Well, I’m finally here! Getting to the airport was mildly stressful but once I was finally with the big group of us at the airport I felt secure. We flew Korea Air which I was extremely impressed by. I packed my carry-on bursting to the seams with mind-numbing women’s magazines, Sudoku puzzles, music and books, so much so that my carry-on was just a few pounds lighter than my actual checked bag. As it turns out, Korea Air had mini televisions installed on the back of the seat in front of you loaded with movies, television shows and games, so I ended up watching The Wolf on Wall Street, Her, Friends, Casse-tête chinois, and That Awkward Moment. Judging time by how many movies I pounded through was a great way to keep time and before I knew it the twelve and a half hour flight was over and we arrived at Incheon International Airport in South Korea.
Incheon is probably the most exotic and beautiful airport I’ve ever been to! The airport had rest centers and you could take a shower for free in a lounge. They even gave you cute little shampoo, body wash, and toothbrushes! Our connecting flight to Siem Reap went really well for me because I ended up sleeping through most of it. We arrived in Siem Reap at about 11:00PM and heading straight to our hotel, The Golden Banana, in a lavishly decorated mini-bus. We were greeting at the hotel with fresh fruit and spring rolls and I got to try rambutan for the first time. It looks like a hairy strawberry and you have to peel it open to get the fruit that looks like a giant water chestnut. I’m not sure how to describe the taste but it was incredible! I’m definitely taking advantage of the consistent supply here since you can’t get any fresh rambutan in the United States.
I crashed pretty quickly that night and this morning I ended up waking at 6:00AM because of my odd sleep patterns. I got to do some meditation and Kriya in the morning which was really nice and had my breakfast in the lounge/patio of the hotel. After breakfast Page, Brandon and I explored around the city and found a place to buy a 1500 ml of water for fifty cents (YES!). It’s such a bummer trying to remember not to drink from the faucet or brush your teeth with the water, but I’m slowly adapting. During our excursion we also stopped at a market where I found a few fun items to buy. For anyone who has ever been in Art Gecko in Madison-Cambodian markets are one giant Art Gecko. I was overwhelmed in the best way possible and ended up buying two pairs of fun cute Cambodian pants and two hand crafted earrings all for under fifteen bucks! In the markets bartering prices is not only accepted but encouraged by the sellers! Later in the day the entire group of us had a walking tour with Mr. Michael who helped coordinate our trip with Professor Hansen and then after we had a fabulous Khmer lunch at Genevieve’s consisting of rice, chicken curry, soups, and an interesting fish dish.
The heat here in Cambodia has been killer! While walking around for an hour I think I drank about three bottles of water and sweat about the same amount. Thankfully all the clothes I brought are super light and airy. In Cambodia it’s common to shower about two or three times a day because the heat is so severe. Today I showered three times and will probably do that for the rest of the trip! Also today I met my coordinators for my job placement site at Wat Damnak in the CKS Children’s Library. Both women who will be managing me were super nice and friendly and showed me all around the library (which is the second largest in Cambodia) and the grounds. It’s crazy how much work has been put into the main library; they have tons of books on Cambodian and South East Asian history and even have a few theses of students from the university. At the CKS Library I’m mostly going to be working with kids and teaching them English while also learning Khmer, their native language, and doing fun activities and art and crafts. It’s also my job to go to the market to find the supplies they will need. It seems pretty overwhelming but hopefully I will be able to maneuver my way around without trouble in a few days. My only fear is crossing the street here which I jarringly similar to the game Frogger, except the motorcycles and tuk-tuks are faster and there are no traffic signals or lanes on Cambodian streets.
Overall, it’s been an incredible first day! Cambodian is a beautiful country and I’m still taken aback that I’m lucky enough to wake up here. So far everything has been going smooth and everyone is pleasant here! Tomorrow we have orientation to Cambodian cultures and the next day we will be certified to work with kids in Cambodia. I can’t wait to see what happens next!!