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

Saturday, October 2, 2010

100 Kilos...

So maybe I've gained a bit of weight since I've been here, no biggie. Actually, I've probably lost weight, but I'm guessing I won't see a scale for awhile. Although, sometimes in the bigger cities, there are beggar children who go around to tourists with scales charging to let you know your weight. The concept of weight is different here. In America it would be offensive to call someone fat or to ask how much someone weighs, here it is commonplace. My host-aunt was just looking through a photo album I showed her and commented on how fat I used to be. Then she told me that I should eat more, because "fatter is stronger." My past host family, would always tease my host-brother in law about his bit of pudge and would tell me "fat not pretty." Needless to say, these contradicting comments sent me into a shame-spiral-eating-frenzy, (not really, i jest) but I digress.

The title actually refers to the number of kilometers I biked yesterday to get to the closest Peace Corps volunteer and get back to my village. I got a pretty decent sunburn and my legs are sore, but it was worth it to feel like I was not alone. Not that i've been all that lonely, my family is great, it's just nice to speak in English. The trip was an adventure through the depths of rural cambodia, and I wanted to share a few highlights / lowlights.

First the lowlights: I wasn't a fan of seeing the shirt "Equal Opportunity Asskicker!" in a country where women's issues are very prevalent and real. Although, as some of my friends will remember, I may have participated in my share of sexist jokes in high school e.g. "Do you want to hear a joke... women's rights." These jokes were made because of the reaction they evoked and never with any degree of seriousness. I consider myself a feminist in the root sense of the word. I feel that women really should have the same rights as men, and while I am not ignorant of our biological differences, I feel that in most cases where preconceived differences are attributed to sex, there is a misconception linking biological differences to socialized behavior. Luckily, I don't think the guy wearing the shirt knew what he had on his back. I've seen enough ridiculous shirts here to realize that most people don't have a clue what their clothes say.

The next "lowlight" really wasn't all that bad. I ended up lost in a river (yes, biking through a river). I was up to my pedals in water heading towards a particularly remote village. A few of the locals growled at me, which perturbed me, to say the least. I kept moving, heralded by the cries of "BARONG!" which continued to follow me throughout the ride. My route ended up being a shortcut, a fact I learned by taking the long road home.

I met up with my friend Bryan about halfway into the ride which was totally unexpected because I managed to mix up north and south thinking that he was biking a different direction. His knee was hurting and so we decided to head back toward his village. About half way back, we stopped for some cold soybean milk, so good! Then we went for lunch at his village / town and had some fried ramen noodles with veggies and cow. After lunch we ordered some bolboa (not sure how to spell it) it turned out to not be bolboa, but it was pretty good nonetheless. I bought a loaf of bread, pretty much my M.O. here whenever I see it (we don't have it in my town either which makes it that much more special now). Bryan took me home to meet the folks, who insisted that I stay the night, I declined, as I told my family I'd be back that day. Long story short, after stocking up my waterpouch (camelback knock-off) I was off.

It started raining on the way back and I was utterly soaked. The roads are all dirt and I got all dirty. See exhibit 1:

The bike ride back was long enough that I had some time to think. I realized that being in Cambodian society is sort of like being part of a giant fraternity / sorority. There are three aspects to this analogy 1) When they drink, they drink to get drunk. 2) Everyone calls one another "big/little" "brother/sister" and sometimes just "big" or "little." 3) They play music way too loud!

One last thing, in one of towns I biked through there were two girls playing in the road. The older one, around 5, rushed to pick up the little one and carry her out of the way. I guess she thought that if she didn't move the little one I would run her over. There was plenty of room to maneuver, and this scene surprised me. People don't really know what to think of me here. I have been treated like a vengeful deity, an unwelcome guest, a prince charming (come to marry and take a bride to America), an omniscient being, a trophy, an idiot, and, during the best of times, as a human being.


  1. i looked up BARONG and the interweb told me it means formal wear in Filipino. They yell "formal wear" at you!? I'm gonna come teach them a lesson

  2. Barong is a romanization of the Khmer word for "French," but in this context it basically means "foreigner."

  3. I'm so glad I will never have to hear that joke from you again :)