I painted my bathroom. And I am now officially out of rooms in my house to paint.


A curious twist to challah...

When the school closed, I made a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish with the time. Here are some examples: paint bathroom (check), get clothes tailored and go through clothes (check), clean (check). There were also some simpler things on there... bake being the key. It’s been quite some time since I lovingly kneaded bread for my tiny oven.

And I had a brilliant recipe – apple and honey challah, which I wanted to make for Jewish new year, for a good friend who has had a less than marvelous time lately. So, the day came when I woke up and said, Today is the day that I will bake.

And so I went to the market and got the key ingredients: yeast, eggs, apples, etc. And I began to mix everything together on my table, which is an incredibly enjoyable and relaxing activity. Challah requires some time, though. I think I spent 5 hours with all of the kneading, rising, braiding, etc. So, I decided that I would make a second, much easier bread as well: Focaccia. It is simple and I figured that I could use the rising time for that bread and mix it with the baking time for the other and it would all time together perfectly. I was correct.

However... I also decided to do some cleaning while I was baking. I’d put the bread out to rise and go clean something, then come back, put it to bake, clean something. You can see the pattern. It was all going extremely well until I went into my spare bedroom. I saw that my light had been completely taken over by something... And that something was a termite nest.

My spare bedroom is a room I rarely enter. It is dark and dusty and holds nothing special for me. Needless to say, I was a bit surprised that the entire post that held the light switch had been used by said insect for their dusty nest. I had a moment of panic. What do I do with this? Keep in mind that my challah, all 5 hours in progress, was currently in the oven about halfway through its bake time.

I thought to myself that I should destroy the nest. That would be the appropriate thing to do, right? After looking outside for my landlady and not finding her, I decided to go for it. So I got out my hammer. Looking back, I’m shocked that I didn’t realize how horrible this idea was. Anyway, I got out my hammer and took a swing at the termites. It connected and termite nest dust fell onto my floor. A second hit... more termite dust and a hint of the little white creatures. A third hit... and my electricity cuts out.

Now, it isn’t unusual for the lights to cut out here and there, but the electricity is generally reliable. So I knew right away that my ill-fated tool choice had created my current situation. I went outside for the landlady in a panic. My bread, I thought... My bread!!! I asked one of the kids if their lights were on and they said yes. Then I went searching back in the compound for my landlady until I finally found her. Of course, it began to rain, and when I finally found my landlady, she thought that I was searching for my cat. So, when I asked (pleaded, begged) her to come to my house and look, she started calling, “Jas-a” and pointing me to where he last was. I said, “Come, come!” She said, “Jas-a.”


I finally got her inside and heard a long and loud sigh... Yep, she understood. She called an electrician (Thai, she told me, with a Khmer wife) and he came over. But, in the meantime... my bread? I took the oven over to the neighbors and plugged it in. I should mention... my oven is the size of an American microwave, completely dependent on electricity, not gas, for the heat. So, once again, my neighbors got a bit of a show. The white girl, panicking over some bread, carrying her oven over to the neighbors to keep it hot as the Thai man came through the house and tried to fix the electricity without ever looking at the termite nest.

And, of course, in true Khmer fashion, my landlady and the people who appeared out of nowhere when the white lady started doing crazy things were completely amazed at the miracle being produced in the oven. “Wow, you can make that!?” My challah finally came out of the oven, beautiful, dark, lacquered with egg and they were amazed. They were even more amazed when my focaccia went into the oven and came out delicious. I couldn’t share the first but I shared the second. They were unsure about the bread that is sort of not like bread with stuff in it, but they tried it and appeared to enjoy it.

After my lights were back on, and the Thai man left, without dealing with the termites, I called the landlady back and made her look at the issue. It was quite bad. One of the light switches was completely covered by the nest and I couldn’t reach it. And, really, if a hammer knocked out the lights in the whole place, wouldn’t the termites do something worse later? Oh yes. Finally, everything was dealt with. The termites are now gone. The lights work once again. The challah was delicious (and welcome... since my friend’s parents were coming and it was almost Friday). And... “Jas-a” was not lost.

