August 29, 2012

Cambodian Landmine Museum - Partner Highlight

 Laguna Blanca School 2012 Friendship Tours travelers with Aki Ra.
Our Friendship Tours students learn and fund-raise on behalf of the Cambodian Landmine Museum. CLM is an educational center for tourists to learn more about the consequences of landmines and Aki Ra’s noble work. Administrated by the incredible husband and wife team, Bill and Jill Morse, CLM serves as a global community resource. In addition to providing an interactive museum, fascinating displays, and informative guided lectures, the museum also boasts a gorgeous gift shop filled with artisan objects made to benefit landmine victims. Whether it’s a compelling T-shirts, woven textiles, books, music or jewelry made from re-purposed ordnance, the products support the self-sustainability of landmine victims-turned entrepreneurs. Jill Morse administers an exceptional onsite orphanage and school that services disabled and economically disadvantaged children. The learners range in age, though all are motivated to become proficient in all subjects in preparation for college. 

Our Friendship Tours students are lucky to engage in a conversational English and digital pen-pal communications with the students of the Cambodian Landmine Museum. 

Contact Us for information about how to connect your classroom in a pen-pal exchange.   (

August 28, 2012


On August 12, 2012 Aki Ra was honored by the Manhae Foundation, in Inje, Republic of Korea, with the 2012 Manhae Foundation Grand Prize for Peace.  It was awarded to him for his continuing efforts to free Cambodia from the ravages of nearly 35 years of warfare.  The legacy of this terrible period has been the landmine, a perfect soldier, that continues to fight and destroy lives for decades.

Akira receiving Manhae Peace Prize copyAki Ra stated that he was humbled and honored by the recognition of the Manhae Foundation.  He also wants all to know that he is only one of many working to make Cambodia a safer place for all.  Organizations from across the globe have been working in Cambodia for decades to clear these terrible weapons, and while he is overjoyed that people have recognized his efforts, he accepts this award on behalf of everyone, around the globe who is contributing to end the scourge of landmines and other remnants of war.

Manhae 2 The Society for the Promotion and Practice of Manhae's Thoughts established   the Manhae Prize (Manhae Daesang) in memory of, and for the dissemination of, the high thinking and noble mind of Reverend Manhae(1879-1944).
Manhae was born in southern Chungcheong province South Korea. Prior to being ordained as a Buddhist monk, he was involved in resistance to Japanese influence in the country, which culminated in the Japanese occupation from 1905-1945. The same year the occupation began, 1905, Manhae was ordained as a Buddhist monk at Baekdamsa temple on Mt. Seorak.

As a social writer, Manhae called for the reform of Korean Buddhism. Manhae's poetry dealt with both nationalism and love, one of his more political collections was Nimui Chimmuk(님의 침묵), published in 1926. These works revolve around the ideas of equality and freedom, and helped inspire the tendencies toward passive resistance and non-violence in Korean independence movement.

His poems mainly concern his philosophical meditation on nature and the mystery of human experience.

Aki Ra's comments on receiving the Manhae Grand Prize for Peace:

Dear Manhae Foundation,

IMG_6254I would like to thank you for this very great honor. The work we do in Cambodia to make our country safe often goes unrecognized and I am grateful whenever the world takes notice of the difficulties we, and other countries, contend with in dealing with the aftermath of wars that ended many years ago.

The many people who were forced to fight in the 35 years of war in Cambodia had no choice. The war made them become what they became. We can never forget what happened here, but we need to move forward, and make a better country for our children.

Cambodia has received a lot of help from many countries around the world. I became involved in clearing landmines because I want to make my country safe for my people. We are assisted by people from all over the world, and I am grateful for the help.

While my country is getting better, many people live without clean water, electricity, health care and most of all education. As well as clearing landmines with our landmine NGO, I started the Landmine Museum Relief Center to care for children from small villages who were landmine victims, were born with a handicap, were orphaned or come from families too poor to care for them. Our Relief Center houses them, cares for them and provides them with a university or trade school scholarship. And it is done without making them a spectacle. They live in their own village where they thrive. The Relief Center is not a rehabilitation sight. That is provided by the government and international NGOs and we take advantage of everything that is available. Our Center gives the children a solid home and a future. Tourists can support them by visiting the museum, but their home is closed to visitors.

Our country has many landmines left. It also has many unexploded bombs and artillery shells left over from the war. I will continue to dedicate my life to making my country safe for my people.

Again, thank you for the recognition and this great honor. It is with this kind of help that my country and many others can be free from landmines in our lifetime.



August 22, 2012

Phyllis Diller 1917-2012

Comedian Phyllis Diller performs during the Bob Hope show for American troops at Can Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, on Jan. 6, 1967. (Associated Press)
Today we honor Phyllis Diller, 1917-2012, outrageous comedienne who pioneered a signature style of comedy, and entertained the U.S. troops with Bob Hope in Vietnam, 1966. The Los Angeles Times offers an excellent tribute to her life and contributions to comedy:,0,4800295.story

Poking fun and laughing not at--but with—herself, Diller employed a self-deprecating style that endeared her to generations of fans and colleagues.

