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

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Still in Phnom Penh

So I didn't actually go down to Sre Ambel on Monday because the village bought come water buffalo and was transporting them across the country and distributing them to the tribes. When Russell told me why I was staying in the city for two more days I couldn't help but laugh at the reminder that, well, I am in Cambodia. So I have just been chilling for two more days, working and visiting the sites. I still haven't finished reading about the hydropower project because Russell also wants me to read up about the current practices of both ISLP and the Race and Nationalism Project inorder to write an updated pamphlet. It is really interesting all of the things I am learning about Cambodian history and Khmer culture. There are many levels to the ethnic issues because of both modern history and ancient tensions. I don't feel comfortable enough with my understanding of the issue to write about it here, but hopefully I will be able to in the future.

As for what I have been doing the last two days...Yesterday I want to AFSC office and finally met the other office workers. Everyone is Khmer except for the Regional and Country Directors. They all seemed very nice, but seeing as I won't really be working with them the introductions were very short. I then went out with the company driver to buy a cell phone, which was an experience of itself. The whole time I basically had no idea what was happening because I am completely clueless to the language. One thing I was aware of however was that I had to pick my number. Meaning they gave me a list of about 50 phone numbers and told me to choose was daunting and strange but I was later told this is because some people have lucky and bad numbers that they need to be able to select for.

After the phone purchase I went for lunch with Russell and this women from Singapore who is here as a consultant. I have no idea what her name is but she does some very interesting work. She just came back from Myanmar and had some really interesting stories to tell and pictures to show. She has been working in Southeast Asia for well over 30 years now, has been a lot of atrocities and feels that the Burmanese government is the most indignant and selfish government she has ever witnessed. She told me stories about how cyclone relief donations reach the government and stop there, or that they actually go towards supplies, food, and helicopter fuel (only helicopters can reach the region) but never leave the ground. On a hopeful note however, she was talking about how impressed she was with the local people and their drive to rebuild. Already many villages are rebuilt, donation cups are in restaurants across the country and supplies being distributed. While she sees the government as completely useless (indeed the head general's son took the helicopters out for his birthday right as the start of the crisis) she also acknowledges that the local grassroots movement is the most successful she has seen. I guess there are two sides to every coin. In this lunch I also learned that Cambodian history after 1973 is not taught in school. This means that there is an entire generation now that has not learned about the Khmer Rouge, the Vietnamese occupation, or the UN elections. I found this to be very sad, but it seems that the times were too controversial for text books. Some learn about the Khmer Rouge through their parents, but often the parents don't to talk about it or the kids simply do not believe it.

After lunch then I went to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. This was a bit of a surreal experience because it is an absolutely beautiful site, one of the main tourist attractions of the city, and the grounds were completely empty. There was only a handful of people there. I can't help but compare it to the Forbidden City, where you can barely walk. Indeed there are so few tourists here that I ran into one (Tim) that was on my tour at Toul Sleng the day before. While it was interesting to see a familiar face, Tim is a Hollander (?) who lived in Connecticut for a year, wears polos and khaki shorts and is extremely I chose to continue looking through the Palace by myself. The whole place is indeed very beautiful and once I find an interest cafe that will let me upload the pictures I will be sure to put them up. The rest of the afternoon was spend napping and then having dinner with some staff and friends from the Boddhi Tree. They are all very nice, eager to tell me about Khmer culture, and really into cheezy pop. Indeed, you haven't lived until you've seen a large group of Khmer men belting along to Britney's 'Bottom of My Broken Heart.'

Today was then spent in a similar fashion, but without the lunch and with a visit to the National Museum instead. The Museum is extremely modest on the inside but absolutely beautiful architecturally. Many of the artifacts were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge when they first entered Phnom Penh and the museum stayed out of commission until 2002. I personally find it strange that the Khmer Rouge destroyed the artifacts (and murdered the curator) because they sought to create a pure Khmer culture with the Angkor Empire being the example of both how high the culture can rise and how far it can fall. Angkor Wat is the pride and joy of the Khmer people and to deface it is it deface the people. Granted there are artifacts from both pre and post Angkor, and there could have been modern art that was completely destroyed that I am unaware of, but the whole issue still leaves me curious.

Right before I come to write this all up I met with Tivea finally. He seems very friendly and speaks English best. There are two other people in the program who understand English, but cannot speak it well. Basically, I should really start learning Khmer, fast! In Sre Ambel I will most likely be sleeping on a mat on the floor in a wooden hut and I am told that everything closes by 7pm. Tivea said that the living there is very simple, even for a Cambodian. All of this made me very nervous, but all of your comments, emails and support are very encouraging. I can't thank you enough for it.

Again, I hope all is well with you and I'll be back in the city on Friday or Saturday to restock on food.


momma said...

it is no small undertaking...a mat in a hut...a lifetime of experience...

Dad said...

Karina this is a very good descriptions of your activities. I enjoy very much reading it. Keep it up. Mat in a hut: watch out for bugs. I do not mean to scare you, but that is the reality (you’ll find the same in Brazil later this year).

melissa, anaka, lori said...

hi hi hi hi hi hi hi!
lori and anaka are over and we all say hello and hope you're having fun

Lori: hello! it's your brasilian cousin!
Anaka: HI! i'm going to be sleeping in your old bed! in westwood... which is weird.butimsoexcited! i'm going to be the next kay! cause i have a tattoo on my wrist! have fun in cambodia and watch out for the water bugs. they're gross and they fly.
Melissa: i don't have anything interesting to say....BUT i finally listened to MGMT and i love love them. annnnnnd i hope your sleeping experience wasn't all that bad.

love all of us!