I've realized a lot of my blog posts are titled Almost ..something something...I guess I'm always looking forward to the next thing. These past few weeks have been just as packed as November. I'm waiting to see when things calm down, but I don't know if they will. Being busy isn't a bad thing. I went to Angkor Wat and did the 30k bike race. I didn't really race. The other PCVs and I just wanted to see the sites and it was a really good experience. We had dinner and brunch for free at a really really nice restaurant that I could never afford on my volunteer budget. We got up early and had Angkor Wat all to ourselves. We saw the sunrise and climbed on ruins. Here, you can pretty much touch everything, for better or worse.
Afterwards I had to book it back to site because I was scheduled to have my first club meeting that Saturday at 2pm. I made it back at 1:30pm, changed and headed off. I've had 3 meetings to date and it's been a lot of fun. Things never go according to plan and the hour goes by quickly. I think I'll slowly make it longer and longer. Right now, I'm helping with English, but my real goal is to gain their trust and build their confidence. I'm not teaching any English they don't already know, but sometimes the kids are just so timid. My only real rule in class is that EVERYONE has to participate. I will wait 10 min for them to think of something to say if I have to.Yesterday we played Pictionary for an hour and that was only supposed to be my warm up exercise. It's only once a week because of some scheduling issues. If you ask me about this through email i'll give you the real deal on "scheduling issues".
The work weeks has been hectic because suddenly NGOs are coming out of the woodwork. I met SCC and I went to Yeeang, a nearby group of villages, with RHAC. Last week I met a man from URC and I had the most rewarding and honest conversation about the state of Cambodian health care that I have ever had. It was the best 2 hours of my week and I didn't even plan on it. I've been actively visiting villages in the afternoon either with HC staff or on my own. This is a lead in to the crazy wedding I went to last week.
A few weeks ago I called a village health volunteer I knew. The VHVs are Cambodian villagers that communicate with HC and have certain resposibilities, such as giving out birth control pills. Somehow the VHV invited me to stay over her home for a night. I had no idea why. A week later I call her again to try to clarify and figure out its for a wedding. I have no idea who is getting married, but I go anyway. Last Tuesday, I bike straight there after work and for a few hours I just sit around. I wasn't sure when to go because at first she told me 2pm then 1 then 12. Also, it poured for a few hours and the ride on the mud road was not pleasant. I got there and met the bride and watched her get makeup on. I put on my dress after showering outdoors in the open for the first real time. This was how I figured out no one in this village had a bathroom, which is a common issue in Cambodia. I walk over to the wedding area and this is where the similarities end between a small village wedding and the slightly bigger wedding I went to in my town. Apparently, I was the stand in for my VHV, who was the aunt of the bride. So, I started out the wedding by leading the bride around the town. We were all dressed up walking on mud and cow shit, trying to avoid puddles and potholes. I prayed to someone to not let me mess this day up for her. I prayed hard.
After we walked around we got to the groom's house and I handed her off. Then it was time for a photo session. I forgot to mention that while we were walking there were bunches of drunk grandmas and grandpas fighting and dancing. It was a spectacle. I almost got in the picture next to the bride too, but I was relieved when some other relatives bumped me back. Then we walked back to where we started and I danced along the way. The first ceremony is the hair cutting ceremony. This is where we wait and people go up to the bride and groom. They pretend to cut hair as a symbol of starting anew, but without messing up her hairdo. As I'm sitting there, I suddenly get a punch in the jaw. It hurt. I look over and realize that a drunk skinny woman is hitting this teenager that was sitting next to me. He ducked and I got hit. She was a lot stronger than she looked.
I spend the rest of the day chit chatting, eating, taking another shower. Around 8pm we get dressed again and go to the dancing part, except it doesn't really start until 10. At 8pm, its just about 50 people slowly becoming deaf by watching really really loud K'mai music videos. Around 8:30 two women start dancing and they make me and the VHV start too. So now its 50 people watching 4 women dance. And by dance I mean making hand movements and slowly walking in a circle around a table. By 9:30 things have picked up and everyone is dancing. I sit down for a break and get punched a second time, this time in the arm, by a really strong grandpa telling me to go back to dancing. By 10 I'm already tired, I would keep going but my VHV has started to limp and I think it's a good idea to sleep.
The VHV lives in a single floor wood home, but the single floor in most homes is really the 2nd floor. The way up is by a really old wooden ladder that actually isn't bad except it hurt my feet to climb up. Around 1am I wake up and realize I really really need to pee. The only way to do that is climb down the ladder and try to find a tree. This actually was the best part of the night. After stumbling around in the dark, waking everyone up because the floorboards are loose, and almost falling off the ladder I emerge from the house and look up at the sky. It is lit up like Time Square. I have never seen a sky so bright with stars and the moon, not even camping in Maine. It was so light out that I didn't even need a flashlight. I stood there and stared for a while.
The next morning I had a breakfast of instant noodles, which is well accepted here. I think I had instant noodles 6 times the past week. Then I biked back in time to go to work. That was the day I had the awesome healthcare conversation. I biked into Pouk today to get some internet and I won't be back on until close to New Years. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season!