Sunday, December 7, 2008

Things I'll miss: #6 Coffee and condensed milk and grilled pork and rice for breakfast

Rumdourl and I went out for our last breakfast together on Monday morning. Grilled pork and rice at the restaurant just beside my house. All those months living there, and I had never checked it out, mostly because in all the time I've walked or ridden my bike past by the place, I've never seen a single female sit down to eat. But Rumdourl assured me that this place was yummy, so we braved the testosterone and ordered our rice and my coffee.

Sure enough, there were more than the usual share of curious stares. Rumdourl knew half of the people there -- a fact that never fails to surprise me given that Kampong Cham isn't a tiny town (supposedly over 60,000 people) but that didn't stop them from ogling unabashedly and giggling in their somewhat disconcerting leering, but nervous sort of way.

But really, all this is beside the point of what I'm going to miss. Breakfast has always been one of my favorite meals and Cambodians are much the same. If we have an appointment in the field at 8, we arrange to leave at 6, to ensure ample time for a roadside stop for breakfast. And even if we're running late, everything can be postponed to accommodate an hour for a steaming bowl of kway teiouv noodles, khmer donuts with coffee or garlicky pork rice.

I'll miss the food itself -- rice, meat and pickled veg is pretty atypical as western breakfasts go -- but what I think I'll miss more is the mentality that prioritizes breakfast and body over productivity. Sure, it can be irritating when you're running late for a training, but I admire the peace and patience it takes to ignore (or at least postpone) so-called obligations to take care of primary functions first and foremost.

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