Whoever guesses the reference I made in that title wins a prize*!
Lately I’ve been asked the question, “What’s it like there?” frequently. I hope that my previous post answered some questions but I know that that explanation of the last week of my existence was a little bit removed from my personal, every day routine. Let’s get to it, shall we?
I’ve been lucky enough to have been placed with an extremely friendly and loving family in their home in a suburb (maybe? If that’s a thing in Asia?) of Phnom Penh. Actually, it’s two houses. There are six of us (I think) in one building, where our lovely housekeeper/cook, H, prepares meals, where family dinners are eaten, where blogging and MCAT prep happens. The other house is about 10 steps away where the family sleeps, as well as a few volunteers. Unfortunately, we lost four of the lovely ladies that were staying here this weekend so they can live closer to their volunteer placements.
I have a room to myself. It’s furnished with a queen sized bed (which isn’t usually as messy as the picture above!), a small shelf that I store all of my stuff that I somehow fit into one backpack…plus MAYBE a few things I picked up here. I have a large window that faces a courtyard shared by the houses that surround us. The bed is comfortable but the pillow a little flat so I use my travel pillow to fluff it up. Also, I need to sleep with a pillow between my knees because of very tight hips. Since I only have one pillow, my mosquito net has become a very suitable replacement. Who knew that my insecticide impregnated mosquito net would keep me not only safe from malaria but also very comfortable at night? Best $45 I’ve spent on this trip!
Not surprisingly, they’re not huge fans of blankets here so I was simply given a pillow and a top sheet. But, those of us from colder climates seem to have an innate need for something covering us while we sleep, even if it’s not for warmth (although I really like curling up in a thick blanket and making a warm little cocoon for myself in the winter months). Fortunately, my Cub leant me a sleeping bag liner, which is very thin but gives a lovely sensation of being covered while I sleep.
Since the weather is so hot here, Cambodians design their houses to allow air through and, from what I’ve seen, they usually just leave doors open. That means that moths, ants and geckos are sometimes spotted wandering around the house. My first full day, in fact, I discovered an entire colony of ants living on a ledge in my room. I thought this might just be par for the course in Cambodia but, when I told H and Mrs. L, they spent about 20 minutes spraying bug spray, wiping them away, moving my bed around and to make sure they were totally eradicated while I stood idly by like a useless idiot.
Next up in my day is a cool shower in my bathroom/shower area. It sounds more unpleasant than it actually is, the first couple minutes being the worst as I try to transition from warm, sleepyhead-ville to “I’m YAWN definitely awake”. Once those first couple minutes are over, it’s really refreshing and I’m already to head down for a breakfast consisting of delicious homegrown fruit, including the banana twins I munched a few days ago (see below).
Since I’m one of two people who haven’t really established a set routine, due to my volunteer placement not having any work for me to do yet, what comes after breakfast has been varied. Walking around, visiting a nearby market, napping, reading. To get to work, I’ve been catching a tuk tuk at 7:30AM to travel down the worst roads this city has to offer to go to the Khmer Youth Association’s offices, which takes about half an hour due to the horrendous and chaotic traffic. The last couple days, however, I’ve been taking a moto. At first, it was scary and I held onto Raath’s (my driver) shoulders even though I know touching people of another sex is a cultural taboo here. Despite the fact that I wanted to go full on baby monkey riding on a pig, I got used to it soon and hardly worried about the abysmal condition of the streets and the fact that nobody here wears a helmet.
For the record, it was fun. Really fun. I’ve decided that I NEED to learn how to ride one and ride it through the city before I leave. I’ll be such a legit Phnom Penh-er (another term I just made up).
But, to get to work, I’ll probably just rent or buy a bike, which will also get me some much needed exercise as part of my daily routine. Oh, how I miss a formal routine of forcing myself to get up, do pilates, run to to the bus, work and then come home for a nice run before dinner and some banana ice cream… As much as I miss the usual routine, I’m looking forward to establishing a Cambodian routine soon.
However, it may be a different routine than I envisioned. I’ve been thinking about requesting a change of placement to teach English instead of work with an NGO. But that subject will be covered in a blog post in the not-so-distant future…
Anyway, the moto home is also an adventure and a half. Once I’m home, there’s just enough time to unwind, read, check emails (and Instagram) before dinner is served by our lovely cook, H. Once dinner is over, there’s usually a couple people left at the table, writing emails, blog posts or studying physics and we chat amongst ourselves. Sometimes, I’m more hermit-y and prefer to read in my room for a couple hours before my nighttime shower and bed.
I’ve only had one full weekend here so far but it was a pretty great weekend. My friend, K, and I went to a yoga class in the morning, which was refreshing and rejuvenating. In the afternoon, we took a walk to my favourite cafe and spent five hours drinking coffees, writing emails, editing blog posts and trying desperately to figure out our lives. On Sunday morning, we visiting the Killing Fields–a horrifying and deeply disturbing experience. After that, I felt like I needed some coffee shop time to sort through things. I even ended up Skyping with the Beef (how awkward am I?!).
I love spending time working in coffee shops. I’m a little afraid to see how much money I’ve spent on coffee so far…and it’s only going to get worse. In order to balance me time, planning my life after Cambodia time and Cambodia travel time, I’ve decided that I will travel every other weekend (weather and circumstances permitting) and hang around Phnom Penh to take in something new, blog and have time for myself. Anti-social you say? Hell yes.
That’s what the average day is like here in my life! Look for blog posts again in the near future (I’ve already got two others in the works)!
*bragging rights to anyone who cares enough to listen.