Despite that you have never been to certain places, you can sometimes make accurate predictions of what they will be like. For example, you can be certain that it will be VERY HOT in Egypt, or that you will get great cheap vodka in Moscow, or that you can score some fabulous sushi in Tokyo. I had never been to Cambodia before I volunteered to come out here for three months, but I was assuming that I would miss cheese while I was here. This was based on my visit earlier this year to Thailand, where I had noticed there was a distinct lack of cheese, or any dairy products for that matter.
If you know me very well, or have been in my company for at least one meal, you will know I LOVE cheese. So I was bracing myself for the inevitable - that I would suffer from cheese withdrawals whilst in Cambodia. But I was truly not prepared for the OTHER food cravings that I would have... but in order to better understand this, I’ll explain the typical diet here in Cambodia.
My fellow volunteers and I are served a lovely hot lunch and dinner every day. Initially I thought this was brilliant, as it was saving us from shopping and cooking…. Little did I realize that it’s actually completely necessary…as no Westerner I know can actually COOK in this country. The challenge of actually 1) buying food that you know 2) then know what to cook 3) having the ability to cook it without an oven – means that most foreigners do not actually cook here. From what I gather, most foreigners here eat out every night, because it actually more cost effective and it’s much less hassle! However, the meals are primarily Khmer food. Which is totally fine – I really wanted to eat Khmer (Cambodian) food while here, and plus, that’s really what the Khmer cooks know what to cook! And they do it very well, I must add!
However, imagine eating Asian food every day, for lunch and dinner. It’s pretty much rice, rice, rice, and more rice. Now, I must add that this was totally my expectation, along with the expectation of the lack of cheese scenario that I envisioned. But actually eating rice and stir fried pork or beef with vegetables for every meal is like Jack from The Shining. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…
Hence, I have been here for four weeks now and completely understand why the other volunteers look forward to the weekends and eating Western food (pizza, hamburgers, hell anything but rice) and weekly excursions to Bayon Market to buy Western food!
I had planned to write this blog about my wonderful students, but I totally flipped out on Thursday after a serious cheese withdrawal and went crazy at Bayon Market for some lovely Emmental cheese ($5 for a small block, but TOTALLY worth it). I had a private moment with the Emmental and some tasty chive crackers, in which I realized that I will just have to accept that I will pay a lot for cheese and yogurt and good wine while living here in Cambodia. And it is all worth it to live in this wonderful country….
Yesterday, we donated 100 notebooks and 150 pens to Save Children and Communities Development Organisation(SCCDO). Due to official teacher meeting at scholl, there was no class yesterday. So all 30 kids were at the placement. We arranged them in five short row, told them how important is to take note while we are studying and gave three notebooks and 2 pens to each of them. Finally, we adviced them to try to study and pay more attention in class.
The remained notebooks and pens were given to the Director in reserve for students when they need it.
SCCDPO's director thanked to Projects Abroad and its team for all the support.
We would like to thank to our two volunteers who helped giving the books to the kids.
October 26, 2011 by Susan Whittaker
Arrived in Phnom Penh after lovely 14 hour trip with Malaysia Airlines, not feeling too bad. Had to do business with
grumpy visa man at airport and then passport control who took pictures of my eyeballs and fingerprints - slightly
perturbing - then greeted by nice smiley Projects Abroad Assistant who whisked me off in a car through the
Phnom Penh chaotic road system. He laughed away at me as I was adopting the "brace - brace" position, not
realising how alarming the experience was for me, fresh from the ordered calmness of the M4 into Heathrow on
a quiet Saturday morning.
Off to Apartment 6, to be my home for the next month, to meet my co-volunteers and house mother who cooks
delicious Khmer food, beautifully presented, and always with exotic fruit for pudding.
Monday - induction day and tour of the City which is hot, busy, crazy, everyone vying for their own bit of the road
and it doesn't seem to matter how you drive, as long as you hold your nerve - anything goes. Moto bikes with three
people, sometimes with bags of rice on the back, sometimes with a dog hanging on grimly, tuk tuks with the drivers
making judicious use of the horn, scary looking people carriers rammed to the hilt with people and sometimes
all their belongings, ladies carrying panniers of rice and snacks, hand carts and huge gas-guzzling Range Rovers
and Lexus pushing everyone out of the way. Good luck if you are a pedestrian.... Anyway a city of contrasts, fabulous
opulent palaces and monuments and little shacks housing families of people, sweet boutique shops and
bustling claustophic markets selling everything from frogs to motor bike parts and knock off DVDs.
