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

Sunday, September 19, 2010

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.

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