Disclaimer: These are my views and do not reflect the views of the Peace Corps.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Love is Entirely Shoofly"

Life's been Cambodian-normal for me over the last few days, but I wanted to share a few memorable moments:

There were 24 in a minivan coming out to permanent site, a new record for me, to sum up the experience I will say that being tall sucks sometimes.

I saw a lovely t-shirt this morning while having breakfast with my school director which is the title of this blog, and he bought me breakfast, which was a really kind gesture.

On my first day at site, I was told to be at school at 7:30 and then I sat in the office being introduced to various people and doing a whole lot of nothing while a bunch of people talked about me in Khmer. I stayed until 11:30 and then went home and went for a nice one hourish run. I found a watt on the mountain with 740 steps, yes I counted, my calves are still sore.

I went out and played volleyball with the locals on Tuesday. They're very serious about volleyball here and they were amused by my efforts (being tall has it's advantages if you're not great at volleyball).

My family helped me to set up a hammock in my room. It's my new favorite place in the world! I've been spending a good amount of time laying there reading Pablo Neruda poetry and Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox.

This is my hammock!

Here's a Neruda poem I particularly liked:

Night on the Island

All night I have slept with you
next to the sea, on the island.
Wild and sweet you were between pleasure and sleep,
between fire and water.

Perhaps very late
our dreams joined
at the top or at the bottom,

Up above like branches moved by a common wind,
down below like red roots that touch.

Perhaps your dream
drifted from mine
and through the dark sea
was seeking me
as before,
when you did not yet exist,
when without sighting you
I sailed by your side,
and your eyes sought
what now–
bread, wine, love, and anger–
I heap upon you
because you are the cup
that was waiting for the gifts of my life.

I have slept with you
all night long while
the dark earth spins
with the living and the dead,
and on waking suddenly
in the midst of the shadow
my arm encircled your waist.

Neither night nor sleep
could separate us.

I have slept with you
and on waking, your mouth,
come from your dream,
gave me the taste of earth,
of sea water, of seaweed,
of the depths of your life,
and I received your kiss
moistened by the dawn
as if it came to me
from the sea that surrounds us.


La noche en la isla

Toda la noche he dormido contigo
junto al mar, en la isla.
Salvaje y dulce eras entre el placer y el sueño,
entre el fuego y el agua.

Tal vez muy tarde
nuestros sueños se unieron
en lo alto o en el fondo,
arriba como ramas que un mismo viento mueve,
abajo como rojas raíces que se tocan.

Tal vez tu sueño
se separó del mío
y por el mar oscuro
me buscaba
como antes
cuando aún no existías,
cuando sin divisarte
navegué por tu lado,
y tus ojos buscaban
lo que ahora
—pan, vino, amor y cólera—
te doy a manos llenas
porque tú eres la copa
que esperaba los dones de mi vida.

He dormido contigo
toda la noche mientras
la oscura tierra gira
con vivos y con muertos,
y al despertar de pronto
en medio de la sombra
mi brazo rodeaba tu cintura.
Ni la noche, ni el sueño
pudieron separarnos.

He dormido contigo
y al despertar tu boca
salida de tu sueño
me dio el sabor de tierra,
de agua marina, de algas,
del fondo de tu vida,
y recibí tu beso
mojado por la aurora
como si me llegara
del mar que nos rodea.

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's Official!

On September 23rd 2010, I became a Peace Corps Volunteer. The ceremony was a nice milestone after two months of intense training. The acting prime minister, our ambassador, and all of the Peace Corps staff attended the ceremony. It felt a bit like a graduation, which, in a sense it was. Time to start the next two years!

Me with two of my language teachers and mentors Vanny and Socheata.

Brian, Che, and I.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Farewell party in T'boum K'moum (probably misspelled)

Sarah's birthday party!


If you get a haircut in Cambodia, don't expect to have too much input.

Sample dialogue:
Customer: "I would like a haircut please."
Barber: "Yes, very good. Sit down."
(End scene)

For men, a haircut includes a shave with a single blade, this may be true for women too.

There is no extra charge for having your ears and forehead shaved as well as your face.

Dinner Night

Host brother in law (who speaks English): "Hurry up please."
Me: "What was that Kosal?"
Kosal: "I said, hurry up please."
I was frustrated, pulling water from the well, and sweating profusely. "You just told me about dinner, give me a second."

Fifteen minutes earlier, when I got back from my second run of the day with my friend Alan, my family informed me that we were going out to eat in a town about seven kilometers away. This meant that I would be riding my bike because Peace Corps doesn't allow volunteers to ride on / drive motos. Although this was a nice gesture, I was not expecting it in the least, as we'd never been out to eat before, and my family hadn't mentioned that we were leaving when I'd been home talking with them an hour earlier. Sloppily throwing buckets of water over my head, I remembered something one of the past volunteers had said in training about not really being informed about things like staff meetings or random expeditions until right before they were happening. I figured this was cultural.

I biked in the dark, in between two motos carrying 7 people, infants and all. Luckily the restaurant wasn't too far away, it was a little outside of the other town which made it closer, but while riding I really didn't know what to expect. I just pedaled along making faces at the two year old who was standing on the seat looking back at me over her mom's shoulder.

We arrived at the restaurant and I was again dripping with sweat. This happens a lot here. I've developed a formula that predicts exactly when sweat will occur. Exercise + Humidity || Humidity + Sunlight || Humidity + (not being in front of a fan) = Sweat. I'm sure I'm missing a few cases...

I was seated in front of the fan, cross-legged, on the table made from a wooden bed frame. I use the word "made" lightly, because it hadn't really been changed at all from it's bed frame form, there just wasn't a mattress. My host family, noticing my sweat, kept asking me "Windy yes?" (which is a literal translation of their Khmer) I responded yes, and was happy to have the fan until the wood burning stove was placed in the middle of the table in front of me. From what I gathered, this restaurant was basically the Cambodian version of fondue i.e. a little grill over a cement block with a fire underneath. My host sisters roasted beef and vegetables on the grill. It tasted incredible! Then, to my surprise, a gas stove was placed on the table too, along with a variety of vegetables, milk, and broth so that we could make our own soup. The soup was phenomenal too.

I found it strange that we went to a restaurant to make food for ourselves which could have been made just as easily at home. I guess we went for the atmosphere (...we were seated outside, under tents, and there were a decent amount of mosquitoes, it was raining too) I really enjoyed the food, and the company. Although there was a little girl, my host brother in law's sister's child, who'd been staying with us for awhile, who screamed bloody murder because she wanted to go home. She annoyed me. We sat around and drank a beer or two afterward, and then rode home together. Pedaling through puddles making faces at the two year old staring at me from the back of a moto.

P.S. I had to leave my host family yesterday and it was tough for me. We managed to become close even without really being able to communicate that much. Living with them was truly a rewarding experience.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ten things I've come to regard as normal:

1) Two men holding eachother's hands or inner thighs does not imply sexual attraction
2) People smoking at gas stations
3) Speakers bigger than any i've ever seen in a car on the back of motos
4) People on motorcycles selling eggs
5) Rice with every meal
6) People who only know the word hello, and use it with such intensity that it seems almost violent
7) 24/7 blasting music in the event of a wedding or funeral
8) Waking up before the sun and going to bed by 9pm
9) Men you've only just met inviting you into their homes
10) Motorcycles driving through small markets with about as much room as supermarket aisles