The Beginning of Week 2

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On Monday, June 2nd, we began our placement sites again. A lot of the people on my trip here have to get up super early for their sites because they need to take a tuk-tuk about thirty minutes to get there. I, on the other hand, get a breezy five minute walk from the hotel. I still am on Cambodian time though and find myself getting up at five or six AM every morning even though I don’t have to be to my site until 8:30AM. On Mondays and Wednesdays the Children’s Library is closed so I spent most of the day on Youtube trying to learn the origami that I was going to teach the kids. Although I’ve never done extensive origami before, I was pretty proud of myself at how easy I was catching on. Unfortunately origami is pretty common here so a lot of the things that I showed Bong Daraneth she informed me the children probably already knew. Finally I narrowed it down to a frog and a basket and some cut out activities to do. Between my video surfing I had to spend a half hour shooing out a bird that flew in to the tiny library office where I was working. That stupid thing kept flying around like its head was chopped off. And it kept flying into the one window that refused to open for me, completely ignoring the window I conveniently opened next to it. Fortunately, it escaped and allowed me to finally leave to go the market to find some supplies. I was on a mission for origami paper, tissue paper and pipe cleaners. Unfortunately no matter how your imagination blooms, there are constant limitations as to what the Cambodian markets can offer you. I went to four different book/craft stores and couldn’t find a single thing. I’m pretty comfortable walking around Siem Reap alone, all you need to know is “A-dtey” which is a polite “no” to all the tuk-tuk drivers, massage advertisers and vendors in the clothing market stands. On my way through to my third store, I encountered a situation where “A-dtey” just didn’t seem to fit. An older male tuk-tuk driver was standing about twenty yards away from me and physically bent over and started patting his knees and began chanting and pointing to his tuk-tuk, “Here lady! Here lady! Tuk-tuk!! Tuk-tuk! Here lady!” I was so taken aback by the unusual rudeness and inhumane behavior of the driver, I actually stopped in my tracks. This hadn’t been playful, this was degrading, like he was calling a dog. And so, I had finally encountered my first cross-cultural situation that I didn’t know how to react. Here in Cambodia women are modest in talk and dress, and being an American I had to suppress the urge to say something in my defense. I ended up just giving him a look of disgust and a firm “No”, but I’m sure the energy of the fire burning inside me radiated outwards because as I walked past he just gave me a nod and turned away.

That day as a group we had lunch at a restaurant named Haven, a social enterprise. Paul, the owner was from Switzerland and him and his wife sold all of their belongings and ended up here. I find it so interesting that most of the stories of foreigners that come here start with “So we were backpacking…” or “So we sold all of our belongings and with what was in our suitcase we ended up here..” I find the structure of a social enterprise insanely fascinating. Being a social work major I’m still trying to find which model of social development would suit my individual goals best. I hope someday to come back to Cambodia to help out with an NGO or social enterprise, but having this month to survey the social work is really helpful for my future journeys. After lunch we had a tour of Wat Damnak (where the CKS library is located) by Venerable E Nol. Although I’d already seen a lot of the Wat because it is where my placement site is, it was really interesting to see where all the monks and nuns live. We even got to see a little portion of a cremation ceremony and I saw my first Bodhi tree in person! After the tour we had a lecture with Napakadol “Ik” Kittisenee on Socially Engaged Buddhism in Cambodia. It was an interesting discussion and after we had meditation session with Venerable E Nol in the temple. Although I really really enjoy meditating, during my session a giant bug flew into my face and after that I couldn’t refocus. I’m just the violent jangling of my metal earrings through everyone else for a loop too. Sorry guys. L Page, Morgan, Sara, Taewee and I had dinner at Green Star, a non-profit restaurant super close to our hotel. All of the proceeds went directly to the Green Gecko project of Cambodia which I thought was incredible!! Overall it was a really great night, but I was so so tired when I came home. I’m chronically on Cambodian time- up by five or six and down by ten-ish. I secretly hope that I’m still on this schedule when I return home. I’m a lot more productive in the morning than at night!

Yesterday was my second day working in the Children’s Library and it was super fun until I forgot how to do the origami that I learned yesterday. I did end up remembering the basket after a while, though, and we did some fun cut-out things of “sreys” and “bros”. During my work time with the kids I learned a few more Khmer words, but because some kids spoke English there today they specifically asked me if we could all just speak in English so they could practice. They laughed whenever I tried pronouncing new Khmer words anyways, so I was happy to oblige. I also learned today from Morgan that at her placement boyfriends and girlfriends are called “specials” which I think is really cute. Yesterday was also the first torrential downpour of the rainy season. Running home the street water levels were up to my ankles!!! I’m trying to push the thought of all the trash my feet were swamped in to the back of my mind. Luckily though it stopped raining in time to walk back to Wat Damnak to attend a screening of the film Samsara. It was a really moving short film, I think mostly because of the soft slow voices of the narrators. Your mind drifted slowly from word to word, really absorbing the meaning in each sentence. It focused mostly on the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge period, hence samsara-the death and rebirth of Cambodia. After the movie I took a night adventure by myself to the night market and found a painting of two Apsaras and a super neato backpack for next year. Unfortunately my planning was not on it’s “A” game last night because I forgot to save money for dinner and ended up just eating a ham croissant at a Western café. It was an interesting experience though because I went alone and as soon as I approached the counter after I was greeted I was asked if I was here alone, like he was surprised. I realize some people don’t like to eat in public places alone, but to be quite honest I don’t mind at all and find it more awkward for myself to eat alone in my room, isolated. Maybe they asked because I was foreign, but then I realized no one else in the café was alone. Possibly Cambodians always eat with a buddy. Also at the café I was given the wrong change AGAIN. I’m still pondering if it was on purpose or not, but I have realized that some Cambodians assume foreigners don’t know the currency and give them less change than they were supposed to. I’m not one of those foreigners though and although I’d like to give the cashier the benefit of the doubt, it bothers me that tourists are constantly being taken advantage of.