Sophan gave us a good tour and we visited the Projects Abroad office and the Cambodian Hope Association to
introduce us to the Director and the children of the orphanage. The children are enchanting, affectionate and
welcoming - 66 of them varying in age from 4 - 22. Over the last four weeks we have got to know the children
and their personalities - they are bright, inquisitive, naughty, energetic and happy to learn and crave affection
and attention. We soon learnt that they love to draw, paint, make models etc and some of them have a
formidable talent for delicate papercraft and make some lovely flowers, little boxes etc. The older children are
hungry to learn English and appreciate any time spent with them improving their understanding of English.
If our time spent as volunteers makes a difference to their development and education in just a small way
it is a reward in itself.
We have been taking the children on outings to the amusement park - the look of joy on their faces as they
rode the carousel - the first time any of them had seen such a thing - was worth a million pounds. We also took
the older children to the cinema - Harry Potter - which confused the life out of them but they so enjoyed it - the
whole experience with 3D glasses, popcorn and coca cola was a first for them. Hopefully, they will treasure
the memories of these outings for some time to come....
We have a great social organiser in Seang at Projects Abroad and have had nice Khmer dinners etc and last
weekend, we all put on our scruffs and tackled two classrooms at a local orphanage, sanding the walls and
painting murals. Very hard work in the heat but a great feeling to have done it. We finished off the day
by dinner at the Foreign Correspondents'Club and a visit to a drag show at the local gay bar. We had a visit to
The Flicks and saw two rather harrowing films on the Virgin Trafficing of the girls of Phnom Penh which made
us think a bit about the dark side of the city. Have realised that there is a happy, smiley face of Cambodia which
is tempered by a nasty, sinister side - there are many NGOs working tirelessly trying to deal with the matter but
the issue is huge...
Quiz night tonight, visit to slums tomorrow Volunteer Dinner on Friday and then on Sunday, we are off to the
the provinces to distribute food to the remote villages. Think the rain has stopped now, safe to venture
back to the Apartment for dinner... more news coming soon.
Shortage of photos due to no laptop and slow internet connection. Oh well.
So I’ve been here for over 12 weeks. I thought when I hit this point in my stay I’d feel differently, I thought I’d be feeling awesome because it would mean that I wouldn’t have long to go. Instead I just want to go home, although I don’t actually have a clear home back in Australia so I’d just settle for being anywhere in the country of Australia at the moment.
It’s strange because I felt so much better one month ago than I do now. One month ago I was feeling awesome and like I could stay over here forever. I think I got the emotions mixed around. I’m just tired I think. I went to Vietnam again on the weekend and I was like yep already did this. Maybe that’s the problem I’m repeating everything. Like the Cambodians say, “same, same but different”.
Everything is essentially the same but slightly different. I now feel that way about Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh. It’s narrow minded of me to think that if you’ve seen one Asian city you’ve seen them all but it feels that way.
I got sick last week and had to go to the doctors so that hasn’t helped my homesickness. This time I saw a French doctor who scared the hell out of me by speculating that I might have dengue fever and then suggesting that I should be put on a drip. In the end she laughed and said that children have sensitive stomachs and gave me antibiotics. I asked if she’d just been joking about the drip and she said that she wasn’t. That was scary. I was really lucky though because I had Seang with me and she took me to the clinic and then to the supermarket because the doctor ordered me to not eat anything but dry biscuits and plain white rice for a day. Needles to say I was very upset. I now have a fear of eating any of the food here, which is another reason why I can’t wait to get home. After always wondering if the food you’re eating is safe you get a bit sick of eating.
So I can’t wait to get home so that I don’t have to think so much about what I’m eating. Next time I travel I think I’ll go to a country that’s food is of a similar standard to Australia’s. Even the juice is dangerous to drink here because apparently they don’t wash the fruit, goodbye addiction to freshly squeezed juice. Guess I had to get over that eventually.