The Water.

With a 5 week holiday, I feel as though I’m reliving my Peace Corps days. Yes, 5 weeks. Perhaps I’ll go back a few weeks to clue everyone in on the situation.

First off... a few updates. I work for a very cool school called JPA, the Jay Pritzker Academy. I am the librarian in a room full of 20,000 books. We have a Pre-K to 12 school with about 400 students (give or take). It is hard work, but extremely rewarding. I spent the first quarter teaching computers, research, and other library-associated skills, as well as reading aloud to most of the classes and running the after school tutoring program. These are all things that I enjoy immensely. In fact, I think I’ve found my calling. I love to read and encourage others to do the same. I love computers and the versatility that they allow me. And I love these students. They are eager to learn and are, I’m certain, the best behaved students in the history of education. I’ve worked there for about a year and a half now, and am loving it.

In other news, I’m still in the same house I was in when I posted my last blog. It has been painted since my last post... about 4 times. I’ve painted my kitchen yellow, my living room red, and my entry way and bathroom turquoise. I’ve also added both a Playstation (complete with guitar and dance dance revolution dance pad) and a Wii to my living space. I have a cat, called Jasper, who wandered up the stairs and into my bedroom when he was a kitten and never left. I also got internet in my house with the help of a tiny USB stick that says ‘metfone’ on it. In other words, I think I’ve got it made. Or, I would... if the water would stay on and the termites would leave the house. Nasty creatures, termites. They made a nest in my spare bedroom and when I tried to destroy it, my lights went out.

But that’s neither here nor there... I was getting to why I was off for 5 weeks. Well, in a word... water. Since September, Siem Reap (including my house) has been flooded about 5 times. The river in the middle of the town overflowed into the streets and created some massive headaches for everyone. It was never too bad. Even at its worst, the water was only up to my knees. And living on the second floor, the water made my travels difficult but it only affected my entryway and made it extremely dirty. It also made Jasper stir crazy... being in the house all that time without going out to cavort with his pals, but he survived and I did too.

But the school... School is worse. We watched as the water flowed higher and higher, going over part of the road. The school is outside of town about 20 kilometers, and the water nearby is not the Siem Reap river, but in fact a much larger lake. Luckily, most of the students live on the side of the school that was less affected, but the problems continue to circulate through the village. The majority of rice fields surrounding the school have been destroyed. Which means that the livelihoods of the people who work in the fields... well, you can imagine.

Either way, the flooding issue is all around Southeast Asia. And after seeing the water rise something like 5 cm in one afternoon, our principal cancelled school for a few weeks. And in that time, the water rose high enough to not only surround the school, but to enter it. There are some photos of the water in the corridors, in the classrooms. And really, this is all quite incredible given JPA is the absolute highest point around, built to withstand all sorts of nature.

So this brings me back to the beginning... I have 2 weeks left to do with what I will. I spent a week in Bangkok, watching the bottled water disappear in the hands of frightened Thais and trying to get my fix of America inside the giant sprawling malls of Siam Square. I spent a week cleaning and cuddling my cat. I spent a week working on things for school. And now? Perhaps I’ll spend a week around Cambodia before attempting to get back into work mode. Right now I feel lazy in the way that too much vacation encourages. I sleep late, eat too much, spend more money than I like... all while trying to remember the students and their own predicaments. It’s a sizeable set back... in more ways than one.


Firsts and Lasts

After two long years in the Peace Corps, my service has come to a close. Two years served, hours spent in a hammock, 100 books digested, hundreds of students taught, thousands of connections made, and what seems like millions of photos taken, and here I am, a 23 year old RPCV ready to continue work in another capacity. I feel like I’ve done many different things in my service. I wrote some books for others to use, put on 4 girls’ camps, taught in a rural school, learned a language, figured out how to sew and bake, and hopefully changed myself into a more culturally sensitive human/woman/American. It is difficult to see the change that I’ve supposedly brought to the village in which I lived. I see much more change within myself, in the person that I’ve become. I feel more confident, more able to manage myself in the world in which I live. But enough about this...

