So I feel like two months into the Cambodian Peace Corps experience I have finally begun to adapt to the culture and the little bit of the language that I know and understand is beginning to serve me better every day. However, this has come at a price (Mom if you’re reading this skip to paragraph 7).
I will apologize to those of you in advance for some of the things I will share but hey, it just might be the most entertaining thing you read today.
Fried spider legs and roasted crickets aren’t as bad as they seem, I will start out with a creampuff here. I had them once in Phnom Penh and the texture was the thing that got me and not so much the taste. I think it is just knowing that what you are eating is (was?) an insect and that really grosses a lot of people out, but it is such a different diet here and many people live to cook and others cook to live.
Dogs are the worst here. I have had more flea bites than kernels of rice I have eaten, (oh and they are so satisfying to scratch) but it’s a part of the job and have found effective ways to cope. The little fuckers (fleas) jump off of the dogs when they scratch and because of powerful hind legs are able to spring themselves onto shoes innocently sitting around. About 2% of the dogs here are vaccinated and about all of them are mangy and have fleas.
I’m gonna leave the bathroom scene out of this because it can become pretty hair-raising for those of you not familiar with the living situation in rural Cambodia. I will say that I have actually come to enjoy the bucket showers that end and begin each day (bucket showers consist of you taking a bucket full of water from a trough in your bathroom and dumping it on yourself).
Moto drivers are some of the craziest people I have met and are even worse when you put them behind the wheel of a moto. Swerving in and out of traffic and the few near misses I have seen would make most people back home need quadruple bypass open heart surgery.
The amount of wildlife and nature enables me to become acquainted with many different types of insects. It’s not the kind of fly you see at a family picnic but perhaps compare these to this size of a small rodent (ok maybe I’m exaggerating but I gotta keep you hooked). Mosquitoes are the ones you really have to watch out for; most of the other ones just kind of creep you out for a second then you realize are harmless. Khmer people think it is absolutely hysterical that the Americans are scared of spiders. The neighbor girl throws spiders on one of the volunteers living with her on almost a daily basis and the family just laughs.
The weather, oh god it is hot. Hot beyond words with no escape, and your only relief is the end of the day with the before mentioned bucket bath.
Now for the good stuff, I am finally adapting to sweating a couple liters every day, and even have begun to use a blanket at night because it seems to be getting cooler. Albeit we are heading into the Khmer winter (usually lows around 75-80 Fahrenheit) I feel as though my body is adapting.
The language seems to be coming to me easier and I am able to speak and listen to a fairly intermediate level of vocabulary, although I often have to ask them to speak slower. This has been a huge hurdle for me because coming into the scenario I didn’t think I could ever master the language, but once you begin to break it down it can be simple and you begin to see that English is a lot more difficult to learn than people think.
Upcoming events for me are a much needed vacation to a remote island in the gulf of Thailand, and a few days in Phnom Penh before I move to permanent site. I am excited because I get to see all the volunteers and how their sites are, and get to spend a few days in the presence of western food before I move to my site.