I sent a version of the following lists to a few friends a little while back. Thought it would serve as a good update on how things are going here in Cambodge.
In my first month and a half I:
- Watched Prime Minister Hun Sen play in a friendly soccer match where the teams comprised of officials from Cambodia and Thailand’s governments, and where the PM would plant himself in front of the goal, wait until someone gave him the ball and attempt (often poorly) to make a very straightforward shot while everyone else watched and then wildly applauded. But mostly, a bunch of old, out-of-shape SE Asians on a soccer field. Just… picture it.
- Stood thigh-deep in rotting rice and floodwater to photograph a farmer whose entire crop has been destroyed. My accompanying story, which ran in last weekend’s paper, is definitely my favorite piece I’ve done since arriving at the Daily. (The Daily has no website.)
- Amazing so-fresh-they-probably-pulled-it-from-the-sea-ten-minutes-before-cooking crabs with green Kampot peppercorns
- noodle soup for breakfast
- fresh noodles made while you watch
- jujubes with salt and chilis
- lots of bánh bao/baozi (I’m obsessed!)
- Barbecued frogs (mostly crunch and flavor)
- Tree ants
Lots of Cambodians also eat snails, but I haven’t gotten to that. The one thing I won’t do–spiders. Nyech.
- Threw a Halloween party on the roof of the villa where I live with a number of other Daily westerners. Dressed up as Katy Perry á la California Dreams Tour (the blue wig was NOT easy to find), bought American chips (Lays, Doritos, Munchies!) and candy (Mr Goodbar!) that are waaaay expensive but so worth it. Early in the party, one of the maids brought her toddler son and we hopped him up on some serious sugar. Adorable.
- Made some really great friends, here at the Daily, with people from the other English paper in town, a number of UN/NGO workers and a handful of backpackers passing through, all of whom are young and adventurous and mostly really interested in the world.
- Went to a peace march, a art exhibition opening, a student film festival, a site of forcible home evictions, a number of resettlement sites, and a synthetic ice rink in a mall.
- Ridden a motorcycle. Hard to believe that a month and a half ago, I’d never been on one. Now, I ride on the back of a moto nearly every day.
- Sang Cambodian karaoke. It’s just you and your friends in a room with a couple of girls from the staff to keep the beer flowing. Four words: Khmer music dance party.
- Joined a gym… we’ll see how THAT goes!
Things I haven’t gotten around to (yet, maybe):
- Gotten to Thailand, Vietnam, or Siem Reap (site of the famous Angkor Wat temples). Got a few days off saved up, so hopefully one of those things will happen soon.
- Finished building my website, which I swore I’d do before I started applying to jobs.
- Get a tattoo. People seem to do that when they live abroad.
- Had a story or a photo on the front page of the paper (working on it!)
- Actually driven a moto. I’d kinda like to try.
- Adopted a Cambodian baby. Or a cat.
- Attended a Khmer wedding.
- Figured out how I’m going to be making money when I leave Phnom Penh in another two months. I’ve been sort of looking at job listings, absently considering how I’d word my cover letters, planning that damn website.
- Received my diploma from Northwestern. I did actually complete my Masters in August, and today officially filed to get the piece of paper.