Friday, October 29, 2010


Sometimes happenings are artistic. Or they are semi-organized events that make a point, but here in Cambodia a lot of things just happen to me. Here's a list of things that have happened to me:

1. I biked about 30 k through floods, rain, and intense sunshine from Siem Reap City to my village, Sasar Sdam. While I did plan to bike home, I didn't realize that the torrential rains everyday had flooded the national highway. I also did not account for the fact that I would encounter torrential rain during my ride. Everytime I got to a cloudy patch I tried to peddle a little harder and get to a dry patch. When I got to the dry patch it would be intensely hot and my clothes would dry only to bike into another rainy patch. My bike was also stuck on a really high gear so near the end of my ride I was being passed by women biking in skirts with 50 pound rice bags on the back of their bike.

2. My job mostly consists of conversing with patients about almost anything. Last week, I talked to this woman for an hour because she was worried I would be kidnapped on my morning runs, which I hope she is exaggerating about.

3. Almost everyday I get asked, "Are you bored?" by at least 3 people multiple times. At first I would always say no because I wasn't bored. Everything was so new to me. Now I admit I am sometimes bored because it's a slow process to find enough projects to keep me busy like I used to be in America, but I also ask people if they're bored. And they are. They are very bored all the time and sometimes I wonder why they don't do something about it. I'll go on a bike ride or visit a neighbor, but some people just watch TV all day.

4. For some reason, really old Jackie Chan movies are really popular on tv. I watch at least one a week and sometimes they have chinese/english subtitles. And let me tell you, Jackie Chan movies are hilarious. It's way better than Rush Hour at combining action and comedy. At one point in a movie, Jackie Chan was dressed as Chun Li and mimicked her mannerisms perfectly.

5. One of my crowning achievements so far came one night while watching the usual werewolf soap opera from the Phillipines. One very short lived character made a joke and for the first time I fully understood a joke on tv, thought it was funny, and laughed because it was funny. It's rare to laugh because I think something is worth laughing. Usually, I laugh because I notice other people laughing. I have only a partial idea why and mostly I just want to fit in.

6. A few days ago I wore a hoodie in a tropical country and it was good. It's weird the things that make me feel at home, but I guess after 4 years in maine heavy clothing makes me feel at home. With my hoodie on I can almost pretend it blizzarding outside and I have a paper due in 5 hours and the campus just lost electricity due to falling branches. To this day, i still don't really understand how so many branches can fall everytime it blizzards. By the fifth blizzard there shouldn't be any branches left!

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I keep putting heavy boring things on this blog because that's whats on my mind, but plenty of funny and cool things happen too!

Some time in the past 3 weeks, my  host mom shaved my face with a razor and I'm not talking about a razor with a plastic handle. It was just a razor. Luckily, she sent someone for a new one right before it was my turn so no risk of any diseases if i get accidentally cut. Originally, it was just to shave my eyebrows. Something I agreed to because I needed it. And she did a really good job with all the other girls. I told her that in America we pluck eyebrows all the time and we don't shave. Her reaction was that plucking hurts like hell and why would people ever want to do that? Which is very logical. Though having a razor next to your eye also seems to carry some risk. After she finished the brows, she kept going. I didn't know I had hair on my cheeks but they were shaved. She did my whole face, but really I couldn't see the difference afterwards. I don't think I had that much hair on my face outside of the eyebrow area to begin with, but clearly she thought it was necessary to remove it all. Will I do it again? Probably not the whole face shave. But the eyebrows, definitely.

Wear and tear


Sometimes I wish i could just spend all day watching DVDs in my room. That much hasn't changed about me. It's weird to think that I've been here almost 3 months already. It seems long, but not in comparison to how long I will be here. And yet each day passes at its own pace. I have no control over the movement of time, but only of my perception of how it moves. A slow day is slow because I think it is. Because I haven't been able to think of a way to make it pass quickly. Being here has really been a mental battle at times. This being most evident at night time. In the 'middle' of the night, which here is about 11 or 10 pm, I'll half wake up and all the things that bother me during the day will just manifest itself. Some nights i'll be hopelessly itchy, thinking that ants or mosquitos are all over me. Some nights, I'll wake up midsentence, voicing the negative thoughts that I keep inside all day.

