A Change of Guard

សូមស្តាប់វិទ្យុសង្គ្រោះជាតិ Please read more Khmer news and listen to CNRP Radio at National Rescue Party. សូមស្តាប់វីទ្យុខ្មែរប៉ុស្តិ៍/Khmer Post Radio.
Follow Khmerization on Facebook/តាមដានខ្មែរូបនីយកម្មតាម Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/khmerization.khmerican

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The call from Marblehead to Cambodia

Top: When it comes to fashion, Gabrielle Yetter and fellow Volunteers in Asia volunteers took things up a notch when they realized they all celebrated birthdays in November. They decided to do something fun, and got dressed up in traditional Cambodian garb and went to a specialty photo studio. The cost for four hours of hair, makeup, costume and photos in Cambodia: $8.

Bottom: Frank Yetter, typically a passenger, drives a tuk tuk, which is a auto rickshaw.

By Charlene Peters
Wicked Local Marblehead
Marblehead Reporter
Posted Oct 18, 2011

Marblehead —Initially, Gabrielle and Frank Yetter traveled to Thailand for an exotic honeymoon. Yes, they were already smitten with each other, but since that trip almost five years ago, they’ve become smitten with Thailand’s neighbor in Southeast Asia, Cambodia.

Traveling to faraway places isn’t out of the ordinary for Gabrielle, who was born in India, raised in London and has worked in San Francisco, London, Washington, D.C., and South Africa for Business Wire, where Frank also worked after leaving his position of four years as editor and associate publisher for the Marblehead Reporter.

Frank, a.k.a. “Skip” to his friends in Marblehead, worked in the Boston office, but company conferences in the romantic settings of Hawaii, the Caribbean and London brought the couple together. For two years, a transatlantic relationship ensued, with Gabi living in London and Frank in Marblehead, until the couple took a trip to Spain, where Frank proposed.

The Yetters were married by Tom McNulty in Abbot Hall on Thanksgiving Day almost five years ago, and former Sticky Rice owner, Chef Amorn, catered the occasion. Gabi left her job and worked for Medialink for two years before beginning her own novelty business, working out of her new home with Frank in Marblehead, where she created Screaming Pillows. Although the Yetters settled down with each other, they weren’t settled about the lifestyle they were living. After Frank’s first visit to Southeast Asia on their honeymoon, he was ready to explore more of the world.

He describes how he felt on that first visit to Thailand: “The feeling of being there, the people, the aura, the gentleness and peacefulness in the air. It’s a little edgy, but soft around the edges.”

Like many life changes, there was a specific incident that sparked the idea to move forward. And it happened during his honeymoon, when Frank noticed Barcaloungers lined up on a street. That’s when he met John, an American who had lived in Thailand after vacationing there, and said he felt the same way as Frank about being there. John subsequently faxed his resignation and took an early retirement to live in Thailand.

Says Frank, “He told me that on his Social Security and with his pension, he had some money, but couldn’t possibly spend it all here.”

So, Frank approached his new wife at the ancient walled city and said, “How’d you feel about living here?”

The answer was an easy yes for Gabi, who was used to relocating around the world. Frank needed a bit more inspiration, which he says he got from Lee Eisenberg’s book, “The Number,” which is about how much one really needs to retire.

“It was like he wrote it for me,” says Frank. “It’s not how your 401K is doing, it’s about changing the cost in how you live.”

So, what does a couple do when their kids are off to college and are feeling restless? According to the Yetters, they sell their house for a song and rent a place at Glover Landing for nine months, allowing the downsizing to begin.

But, it wasn’t that simple, especially when Frank had grown up with a “provider” mindset.

As senior vice president at Business Wire, the major turning point happened after Frank wrote his last tuition check.

“I stepped off the treadmill,” he states of letting go of working for Warren Buffet.

On a Monday morning in January 2010, he said, “That’s it.”

Fortunately, Gabi was on board to do the same.

“I want out,” she recalls saying. “It was like being on a trapeze, knowing you have to jump off to swing, but swinging back and forth until you finally let go and trust.”

On December 2009 Frank was having dinner with Warren Buffett. Thirty days later, he was gone.

“I’ve lived nowhere,” says Frank, so he was pumped. “You don’t know unless you let go. So I went to work that day and quit. And it was pretty scary.”

And Frank makes a point to state that it’s not about having the financial means to do so.

He says, “Money is not the cornerstone for doing this. It’s a myth that you need a lot of money.”

It took him a little over two months to decompress after he quit his job, and then the Yetters decided to take a six-month road trip across the U.S., driving between 16,000 and 18,000 miles through back roads to gather experiences. During that time, Frank realized that politics was “a bunch of baloney” and that the bottom line was that every person, whether Democrat or Republican, simply cared about their families.

For Gabi, the beauty of the National Parks impressed her most. But what happened in Long Beach, Calif., became ironic today.

“We found a Cambodian restaurant called Siem Reap,” explains Gabi, “in a big pocket of a Cambodian populated area. It felt weird, like culture shock.”

They ended their U.S. tour in Sausalito, then sold their cars and headed to the easygoing area of Chiang Mai in Cambodia, where they receive a stipend of about $500 each for their volunteer work, and where $3 gets you a one-hour foot massage.

