Thursday, September 22, 2011

More visual adventures

A kitty for Connie- the resident cat at the Mad Monkey!!

Really sad newspaper article about land evictions- there is such emotion in that woman's face

Another part of the cafe!! why would you sit in a chair when you could lounge on the sofas they have?
The comfiest bed like couches that you can lounge on at the Blue Pumpkin!
Nice view from one of my favorite cafes the Blue Pumpkin overlooking the river

Trying on helmets for riding on motos- this is the one I picked!

Photos from my 2nd week here

Breakfast with my friend Elisabeth- she has lived here for several years!! we have fun together!
My breakfast! Cinnamon raisin toast!! I also got a yummy fruit plate!
Fun dinner with Sophie from Australia- she was spending some time in Phnom Penh before volunteering in Siem Reap for two months!
And yet another pic of the bars cool lighting - can you tell I like this place and spent a lot of time here!
Set set from the rooftop bar!
A really bad pic of Rei, we met at the mad monkey and have been hanging out a bunch

The rooftop lounge/bar at the mad monkey- the hotel I stayed at before I got my own place! I really enjoy lounging there because its relaxing and you can be social at the same time!
This is my boss Philip- hes Australian and a great guy to work with! Here we were on the ferry coming back from a meeting in the field.
This is the meeting I attended with a bunch of other coworkers. It was a pretty good and informational meeting!

I have added some more pictures that I didnt have time to upload last night! I am really enjoying my new apt- pictures of that to come soon I promise! work has been really good I have been doing a lot of reading for my literature review and writing it all up. I am very excited for a 5 day trip to the beach town of Sihanoukville! We get 3 days off from work plus the weekend for Pchum Ben, the Buddhist version of the Mexican day of the dead celebrations where most Cambodians travel back to their rural villages to honor their ancestors. I have been enjoying many lunches and dinners out with some new friends here. Things are slowly falling into place! I have a tuk tuk driver that picks me up each morning and knows now where I work so I dont have to direct him -which can be tricky sometimes, and I start Khmer language lessons next week!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Getting more comfortable here

On the ferry with Anika, shes also doing some work for IDE but sadly had to go back to the US
On a ferry over the Mekong to Svey Reing
Lunch with Tammy who I met in at the hotel in Phnom Penh

Very Random Drag show I saw with a bunch of people saturday night-yup thats a dude- bet you didnt expect that to show up on this blog, more pictures later but Im running out the door to grab some dinner!!

I feel a lot more comfortable in my new city this week. I can’t believe another week has passed! This week I have made some new friends, looked at lots of apartments, done some work, traveled out to Svey Rieng, worn holes in my city map and scoped out some fun places to shop!

I can barely remember last Monday at this point- but I did see an apartment that was about as far from what I was looking for that day, so that was a bit of a let down. But I have enjoyed many luxurious dinners al fresco in big wicker chairs with cushions. I will have to take some pictures because when I have a house with outside space, I want it to look like that. This city is a fusion of rough edges and sprawling luxury. There are places that are best not frequented like the areas near the smelly canal and tight alleyways filled with motos and mechanical shops, but there are also so many delightful places that I can stay all day in, like the fantastic cafes here and grand avenues that you could stroll down if it isn’t too hot and sunny out.

As my second week here comes to a close, and the third one starts (because Im late posting this) I am so relieved to feel a noticeable difference in my comfort level with living in this city. I’ve done a lot this week. I have been doing a lot of reading for my literature review about Cambodian culture, and even traveled out to Svey Rieng, a town near the border of Vietnam, where my work has a lot of projects going. I did a lot more apartment searching and have even picked up on a few words of Khmer. I’ve enjoyed having a lot of great conversations with travelers and my new friends her alike! I didn’t really do anything touristy this week but I feel like I am getting to know this place a little better!

I’m home. I have finally moved in and am enjoying my first night in my new apartment. I didn’t spend too much time here tho because I am still getting used to having the place to myself. I sorely miss the company of other travelers at my previous home here, the mad monkey, but I like the fact that I can come back to a clean and quiet place that is all mine. I brought two stuffed animals with me on this trip, and I vowed I wouldn’t take them out of my bag until I had gotten an apartment. Well, I broke down and took Spike the porcupine out a few days ago and snuggled with him at the hotel, but I didn’t take out the other animal until today. It made me realize that home is where you lay your head. I made the Mad Monkey my home and have spent many more nights there than I have at my apartment thus far. Despite my yearning for a new place I do miss the familiarity and smiling faces that greeted me every time I walked into the hotel. The nice this is that I can go back anytime I want and grab a drink and lounge on the couches at the rooftop bar! Calling this apartment home is not to mean that my home isn’t still with my friends and family back in Boston. It is merely a way to create a bit of comfort here since I will be living here for six months. I like the feeling of living somewhere rather than the feeling of traveling through some place. I enjoy going to the same café week after week and seeing familiar faces around the neighborhood. Yet here in Cambodia I get to have both. I continue to get more and more familiar with the city and have been trying new places to eat, but also I have been going back to some of the same ones that I really like.

