Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'm back . . . I couldn't stay away.

So I figured I would steal this time again (missed lunch, now missing dinner) to try to get more of my pics up so that I don't get overloaded with more to share and less opportunities to make it happen. Here are pics from our hotel room in Phnom Penh, the National Museum, the road to the boat cruise, the boat cruise, and afterwards. Here are also some of the bus ride to Kampong Chnang District Town, and time in the town. I think there's one of the group in a restaurant, one of my guest room (shared), one of the crazy bugs that gather near lights at night.

Some interesting happenings from today: one of the Trainees has decided to go home, and I tried a Durian candy. I actually liked it though it had a strong aftertaste of onion. 

Um, what else? I learned to make a lesson plan, and got more training in the Khmer (pronounced K-mai) language. Ne goo ai? (What is this?), Ne goo bao-bao? (This is rice porridge.) Neak nyom drrrai? (Do you like to eat fish?) Khnyom nyom drrai na? (I like eating fish very much.) 

Chom reap lea (goodbye) . . . for now. 

Monday, July 28, 2008

I decided to bring my computer into the internet cafe to plug into the cable directly. Ah . . . . now you can see my pics from the last week. But the connection is not so hot here (everything else is really hot . . . accept the food is just mildly hot), so I'll need to spend more time uploading later in the week. Just to update the blog, I found out that my training village for the next two months is Baribo, located in the northern part of the Kampong Chnang Province. I'll be living with a host family and in training for language, culture, and teaching during the day. This should be interesting since the family doesn't speak English, and I can speak just only a little bit of Khmer (probably quite badly). But the benefit of this location is it's near the Tonle Sap (a big lake) and there's a resort. So there must be an internet cafe, right? 

Until then, lots of LOVE!!!

My World Turned Around

Wus up folks, it's me. I'm amazed and a little astonished that it's been about 10 days since I've had any real access to the Internet. Whoa. That alone has turned my world around. But I think time away from the machine has been good for me. Actually, I haven't had much chance to think about it because we've been in such serious training since we arrived in Phnom Penh last Wednesday. Training has been about a slew of subjects ranging from policy and conduct (what will get you kicked out) to learning the Khmer language and elements of their culture that you would be able to understand in the classroom (the rest we'll hopefully pick up in the field).

There is so much to cover and so little time - when I arrived and walked around the city, I was frankly kind of freaked out. But my response to Cambodia is getting better, especially since we left the city last Friday for the province town Kampong Chnang, which is rural. Think rice paddies, banana patches, cattle running down the side of the road herded by kids. We're staying in a guest house a few houses down from the training hub site where I'm spending most of my days. Yesterday, though, we had off for the national election. We were just laying low since nothing (including this Internet cafe) was open, and so I ran, did yoga, took a nap, read my book - I'm reading "Blink" by Malcom Gladwell and am enjoying it immensely - watched the movie "Volunteers" on my computer; i't's so hilarious and so applicable to this whole experience (watch it, if anything for Tom Hanks and John Candy). I had three full meals of rice and vegetables and iced coffee as well. There's been a lot of good eats - no traveler's diahrrea or constipation so far!

Today it was more training, this time about the medical kits and how to prevent getting sick - and the strooong posibility that we'll get dengue fever - and we got our bikes and a maintenance course. My bike is a Merida. Her name is Charlotte because she reminds me of a spider (she's beautifully black). We got a barebones maintenance class, and I learned what a tire iron is. I wish I could upload a picture of me and my bike, but this computer at the internet cafe had viruses so I don't want to jeapordize my roommate's jumpdrive. I also went to the market - another interesting experience, especially when you see the photos - to buy some cloth to have a traditional Khmer skirt made for teaching.

Two funny anecdotes so far:

One) The first night we were in Phnom Penh, the staff took us on a sunset dinner cruise up and down the Mekong River. We had to walk the plank to get on, meaning the crossing board was very narrow and a bit rickety, but once onboard it was a fun evening of eating a Khmer-style buffet, singing and dancing to Cambodian karaoke, and just taking it all in and intermingling. Well, I had to go to the bathroom really bad (I was trying to save it) and walked to the back part of the boat to this shack. Inside, it was really wet on the floor. I tried to shut the door, and then immediately was trying to roll my pants up while taking my pants down, while holding this piece of rope to keep the door shut (there was nothing to hook it to) while trying not to get too far to the edge near the wall that was keeping me from falling in the Mekong. This was all working out (as I'm squating over the toilet) when the rope snaps and catapults me into the bowl. I didn't go completely in. But let's just say it was bad, and really, really, really funny. I couldn't help thinking about telling this story to my mom (those of you who know her will understand) and just started cracking up. I later scrubbed my ass down with Clorox.

