Sua s'dei from Cambodia

That means “hello” or so I think 🙂 haha. We’ve learned only about 4 phrases: “aw kohn” – “thank you”, “sak sobai” – “How are you?” (which also can be used to answer the same question,) “Sua s’dei” and “sohm” – “thank you”. Not terribly impressive, I know. 🙂

So what sort of things can I tell you about Cambodia?

Smells – The fragrances of Cambodia are diverse. Some beautiful from fragrant flowers that you catch when there is a nice breeze. Then there are smells that just make you stop in your tracks and your stomach turn. The aroma emanating from food stands ranges from sweet to nauseating (though it’s possible it is some fishy/meaty smell that just offends my non-animal consuming senses).

Motobike or die – Actually if you ride a “moto” as they are commonly called, you may in fact die. No ONE and I mean NO ONE, adheres to traffic laws here. You just take your chances and go for it. Everyone seems to own a moto and in the evenings it appears everyone decides to hit the roads on them. It is a sight to see how many people or items (from vegetables, plastic jugs to live squawking ducks) one can shove onto a single moto. Little babies standing up on them between their parents may be the vision that sticks most in my mind, though I don’t believe I shall ever get the sight of those ducks hanging by their feet and screeching out of my mind (I believe they were saying “HELP ME!”).

Pollution – First, the air is dirty. Your skin has dark layers on it at the end of the day. See above for culprit (because there are no visible factories causing this). Second is the waste on the streets. Trash just gets dumped on the sidewalks. And rots. I suppose one small benefit is all the stray cats and dogs may find something to eat, but how sustainable that may be is another question. I did finally see a trash collection service the other day. But I don’t think they collect too often.

Extremes – As the Lonely Planet guide mentioned, there are serious extremes when it comes to poverty and the wealthy. What is perhaps even just as startling is when they are meters from each other. On one corner you see what one can only at first glance think is a building that has been bombed or is in the process of being demolished, only to look closer and realize people are actually living there. This is their home. And somehow the ferns and other plants growing from crevices of this building take on a sort of charm. Especially when offset by colorful articles of clothing drying from ropes in the gaping holes where there should be walls. Then you turn the corner and see villas that are just startling. They make some McMansions in the US look tiny. And of course they have guards outside and one or two Lexus SUVs in the driveway (because if you aren’t on a moto you are in some big ass SUV, or maybe a truck).

Awe at Foreigners – It is truly something to be in a place where YOU are the main attraction. People just stare at you. Little kids look up in awe…we even heard a story that some of the younger ones who have never seen white people, think we are ghosts. I have to say some days I am over the stares, but I try to be friendly and when EVERY moto driver asks if you want a ride I kindly smile and say, “No thank you, we are walking.”

Hot as hell – That is really the only way I can describe the temperature. I sweat. A lot. Ianthe, my fellow researcher, loves the heat and doesn’t sweat. This has made our sleeping situation somewhat interesting. I want AC, she could sleep with both the AC and fan turned off. As I sit on the balcony and write now, I am dripping sweat and my shirt is becoming wet from the pools of sweat running down my body.

That is Cambodia – This is a phrase the expatriates in the office where we work use. It is basically used to explain all the “unexplainable” things of Cambodia. Like why it takes weeks for something to happen that should have taken days, etc. We’ve found ourselves using this phrase a few times. Though I think I blame the expatriates for assuming it should be different.

Monks – For some reason, I am so intrigued with all the monks in their yellow, orange and rust colored robes walking the streets, catching a ride on a moto, carrying colorful umbrellas. I would take a million pictures of them if I didn’t feel like I was intruding. Some are quite friendly, as one started up some small talk with me at the Silver Pagoda the other day. They range from very serious to rather jovial. I can’t get enough of them.

Delays – Well there is certainly no reason why we should be surprised about delays at this point. I mean our trip was originally scheduled to go to China, in April. Two months later we end up in Cambodia, after more delays. And now that we are here, guess what?? More delays. Delays in getting budget approved so we can go into the field. Delays in finalizing fieldwork, because we must bring our field team back to Phnom Penh to vote in elections on the 27th. We lose three days because students also need to travel to remote provinces to vote. Delays, delays, delays. There is NO WAY I am going to have my thesis completed at the end of August. I try not to think about this because my gut swells in knots of stress at the thought of the paperwork and such I will need to deal with when I return to Amsterdam. But for now, I am in Cambodia and trying to enjoy it…and make the most of the delays I guess.

Anywho, my overall impression of Cambodia is a good one. I’m enjoying this experience. Particularly because I think I may never have chose to come here on my own…there were other “destinations” on my must see list. But, I think I would have missed out. There is much history here. And a reminder how very differently we all live.

One comment

  1. Susan · ·

    Yeah, the babies on motorcycles is tough. Even though I have been in Ecuador for a year I don’t think I will ever get used to seeing little babies being carried on motorcycles…usually squished between mom and dad and big brother-sister. Yesterday I saw a guy steering his moto with one hand, baby in the other…on a rocky, uneven road. Yikes!!!

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