Friday, July 16, 2010

I love Cambodia, I swear!

After re-reading my previous blog entry, I realize just how whiny and depressed I sounded. This entry is to redeem myself as well as give a more accurate picture of my life in Cambodia a year after I arrived here.

School "concluded" for the rainy season in June (the exception being the 12th grade students who had their final exams last week)- which means I have four months of vacation from teaching until school officially starts on October 1st. The first month I took it easy; read ALOT, visited the provincial town nearly every weekend (yay internet!), but mostly just hung out with the people at my site. It has been awesome because I have been able to relax with my co-teachers and get to know them better. One of my co-teachers and I are even taking Chinese classes together starting at the end of September... cant wait :)

It was interesting celebrating the 4th of July in Cambodia. The US Embassy had a party/carnival - lots of live music,good food and beer, and a pie eating contest (I didn't participate). If it only had some fireworks I think it would have been perfect. Afterward, some volunteers and I met up to continue the merry-making and go dancing. The only unfortunate thing about the trip was that I had to bike from my provincial town back to site - with a 40 lb backpack on my back. No Fun. But I think that kind of forced exercising is responsible for the 12 lbs I have lost in Cambodia so far.

Minus the physical hardship, biking back wasn't that bad...especially towards the end. I had only been gone about 4 days but people were yelling to me from the sides of the road, on bikes, and on motos "you're beautiful! where you go? we miss you!" NOW if only I had a homecoming like that every time I came home :)

Captured Animals and Dead People

The wet season is in full swing which has brought about a plethora of insects and animals outside and INSIDE the house (spiders, ants, mosquitoes, rats.. you know, the usual). My family has taken the opportunity to catch some of these wild animals in cages. So far they have captured two Mynah birds and a bunny. My eleven year-old host brother has trained the birds to follow him around the house and sit on his shoulder... impressive considering these birds were wild only three weeks ago. The bunny has, unfortunately, already seen its end. It wasn't surprising considering no one ever gave it anything more than leaves to eat OR drink. Without an autopsy, I can assume that its death was gross malnutrition/dehydration.

The death of the bunny wasn't the only one I encountered that week - actually it was the third. The first was a boy on a moto... and NO he wasn't driving. He was laying there, limp as a rag doll, with very grey skin wedged between the driver and his friend who was holding him up. I was sitting outside my coteacher's language school when they passed by. Apparently he was a 12 years old and had "fallen in the water and drowned".

The second was the most strange. I was about an hour and a half into my bike ride from the provincial town to my site when I saw a large crown of Khmer people standing in the road around a woman. Her head was bent at an unnatural angleto the left6 and the rest her body was positioned to the right. I stood fopr awhile outside the crowd wondering if it would be okay to keep riding my bicycle or to do something... help somehow? It took about 5 minutes for the cros to recognizee the foreigner in their midst. When they saw me they started to smile and wave - gesturing me to continue biking on the road. Some Khmer men took it upon themselnes to shield me from the carnage by moving two motos around the body. It was too late though, I had already seen everything, and their attempt to hide it was in vain. When relaying the story to my host sisters they smiled and asked me, "How many people were there?"

Does your brother have all his teeth?

One afternoon as I was sitting, enjoying the company of Nary and her mother while watching people go into and out of the market, Nary started talking about how she recently had a tooth pulled. I asked her how much it cost and if she always got it done when her teeth hurt. She proceeded to open her mouth and show me all her missing teeth. Nary is 24 and the fact that she is missing 5 teeth already depressed me. She told me it was $5 in Vietnam and that it "didn't hurt". I went on to give her the dentist's spiel of brushing at least twice a day (I would've mentioned flossing but I have already been told that floss is too expensive for most Cambodians - my host family uses palm leaves instead AND it works - each of my family members have a beautiful set of teeth).

They then asked me if I had all of my teeth. When I said yes they demanded to see... as if they didn't believe me. After I opened my mouth to show them they then asked me about other family members' teeth... particularly my father and brother (who will be visiting in two weeks:)). When I, for the second time, told them that yes... my brother has all his teeth... the conversation dissipated into nothing and we sat there in near silence, watching the people go in and out of the market with their wares.

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