Saturday, August 1, 2009

Training and some Epicurean Adventures

The last week and a half have been a whirlwind. I moved into my host family last Wednesday and they are wonderful. They do not speak English though ( there are a few exceptions as some of the younger family members have taken a year or two of English in school - I have only heard them say "hello" "goodbye" and "are you hungry?" however) and so I have become very good at pantomiming riding my bicycle, learning khmer, and asking questions like "Where does that Chicken lay it's eggs?". Needless to say they laugh at me a lot. They laugh at me when I sit down for dinner...when I try to speak Khmer and especially when I attempt to wash my clothes. Let me tell you it is quite embarrassing to wash your underwear in front of your entire Khmer family that you've known for only a few days. To them it does not seem to make a difference though as they helped me through the entire process (underwear and all). It has taken me (on average) an hour each time to do my laundry. 1 bucket and brush for washing + 1 bucket for rinsing + tons of elbow grease = my maytag for two years.

I have the deepest respect for my Khmer mother who washes the entire family's clothes by hand, makes all the meals, cleans the house, butchers the animals, and burns the rubbish. Maybe after two years here I will become like the Khmer... as it is though I am having a difficult time with some of the weasiest things .. like getting used to the bucket showers and squat toilets.

The bucket showers aren't that bad.. I take them twice a day.The bathroom is outside, connected to the kitchen, and consists of a tub full of water, a bucket, and the squat toilet. The only problem with the bucket showers is that the tub attracts the mosquitos and I have received a few bites on the bum while using it. The squat toilets are going to take a little bit longer to get used to. Yesterday I was using one and not really paying all that much attention. When I got up to throw the water in (to wash down the bad stuff) I noticed that I had missed! I desperately looked around to see if there was any way I could remedy the situation. Luckily it was a #1 and I just thew a bunch of water on it. Hopefully my family did not pay that much attention to the excessive amount of water around the toilet.

Food Food Food. It is amazing. I was so pumped to come here thinking that I would lose tons of weight. Ha. My family feeds me three HUGE meals a day. And all of the current volunteers have said they have gained weight since moving here. Terrific. Knowing this I was like.. "No big deal.. I will go running and continue to eat as much as I want". Ha Ha. There are a ton of feral dogs in Cambodia. Most of them are pretty small but they are all very very scary. On Monday I got up at 5 am, put on my running shorts and shoes and went outside. The first thing that happened was all of my family's dogs jumped on me (they have five). The second thing that happened to me was that my aunt came over and looked at me very questioningly .. like "Where in the h*** could you be going right now?" When I pantomimed running she laughed at me and then shoo'ed (sp?) me out to the street. That is when it got really scary. There are no street lights, speedlimits, or laws governing the roads at all. With the combination of feral dogs following me, motos driving as close as possible, and poop on the streets I decided it was time to turn around back to my house. You should have seen my aunt's face when I returned after a four minute run. She was laughing very hard. Quickly I took off my shoes and went up to my room to sleep for another hour.

The meals I receive at my host family's home always consists of rice, a soup, and some kind of chicken, beef, or pork dish. This is always follwed by some kind of desert such as fruit or fried bread. When I am not at my family's house though I go a little "crazy" with the food. There are so many different kinds of food here that we do not get back in the States .. specially fruit such as Dragonfuit, Mangosteen, Durians, Mien, etc. Some Cambodians also incorporate insects into their dishes. Apparently insects were not introduced until the Khmer Rouge time when food was very scarce. Since then they have really perfected the fried ant (called Ang-Krong here). The ants were spicy and crispy and all together not bad. I did not like their wings though as they tended to get stuck in my teeth.


  1. Whoa, Kellee, you are definitely in Cambodia, and I definitely just found that out. What wonderful experience! Don't worry, your washing speed will increase as long as you do not wear jeans too often (a damn pair of jeans would take me a half hour alone). Look forward to following your blog. I am moving back to India soon, so maybe we can meet up sometime.

  2. I can just picture you pantomiming... I love it. I miss you so much and I love reading your blog! Can't wait for the next post!

  3. Please excuse any spelling mistakes I make.. I guess after years of relying on my spell check it is hard to write more than a few sentences without one or two misspelled words :P

  4. AW Kell. That sucks about the feral dogs. Too bad Harlee isn't there with you to scare them off;) I miss you terribly and love reading this!

  5. Hey. After reading on your facebook that you had this blog I started to read it. It is always fun to read about friends' experience with your own culture. It is amazing that you are doing this. Squatting toilets are a little tricky at first but you get used to them. I peed on my shoe the first time i did it. Soon you will be a master of the "asian squat." We actually still have a "wash" bucket in the bathroom that my parents use. Oh and my mom loves Ang-Krong. I never really liked it myself. Good luck over there and have fun. If you need any language help, I am at your service. Although your Khmer will probably be better than mine in a couple months.

    Sok Sabai dtham plou
    (it's always hard to try and type something phonetically)