Anyway I went to Vietnam last weekend and it wasn’t as good as I remembered which is a shame. I did get to do some stuff that I didn’t get to do last time though like go on a tour of the city. Through this two of my friends and I ended up posing with quite a few Asian tourists for photos. It’s weird because back in Australia I’d never walk up to Asians and ask to pose with them in photos, there are quite a lot of them in Australia so I guess the need isn’t there. It was very entertaining at the time though.
Now I’m back in Phnom Penh counting down until I can leave, knowing in the back of my mind that I can now leave because I have done enough volunteer work to satisfy the university. It is funny when you want time to speed up it never does and when you want it to slow down it goes faster. Stupid time, you are the enemy.
At least in Vietnam I was able to sort out my visa and buy more coconut candy. Originally I was going to go to Thailand last weekend but there were several reasons why we decided to change our travel plans. One, there is crazy flooding happening in Bangkok at the moment. Two, the bus trip there is a minimum of 18 hours, it costs about $18 to go there so at least you are getting your money’s worth but 18 hours would kill me. Eight is painful enough and Vietnam was about six or seven. And lastly I’m meant to be going to Bangkok after I finish my placement. That’s if I make it there, at the rate I’m going I’ll probably have a nervous breakdown before then. Turns out travelling is really stressful, especially if it is for a prolonged amount time. I’m just waiting for it to end, counting down the days. Though I’ll most likely get back to Australia and miss this place, insane as that sounds now that is probably what will happen.
It has been a pretty intense week for me. I feel like I need a holiday, my placement is not a holiday but it is usually a good distraction from living over here. Although last Monday and Tuesday that had me doing some of the most ridiculously boring tasks ever and then they didn’t even use the addresses I found for the directory and because I got sick and couldn’t go Wednesday, Thursday or Friday they probably didn’t use the number I came up with for how many places are mentioned in the tourism magazine either. It was like 226 or something and I personally think they didn’t need a number for the front cover but I’m just the intern. Ultimately I doubt they missed me over the last five days that I’ve been away.
So meanwhile I will continue to live in Cambodia, missing Australia and too afraid to eat. I could totally live off junk food for the rest of my time here though I’ll probably get scurvy. I’m definitely considering it though, it’s been almost exactly three months and I’m still having trouble with my stomach. This proves that I can’t ever live in Asia. On the bright side I got to finish watching 30 Rock, good show. Now I just want to go and live in New York and start a sitcom. It’s weird how you become attached to TV shows.
Anyway this is me signing off, wishing I was back in Australia.
Kylie and Rylie was volunteer in Cambodia for two weeks, they are mother and son. And I would say, Rylie is the youngest volunteer for Projects Abroad in Cambodia he is not only lovely but a good son, everyone likes him so much.
Today is their departure day to home, they are so sad to good bye to the kids at VCAO and eveyone. But they have a good time here even it is two weeks. Kylie said to me to thank all the team member for their help during her and her son staying in Cambodia.
Kylie, before leaving, went to market to buy a small tree and gave it to the cook to take care of it. That is fantastic.
We really appreciated for your help in Cambodia and thanks for everything you have done here. Wish you a safe flight to home.
so we are leaving today. the morning lesson felt sad, the kids were extra clingy and i was a bit teary (thankyou sunglassess...). I have really fallen for a particular little girl, she mirrors my face all the time, every exclamation or smile or frown she copies back at me. And she manages to wear a beautiful crisp white shirt with puffed sleeves every day to school, i have no idea how she manages this..most of the kids are pretty grotty and their clothes torn and raggedy. Im guessing she has a mum or dad or granny or grandpa that loves her to bits and sends her off each day looking so sweet...if i didnt know that i would probably bring her home in my backpack...ha ha of course not, but she has kinda got under my skin.....
rys face will probably come out in bruises i think..the rather large, chummy cook in our home insists on giving his cheeks a rather large pinch every day and planting red lips on his face....ry tolerates it with a grimace, says all the right things but runs upstairs and washes his face straight away.....he has been showered with affection here, the projects abroad team have really really looked after him..
think this is my last blog...hanging out for a warm shower and clean water to drink......
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