* I am updating my wishlist, but really if you send me anything its awesome. Also, try to let me know if you get me something so I don't have 5 people sending me sports bras...Parents, don't send me anything on this list unless you already have it. I have a separate special list in store for you!
So, Water Festival is a three day celebration where they do, surprise!, dragonboat racing. I've talked to some Cambodians and they had no idea that China did it too. The origin story for each country is also surprisingly similar though, of course, the hero in each is the nationality of the respective country. I biked the 30k into the city with Travis and Kyle, two of my volunteer neighbors. By neighbor I mean people in the same province aka state. Anyway we bike in and the area by the Tonle Sap River, which translated is River Sap River, is roped off and there's street shops and vendors everywhere.
Boats are going up and down the river. Dragonboating here is a bit different than in the states. First, they use super long skinny paddles. I'm not sure how they even move the water. The paddles look like big sticks. The person steering just uses a paddle. Also, some people stand and have extra long paddles. This is particularly hazardous because they have to go under multiple bridges to get to the finish line. We wander around the festival all day and meet up with Kurt who lives about 70 or 80 k away. Kurt and I, together, end up buying 9 bars of soap because if we buy 8 we get 1 free. Also, we save about 2000 Riel, which is the equivalent of 50 cents. This is at least 2 breakfasts for me, you can see the volunteer--no salary for two years, I live in a tiny village-- mentality coming out. Then we go to a pool! AWESOME. There are tons of pools in Siem Reap and the one I go to is basically free if you buy a coke or water. We go get dinner and have fun. Meet up with some K3's.
The next day we go grocery shopping! Yes, Siem Reap has a supermarket. It is amazing. Because it is a supermarket. In Cambodia. Though I have heard there is a Walmart type store in Svay Rieng. I might go all the way there to see it. Anyway, the reason we go shopping is because we are going to cook an American dinner for Travis' family!!! We even comparison shop cause there is more than one supermarket! We buy hotdogs, hamburgers, fries, bread, and condiments. Then we stuff all this into Kurt's backpack so that he can walk all the way to the highway and try to hitchhike back to travis' house. The rest of us get on our bikes for the 16k ride back, which was uneventful except for our big FAIL in trying to register for the Angkor Wat Bike Race/ half-Marathon. It also involved biking across the highway multiple times, which is scary.
Anyway, Sunday afternoon we get to Travis' site and start cooking. We realize we have no idea how to fry frozen fries. There was a big debate about thawed versus not thawed. Kyle pulled through anyway. He had plenty of experience from KFC and Wendy's. There's a joke in that but I'm not going to elaborate. Kurt is awesome with his knife skills. Using the classic Asian butcherknives. In the end, everything is delicious and we are all very full and ready to sleep. We didn't get much sleep the night before and by 7 we were ready for bed. Which is actually normal, most days I fall asleep at 8. Travis' family had different ideas. First, we all go out onto a balcony and awkwardly wait around confused. Turns out day 2 is the moon festival! Travis' host mom sets up a huge table with fruit, candles, and flat rice to offer prayers to the moon. Meanwhile, there are about a million insects, big and small, swarming around us. Flying into our faces and every else imaginable. They are really attracted to light. When the offering is done I think we're all relieved to run back inside the house. We think it's over, but Travis' dad asks if we want to go to the Wat (temple). They tell us tonight is the night Cambodians don't sleep. We all look at each other and we all are thinking the same thing, but we can't refuse an offer. So we all get into the camry and start driving, not really sure which Wat we are going to. It's Travis and his dad in the front. Then Me, Kyle, Kurt, and Travis' 25 yo sister in the back. It's a comfortable but tight fit. We drive in the dark, something I really miss about America actually. After about 15min we reach a wat and drive around it. Since we were tired we arrived too early to the party. Only a bunch of kids were there running around so we just drove out of the Wat, never leaving the car. We don't head back to the house, instead we continue on to Siem Reap City. By this point I start falling asleep because I'm the only one silly enough not to have taken a nap. All I remember from the rest of the trip are candles floating on the river, it was really beautiful. On our way back I snap awake when i hear someone ask " Can I have a pool on the moon?" Clearly we're delirious already, but I reply half-asleep " Of course! There's still gravity, duh!" In hindsight, I'm actually not too sure. Then we start talking about having alien octopus pets in the pool and jellyfish. Somehow I end up trying to explain how jellyfish tentacles can react to stimulus collectively when only one tentacle feels the stimulus and it doesn't use a brain. Yea, I'm a neuro major.
We go to sleep finally! The next day I eat about 6 bananas and then bike back home. I find out all the students I live with went home for the weekend so its just me and my host mom. Which was really nice. Finally some time to just be me. I guess this was way more than I anticipated so It'll have to be continued...