Who is really bad at keeping up with a blog? Me. And for that, I apologize. But I am supposed to be living the Cambodian Experience, right? You can’t fault me for that can you? Ok, enough with the rhetorical question. I’ve been in Cambodia for a week and half now, and it has been a time where I have been challenged at every turn, whether that is finding my way around the city, communicating with tuk tuks on how to get me home, or carving a place for me at work, or deciding what is safe to eat and what is not.
My official first day of work was not really work at all. I had an orientation where I was briefed on some useful Khmer, taken to get a phone to use within the country, and introduced to “how to deal with corruption as a foreigner.” It was all very helpful, but it did make for a very tiring day (let’s talk about how my day starts at 7am?). The second day was I was escorted around the city to see some of the sights I had seen on the first day along with the Killing Fields, a testament to the horrors faced by the country and my parents, aunts, uncles, and family friends on the eve of their departure. It had been the second time I’d seen it, but after three years it was no less moving or saddening to see the tower of skulls stacked in a monument in the center of the field.
My first few days of work were slower than I had expected. It should be noted, however, Cambodians work at a much slower pace, coming in at varying times of the morning, taking a two to three hour lunch, and working for another two or three hours in the afternoon. There is also the issue of the power in our building, which can shut off for hours at a time, halting any work to be done by computer. In those moments, because of the rising temperature in the building and the lack of internet, it is common to find everyone gathered outside at a shaded table, doing various things from knitting to going to paper files. It makes for fun casual talks on occasion, but only when I can be understood, which presents a great challenge that I had originally anticipated.
I also bought a bike! If you have ever been to Cambodia, you are probably pretty worried for me biking around town because of the traffic conditions. I will let you know that I only have biked to and from work, which totals about 5 minutes total. And the road is not as traversed, so biking is rather easy. So rest assured, I am taking every precaution to be safe my friends!
Some of my housemates and I went to a concert on Diamond Island, a newly renovated island for the richy rich and their kids. The band was Dengue Fever (whose lead singer might have sung at one of my families Cambodian New Years parties?) and with a couple of beers it became a fun night, even if every word was unintelligible. Our German friend, Leo, along with the other Germans he knows, can down beer like its water because, well, they are German. I didn’t even attempt to go toe to toe with them (I really dislike beer anyway).
The next night we went to a trivia night at a bar put on by our host program (too much drinking?). I had maybe the strongest margarita I have ever had, only drinking half of it before giving up on what might as well have been straight tequila. Getting there and back in the rain required that I use some of the handy Khmer that I had learned to steer us in the right direction. On the way back, we went so far out of the way I had to try an direct our tuk tuk driver back towards the right roads, but thankfully I know how to say right, left, and straight.
This post is somewhat a cluster(expletive) of information, none of it being particularly relevant to any of your lives. But in case you were wondering how I was doing during my first week, I will let you know that it has been a exhilarating yet obstacle filled journey. This post wasn’t really that informative, but I PROMISE (that’s a tall order) to fill you guys in on more details as I try and make time to write more eloquent and thoughtful pieces (what if I am not that kind of guy, would you still read this?).
Oh, and I’ll try and update this with more pictures when I put them on my computer. I am a man of many faults, obviously. Lia suhn!