I’ve chosen to not leave Cambodia. Of the group in which I came, I am one of 5 who have chosen to stay on for at least one more year. While this country and the time difference between here and my own home country seem to offer endless frustration, I have also fallen in love with the people. I’ve also gotten a job at an organization that I have unlimited respect for. In fact, I’ve just finished my first week there as an odd admin. I will be implementing the new library system, giving bar codes and ID tags to students and books and magnifying glasses. I will work on PR, updating the website and writing some newsletter items. I will also do several other sorts of things as needed. They haven’t come up yet, but we will see. I’m absolutely thrilled at this opportunity. Absolutely thrilled.

Beyond the job, I’ve also moved. I am now the proud renter of a humble little Khmer apartment in some semblance of the typical style. Wood floors, spacious rooms... and everything I need to be happy. And really, as it is my first every own apartment, I felt as if I should do a series of firsts of the place.

It was, after all, the first place I saw when I started my search. That has to mean something, right?

First thing that sold me on the place: the bathtub. And tied: The landlady.
First thing I brought upstairs: The orange backpack that I brought with me to Peace Corps.
First thing in my fridge: One bottle of rose wine and one bottle of vodka.
First visitor: Fellow K2 Tyler.
First pillows: Awful. Second pillows: From hotel supply store.
First purchase for the place: Shelves for the kitchen and bathroom.
First problem: Ants in the honey. Ants in the bathtub. Ants in the bedroom. Ants all over.
First call to the landlady: Please make the kitchen sink turn on!
First use of the oven/stove: Foccaccia bread and sauce.
First funny: Well, I moved into a fairly commercial area, which means that there is a restaurant next door, a hotel across the street, various shops and schools nearby and a business next door. The place next door has a very pretty and colorful sign with a butterfly on it, noting that it is a spa. So, one day, I walked out of my house with some time to spare to run some errands and I decided to pop in and have a quick look at the spa menu, thinking how fortunate it would be if there was a cheap massage place just next door. So, I walk in to a lovely garden full of flowers, see lots of young guys in pseudo-uniforms around, and enter the office to ask for the menu. The boys quickly come into the office and, thinking nothing of a lot of people working somewhere and getting excited when someone comes in. But then, I hear one of the boys say in Khmer, “go inside for her to look,” and I slowly turn around, to find nothing else than all of the boys standing behind a glass window with a bright fluorescent light on. It is at this moment that I realize that I am in the wrong place. It is equally this time when the boys realize that I realize that I am in the wrong place. They giggle. I giggle. And I walk out as briskly as I politely can, now knowing that I live not next to a nice spa, but next to a gay men’s brothel disguised as one.

And that's what I've got so far... More updates about the firsts in my life to come....


Music, Music, Music

Upon half-heartedly glancing at old blogs and thinking what I was dancing to at that moment, it occurred to me that I haven’t written a blog yet about one of the things that I find most dear to my heart: music. I cannot believe my negligence. Music is one of the few things that has stayed constant in my service, unlike my stomach, my clothing, and my cooking prowess. And so, I would like to share with you (and I debated with myself quite heavily while I bathed this evening) the music that I have through the many situations I encounter in my strange life here.

Let me first say that I have in my music collection (and I have scaled it down considerably in my free time here) a total of almost 9,000 songs, which is 41.91 GB and 25.7 days of solid tunage. I have, over the course of several bored weekends, acquired all of the album artwork for these songs and catalogued them tirelessly in my quest for the most organized music collection possible. This is only moderately successful, as I seem to double my music collection upon every training event that brings a group of Volunteers together. I still have my favorites, of course, and I have listened to the majority of the library... but there are always more gems to be uncovered...

