Showing posts from September, 2011

Third World Country Sick

You haven't been sick until you have been "third world country" sick.
Our weekend trip was nearly ruined by an unwelcome stomach bug. Shortly before we left the last temple on Monday I started to feel miserable. By the time we got home, I was completely miserable. Little did I know that was just the beginning. I don't get fevers. In fact, I can't remember if I have ever had a fever over 99 deg F. I just don't get them! But by dinner time (or as my Aussie counterpart Kara calls it, "tea") I was on fire. Every part of my body was burning- except for my feet, which were inexplicably cold. And any time cool air from the air con or a fan blew on me, my teeth would start chattering, and I was covered in goosebumps.
Starting to get the picture? That was just the beginning. Montezuma's revenge kicked in shortly thereafter. (Montezuma seems like the wrong ancient icon here. And it seems inappropriate to call it Buddha Belly, and yet I'm so swollen, …

Riding the Elephant!


Anti-trafficking in Cambodia

The article I have written about what I have been doing in Cambodia is up and running on Meridian Magazine. Warning: this is a fairly in-depth and gritty article about sex trafficking. It is not your typical family-friendly fare on Meridian.

Angkor Wat

In spite of multiple warnings that the entire country is flooding, that buses aren't making their destinations, and that Angkor Wat is closed and had to evacuate out tourists thanks to the flood, Kara, Susanne, and I got on a bus Saturday. So here I sit in a very nice little inn, paying about $14/night for hot water, free internet, a pool, and absolutely wonderful beds. The whole trip was worth it just for the hot water and internet I can access while sitting in my bed!
Is it flooding across the country? You betcha. Is Angkor Wat still open? You betcha. Did I walk through a flooded out path with muddy water over my knees just to see the temple where Angelina Jolie filmed "Tomb Raider?" You betcha. Am I now in my bed suffering from the worst case of "doxy burn" I've ever had? Oh you betcha!
Was it all totally worth it?

I'll let you decide!

(Captions and explanations coming soon. It is bedtime here!)

Cambodian Blahs

I can't believe my time here is half over. I'm on the downhill to going home now. But I feel like I've just hit my stride, and I'm just getting the hang of this place. I'm not ready to leave. Unfortunately on Friday I ate something that decided it hated me. Within minutes of lunch I got horribly sick. Five days later and I'm only just now keeping everything I ate in me. On top of that we've had a head cold passing around the volunteers, and it is my turn to deal with it. It is minor and a little Nyquil and Dayquil are doing the trick. But yesterday was just plain awful between the stomach problems and the sinus problems. I spent the whole day literally in bed. The other volunteers made regular trips up to see me, and it even resulted in a fun and impromptu girls night in my room. We all just hung out, laughing and talking like girls do. In the middle of it all I just stayed curled up on my bed, but participating the best I could. It is moments like these …

The real world awaits

Over the weekend I got two new roommates in my room. I am very happy to finally have someone in my big room with me. I was getting lonely at times in there knowing that everyone else had a buddy. Well, my wish came true! And I got two roommates! Yeah!
One of them (Canada) asked me yesterday what it feels like to be going home so soon. She's here for 77 days (apparently she's counting). I laughed and said, "I wouldn't know. I haven't thought about it at all!" Home and my real life seem so far away that I can't even imagine it all.
Well, that was until this morning (Cambodia's morning, not the US morning) when I got the email that floored me. The Peace Corps. It's finally time. We set up a time for them to call me (in a WEEK! I may die of anticipation!) and do my absolute final step. And it is entirely possible that I will find out in that phone call where they are sending me.
Now the real world is kicking me in the butt. I have a life back home. I…

English to English Translation

Living in such a multi-cultural environment has some fun perks. We are all learning a lot about not only each other, but also about our different countries. We have several countries represented here- Australia (“heaps” of them around here!), Canada, England, Japan, Denmark, France, and Germany. We each go off to our placements each day where we learn about Cambodia, and then at night we come home to learn about ourselves. And all day long regardless of where we are we find ourselves playing a game we like to call “English to English Translation.”
English to English translation is not just trying to understand a Cambodian's English, which can be confusing at times. More often than not it is when we are trying to understand each other! Do you know how many different ways there are to say bathroom in English?
Bathroom, restroom, toilet, dunny, loo, and WC
And a few more of our favorite words-
Bobby pin, kirby grips, hair pins
Bandaids are plasters in the UK.
Sweaters, jumpers…

Visiting the Killing Fields

To understand the significance of visiting the Killing Fields and S-21 you need to know the history of Cambodia. Back in the 1970s there was discontent and a revolution in the country. But the good guys (if there even were good guys) didn't win the fight, and instead the Cambodia Communist Party took over. Their leaders were Pol Pot and a man that came to be known as Duch. We don't know if you pronounced that dutch, duke, or doosh, but we've all decided to call him Douche after learning more about him. Pol Pot and Duch are equal with Hitler in the crimes they have committed against humanity. They are the lowest of the low, and hell isn't even good enough for them. They took over the country, and began rounding up anyone who appeared to be intelligent. This included anyone with an actual education, most storekeepers, doctors, lawyers, and other professionals, and inexplicably anyone who wore glasses. Nobody knew what they were doing with them. They just all disappeared…

Just another day in Phnom Penh

Guess what?
Elephant butt.