All of these things are just inside my head. Taken objectively, none of these things alone are really worth worrying over. A few ants, some mosquito bites, they're all part of life. Nothing huge, but everything adds up. All the pressures, annoyances they become the easy way to deal with the larger hardships. The fact that most days I'm practically mute. People, whether conciously or unconciously, don't speak to me because they know I won't understand. And I, choose not to speak to them because I don't have the ability to. This is not an issue I can fix except through persistence and continuous learning. A long and slow process, but the effects of my ineptitude are felt everyday.

In a way, I'm caught in an awkward transition stage. During training, I was a baby. Learning the necessities for survival. My family knew this and they treated me as such. It was continually rewarding because each small baby step I made was instantly praised. I could see the effects of learning a single new word immediately. Here, it's different. I'm expected to be an adult, to do a job. I have the mindset of an adult. The ability to observe, learn, and analyze as an adult, with a college level education at that. But in this country, I speak like a toddler, my best friends are children because they don't rely on language to bond, and I'm completely illiterate. The act of learning to read, of memorizing the alphabet, an exercise that seemed second nature to me as a child, is proving to be more of a task than I could have imagined.

As I write this entry, I have been living in my village for two weeks already. It seems like an eternity at times and I have to keep reminding myself that friendships and relationships take more time than that.In that time I have accomplished a lot already. I've started going to work everyday, which consists of observing the Health Center for 4 hrs a day. I've already started teaching English to my coworkers at the Health Center and I've found that the bonds there are slowly growing. At home, I play "basketball" with some kids with a ball I bought and some days I teach a mix of yoga/aerobics. There's some confusion with my language tutor, but, as with everything, I'm just dealing with it as I go. I've biked to my nearest neighbor for a visit (16k each way) and another neighbor has biked to me (30k each way).

Hopefully, when I write my next entry I will have accomplished so much more and will have found comfort in my new routines. Though really, as with life anywhere, you can't really predict what will happen. For example, this weekend was a 4 day weekend which could have been immensely boring. The first day I biked to my friend's house and when I got back I found out that the 6 people living with us (students of varying ages that live with us to be closer to school) were going to Siem Reap City for 2 days. The next day was slow as expected but I got some errands done. The third day everyone returned much earlier than I thought they would and somehow I ended up going to Angkor wat with my aunt. We packed 8 people comfortably into a toyota camry. The concept of seating is drastically different here. In fact, the Peace Corps vans have seats in the trunk so people can ride back there. I once saw a moto strapped to the back of a van with a person riding on on the moto instead of in the van. After angkor wat we had a picnic and went to a random carnival. There, on a full stomach, I went on a really fast ferris wheel and another ride.  All of this was totally out of the blue, along with my host sister's departure for Phnom Penh tomorrow.

I'm in the city so I can post this entry today. In the past week, not much has changed, but a lot has changed. With my sister gone and school starting up, not many people are around for my usual yoga sessions. I'm definitly on my own a lot more. I came into the city to get my bike fixed, which has been a source of constant aggravation. More people than I can count have tried to fix my bike, but unfortunately a mountain bike is a bit difficult to understand. It's funny, but most of the time people don't even see the problems with it when I first show them. But, to me it's obvious. The chain touches the sides of the cage on some gears, the bottom of the cage on others. But, most people initially just change the gears until they find on that works and they're like OK it's fine. I think they don't always realize that ALL of the gear combinations are supposed to work. Not just 5 out of 24.Anyway, I'm trying really hard to just let it go and ride it out until i can get a new bike. It's really understandable why people think this way. One, they don't usually have mountain bikes and nobody has told them how it works if they do buy one. In fact, I went to a store selling tons of brand new mountain bikes and they really had no idea how to fix my bike, though they proceeded to do so for an hour. Two, I look around most people's bikes and realize that they get really beaten down. Bikes cost a lot and they are the main, and sometimes only, form of transport. A simple bike can last for years and if the chain still moves the wheels when you pedal then that's awesome. Weird sounds, such as the chain rubbing against some metal, are common place. Which is probably why no one saw a problem with my bike and everyone said it was fixed. I'm the only one that knows that my bike should run silently, that parts should not rub against each other like that, that with a two month old mountain bike all the gears should still work. It seems strange that getting this bike fixed has been one of the most frequent reoccurring instances of the cultural gap and it's the one that makes me angry most easily too. There's just a culmination of all my frustrations. Cultural, language, and realtionship issues all come into play. Everytime I start getting upset I have to keep reminding myself that it really is not a big deal. if it breaks, I'll get a new bike. That's that. shit happens. But, sometimes it's just so hard to stay objective and reasonable ALL the time.