With that, here goes my list... and this is just full albums, albums that I can actually listen to most of the songs on...

FOR TAXI RIDES. The road is too bumpy to read anything without giving even the strongest stomach a bit of car sickness, and it is approximately an hour from my A to their B. My goals are to stay perky and effectively ignore mostly everyone in the car, unless (like last Sunday) there is a really cool old fella in need of a smile and introduction into the world of the iPod. Plus, the music in the car is usually not conducive to music... So, I listen to comedy shows:

1. Jim Gaffigan – Beyond the Pale
2. Dane Cook – Harmful if Swallowed
3. Mitch Hedberg – Strategic Grill Locations

FOR WORK-OUTS. I’ve got a bike, and ride it often. The best tunes I’ve found for these little treks (nothing angry, because I’m in a village and want to be upbeat, nothing too slow for me to lose motivation, and nothing too offensive, because I’m pretty focused on the music) is...

1. The Neptunes – Clones
2. Outkast – Idlewild
3. Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury

FOR HAMMOCKS. Hammocks are great, and require a certain amount of chillaxin music to offer the premium amount of R & R. Here’s what I’ve got for that.

1. Maxwell – Urban Hang Suite
2. K-os – Atlantis: Hymns for Disco or Yes!
3. Nneka – No Longer At Ease

FOR DANCING. The tunes that will make me dance, no matter the audience.

1. Michael Jackson – Thriller, or Jackson 5 Music
2. Beyonce – I am... Sasha Fierce
3. Justin Timberlake – Future Sex / Love Sounds

FOR REFLECTION. You can’t always be perky, and you have to retreat into some music for some deep breaths...

1. Murder By Death – In Bocca al Lupo
2. 16 Horsepower – Sackcloth and Ashes
3. John Williams – Memoirs of a Geisha Score

FOR COOKING. When I bake, I must dance. Sometimes I sing as well.

1. Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
2. Queen – Sheer Heart Attack
3. Roison Murphy – Ruby Blue

AND FOR ALL THOSE OTHER TIMES. Maybe I’ll go by genre... and try my best to be comprehensive...

Stuff that reminds me of my mama...

Led Zeppelin – Black Dog, Ramble on, The Ocean
Queen – Killer Queen, Bicycle Race, Brighton Rock
Rush – Tom Sawyer
The Who – Pinball Wizard

Stuff that I never knew about until Cambodia...

Citizen Cope – Brother Lee, Nite Becomes Day
Handsome Boy Modeling School – World’s Gone Mad, The Projects
K’naan – The entire Dusty Foot Philosopher & Troubadour albums
Tosca, the opera

My top-played albums...

Mos Def – The Ecstatic
Santogold – Santogold
Rhymefest – Blue Collar

Favs from Cambodia...

Rob Viktum – Progress, An Audio Tribute to the Cambodian People
Ros Sereysothea – Any and All Music (found on the City of Ghosts Soundtrack)
Khemerak Sreymoun – Any and All Music (found on VCDs throughout Cambodia)
Dengue Fever – Dengue Fever

Odd Finds...

Shantel – Disko Partizani
The Books – Thought for Food
Balkan Beat Box – Nu Med

Best Soundtracks...

American Beauty
Kill Bill 1 & 2
Ocean’s Eleven

Best Happy Music...

Bobby McFerrin – Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Ray Charles – Best of
Mika – Life in Cartoon Motion

Hip Hop...

The Gypsies – One Hand Up
Jaylib – Champion Sound
Q-Tip – The Renaissance, Aplified
Raekwon – Only Built for Cuban Linx II
Rakim – The Seventh Seal


Jay-Z and Coldplay – Viva La Hova
Wu Tang Clan and the Beatles – Enter the Magical Mystery Chamber
Verve // Remixed


The Soul of John Black – The Good Girl Blues
The Best of Sting and the Police
Tom Waits – Real Gone

There’s more of course... but whenever I work on my computer, my iTunes is set to permanent shuffle, so I always get something I didn’t even know I wanted!