The path to Cambodia

“We’re young, and not ready to live the retirement life,” Frank recalls saying to his wife before discovering San Francisco-based Volunteers in Asia (VIA). They headed for an interview to see about relocating to Cambodia to help the world become a better place. “We were afflicted by the world’s problems.”

Although they thought the interview didn’t go well — and out of 300 applicants, there were only 40 slots — the Yetters finally got the call about two open positions. They didn’t want to teach English, so they were happy when they got non-governmental organization (NGO) jobs.

After doing some research, they found a $10-a-night guesthouse in which to stay for a few weeks, before they found their own place, within the local community, unlike some expats who live in gated mansions because the cost is so reasonable for such luxury.

“What’s the point of visiting a country if you’re not experiencing the local atmosphere?” says Gabi, who admits her first reaction was that “we stepped off into God knows what — and it was hot!”

Initially, she wasn’t happy with the move.

“I felt trapped in a hot, dirty, smelly place,” she admits. She wondered, “Where is something pleasurable?”

Two weeks later, she found pleasure in a café au lait and found comfort in the uncomfortable, and air conditioning and WiFi.

“I needed doses of Skype and connections to U.S. culture, and coffee,” she says.

During week one, the two were placed in a four-week language immersion program that they say was partly productive and partly not to learn Khmer, the official language of Cambodia.

“We were going to the market to barter, using the language skills we learned,” says Frank, who loves life living in Cambodia. In fact, the couple just signed on for another year’s work there.

By week two, they were riding in the trailer of a Tuk Tuk (an auto rickshaw, or three-wheeler), and by Aug. 2, after five weeks of training, began to work.

Gabi has been busy editing reports for the Development and Partnership for Action, and is writing a Cambodian dessert cookbook (think sticky rice, coconut cream, palm sugar and condensed milk) and guidebook, while Frank works on projects with a PR and ad agency as a strategist to get more roads built and bring in healthcare that essentially doesn’t exist.

“If you get sick [as a Cambodian] and don’t have money, you die,” he says. “Nobody is going to help you.”

He’s been lobbying and advocating for poor people in Cambodia — not an easy role, especially with a dictatorship working against him.

“There’s a good chance a lot of NGOs will soon enough be out of business,” he says.

Although they’re living with an unstable future, as far as volunteer work is concerned, the Yetters have made Phnom Penh in Cambodia their home.

Admittedly, Frank has had bouts of gastrointestinal distress, and even had dengue fever a few months ago. But, he says, they’ve both never felt so alive.

“We’re in a euphoric state of loving this place,” says Frank, who adds that during the last few months he’s felt deeply appreciative of the rights and liberties we have as Americans.

Without having visited Cambodia, many American friends of the Yetters answered their calls to send funds for a friend who needed housing. Like a scene from “Eat, Pray, Love,” funds poured in and a house was built in Cambodia.

The Yetters keep a blog of their experiences, which many friends hope becomes a book in the near future.

But for now, life is good for the Yetters in Cambodia, a move Frank would never have made had he not met Gabi.

“Gabi has been my most significant teacher,” says a grateful Frank.

Today, dining in a Cambodian restaurant feels normal and comfortable; in fact, the Yetters were planning to dine at a Lynn-based Cambodian restaurant during their visit to Marblehead. And although they craved speaking English while in Cambodia, while in Marblehead, they’re craving speaking Khmer.

But, make no mistake. The Yetters miss the community of Marblehead, and family still counts. They had no problem taking the 32-hour flight to Boston to watch Frank’s daughter, Emmy, 23, perform as Tinkerbell in “Peter Pan,” playing in Boston through Dec. 30.

Wanna give?

Kantha Bopha Hospitals Visit beat-richner.ch

Dr. Beat Richner, a former Swiss Red Cross volunteer in Cambodia, in 1991 was asked by the king of Cambodia to come back to Cambodia after the defeat of the Khmer Rouge and installation of the UN-led transitional government to head up the pediatric hospital.

Twenty years later, Kantha Bopha consists of five hospitals in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap providing free care to Cambodian children, thousands of whom would not survive without the help from Kantha Bopha’s staff. From 1993 through 2010, Kantha Bopha treated nine million outpatients, 900,000 inpatients and performed 90,000 surgical procedures. Over 550,000 children would not have survived without this medical care.

A renowned classical cellist, Dr. Richner takes the stage at Kantha Bopha’s Siem Reap hospital auditorium every Saturday night to play a free concert and solicit contributions for the hospitals.

Kantha Bopha has incredibly low costs per patient and is independently audited to ensure that every dollar is well spent on free medical care.

Pour Un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE) Visit pse.asso.fr

Pour Un Sourire d’Enfant (For the Smile of a Child) was formed in 1993 to help remove children scavenging on Phnom Penh’s garbage dump and provide them with better lives. It started by providing first aid and meals on the dumpsite so that children would no longer need to search for food and today is a full-scale program for children in Cambodia.

Not only does PSE provide 9,000 meals daily, it provides healthcare, protection for orphans and education for underprivileged and maltreated children as well as offering vocational programs in such areas as cooking, housekeeping, business, gardening, security and construction.

PSE provides follow-up care for every graduate and helps them find jobs after training so that many of their young, disadvantaged children are now working in areas that, before, they would never have dreamed about. Direct sponsorship costs $48 /month. One-time donations also welcomed.

No comments: