Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I contracted Giardia again, was diagnosed as being malnurished, and right when I started to kick all that, I contracted Dengue. I've been in PP for going on a week now and my blood platelete levels are still falling. I'm really hoping that I can go home this afternoon or tomoroow. I'm really tired of being poked with needles and don't have any clean clothes to wear any more.
Sorry for the brevety, but this past month I've mostly just spent in bed or trying to teach, which I've done little of because of ilness.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
OK guys, stay classy, I have to bike 14K in the mud to get back to site.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Greetings from Kampot, aka the 'Pot'! Right now I'm taking a nice break from the rigors of district life and living it up with internet, running water, and 24 hour electricity. Life is good here in Kampot town. It is just starting to rain so my disposition is starting to improve as I slowly stop sweating. Much has happened since my last posting so I will recap the major events:
1.I passed my language test and am considered 'survivable' in Khmer society
2.I was sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer by the US ambassador to Cambodia a little over two weeks ago and am now obligated to protect the constitution with my life from all enemies, domestic and foreign
3.Shortly after swear-in I moved to my site in Kampot province
4.Following a tedious week of extreme boredom and literary excess I finally started observing the English teachers at my school
So a few words about Cambodian schools. October 1st was officially the start of the Khmer school year. Some PCVs were flooded out of their schools due to heavy rains, but mine fortunately was not flooded. The night before my 17 year old brother, Reeas, was saying that there would be a 'party' at the school the following day and inquired as to the status of my speech. Puzzled I asked him what he meant, and he clarified saying that all these commune big wigs were going to be present and that I was expected to give closing remarks, in Khmer. Shocked at the short notice, I called one of my counter parts, Sovann, and asked if this was true.
“Oh sorry Ben, I've been meaning to tell you...”
That sucks, so I compose what I can in Khmer and have Sovann help me out with the rest. In my opinion it was quite a nice little speech and concluded with me saying, “even though I am here in the school to teach you English, I am here in Cambodia for all of you to be my teachers, and teach me how to be Khmer.” Imagining the heartfelt handshakes from Ministry officials, a proud beaming smile from the commune governor, and a twinkle of moisture in President Kennedy's eye (may his soul rest in peace, amen) I tucked in my mosquito net and gently fell asleep to the sweet amours sounds, of dogs in heat.
Around 7:30 am the next day, all of the students are standing in their regiments and what appears to be a cirque du soliel tent croweding the center of the school. Shortly after teachers set a table at the front of the tent, facing the assembled students. I sit in the first row of chairs immediately behind the table. At the table the commune chief, the district governor, my school director, the local Ministry of Education Youth and Sports official, and two police chiefs sit and nervously grunt at each other. Finally a white Honda CR-V pulls up with Phnom Penh tags and a tall suit comes running over, hands the district governor a letter and jostles off. Immediately the music ques up and the national anthem is lead by a Khmer student who apparently was classically trained by Milli Vanili's voice coach. My school director said a few words, then the commune chief, followed by the police chiefs. With a few shuffles of papers, the green fatigued district governor courageously stands, blows into the mic, and reads the four page document sent from Phnom Phenh. Fifteen minutes later the governor throws the paper down and dives headfirst into a Hugo Chavez inspired rant, fist pumps and all. Finally he sits and I am told to stand by someone seated behind, “it is time.” Breathing slowly, I purposefully start to walk towards the mic, when the governor stands and concludes the festivities with a brisk wave and an eager trot, stage right. Following suit, everyone else stands and departs by the time I make it to the mic. What a load of crap...
Less productive things PCVs do to pass the time:
–Games of 'telephone' via text message
–Trying to get younger siblings to teach you expletives
–Being amazed that pajamas can and actually are worn as pant suits in this country
–Contemplating what Hillary Clinton would look like at a press briefing wearing a Cambodian pants suit
–Attempting to not get hit by motos
–Counting mosquito bites, realizing our chances of contracting Dengue Fever, feeling the fear of Dengue Fever, then feeling the joy of a possible trip to Thailand for medical leave
–Trying to contract Dengue Fever
OK guys, it's been fun. I have a lot more, but given the slow connection speed this is all for now. In two weeks I'll be back for an extended weekend and will post more, with hopefully pictures.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Last week I was biking home from afternoon language class in my training village. The village has a national highway that runs through it, so I was moving pretty quickly down the asphalt to my dirt road when I looked up, into the sparse oncoming moto traffic and laid my eyes on a scene that made time stop.
Two people on the oncoming Honda Dream come into view. A toothy twenty something male and a smiling woman behind him. We start to pass each other while the woman yells, "Helllooooo" as they pass me. My hand shoots up, in a reflexive wave, and my mouth drops in ghastly astonishment. Straddling the back of the Honda is a typical Khmer girl. Black hair, big smile, and two bare breasts catching some sunlight... wait a minute... yeah that's right. Tucked between the man and woman is a newborn nursing from the one breast not wildly attempting to obey the law of gravity. Up comes the mother's hand to wave, while the other tenderly nurtures her new born at 35km/h. Just as suddenly as my mind is blown, the moto egresses behind me, and is a metallic blur headed away from Vietnam.
Instantly the image of gymnasts come to mind, and the future of the Cambodian Olympic Gymnastics team seems pretty good. At 35km/h, with no free hands to hold on to something, and still mustering the gusto to wave to a foreigner, while holding a baby, it dawns on me that Cambodian women are have untapped potential. The balance required to pull off such a stunt is unimaginable. Somebody please send me a spring board and a vault! Watch out China, Cambodia is going for the gold in '012!
The saving grace about my site is that Savin, one of our Language and Culture Facilitators (LCF), is actually one of my co teachers. He speaks English very well, is enthusiastic about the Peace Corps, and understands that it will take me some time to fully adjust. If not for this, I think I would be a lot more nervous. On the downside, there is very little electricity, so the internet is out of the question. The closeset connection is about 14K away, and very overpriced at 5,000R an hour. Internet shoult be about 3,000R an hour, or about $0.75. This might seem trivial, but I live on about a dollar a day at site. Spending a day's worth of food money on an hour of internet time is very steep. Even then, the connection is slow and unreliable.
My house is apparently a hopping spot in town. There is "pub" on the ground floor and all the teachers, police, and indian chiefs frequent it. Jason apparently also frequented the pub with all of these people, so my family knows him very well. This is situation is a plus for networking potential. We'll see what I can make of it.
Ok, I'll post next week when I should have internet again. I'll include a description of my house, family, and school.