Grandma, Grandma, I CAN COOK!!!

I discovered a new passion... One that I am actually pretty decent at. And so, yes, grandma, I CAN COOK!!! I suppose a lot of things change in two years, and this girl that could never even be bothered to boil water is now working on recipes that span hours (and one that’s going to span a few days...). Not only that, but I’ve learned how to do it all with the very basics in supplies and groceries. The butter we have is Thai and wouldn’t make it to the table in the states. The milk I have is only to be found in cans. The oven is the size of my microwave in Iowa. And yet, I have managed to do some incredible things. At least, I think that they are incredible, but what isn’t after 5 meals with nothing but rice and pork and a veggie here and there? We’ll save the final verdict until later, but here’s some of what I’ve been working on:

First off, I bake bread. And rolls, and sticky buns and all manner of breaded goods. Most of them require (at least) 1-2 hours of rising time, when I usually putter around Oly’s place and read his newspaper. Or, I work on some other recipe that I wanted to try. I chop, I grate (without a grater), I juice (I have a juicer), and I mix (by hand). And I must say, I never knew how easy some of these things could be. I made awesome homemade applesauce in under an hour. It was considerably easier than getting in the car, driving to the grocery, getting a basket, picking out the right brand and flavor, paying, dealing with the issues of plastic bags and the environment, and carting the darned stuff home. Peel. Chop. Boil. Season. Mash. Done. And it was way better than the rest. But, back to bread. Oly has a book of breads for children that I am systematically baking through. Here's what I’ve made so far:

- Dinner Rolls (nestled together in the pan, very lover-like).
- Challah (Hallah), which is of Jewish origin and braided and triple tiered.
- Pita Bread (for homemade hummus)
- Biscuits from scratch!
- Tortilla Bread (for homemade fajitas)
- Oatmeal Bread (which we ate with a Spanish Omelet)
- Sticky Buns (My family ADORED these)
- Pie Crust
- Homemade Pumpkin Pie... from scratch...

I’ve got a lot more cooking to do, but I’m racking up quite a recipe book of things that I can make. My new favorite vegetable is eggplant and my favorite seasoning is rosemary.

Also, I’ve hosted a dinner party! I made fresh baked pita bread to go with hummus, mashed up potatoes, and created skewers for the barbeque for all my pals in Thmar Puok. I even have my own apron, tailored especially for me.
I am very excited by this, as I’m sure you can tell... and if you have any recipes that don’t have silly ingredient lists, send them my way!!

See more pictures here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2029550&id=72901581&l=efd03f89ee