Two) I was relaxing yesterday in the room, watching that movie I mentioned. Suddenly my computer battery started to die, so I wanted to plug it into the wall. My roommate (a really sweet girl named Leah), also watching a movie, had plugged her computer into the outlet over her bed. She was in bathroom. Not wanting to use the outlet where I would have to sit on the floor, I decided to unplug her computer and use my handy dandy powerstrip so we could both get power and be comfortable still on our beds. Well, the moment I plugged it in and turned it on, I shortcircuited half the guest house (housing at least 40 people). Um, whoooops!!! The guy at the front desk was knocking on his tv screen, wondering what had happened. We went out and just asked about the power? Then he flipped a switch and it went back on. I felt like such an idiot and promptly hid the strip deep in my bag, never to be seen again.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Peace Corps Staging in Frisco - Night Two

It's around 10pm and I'm feeling a lot better than I was earlier. Last night was fun at O Izakaya for dinner and Dimples for karaoke in Japantown, but I woke up with an achy swollen sore throat and a body temp that had me sweating in biz casual attire all day. That's okay, it was worth being able to go out big with family and friends (thanks so much Mom, Dad, Drew, Meg, Pete, Jonathan and Gigi - you guys rock!). Training today was interesting, inspiring . . . and a little long. But there is a lot to cover in a short amount of time before leaving for Japan midday on Monday, arriving in Bangok in the middle of the night, and then flying to Cambodia for a hotel stay in Phnom Penh. Oui! This is exciting. But exhausting? 


Registration started at 1:30pm, and afterwards we made introductions and had some team-building. Then came a presentation of Peace Corps history and mission - established by JFK in 1961 at University of Michigan as a pledge to students to get involved in waging world peace. Then we learned about our role in the experience and the expectations. Leading all of this both today and tomorrow is a really cool, exuberant woman who served as a volunteer in Papua New Guinea in the late '80s. She's making it fun to be orientated. 

Of course, I feel like the oldest person in the group. All these trainees, with the exception of about three (out of 36), are just out of college. But I'm becoming more and more okay with that. I'm hoping my age and experience will work to serve me in my job and life within the community of Cambodia. And hopefully it will help me not to feel so shaken up by all of this. That's the idea - I'll let you know if it works! ;-) I will say it's been really hard to be away from Maui, even for a day and a half. I love it there so much. 

Here are some quotes from today's orientation that I found particularly applicable and inspiring: 

Arthur Ashe: "From what we get, we make a living; from what we give, we make a life."

Helen Keller: "Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

Georgia O'keefe: "I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do."

Schopenhauer: "Thus, the task is not so much to see what no one else has seen. But to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees."

And another one from Gregg I really like by Mark Twain: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

God I love my friends.

I want to post a big fat Thank You and I LOVE YOU to all the awesome people in my life here on Maui, in California, and everywhere else in big wide world. I feel so blessed with a unique and incredible support group of the most amazing people, from who I have gained so much knowledge, trust, inspiration and love. This is so hard to do, to leave you. But I say there are no goodbyes, and I will see you all very soon, and be in touch sooner than you can say cyberspace. 

Monday, July 14, 2008

The countdown continues...

My laptop is frying the front of my thighs, I've been on the damn thing so long dealing with online bills, accounting, and trying to digitize my existence as much as possible in readying for my departure from Maui this Friday. I've mostly got the major things done (i.e. tax returns are mailed, monthly services are canceled, the bring-with-me-to-Cambodia list is almost checked off to completion). I have my Gold Bond and my Costco supply of Lever2000! I need to send one more box off to California for storing at the parents' house and need to finalize the Keep or Throw Away list for all the clippings I have backlogged in my filing cabinets. Maybe it's time to link these to the website in my name that I've never worked on. Oh yeah, I gotta get rid of my filing cabinets. And sell my car. And . . . and . . . and organize myself mentally and emotionally. There's so much to do and so little time.  

Thursday, July 3, 2008

It's started.

So here it is, I've started the blogging in preparation of my moving to Cambodia for the Peace Corps. I've officially joined the land of the digital; the land of the bloggers; the land of the public.