No parade, no special occasions, no good reason at all. Just an elephant walking down the street.

Happy Birthday Sisty Ugler!!

Happy Birthday Sisty Ugler! If I can figure out how to make international calls, I promise to call you and wish you a real happy birthday "later" today. (And by today, I mean I will call my time tomorrow, which will be today your time. Mind blown yet?) I think you will like your Khmer birthday present! Love you!

How to be Humbled by 8am

When I got to my office this morning there was a bag of women's clothes on my chair. My local partner came in and explained that a woman arrived at our shelter last night 8 mos pregnant, homeless, and abused, needing help. The clothes were for her. The woman is now sitting in my room while everyone around me works to find 
her emergency aid.
I was humbled to find that the bag of clothing came from the country director's wife. I wonder how often he and his family make donations like this. In the short time I have been here I've come to know him as a very kind, smart, and loving man, committed to the cause of fighting child and sex trafficking. It is probably a miracle that they have anything left to give. 
Tomorrow I will be making an unusual Saturday trip into the office so that I can be given a tour of the slums. I don't think it is appropriate to say I am 'looking forward to it.' How can anyone 'look forward' to seeing the absolute saddest scenes of huma…

Hey Elder Part 2

On my way back to work after lunch on Thursday I passed the same 2 missionaries on bikes going the opposite direction, that I saw a few days ago. I know they saw me, but there wasn't time to say anything or even wave.
After work today on my way home I was alone in the tuk-tuk as we passed through the slum. Suddenly I heard an American accent very close by me say, “Hey look, there's that same white girl we saw earlier.” I turned around to see the missionaries no more than 3 feet behind me on their bikes. (I knew they had to be talking about me. Trust me, there are no other white girls in that area!) I smiled and said, “Hey Elders! What's up!” The American elder nearly fell off his bike with surprise. The Khmer (Cambodian) elder just laughed. I guess that was the last thing they expected me to do! I can only imagine how completely unexpected that was.
Moving along in the crush of rush hour they attempted to ride alongside my tuk-tuk and talk to me. It wasn't easy for …

Day to Day Volunteer Life

Is it really possible I have only been here for a week? (That's an in-country week, not starting from when I actually left my home 10 days ago.) I cannot even fathom that. It feels like a lifetime since I left, like everything should have changed. Today I got a good look in the mirror for the first time since arriving here and noticed my hair is getting much blonder from the sun, and my usual “summer” freckles are loud and pronounced. Even the little freckle under my chin that only comes out with my deepest tans and sunburns is visible. I haven't seen that little guy in years. Life here has taken on a routine and a good familiarity. I'm comfortable and feel like I know what I am doing. I'm ready to stop feeling like even the most mundane task (ahem- laundry) is an adventure. I'm comfortable talking to moto and tuk-tuk drivers, and giving instructions around the city. I know where the preferred expat stores are located. In other words, I feel like I live here n…

Emotional Life

Today was good – and bad.(and by today I mean yesterday) It is hard to say that a day spent reading and writing stories of sex trafficking is good. But today was good, because today I know that what I produced was good. I know the fruits of my labor just might save a child from being the next victim of child and sex trafficking. And nothing compares with that feeling. I'm working at an NGO with an eye focused solely on stopping child and sex trafficking. My job is two-fold: help find new micro-business opportunities for the women in the morning, and in the afternoon I help with the fund-raising and marketing efforts of the overall program. Being privy to the inner operations of this organization is overwhelming and heartwarming. I get to see how hard people work to make this program come together, and I get to see the funds raised and how it is put to work. And I can tell you this- not one cent is wasted.
And now, some completely unrelated pictures of our day to day life here…

Slow Moving Vehicle Ahead

This is the story of the time I didn't get to mess with the missionaries' heads. Also, it is all the proof I need that my tuk-tuk driver is the slowest driver in the world. First, the background. All volunteers have an assigned or dedicated driver to take them to work each day. Most of my comrades have a “moto” driver. The motos are neither motorcycles or scooters, but somewhere in the middle, and we simply call them motos. The other volunteers all sit on the back of a moto, wearing a helmet, and get whisked around town. But since there are two of us going to my “placement” (our word for the orphanage/school/newspaper/NGO we have been assigned to), we get to take a “tuk-tuk.” As I have explained before, I think, a tuk-tuk is basically a moto driven rickshaw. On the brightside, we don't have to wear helmets, and therefore don't have helmet hair all day. On the downside, our driver is SLOW, and there is a seriously lack of padding and shocks in that contraption! Oh an…

A Little Girl Time in Phnom Penh

Today started out questionably, but ended beautifully.
First I went to church. Here's a fun fact for you- Cambodians can't read maps, and rarely know a street address. They operate off of neighborhoods and landmarks instead. So armed with nothing but a street address and a map today, I attempted to find the LDS Church in town (English speaking branch). For a full visual effect, please picture me in a knee length skirt, carrying my big bag I tote all over, with long wet hair hanging out under my helmet, as my moto-driver takes me on a very roundabout tour of Phnom Penh. I don't know where he thought he was going, but I do know it wasn't where I wanted to go. It took nearly 30 minutes to go what Google maps told me would be 2km. And when we finally did find the street the chapel was on, he just dumped me off and said, "have fun!" Another fun fact, street numbers mean NOTHING here. House #288 may be next to #51. You have no way of knowing. I really don't kn…