Thoughts for the Day

I’m realizing that it has been some time since I have added to this blog of mine. It has become increasingly difficult to write about the things that I find so normal now. Well, a grain of salt sort of normal. It has also been so hot that even sitting and writing felt like a chore. But now, with the rains beginning and the cool air breezing through my windows, my head is finally clear enough to put a few thoughts onto the web.
Very soon, I will leave this place that I call home to find a new one. July will find me in Siem Reap, teaching for a fabulous school called JPA, which is the most American thing I’ve ever seen in the town. It is well funded, well managed, and all around amazing for the students that will go on to American universities after they graduate from this K-12 school. More on that later, though. For now, I’m thinking about how upset I will be when I leave my home in Thmar Puok Village.
Recently it struck me just how many people I’ve interacted with in two years. I suppose it isn’t that surprising (two years is a loooong time), but at the same time, I had felt as if I had gotten into a bit of a habit of seeing the same people over and over again. I eat at the same restaurants, I teach the same students, and I interact with a certain group of people related to me and my family. But then, just last week, I went on a long bike ride through the more remote villages in the district. I rode past one student’s house, where I once went to a festival meant to send his older brother into monkhood... I went past the pagoda where I talked with the old men that I see there every time... I went past the place where I found shelter once in a rainstorm... I stopped and talked with some old women about the party I came to and they told me I dance better than some Khmers... I said hello to at least 6 students whose names I actually remembered... And I ran into the other barang in the village. Even while I spoke with him, three out of the four people who drove past knew me and said hello: One, a student who studies with a friend of mine. Two, another teacher whose family I know quite well. And three, a man whose wedding I participated in, a man who works with my cousin.
After this, as well as a barang / barang incident in Siem Reap (At one restaurant, I knew people seated at two different tables), it suddenly hit me that I have met so many people in this place. That this small village in the middle of the rice fields of Cambodia has become one more home for me. I love it here, and I only have to go a short distance to find a friend.
I’ve been thinking recently about an article that my mom sent me ages ago, something in the DSM Register about a young girl who came to Cambodia and volunteered for a few weeks here. I don’t quite know what brought it up into my mind, but I kept thinking about how brisk it all is. I see with so many volunteering things terms of just a few weeks, a month maybe. What I’ve seen from my service is that the most effective thing that I have done is to make a solid connection with people. We make some sense to one another, we found something in common. I stopped being an alien to them, and became just a friend. We joke around, we laugh together, and we’ve become buddies in a way that would have been impossible my first few weeks at site. These relationships have made my service a success. They have also made it almost impossible for me to think of leaving.
And so, the job search begins. With any luck, I’ll be able to find work in a different field, something closer to the refugee services that I once did and would like to do once more. And then, eventually, maybe I’ll be able to find myself falling in love with another country’s people, and make another home away from home.



Check out some Khmer New Year photos here:


New Year!!!

The fine details of the Khmer New Year festivities!
So, the lovely country that I currently inhabit just finished celebrating its new year, which marks the new year of the tiger... For Cambodia, the three official days of celebration are somehow turned into a month of fun and games, which I fully participated in. I thought I would describe some of the more entertaining of the games and give you the tools to prepare for your next Cambodian Festival. Basically, though, have as much fun as you can in 100 degree heat by drinking and dancing out the bad of the previous year. And take every opportunity you can to hang out with the opposite sex because the rules are a bit more relaxed when all of the matriarchs are cooking and drinking and all the men can’t keep their hands off the liquor.
1. Home Altar... Every house has a little altar devoted to appeasing the ancestors inside their home. In my house, this was on the open area outside my room. There was a table with incense and candles, religious flags, money, soda, milk, fruits of all kinds, and some shiny things to scare away the bad spirits. Incense was burned there daily and the offerings were consumed after the third day of celebration.
2. Alcohol... No Festival would be complete without some liquor, most commonly beer. Rice wine, palm wine, and muscle wine are all acceptable for your festivities, though, as long as they are accompanied by loud music (sometimes karaoke) and speakers the size of an average car.
3. Food... Eat some Khmer curry and lots of mangoes. Tis the season.
4. Karaoke... is one of the most important activities for a successful party. Sing it with your family, all hours of the day, or if you are with another barang, sing it in a bar with a few Khmer folk listening in on your renditions of ‘I will survive,’ ‘These boots were made for walking,’ and ‘Billie Jean.’ I did do this, in a bar, in Siem Reap, with my pal Jan.
5. Powder / Water... Give your future sweetheart a chance to touch your face in public as he smears baby powder on your face as a wish of good luck for the holiday. I was caught at three parties smeared with baby powder and caught once, no twice, on the street by parties traveling with their powder. Or, if powder and close contact isn’t your bag, try slinging water on whoever goes past. On the last day of the new year, as I found out the hard way, is less of a baby powder smear and more of an ashes sort of smear. I was walking along the street and saw a parade of people smeared entirely in black soot, which was then smeared onto me. They got my arms, legs, neck, and every inch of my face. The best part, though, was going home and watching my family burst out in uncontrollable laughter at the picture that I made.
Games to play...
1. Food eating contests and races... I saw apple eating contests, watermelon eating contests, and some contest where you were only allowed to eat fruit hanging from a string by pushing against your opposite sexed counterpart. There was also a contest where the girls had to peel some small fruits and feed them to the boys in front of them.
2. Slow Biking Contest... Whoever finishes last wins.
3. Tug of War... Thankfully not a boy versus girl situation.
4. Blindfolded Tag... The two people who are ‘it’ have blindfolds on and feel around for all the people that are unable to leave the circle that has been drawn in the dirt. Surprisingly more difficult than you would imagine.
5. Greasy Pole... Money at the top, and a tall and slippery surface in between.
6. Egg and Spoon Contest... Try to carry an egg on a spoon to your friend at the end of the line, transfer the egg, then watch your partner try not to drop it on the way back.
7. Sack Races... I saw a girl who had to wait a few minutes before she could get out the sack as she had lost her skirt in her enthusiasm.
8. Water Transfer Contest... Take a big sip of water, carry it across a length, then spit it into a bottle. First to fill up the bottle is the winner 
9. Balloon Popping Contest... A chance to be rude with a member of the opposite sex as you pop balloons in between your bodies as fast as you possibly can.
10. Musical Chairs... I won once, but only because I pulled a fast one on my competitor by taking the chair elsewhere for me to sit.
11. Clay PiƱata... It looks as dangerous as it sounds, trust me... but the prizes inside are much better, candy and cash doused with baby powder.
12. Chopsticks Contest... Try to keep some small hard object in chopsticks from one end of the line to the other. Very difficult!


