Saturday, April 12, 2008

Saturday 3 in Cambodia

This morning, I woke up around 5:30 washed my face, brushed my teeth, arranged my mosquito net, and trotted over to my kitchen to put on a huge kettle to boil. While that started, I tidied up my living room table and picked up my flashcards (now growing to an appreciable stack) to take a quick look before my teacher arrived. Tiwon came over around 6:10 by which time I had already made us two cups of tea and memorized a couple of words from the previous lesson.

Around 8, we finished up and Tiwon took me to see her house and then to a tiny market (called "Market behind the pagoda") for breakfast -- again those delicious noodley things, this time also served with Chinese fried cakes which were made with green veg and some kind of flour. We each drank a glass of iced sugar cane juice and then headed off to meet our friend & my coworker Mary (pronounced Maa -- ree) who needed to buy some new cloth to make an outfit for some upcoming weddings. This is the wedding season, so weekends are rife with blaring traditional music, and garishly decorated awnings where well-coiffed guests eat and celebrate.

Mary lives with her father, and mother (both Cham muslims), her older brother, 3 nieces and baby nephew. Her older sister (mum to the kiddos) lives and works in Thailand with her husband. It seems pretty common that older folks take care of their grandchildren while their own children go work elsewhere (that's also the case with my landlord). Mary speaks the best English of pretty much any Cambodian person I know here (my Khmer teacher is comparable), she's independent and super-friendly and though she doesn't work in the same section as me, we've hit it off in the few times we've hung out together.

Mary, her oldest niece, Tiwon and I set off on two motos, deftly navigated the packed byways of the Big Market to a guarded parking area and headed inside. The trip was a success. Though they were disappointed that I didn't buy anything (too small!), Mary got her material plus accessories, Tiwon got a new t-shirt and Mary's niece got a brand-spanking-new outfit from the clothes-stall run by none other than her primary-school teacher (which she was asked to hide from her sisters for at least a little while). One of my favorite near-purchases was a pair of panties meant to flatter the wearer by way of some extra padding "help" in the behind.

The whole market experience was much more fun with the girls especially because they knew so many of the folks in the market. Though Kampong Cham has a decent sized population, I definitely get the feeling that everyone knows their neighbors and, consistent with what I've seen of the rest of Cambodian culture, people are super-friendly and helpful.

After the market, I headed to Caltex where I picked up some peanut butter and juice, then headed home with only a few false turns. At home, there were a few new faces, most likely relatives coming to stay for the New Year. The jackfruit and mango trees had been ransacked for the guests, and something delicious was bubbling over the charcoal fires on the back patio.

Back home, I puttered around for a bit, swept the floor clean from the flies I had Raid-ed the night before, then decided to cut my hair. Once I decided that I'd regret any additional scissor snips, I sat down to do some studying and write for a little while. And here I am now!

Pretty sweet life, huh?

1 comment:

  1. I have met your Father, Mother and was privileged to dine next to your brother while visiting CA and my Father-in-Law (Mike Daniel, I am Angela's husband). We have never met. Your families both extended and immediate are amazing talented individuals. When I met your Father and inquired about you, his proud and almost fearful voice explained "She wants to save the world". My immediate thoughts were all the ways I wanted to do the same, and although meeting you has yet to happen, wanted to be more like you.

    Our world will definitely be a much better place because you wanted to “Save it”. From me and my family, here, yet to be born and those that I love, thank you. I am excited to read more entries as you graciously share.

    Larry Bedell