I can’t believe I’ve been in Cambodia for 7 months. It is unreal. I think another fellow Volunteer put it best when she said it feels like we’ve been in Cambodia for such a short time, but it feels like it has been so long since we were in America. I’ve done things I would have never imagined doing before Peace Corps. I’ve eaten a bowl of rice with every single meal I’ve eaten, seen an elephant walk down the street, watched monkeys play in trees and explored thousands of years old temples. I’ve gotten used to squat toilets (actually I’m a convert now! I think we replace all public bathrooms with them) and made peace with my little mouse friend who lives in my room. Its surreal that were more than 1/4 of the way done. The K6s are starting to get ready to leave, and the K8s are getting their invitations.
In the last few weeks I feel like my language has finally gotten to a good level. I can have basic conversations with people, and actually understand them! I had an awesome moment at a cafe in Phnom Pehn. This cafe is right across from the market with the torries to Takeo, so I will sometimes hang out and grab a coffee before I leave. I’ve probably only been there 4 or 5 times, but there aren’t too many white people around who speak Khmer, so the lady always recognizes me. Well I was talking to her in Khmer, and another man says “oh the foreigner speaks a little Khmer”, and she responded “no she speaks a lot of Khmer”. Learning Khmer has been so frustrating for me, so it was awesome to hear someone who I barely know tell someone that. Now I can ask more silly questions, and can joke around with my host family, whereas 3 months ago I was struggling to hold a basic conversation. I also feel like my village is becoming more like home. When I walk down to the market I always have a few Mings who want me to sit and angoy leng (hang out) with them. I’m getting less stares and more “hello Sam”s, and I don’t think I’m getting the foreigner discount any more :).
School is still frustrating, but I’m starting to get used to it. Its just a frustrating system. The teachers don’t make enough money to support themselves and their families, so they have to get second jobs. Well the second jobs often interfere with teaching, so they miss class. My students have the same problems too. They need to help on the farms so they miss school too. Its nobody’s fault, but it gets really frustrating. Before I came to Cambodia, I thought the hardest part would be the lack of creature comforts, but really its the frustration and feeling like I’m not doing anything useful that’s the worst (though if someone opened up an air conditioned pizza/bakery/ice cream shop with hot water showers and bath tubs in my village I totally wouldn’t complain 🙂 ). When I get frustrated I try to remember one of my first weeks in Cambodia. I remember our country director was talking about how Peace Corps is probably one of the hardest things you will ever do, but almost everything in life that is worthwhile, is also really hard.
Overall, despite my frustrations, I am so happy to have the opportunity to be here. I never expected that I would end up in Cambodia, but I got lucky!
Here’s some more pictures from the last few months