Sunday, July 26, 2009

Initial Reactions

Wow- my last post needs a bit of editing.

Our first night was spent in Phnom Penh. Thankfully the day was spent doing, for the most part, things that did not require much brain power. The jet lag has not been too bad but sometimes I find myself staring off into space for minutes at the time and having trouble compiling decent sentences. As soon as we arrived we checked in, used an internet cafe, and had lunch at a traditional Cambodian restaurant. The staff introduced themselves and we were each given a tube of Deet to keep the mosquitoes away. Dengue (Ding-gay) is in season right now and they (as well as myself) do not want to take any chances. When you have it you catch a high fever (102 F +) and it supposedly feels as though someone is crushing your bones or stabbing you all over your body. There also is a lovely hemorrhagic (sp?) version. Because of this I am religious about slathering myself in Deet twice a day. I find that it has to be better than the alternative.

After lunch a few of us, along with some current K2 volunteers, grabbed beers at the Foreign Correspondents Club before catching a boat ride on the Ton la Sap river. At this point my jet lag must have caught up with me as I spent most of the time sitting and gazing out over the river as well as getting the back story on my fellow Peace Corps Trainees.

There are 45 of us K3 (Kompuchea 3)Trainees - age ranges from 21 to 50+. There are 14 boys (3 are married) and 31 girls. All of them are wonderful and I am looking forward to learning Khmer and experiencing the culture with them.

Since Phnom Penh we have moved to Takeo City (about an hour and a half by bus south of Phnom Penh)to do some initial culture and language training before we move into our host family's respective houses on Tuesday, July 28. I am excited to move in with my family but also incredibly nervous as my language currently consists of hello, goodbye, sorry, my name is, I am from, and I feel happy/sad. After language training the staff and current volunteers demonstrated bucket showering, hand washing clothing, eating etiquette and using the toilet. The squat toilet demonstration made me laugh but only out over nervousness (not excitement). The Khmer people do not use toilet paper, they use a bucket of water and their hands. Apparently this is why, when eating food with their hands, they never use their left.

Tomorrow we continue with our education of the culture and Tuesday we head to our training villages where we will spend 6 days a week preparing ourselves to become volunteers. Which, if all goes well, I will become on September 24th. Permanent sites will decided upon sometime in September.

Overall the few days I've spent in Cambodia have been wonderful. Though I have really come to realize how much I stand out as an American and white person. Yesterday a few of us decided to go to the carnival in town to attend a concert of a popular Cambodian band. Everyone stared at us as we walked into the melee of people. No joke, it was as if we were in the mosh pit of a concert. For the solid two hundred yards of concert and carnival it was shoulder to shoulder, chest to back. People yelled "hello" to us from everywhere. At the time I thought that this may be what a famous person must feel like. Of course that was before a passing male grabbed my crotch and I realized that a famous person would have a body guard (or two) and would not be walking through a crowd of people, especially oone who did not speak their language.

It is about 8 pm now and the mosquitoes are starting to bite. There is an Ă„merican restaurant next door and I plan on eating a burger (!) before I settle into my rice only diet.

1 comment:

  1. Quite a difference in culture;) I can't wait to hear what the future will bring!