Sunday, June 29, 2008

Checking in

It's been over two months since the last mass email -- I've been sparing everyone and keeping updates here (check it out for updates on Raja, the work situation, and more) but I had a couple of sincere-seeming requests for an email, so here are some highlights from the past 8 weeks.

Nothing like a visit to buoy the spirits and kill you with longing for home.

At the end of May, Mayumi and Judy came out to visit for a few days. We met in Phnom Penh on a Saturday morning and had a whirlwind two days in the city, hailing tuk-tuks, grocery shopping, eating crickets, getting pampered, seeing the overpriced National Museum, dancing up a storm, and rescuing an abandoned cat.

On Monday, Judy had to head back to the office (Google Singapore), so Mayumi and I headed to Kampong Cham, where I took her on the whirlwind moto-tour of the city; then the next day, we headed off to Siem Reap where we spent two-and-a-half days exploring the temples. Overall, 'twas a glorious visit, and it was hard to say goodbye to Mayumi and head back to the fortress of solitude in Kampong Cham.

Do I miss Google? Well when the Cambodian microorganisms have gotten the better of my digestive system, and I've had nothing but Maria biscuits and soda water for a day or two, my mind wanders fondly to the hot chocolate they serve in Pinxto or the Andale burrito bar. However, while I've found I can mostly do without the dry cleaning and the espresso machines and the massage chairs, what I miss terribly is all my brilliant friends.

Living for the action in the field.

Work can be tedious and not always what I expected, but going out to visit schools and communities is inspiring, depressing, entertaining, and always educational.

Out in the field, I get to watch the tiny first-graders lugging their own plastic chairs to-and-from school; I get to visit classrooms with students, but no teaches; I get to see the village chief assemble families for a workshops on gender and education. Once, I met a group of girls who started a small tailor business with training and a microloan. I laughed along at a Girls' Club's ruefully funny skit about a drunk father who won't let his children go to school. I rode through cassava fields on the school director's moto to visit a family of 12 with two scholarship students and two HIV-positive parents.

Out in the field, I can feel nothing but humbled by the work my colleagues are doing. It almost makes me feel like I could continue as the organizations flack jacket without complaint...

The alphabet, new exercise regimes, and the noodle tour.

As for daily life, my Khmer is improving rapidly, so I'm able to have pretty decent conversations as long as people speak "muoy-muoy" or "one-by-one." I decided to start up with reading and writing, and so far, I've managed the 33 consonants: Gaw Khaw Ghuh Khuh Nguh. Jaw Chaw Juh Chugh Nyuh. Daw Taw Duh Tuh Naw. Thaw Taw Thuh Tuh Nuh. Baw Paw Buh Puh Muh. Yuh Ruh Luh Vuh. Saw Haw Law Aw. Radical.

Since I decided running (or even walking) was out of the question, I've taken to switching between my moto and a bicycle around town, and have instituted an evening regimen of crazy solo dancing to loud music. Next time I go to Phnom Penh, I'm buying a $1 pilates DVD. Elongated musculature here I come!

As if to counteract the good intentions of my new exercise regimen, Rumdourl has decided that my knowledge of Cambodian cuisine is too limited, so she's decided to take me on a "noodle tour" -- one new shop in Kampong Cham every week. I consider this supplementary to my Khmer cooking education -- I've been learning 2-3 new dishes per month, courtesy of friends and their mothers. Next up: Fish Amok.

No comments:

Post a Comment