This summer, the SFS Center for Mekong Studies in Cambodia moved to a new location, and now the Center has welcomed its first group of students!
Students on the Cambodia fall semester program are enjoying the new Center’s beautiful facilities, which include more dedicated indoor common space and a large outdoor area with a volleyball court, swimming pool, space for soccer, and a vegetable garden. Aside from its recreational uses, the expanded outdoor space allows for more on-site academic activities such as the exploration of urban conservation and permaculture principles.
The new location also features a larger classroom, with space for the growing library collection and wall displays for student work and educational materials. Students now stay in 4-person dorm rooms, each with its own suite-style bathroom, while residential staff members and visiting guest lecturers are housed in two stand-alone bungalows. The Center’s incredible kitchen staff has not been forgotten, either, as they are now able to work with commercial-level stainless steel kitchen fittings. There is a separate, dedicated kitchen area for students to make snacks in between meals.
To celebrate the opening of the new facilities, the SFS Center for Mekong Studies held a traditional Cambodian blessing ceremony last week. The ceremony was attended by the Center staff as well as the inaugural student group.
Leading the ceremony was a master of ceremonies, also known as an Achar. Those in attendance joined in a number of Buddhist chants and gave offerings including a pig’s head, two cooked chickens, fruit, water, iced tea, cola, incense, and candles. A monk blessed the property, staff and students by performing a ritual flower-and-water blessing. Each individual received a string bracelet, symbolizing good fortune and luck. In return, students and staff gave gifts of fruit, tea, sweet milk, food and incense to the monk.
The Achar (master of ceremonies) leads the blessing ceremony for the new SFS Center for Mekong Studies
Students participate in Buddhist chants during the ceremony
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the monk explained the significance and meaning of the chants to the students. The timing of the blessing ceremony coincides well with the academic unit on traditional Cambodian beliefs and ethics.
The SFS Center for Mekong Studies is now blessed for success during the fall 2016 semester and onward!
The newly blessed SFS spirit house