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

Saturday, August 28, 2010

New site!

So, i've got some news. Today I found out that I am going to be living in Kompong Speu (I think that's how it's spelled...) It's a new province i.e. it's never had Peace Corps volunteers in it before. I am heading out to visit it tomorrow and with any luck to meet my new host family. This will be the place I will be living the next two years. It sounds pretty rural. I'll post an update once I do some investigating and figure out what it's going to be like. I am still technically in training for three more weeks, and my swear in date is September 23rd. Then, I become an official volunteer. The swear in is going to be a bit of a media event this year because the prime minister is going to be there. I doubt you'll see it on the news in the states, but if anyone does let me know (that would be kind of cool, and let's be honest i'm doing this for the publicity :) jk). I'll try and update sometime soon, the internet here is obnoxiously slow...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Life Update

I'm about to start week 5 of my 9 week training program. Everyone says the training is the hardest part, which is good because, to reiterate, they've been keeping us very busy. I had a bit of a routine in place last week, which was nice, because we did our teaching practicum e.g. I woke up around 5:30, if i decided to go running, or 6:30 if not. I climbed out of my mosquito net and met the true practitioners of dawn patrol i.e. a gaggle? of roosters who romp around crowing at the tops of their lungs competing with the noise from the ferral dogs, who seem to be omnipresent, omnibarking, and to hate runners (sometimes I carry rocks...but generally a loud noise and a quick raising of both arms above the head does the trick). Then I would pull up a few buckets of water from the well and take a lovely refreshing bucket shower. After showering, I'd head to the market where I met my favorite breakfast lady "Perry" who serves me pork and rice and laughs at me while I try to practice Khmer. I then biked a few miles to the local school and taught a classroom of 45ish Khmer students English, who, by the way, were amazing! They were incredibly respectful and polite and even threw us a party after our last day of class. We had bread and curry that the students made, there was Khmer dancing and some American dancing thrown in as well. Normally, after class, I rushed home to try and get in a quick hour of hand washing laundry or if I was lazy I just sat around and read. Then I'd eat lunch with my host family, and try to squeeze in a 10-15 minute nap before lesson planning. Two hours of lesson planning later, i would go to meet my language group and practice a few hours of Khmer. Afterward, I would either go to an extra Khmer study session with Vanny, one of the language teachers, or I would meet a few of my fellow compatriots for a drink and debrief session at the local bar. Then, I'd have dinner with my host family, lesson plan for another hour, and go to bed. That's been pretty much my life for the last week, with a few wonderful moments mixed in e.g. biking with Dave, or when my friend Che brought his class over to mine to sing us 8 days a week, or when our students listed "beer" and "drugs" as things that make up a "bad diet," or the party I had with my host family when my host brother passed his exams, or the nutella pancakes I had this morning. As cliched as it sounds, it's really the little things that are keeping me happy.

Riding shotgun in Cambodia

Sometimes you're on the left, sometimes the right, and sometimes on the back of a bike. I recently experience the latter. My tire was flat due to a combination of finally pumping it up and then running over some sort of rose bush (minus the roses). That being said, I needed to get a ride to language class, which was across town. I was lesson planning with my friend Dave (who, i should mention is taller than me) and he was heading that way and offered to give me a ride. I first tried riding saddle style, i.e. legs out to the side, on the luggage rack on the back, but we didn't make it out of the driveway. Next, i sat with my legs facing forward, leaning back, straddling the bike, and trying to balance. We were off to a rocky start, figuratively and literally (it's a reddish dirt road with gravel mixed in sporadically). I had to bail off a few times, when oncoming traffic or large potholes caused by the consistent rain made balancing impossible. We looked pretty ridiculous, and most of the village agreed. As we rode past, instead of the usual barrage of hello's, we were greeted by incredulous looks and laughter. Believe it or not this was way better than the constant high-pitched-hello-screams that greet white people, wherever we go. In the most populated area, there is a speed bump. We had built up a bit of confidence riding over a few of the smaller bumps and gave this one a shot. Dave called out "bump," next thing i knew i was launched off the bike, luckily landing on my feet. Dave, not so much. Dave went down bike and all, covered in red dirt, but ok, and our friend Christine, who had been tailing us ever since she saw us go by, joined us as we keeled over laughing. This is Cambodia.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

He's a lumberjack and he's ok...

Training is still really busy, but we just had a nice weekend off (generally we work on saturdays, and, for some reason, volunteers don't get overtime :) So anywho, the other day I was chopping wood for my host family. I had to beg my host mother to let me do something because she's been practically waiting on me hand and foot since I got here. She agreed to let me chop wood, or so I thought... my Khmer isn't that great yet, but I thought we'd had an agreement. When I got off wood, my host mom wasn't home, so I started chopping wood, in my chroma (it's like a really thin towel that you wrap around your waist) and no shirt (because it's hot), and everything was going fine until a couple of neighbors came over, convinced that I was going to chop off my hand. I explained to them in broken Khmer that I have chopped wood before and that I chop wood in the states... it probably came out more like "I cut already. America. No problem no problem. Good." A crowd was forming. My host uncle came by to show me how Khmer men chop wood. He nearly whacked me in the face with the back of the hatchet during his demonstration. Then Samut So Kahn (my host mother) came home, riding on the back of a moto. Her eyes got huge and she ran over to us yelling what must have been "Stop!" in Khmer. She took the wood from me and told me to go shower. I stubbornly refused and told her that I wanted to finish chopping two more logs. She kept saying no, and I pretended not to understand. There were about ten people from the community standing around at this point and she held up her hands shaking them saying what I can only imagine was something like "crazy barong, i'm washing my hands of this!" (barong literally means french person, but it is the word they use for anyone who looks white) I went to bed that night catching bits of the conversation downstairs, which I assume was about me (not because of some sort of feeling of self importance, but because of cue words like "barong" "chop wood"and occasionally a mispronunciation of my name, i.e. "petter", and listening to my host brother singing "I am soh-ree. I am soh-ree."

*Update: Ironically, the word for stop in Khmer, sounds almost identical to the English word "chop."