You know you've been in Cambodia too long when...

You know you’ve been a Volunteer in Cambodia too long when...
... Inspired by fellow Volunteer from Britain (Oly).

...you hand things to people with two hands instead of one.
...after a few meals of Western food (which make you wonder why you decided to eat dairy products), you begin to crave the taste of rice with a simple stir fry.
...all your clothes have been destroyed through a combination of hand-washing, sweat stains, and animal teeth.
...you don’t care that all your clothes are destroyed because you no longer care what you look like.
...you begin to feel chilly at 75 degrees.
...you forget that most TV shows have commercials, and that most seasons of TV shows don’t come in a box for under ten dollars.
...you haven’t the slightest clue what’s happening culturally in your country and your idea of the latest tunes are actually from 10 years ago.
...you pick up a new vocabulary consisting of KhmEnglish words sprinkled with slang from other foreigners...
...the percentage of your time spent on work here is similar to the percentage of time you spent on leisure at home.
...you can finally begin to imagine how life was in the olden days, before transport, electricity, and McDonald’s.
...you are constantly drenched with sweat, laundry water, or rain.
...the 7 hour trip to Phnom Penh “isn’t that bad.”
...the very odd Asian clothes in the market that you once saw in disgust (think ribbons, bows, huge buttons, sewn-in layers, bright colors, and English phrases of nonsense) look wearable.
...you do actually buy clothes from the market and sport them around for your friends.
...you can win a stare down with anyone... anyone.
...condensed milk is a staple of your diet, with sugar, rice, and water.
...days and months have little to no meaning in your daily life.
...cultural guilty pleasures have no ‘guilty’ attached to them.
...you find yourself dependent on things like tiger balm, cooling powder and mosquito coils.
...you find yourself no longer dependent on Wal-Mart, watches and other very American things.
...you begin to have trouble interacting with other foreigners or understanding an English speaker from your country.
...people who just got here confuse you.
...‘late’ is 10 instead of 3.
...you forget holidays that would have been a huge deal back home.
...you’ve seen or heard any number of variations on your name... Kokey, Kelshie, Kel (sigh), etc... and decided to adopt a Khmer name out of ease... mine is ‘Bopha.’
...you listen to enough music to realize how much of it is stolen among artists.
...you have the time to do just about anything you want.
...you have the money to live like a rock star on $100 a month.
...you have been dreaming of the day when you’ll reunite with your family in the airport.
...you find it odd to get a drink to go that’s not in a bag.