Back in December, my parents and I did a whirlwind tour that included a very brief stop in Kampot. Mostly it was to see a pepper farm and we barely walked around the town. It probably would have been even shorter if our van hadn’t broken down. On impulse, I decided that I couldn’t leave Southeast Asia yet without one last look at Cambodia. Okay, I’m joking. It was actually to see one specific person.
Today I rented a motorbike for $4, learned how to drive said motorbike, and got my hair cut and random color streaks because why not. Sure as hell won’t be having this happen in the US.
Apologies for this late round up post. August was a busy one. There was sleep, eating, playing Ultimate. Soaking up as much of Phnom Penh as possible. Besides Kratie I did a couple of other in-country trips. Naturally, as it was my last month and half, I had to eat through as many places as I can possibly afford. Then it was September and packing and deciding what to keep and what to leave behind. I left Cambodia with a team of Cambodians and expats to Ho Chi Minh (again) to play in a frisbee tournament. After that, I’m traveling around Kuala Lumpur (where I currently am) and then back to Vietnam to work my way down from Hanoi to Hue.
My last days in Cambodia are coming to a frightening quick close, which means I’ve been trying to cram in as many things as I can. Of course, going back to the dorm was on my list, so this past Sunday was my (almost) last visit to the dorm.
As my time here winds to a close, I suppose it’s time to do one of those list things.
- Bucket showers. I don’t think I ever really got all the shampoo out of my hair or the soap washed off of me, but these showers were fun. They were a novelty that never wore off. There was nothing better than coming back sweating and hot from doing errands outside and throwing a cold bucket of water over your head.
- Making up the conversations I’ve had with people. Sellers, random people on the street, tuk tuk drivers, they’ve all spoken to me in Khmer and since I understood about 1 in 10 words that they said to me, I would make up the rest based on context. The tuk tuk drivers who slapped the other on the head must have been calling the other one an idiot. The coffee seller who accidentally short changed me, laughing and explaining to me how she thought I had given her 2,000 reil instead of 5,000 reil. The cleaning woman who smiled at me and said something “jet Khmer” something something “l’aw” was clearly being generous and telling me I spoke good Khmer.
- Krolan, nom le pov, ansom. These are the snack foods I’ll miss. The first is sticky rice and beans cooked in bamboo; the second a steamed pumpkin rice “cake”; the third banana wrapped in sticky rice and grilled.
- Longkong. Continuing with the theme of food, I will miss my favorite fruit. Kilos on kilos eaten.
- The things Prime Minister Hun Sen says and does. It’s comedic, it is. Like saying something along the lines that people can’t get HIV if they don’t know about it. Yeah. That was a real thing.
- The people. I have meet the most fascinating group of people while I’ve lived here, both Khmer and expat. From the random people who have picked conversations with me, to the sellers at the markets and street stalls I’d return to day after day, to those who I’ve spent hours of time with, these have been some of the most wonderful relationships I’ve developed.
- These girls. Obviously. They’ve all promised to invite me to their weddings though, so there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be back.
- Riding my bicycle. It may have been a child’s bike and I’ve gotten laughed at for having it a lot and it broke down more times than I care to count, but it did its job well. It taught me how to really ride a bicycle.
- Riding motobikes. They’re dangerous, yes, and the quality of your driver is dubious, but nothing beats going around the city on the back of a motobike. Tuk tuks are ok, but on a moto, you’re in the thick of things. As long as there’s not traffic, you get a good breeze and that feeling of being alive.
- Olympic Stadium, pre-renovation. The dancing, the soccer, the sellers, running there in the morning; this is my favorite place in Phnom Penh.
Kratie (confusingly pronounced krat-ché), is a province up the Mekong, north east of Phnom Penh. When a friend proposed a biking trip up in this province, I jumped on it, as I would like to spend some more time outside of the city and seeing other parts of the country. After postponing it for several weeks, we finally got our act together and set out the last week in July heading into August.
After returning from my trip around Luang Prabang and Vietnam, I was content to let this month slide by with minimal effort on my part. Having moved into a friend’s incredibly luxurious apartment for the month, there wasn’t much incentive to go out anywhere, so I’ve spent the days reading, napping, and watching Ultimate Frisbee videos on YouTube. It’s a hard life…This apartment has a fully furnished kitchen, so I’ve been rediscovering my love for cooking. He’s even got an oven so I made some cookies. I go back to the dorm to hang out with the girls on Sundays and get my fix of rice for the week. Continue reading
This month has been a busy fun one. I finished up both of my jobs, and then I headed off to travel around Laos and Vietnam with my mom (more later). I moved into a new place, which is a super huge upgrade from where I was before. It’s great, but it was also sad to say goodbye to my students. They didn’t understand why I wouldn’t just continue to live with them even though my job was done and I didn’t know how to tell them politely that I wanted my own space. Living there was great but sharing with 15 people is a challenge! Anyway, here’s how I spent June.
At this time last year I was missing flights, getting over jet lag and trying to figure out my way around this crazy new environment. Now I feel pretty well adjusted here, and have come to love this place enough to stay for another few more months. I put off my flight home until the middle of October so this blog will remain in its current form for a while longer.
I’m not exactly sure exactly what I’ll be doing during those months, though I have plans to travel at least some time. I’ve also agreed to help train/orient the new English teacher in August so that will be a fun time sharing this city and the girls.
To celebrate I unintentionally did very American things like go to the mall and ate a cheeseburger.
I wrote at the beginning of my time here about my first impressions of the Cambodian schooling system. Now, after the almost year I’ve been here I’ve formed a pretty strong opinion of it. I’ll quote a woman I met who teaches at a local university and she’s been in Cambodia for a long while: “It sucks.” I’m sorry this is going to be a rant, but I think if you were in my shoes, you’d be frustrated too.