Cambodian Yays (Grandmas) are Feisty!

Can you believe it? 2 posts in 1 week! I’m actually remembering to blog! Aren’t you proud? So I’ve debated whether or not to post this, because it is a grumpy post, but I decided to because I want this blog to be an honest depiction of the Peace Corps, not just one that talks about the happy things. So here’s the story of my brawl* with a Yay (grandma) at the market.

So the other day as I was buying some breakfast and old lady came up to me and asked me for a thousand riel, which is equivalent to 25 cents. Now as a rule, I don’t give money to people who ask because as soon as I give it to one person, there will be ten more asking for money as well. And honestly, when your only making four bucks a day, a quarter is kinda a lot of money. Well I told her no, and she hits me. In Cambodia old ladies especially like to play hit, but this wasn’t a play hit. It wasn’t a painful punch either, but it definitely wasn’t a lighthearted hit.

Sometimes it can be so frustrating being here. This lady believed that she was entitled to this white, western woman’s money, and since I didn’t give her any money it was appropriate for her to hit me. Now I don’t want to sound dramatic, and have anyone worry about my safety. I could totally take a 70 year old Khmer grandma, and it wasn’t a painful punch or anything like that, but it was the principle of the whole thing that really upsetted me. I’m lucky that people in my community rarely ask for money, and I doubt that anything like this will ever happen again, but it still sucks.

Its just so frustrating feeling unappreciated sometimes. I wanted to scream at that old lady: “I’m giving up two years of my life for your country. Don’t get pissed that I won’t give you a quarter. I’m giving up two years of income, my health, two years with my family and friends, possibly my sanity and endless supply of cheese for you. I don’t owe you anything.” I know that the important thing the work that I’m doing, not the thanks that I get, but some days its just so infuriating.

The Peace Corps tells you that you will experience your highest of highs, and lowest of lows during your service, and they really weren’t kidding; I can go from happy as can be, to irate right back to happy in a day. I was seething all morning because of the yay (grandma) hitting me. Later that afternoon I was riding my bike and I could start to hear a moto slow down. Immediately I got annoyed because I thought it was some stranger who was going to go by me as slow as possible while staring at me (honestly its a miracle I haven’t caused multiple car accidents from people watching me instead of the road), but instead it was one of my brilliant students! We had an awesome conversation, and I went from being super grumpy to happy as can be. It’s exhausting feeling so many feelings in a day!

I really am trying to remember that not being grateful or expressing it is a universal trait. Back at home, there are plenty of people (myself included) who have trouble seeing the sacrifices that those around us make for us, or even if we do see them we don’t articulate our thanks. Anyways, I’m just going to keep on reminding myself that I am making a small difference to at least a couple of my kids, and remember that while receiving gratitude is nice, that’s not the reason why I’m here. The reason why I’m here it to inspire at least a couple of my kids to do great things to change their country for the better. And I’ll remember to watch out for Yays at the market.

*Just kidding! It was not a brawl, it was a slightly more aggressive than a play hit, hit


One thought on “Cambodian Yays (Grandmas) are Feisty!

  1. I’m glad you wrote about this. I felt the same thing with motherhood. I expected to have good days and bad days but I had no idea that I would go from red-faced fury to tears of joy and love I also appreciate the reminder to practice more gratitude every day. And I’m glad you haven’t caused any traffic accidents yet 🙂

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