From the Stars and Stripes, , the official military publication of the Vietnam War, we get a glimpse into Diller’s generous holiday spirit. Reporting on Bob Hope and Phyllis Diller’s 1966 Christmas comedy appearance in Cam Ran Bay, South Vietnam, S&S writes:
Hope, always well received on his annual Christmas tours to entertain troops overseas, said he found soldiers in Vietnam even "warmer and more affectionate," than usual.
"Of course," he quipped, "I have Phyllis Diller, who is scaring both sides."
Comedienne Diller told reporters that part of her charm is due "to the fact that I know absolutely nothing."

Perhaps not coincidentally, Bob Hope and Phyllis Diller’s comedic visit to Vietnam was followed in 1968 by the release of an anti-war comedy film just two years later.   The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell gives us Hope as the Navy General engaged in a WWII fight over a cargo shipment of beer. Hoping to boost morale of his troops, he fights also to secure a group of nurses for his soldiers – all of whom are men, except the zany Phyllis Diller. Though the film was not enthusiastically received by critics of the time, the anti-war message is undeniable. Taken in context, the movie underscores the talent that Ms. Diller employed to both support our troops, and parody the pointlessness of war.

“Think of me as a sex symbol for the men who don’t give a damn.” Phyllis once joked.

Oh Phyllis. You are laughter medicine for those of us who do.   

August 10, 2012

What is peace tourism?

What’s the difference between war tourism and peace tourism? Recent tourist attractions in Cambodia have addressed this question. It’s not that Cambodia is any stranger to grim tourist sights. Phnom Penh’s two most famous attractions, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields, are relics of the Khmer Rouge’s bloody reign that killed over 2 million of its own citizens in the name of a communist utopia. Today, tourists and locals alike come in flocks to witness the horrifying setting of some of the greatest human rights abuses in the last half-century. But now the Cambodia is trying two add a few new dark destinations to its must-see sight map. Specifically, Pol Pot’s grave and toilet seat as well as the house of the Khmer Rouge commander, affectionately known as “the Butcher.”

Pol Pot's Grave

So what’s the difference between visiting the Killing Fields and say the Butcher’s last abode? Why, the quality of information provided. While Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields are flushed with placards giving information about the conditions under the Khmer Rouge and are designed to educate people about such horrific happenings, these new sights have no information besides a “sign that says ‘please help to preserve this historical site.’” The big question: is it okay to profit from Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge’s atrocities? And moreover, how can we distinguish between profiteering and education?

In order to answer these, let’s look back at our first question: what’s the difference between war tourism and peace tourism? The intention with which you approach your travel experience is what will decide. We can use the example of Pol Pot’s grave versus the Tuol Sleng Genocide Memorial. The Tuol Sleng Memorial is designed to educate and produce a reaction; that is, to make sure we learn from these past atrocities so that we as human beings will not continue to make them. That is peace tourism: learning the consequences of war so that we can appreciate and uphold the necessity of peace.  Pol Pot’s grave with its lack of information about the man it contains does not do this. It is a form of war tourism because it fetishizes rather than educates. It is your responsibility as a traveler, especially to a recently war torn nation, to respect this history of the place you’re a visiting. Be conscious. And before you go out, ask yourself, what is it that I am trying to learn from this? Why do I travel?

August 2, 2012

Tim O'Brien wins the Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Tim O'Brien

In a world plagued by corruption, violence and the idolatry of our golden calf—cold hard cash—it’s often hard not to get discouraged by the values of those in power and the direction the world seems to be headed. Arctic drilling, the melting of the ice caps, war in Syria, corruption at the Olympics, oppression in Myanmar, the list goes on and on and it’s often overwhelming. The knee jerk reaction to this deluge of depressing information is to simply shut it out. But instead of closing our eyes to what we don’t want to see, or writing off these problems as natural and unchangeable, let's look at people who are making a positive difference in their communities and in the world and find inspiration to start making tangible changes in our own lives.

"Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has" – Margaret Mead

Taking our lead from the words of Margret Mead, at Friendship Tours World Travel we’re starting our own “power to the peaceful” movement, spotlighting people around the world who aren’t afraid to stand up and say: I can make difference. To kick-start this project we recognize Tim O’Brien, Vietnam War veteran, peace activist and author. Just yesterday Tim O’Brien was recognized as the winner of the 2012 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for his body of work, including his book of short stories The Things They Carry, which humanizes the experience of US soldiers in the Vietnam War. Upon winning the award, Tim O'Brien stated, "Over what has been a long career, this award means more to me than any other by far." Congratulations Tim O'Brien your words have not fallen on deaf ears. 

To learn more about Tim O'Brien and his literary award check out the article in the Huffington Post.

Have your own inspiring story to share? Leave a comment on this post, we'd love to hear from you.