Sunday, July 13, 2008

Phnom Penh Paraphenalia -or- Falling off a moto

I've only been in Phnom Penh for about two days, and I've already had lots of adventures..

After a night of merriment with the French, all of us trudged onto the bus at 8 in the morning on friday...hoping that we wouldn't throw up on the bumpy, six hour ride to Phnom Penh :). The roads are so horrible here because of the civil war and basic lack of interest by the stupid government that a two hour trip will most definitely take you six hours. Thankfully, I had a box of Cocoa Pebbles that I miraculously found in a supermarket and paid out the nose for (2.80 for cereal! That's a ripoff in Cambodia!!). On the way, we passed even MORE political rallies. We've gotten really good at identifying the different parties by the colors of their shirts...FUNCINPEC is bright yellow...the CPP has white polos..Since we don't have any volkswagons in Cambodia, we've had to make due with political protestors..("Ha! Sam Rainsay party! *punch*) I also played the exciting game with my seat mates of "Count the Rice Fields."

Bruised and battered with extremely sore butts, we finally crossed the Japanese-Cambodia Friendship bridge into the psychotic chaos that is Phnom Penh traffic. We had a bit of free time until our host families showed up, so we had a chance to walk around. The streets here are named by numbers, yet whoever decided which streets were which must have fallen off and been run over by a moto (who does that? oh wait. stay tuned.) You'll be going along and pass 385..then 364..then 388...Needless to say, the only way we've been able to get around Cambodia is to call the person we're trying to meet, have them find the nearest Cambodian while you do the same, and have those two figure out the logistics for you.

After a couple hours, my host sister came to pick me up on her moto. At this point, it was night time...and let me tell you, nothing will empty your bladder faster than riding on the back of a moto at night in Phnom Penh. There's actual markings on the streets and stoplights, but they're more decoration than anything else. People drive against traffic, bicyles and motos weave in and out of cars..I've gotten used to it by now because it appears that everyone knows what they're doing, but I am so glad that I don't have to drive in this city or else I would just sit in an intersection and cry because I would be too scared to turn left.

My family, however, is very nice! My host sister just lives with her mom, and her brothers pop in every once in a while. She's a little older than most of the other hosts (she's 24) and she just graduated with a degree in biology, so she has a job. I get my own room and bathroom, which is like staying in the hilton in cambodia :). Their apartment's at the top of a big building, so you can look out on the roof at all of the city. Pretty sweet, if you ask me.

Well, in an attempt to not be a typical American student and sleep until noon, I rolled out of bed the next morning at an empty house. A little awkward, because I had no idea where I was in the city so I couldn't go out. The mom came home at 10:00, and even more awkwardness ensued because she doesn't speak any english...and I only know about 4 sentences in Khmer and a couple of letters. We've gotten used to just nodding and smiling at each other. I think I might have accidently asked her to make a dress for me because I pointed at a pile of cloth and pins on the floor and asked "Do you make dresses?" and she got all excited and brought some magazines in, flipping through and pointing at We might have to clear that one up, haha.

In the afternoon, I hopped on the back of my sister's moto to go to see my Cambodian friend, Sokly, at his house. On the way, I was talking on the phone to try and figure out where he was when we hit a bump on the road, my flip flop got tangled somewhere, and I promptly fell off the moto onto the road with it falling on top of me. The locals got a good laugh, especially when I got up and my flip flop was ripped in half. Thank goodness that was the only thing broken, haha! It was fun to tell me director that I fell of a moto when he called because he was like "You did WHAT? Please tell me you weren't driving. Just tell me you weren't driving.." I like to keep the poor guy on his toes :).

After a fun afternoon of playing with Sokly's six year old nephew, the French boys and I decided to go find some Chinese food. Eric's host brother came and picked him up, and Brice and I followed on a moto. Needless to say, three people on a moto (the driver, me, and Brice) made for an uncomfortable ride and many misunderstandings. Brice's english is pretty good, but sometimes he gets things a little confused..

Sample Conversation on the road:
Me: "Hey, be careful with the pipe on the side because it might burn you!"
Brice (insert thick french accent): "The pee-ipe? You mean my penis?" (Apparently, that's what pipe means in France...?)
"GAH, NO! The pipe on the side! It's going to burn you if you touch it!"
"Bone you?"
"NO, burn! B-u-r-n!"

Another funny conversation was trying to teach him that "breeze" and "breasts" do not have the same pronunciation. Having 3 different languages going on (Cambodian, French, and English) in our group has been extremely amusing :).

After that mayhem, my host sister and her god brother picked me up to go to a dance club, "Rock." On the stage were singers and what I could only describe as go-go dancers doing really watered down cheerleading moves. Finally, the dj started playing a hilarious mix of Cambodian music, what I think was Japanese pop, and classics such as "I'm blue, da-ba-dee-da-ba-die," the numa numa song, Milkshake, and Hips Don't Lie. Since I was about a head taller than most of the crowd and the only white kid in the place, I was feeling a little conspicuous while I was dancing because I felt like everyone was watching me to see my, uh, american dance moves. Those who know me will attest that I am not the best example of good dancing skills, haha. It was really fun though. They wanted to go out for karaoke, but I was beat by then and went home and crashed.

Classes start up again today, and we have a busy two weeks coming up! We're going to go see the S-21 prison, the Killing Fields, the ECCC Tribunal trying the leaders of the Khmer Rouge, and hear from a lot of interesting guest speakers such as one of the UN attorneys. This coming weekend, we're also taking a big trip down to Sihanoukeville to lounge out on the sandy beaches (our director, Bryan, was able to get cultural reimbursement for us, haha..I don't know how he did it!). Since the election is in two weeks, CIEE decided to take us out of the country as a safety precaution for that weekend, so we're taking a trip to Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam, which is super exciting! Apparently, they heard some rumour that the Cambodian government is going to shut off the cell phone networks for 72 hours during that time. I'm not complaining, because it gives me a free trip to Vietnam! :)

Alright kids, new update later. Have a great week! :) Miss you guys!

1 comment:

Kim said...

I'm so proud of you for thriving in that environment. I would have given up about a month ago.

Although, I guess we should have added "Fall off a moto" to your list of things to avoid.

We miss you over here!