington Monument and all the interesting monuments and statues around that area. I was very happy and lucky. She was my tourist in Siem Reap with her family in 2003. I wish to have more time there.

March 8 we didn’t have breakfast because we had to take the train to Baltimore very early because we had to give our speech at 8am. I was happy to give a quick speech to the girl’s school where Diana Gross worked before coming to work for PLF. It was wonderful when we had also Diana in Skype to introduce us.

After the speech we got to the hotel at 10.35am, but the hotel didn’t allow us to check in soon as we got there until 3pm. So we swung around that area to wait for Former Board Member Kathy Epstein who lives in that town. The appointment was at 12.30.

Kathy drove us around, brought to a nice restaurant, where there are a lot exhibitions. We saw the paintings painted by Cambodian children. After that she drove all round. The town was very beautiful but I was very tired and fell a sleep many time in the car, so we decided to be back to the hotel at 3.40pm.  I was asleep for one hour then Lori came to get me down to the lobby to meet with Maywin Liu, one of our earlier PLF volunteers . After she left two other ladies arrived. They are Lauri Kessler and her friend Jennifer who nominated me as CNN Hero. We ate dinner and talked happily together in the restaurant.

March 9th we flew to Austin, Texas and stayed in Austin for three hours before catching the plane to Lubbock where Lori’s parents live. In Austin Nina came to take us out of the airport to have picnic lunch along a river. She prepared a lot of food for us. After lunch she drove us around a little bit and took us to the airport. One hour of flight to get to Lubbock.

Ponheary near Lubbock, Texas.

March 18th, we flew back to Austin from Lubbuck. Nina drove us to Shelly’s house. Shelly help to hire a car for us. Lori drove me to her friend’s house where we stayed for three nights.

March 20, at 9am Sandy Larson came to pick me up for visiting a public school (Live Oak elementary school) where her daughter Shelley was working. I went into many classes, Kindergarten , grade 2, 3, 4 and 5. The students are very smart and brave. In the school there are around 540 students and 84 teachers and staff. In the class where there are deaf students, there are four teachers (one normal teacher, one assistant, one signing teacher and one interpreter). In the classes there are all the materials for teaching needed. They used the computer with the projector and big screen for teaching.

FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Students had a lot of questions for me until their teachers stopped them. One boy in grade 4 made me a paper flower. I gave him my name card. Others want to have myname card so that they can make their parents making a donation. In grade 3 there are many students from other parts of world as Japan, Mexico, Vietnam, Cuba… A Cuban girl had many questions and many opinions.

On March 22 we put all our luggage in the car to go stay with some other friends. After breakfast we picked up Sharon Miro, our board secretary who came from Los Angeles. Then we went to Stella’s school to talk. Her class will do fundraising for PLF. After lunch we went to Dave and Susan’s house where we gave the presentation the day after. We had a board meeting at 7pm that evening. We were very warm welcome.

March 23 in the evening, around 70 people came to our PLF event.  Those people included Lori’s mom and her other three friends. They drove seven hours from Lubbock. I gave the presentation with Lori. Some people came because they know me when touring in Angkor. Some people volunteers, some used to stay at 7 Candles. Many are Lori and Dave’s friends. There was a young owl above my head when I was speaking, I didn’t see it but other people saw. American people believe that is the good sign, good luck.

March 24th at noon we gave a PLF presentation to the Universalist church where Peggy attends and she introduced us. She came to Cambodia in 2010 and went to Koh Ker for giving Lunch to the kids

March 25th we flew to Los Angeles. We got to Los Angeles at about 4pm and Sharon Miro met us there.  She drove us to the city. We did some Shopping and we saw some statues on display at the Norton Simon Museum that are from Koh Ker temple complex.  We had another nice dinner with many friends in Sharon’s house. There were 16 of us having dinner then. We got Karen Tenkoff come to see us and she organize our visit to Disney’s Animation where they make the Cartoon. It was interesting place to see.

During my stay in Texas and Los Angeles I understand about life in US family. Even if their house small or big, they all have facilities to make life easy such as the washing machine, the laundry machine and all kind of materials in the kitchen.  Each person is independent. They can do what they decide to do. Their students are encouraged to show what they have in their brain and talk about all their ideas. I saw modern life there but I also saw that many people, even women, know how to build things and do carpentry because they learn in school when they are young, and if they like that skill, they continue to learn on the TV.

Dinner with Ponheary in Los Angeles at PLF Board Secretary Sharon Miro's house.

Maybe because of my job as a teacher, the highlight of my trip was the school visits. There are enough materials for teaching in the class. The class is small , so it’s easy toteach. In the town there are many places for the children to go to play, to create the idea such as the nature museum and science museum. The children in US have more chance to succeed than in Cambodia. I wish to get the same things in our school.

I really loved our work to do there. I’d like to thank all people who helped us ,to host us at home, to give us the chance to speak to get fundraising for our cause. Thank you to all friends who came from far away and brought new people to hear our story. Thank all the people who always support PLF.

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