Hi! I’ve now been in Cambodia for 16 days, although it seems like much longer. Cambodia is beautiful and the people are sooooo nice. One of my favorite things to do is ride my bike around town and smile really big as I pass by people who are staring. They always return an equally genuine and big smile, and more often than not, a “hello!”
I am currently living and training in the Tramkok district in the Takeo province. I live with a host family. I have a mom, grandma and two sisters who are sixteen and seventeen. I also have a dad who’s in the military and lives somewhere else and a brother who’s 21 who goes to school in Phnom Penh and comes home on the weekends. Everyone in the family is great, but my 16 year old sister is my favorite. She helps me with Khmer and I help her with English.
Our house consists of a large room where everyone sleeps and my separate room upstairs and a kitchen downstairs. We have a table outside under the bedrooms where we spend 90% of our time at home. The bathroom is right next to the kitchen. We have a squat toilet (if you google a Cambodian bathroom, you’ll see what I have) and we take bucket showers. We have a bunch of chickens, a few cows, a cat and 2 kittens with no names and a dog named Do-Do or Doo-Doo depending on who you ask. I decided to name the cat Needy and her kittens are Needy’s Baby 1 & 2 or NB 1 & 2 as I like to call them. Our neighbor is my mom’s sister and our properties are pretty much just one property. They have a bunch of dogs too. Everyone is basically related to everyone here. There is always someone who doesn’t live with us over. Mostly my mom’s sister’s neice’s daughter who is 4. She’s not the friendliest kid, but she’s warmed up to me and we have fun playing and laughing every night.
On a normal day I get up around 5:30 and am out of the house before 6. I usually either go for a bike ride or sprint brfore 6:30 when I come home and shower. Nothing opens until 7 here, but everything opens right at 7. We have to get our own breakfasts so I always go to the restaurant across the street from our school. The family that owns it is hosting one of my fellow volunteers. It took awhile, but I finally found a way to order just pickled veggies and pork for breakfast – effectively removing rice from one of my meals. Our classes usually start at 8. We do language for four hours, either in 2 or 4 hour blocks and technical health training the other 4 hours. We go home for lunch from 12 to 1:30. When I get home I hangout with my family and practice my Khmer. We have dinner and I’m normally showered and in bed under my mosquito net by 8. I like to write for an hour or so and am usually asleep between 9 and 9:30.
School is pretty fun because we all get to be together and all of our teachers are great. We learn Khmer from 4 different Cambodians in groups of 5. They also live in the commune (aka town) we’re all living in so they can help us with cultural questions or if we need to tell our families something we don’t have the language skills to say yet. Our technical training is based on the five areas we will be focusing on once we move to our permanent host sites in about 7 more weeks. The five main areas we’re focusing on are maternal and antenatal care, nutrition, water and sanitation, sexual health and non communicable diseases. We get our project assignments in about 6 weeks, and I’m obviously pulling for maternal and antenatal care. 🙂
I haven’t purchased an internet service yet and I don’t think I will until my permanent site because we found a hotel very close to our school that has free wifi where I go 2-3 times a week.
The food has been pretty good for the most part. I’m still trying to figure it all out, but I have a couple of notable food stories. They have these deep fried bananas and sweet potatoes here. My LCF (essentially my language teacher) got us some in the market the other day. I’m not going to lie, the bananas are delicious – sweet potatoes are ok. So I told my host family I like them – because I do – but also because it’s something I can say to them in Khmer. So the next night when I got home from school there were a bunch of fried sweet potatoes and bananas waiting for me. That was very sweet of them, but I really didn’t want them. It’s something I want maybe, MAYBE, once a month. Anyway I don’t have the language skills yet to politely refuse things like that. They were also giving me dessert with lunch and dinner almost everyday. I asked my LCF to please tell them I enjoy the desserts, but really don’t want them with every meal. I’m not sure if this is normal or if they are doing it because they think that’s what the American wants. The problem has been fixed and now they give me fruit instead which is great. My favorite fruits here are dragonfruit and little tiny bananas. I also really enjoy coconut water. The other night for dinner we had a stewed pork dish and sautéed veggies. It was honestly the best meal I’ve had here. I’ve also had some really good greens and a beef and sweet potato dish that I loved. I’ve developed a strategy where I take a little bit of rice and eat a small amount of it with each bite of the other food. Then I go back for more of the meat and veggies but never go back for rice. It seems to satisfy their need for me to eat more, and it satisfies my need to not eat a ton of rice.
The weather is definitely hot, but to be honest, I don’t think about it that much. It is the rainy season now so maybe in the dry season I’ll think about the heat more. I don’t mind the rain at all and actually kind of like it because I’m from Oregon, and because it keeps it cool here.
I’m having a great time here and working on making my experience here the best it can be. I doubt that I’ll ever have 26 months in Cambodia again so I’m trying to do everything I can and want to do while I’m here. I’ll keep you posted on my adventures.
Thanks for reading and please write. I love getting emails! Talk to you soon and go Ducks!!