Thursday, December 10, 2009

What kind of brains are they?

"Hope Bai , Kellee!", Nary yelled to me as I sat in a plastic chair in the front of her famiy's shop, watching people go in and out of the market.

Every week I come to Nary and Narin's house to have lunch and chat. Nary is my age and Narin is 22 years old, both unmarried, and so they make for good company. Narin moved to Phnom Penh, however, in October to go to school. For $500/year he studies Korean 5 days a week. When he comes home he gives his notes and books to his older sister so she can study off them too. As with most Cambodian, as we as Vietnamese (as Nary and Narin are), families in rural Cambodia they support their male children to go to school while their daughters stay at home until they get married (usuay around age 18). One of my male students said that his sister wanted to go to study at a university but their parents refused to support her. In order to get money to fund her ambitions, she moved to Phnom Penh to work in a clothing factory. Her brother says she is still working there two and a half years later.

Both Nary and Narin are studying Korean so they can move to South Korea next year. Narin wants to get a job assembling cars and Nary is just looking for a "sales" position. I wonder what their family will do once they both move to Korea. With the absence of Nary especially, I think it will be much harder to run their shop which sells everything from fruit to pots and pans to children's toys.

I sit down to their table in the center of their one story home. In front of me are some fried duck eggs, rice, and some very questionable meat (brains?).

I ask Nary "What is this?" in Khmer, pointing to the bowl of brains. I forget the word for brains and ask, "is it from a head?"

She nods yes.

"Pig's head?"

She looks at me, disgusted. "Pig's brains are not good! Not delicious!"she says, matter-of-factly. Then goes to bite into a few more river clams that have suddeny appeared on the table in a bowl next to the bowl of "questionably-not-pigs" brains.

"Cows head?"

She looks at me and then her 3 year old little brother who is doing laps around the table with a tricycle. When she looks back she nods a few times and smiles.

"Yes. They are very delicious - my little brother's favorite!" She then proceeds to take a spoon to the brains.

I take one more helping of fried egg.

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