So I have neglected this blog for an entire year and I have realized, unfortunately, that I miss adventuring. Now while I am stuck on campus finishing off my senior year, there is no reason for life to be boring! So I have decided to pick up this blog again in honor of my favorite type of adventure--cooking!
I love to cook and talk about food so I hope you feel inspired to try some new recipes! Everything here is vegan, sugar-free and absolutely delicious (I promise).
Oh and please email me any time with your adventures (kitchen related or not)! Email me at KarinaHCosta@gmail.com.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The first full week in Sre Ambel and other random things

So I haven't written in a while, so I guess I have a lot to say.

First off, last weekend in Phnom Penh was pretty fun and it is nice to be back in the city to mix things up, but over all I enjoy Sre Ambel more becuase it is just so pretty. Last weekend in the city was mostly spent relaxing, going to markets and hanging out with these two girls, Olivia and Nevine, from London who I've gotten to know pretty well. Its good have them around because most of the time I have to speak in very very limited English and after a while it starts to get to me. Also, talking to them I've learned a lot about the UK--small things that I didn't really know were so different, like our education systems and supermakets. I've also know fully embraced the words 'mental' and 'dodgy' into my vocab. As for the markets, I went to the Russian market and Central (or New) market last weekend. The Russian market is a small cramped place named such because for a while only the Russians imported clothes, music, etc to Cambodia. Now the market is filled with a wide variety of things, from DVDs, to china, to tourist souvenirs. The central market in contrast is significantly more open and much much larger. It has everything anyone could ever want, including tons of really trendy clothing stands. I am pretty bad bargainer though and need to be better before I can really buy stuff. The building that Central Market is in was built by the French well before the Khmer Rouge came into power and is now one of the prides and joys of the city. The structure is really beautiful and when an advertisement company put posters on it about 4 years ago the city people protested. I have also been to the Sre Ambel market, which is obviously small but much larger then I expected. It is often awkward for me to go out into the Sre Ambel town though because everyone stares at me and the children call me barang (foreigner). I usually don't mind but after a while it does get really weird.

As for the work I have been doing with ISLP, it has been really interesting. Right now they are rewriting the job descriptions and requirements because the previous ones were written by AFSC members who were not Cambodian and not really that involved with the program. So this is the first time the staff has really sat down to think about the work they are doing, what it means and what improvements can be made. The written descriptions and requirements however are to be written in English because it is AFSC sponsered. That is where I come in. They write ideas down, but the English is barely comprehensible so Tivea and I sit together and edit the lists. Along the way Tivea explains to me each one and I try to write it in a way everyone can understand. It is hard because sometimes they have phrases that don't really make sense in English but they are so used to I have to include them anyway. I can't think of any examples now...but there are a lot. I like this work though because I feel like I am really helping them but I am also learning how an NGO is organized, runs itself, and is essentially started. In Cambodia, there are Provinces, Districts, Communes, and Villages. ISLP works in Sre Ambel district in Koh Kong province. For every commune there is an ISLP Team Leader under whom a field officers for every village. The field officers work in the village and with each other to bring the whole commune together on issues. Often the communes are naturally seperated by their resources--so fisheries, forestry, etc. Next year, ISLP is probably going to become independent, like Khmer Ahimsa, so the work were doing now is their first steps in making that transition. It is also good timing because the election campaign just started and non political organizations are not allowed to hold big village meetings. As a result, I've just been in the office (which is outside) for the last week an not visiting any village. This weekend I am going to prepare an English lesson for the staff to teach on Monday or Tuesday. Its pretty strange to me, but some of the staff calls me Teacher. Keep in mind all of them are between the ages of 28 and 50something so its weird for me, especially since they talk in English only in the third and first person. So they will say things like, "Does Teacher want to go to the market?" or "Did Teacher sleep well?" The first time it happened I actually had no idea who they were talking about.

As for other Sre Ambel things, life it pretty simple and mostly consists of eating and teaching my housemates English. I almost always get food from these open air restaurants that have maybe 6 pots of food to choose from. Oh course nothing is vegetarian so I have to pick around the meat. There isn't a kitchen in my house so I don't really have a choice. There is no tofu either so I try to get in as much protein as possible while in the city and bring some soymilk back with me. Overall the food is simple and often some kind of soup with rice. It does get boring after a while but I've never paid more then 75 cents for a meal so I can't complain. The other week coming back from the city I did try a local delicacy though--fried red ants, black ants, termites and bee larvae. It was pretty strange to eat and I found the termites way too salty. And to answer someone's question...most of the food is eaten with a spoon and fork with the exception of noddles which require chopsticks. I have yet to see a knife in the countryside, but considering everything is soupy that makes sense.

Oh also, I don't know if I've mentioned this yet, but the animals in Sre Ambel are crazy. The cows often just sit in the road, the ducks are a bizarre looking species that I've never seen before and the pigs are terrifying. I swear that some of the pigs come up to my shoulder--now I know I've short, but you have to admit that is HUGE. And when the run...its horrifying. If it came between me fighting a pig or a tiger, I am not sure which I would choose. These weird farm animals and the fact that all of them women wear matching pajamas that are like scrubs but covered with ridiculous patterns, adds a certain humor to Sre Ambel that it difficult to describe.

Ok well I believe that is all for now but one last anecdote before I leave: Every once in a while I'll get this, "Oh right...I'm in Cambodia moments..." and I got a major one two nights ago. I was sitting on my porch with Narith and Minea, basically staring out into complete darkness, with these lights were flashing every now and then. I just assumed it was a moto, but then I remembered that across the street was just open fields. Minea then told me it was fishermen. I was SO confused, I was thinking really hard about it and just kept saying to myself...Fishermen? On the fields? What? And then I remembered that fields here are rice paddies that are knee deep or more depending upon the recent rain. It was bizarre for me to suddenly have to completely rethink the word ''field'' and understand it as something totally different.

Well then. Right now I am staying at a different guesthouse then the Boddhi Tree, which breaks me heart, because it was full. I stayed at this really horrible place last night, but moved this morning to Liv and Nevs' guesthouse because I couldn't bear to be there. I think next weekend I am actually going to the beach, which should be really exciting. Hope all is well! Do write!

5 comments:

GM said...

Your writings are wonderful. I'm really enjoying them. Many of my friends are following your adventures. In case I'm not able to get through on the phone tomorrow...have a wonderful birthday. Your mom and I are going to have dinner so we will toast you and sing happy birthday.

momma said...

happy cambodian birthday!!!!!

Dad said...

Karina, Happy 20th Birthday. I really enjoy reading your blogs and it is encouraging to know that all is well. We’ll have to celebrate your Bday when you are back.

D said...

Teacher,

If you ever use the word "dodgy" around me to refer to anything then I will slap you.

Love,

DBlock

also, ants sound good.

Ella said...

Karina!
I missed your birthday...by... a whole lot... but you are 20 now! I am so jealous you are in Cambodia, I just caught a Globe Trekker episode about it and it made me think of you and I tried to picture you there telling me about various places instead of the host of the show. It didn't really work though, I just can't picture you there! Send pictures!!! When do you get back again?
Miss you!