Tonight I tried a new place over by the riverside. It is called Le Moon, and is a rooftop café. I saw it advertised in one of the little travel guide books they have here. The atmosphere was really nice, you can easily people-watch, see all of the cars driving up and down the street and the boats floating down the Mekong. Unfortunatly the wasn’t that good and it was a bit overpriced, it also was the first place that I have found that doesn’t serve you a glass of water with your meal, as is customary here, for their largest bottle of water they were asking $6.00. To give you some perspective on how ludicrous that is, one could eat three local meals of noodles or rice for that price, take 6 moto rides across town or eat the equivalent of two large breakfasts at any other restaurant. I got a pineapple shake instead which wasn’t that overpriced and cost about $3.00. On my way home I stopped at the little market on my street and bough a 2 litre bottle of water and a 6pack of toilet paper and that cost me under two dollars, with the bottle of water costing just 50 cents.

Anyhow that place wasn’t even worth writing about. A much more worthy place is Blue Pumpkin. It is a café that serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner and some deserts that look to die for. The nice thing about Phnom Penh is that there is no shortage of great coffee shops to sit in and there is always a tasty treat and a cup of coffee near by. Blue Pumpkin takes the cake! It is situated right on the riverside and the upstairs part of the café provides the perfect vantage point to take in the riverside views but away from the glaring sun. Their café is lined with the comfiest bed-like sofas that come complete with pillows a plenty and your own tray- like the kind you would eat breakfast in bed with!. I spent hours there on Saturday eating some lunch and reading my book.

Some cultural observations if you will: In some places instead of napkins they will give you a box of very thin and scented tissues to wipe your hand with, this usually leads to me having a rather sizable pile of them stacked on my plate by the end of the meal! Even if you have just gotten off of a tuk tuk or moto bike some one will inevitably yell towards you “Tuk Tuk, Lady?” I hear it about 20xs a day and sometimes I scowl and sometimes ignore them and sometimes I say “no thanks.”

One must go against everything you have been told since a little child in regards to crossing the street. You see Asian traffic patterns are much MUCH different than American ones. People cut people off here all of the time, but it doesn’t bother them one bit, they just either wait or cut around someone else. Road rage doesn’t exist here. It was explained to me that in many Asian cultures they feel that they are part of a community and don’t have the same strong sense of indidivudalism that Americans are raised to have. They don’t have the concept of its my space or its my turn, they just get from place to place how ever they can. So when crossing the street one must just stroll out into traffic at a slow and steady pace and the traffic will just flow around you, unfettered by the obstacles- being you and other people, dogs, heaps of trash, etc… in their paths. The trouble comes, when you slow down or hesitate because then it will spook the oncoming drivers and then you might get into some trouble. Another fascinating thing is to observe the driving habits of the tuk tuk driver or moto drive you are with. If they are trying to take a left, and the traffic is heavy, they will most certainly turn left into oncoming traffic until they can make their way over to the right side of the road, and this works everytime because they cars just drive around as obstacles come at them. A word on rotaries, or roundabouts as some people call them: I always thought that traffic was supposed to flow in one direction, I know that people in Massachusetts sometime have a hard time grasping the concept of merging into to rotaries in a timely fashion, but mostly everyone drives the same direction around them. Well my friends that rule does not apply here. Since Cambodia is a former French colony, there are many wide and large rotaries similar to the ones that can be found in France. If you have not visited either Cambodia or France, Imagine one 3-4 x’s as wide as an American rotary. So, if a driver doesn’t feel like driving all the way around the rotary to get to the offshoot that he needs, he will just simply drive the other way and cut directly across the rotary, once again cars just all drive around one another weaving to a fro. This strategy is in part made possible by the very wide rotaries.

This coming week I plan to make it to and from work, on my very own. Hopefully with a little practice, some key khmer words and a map I can make it there and back! I will also continue to work on my research, hang out with new friends and settle into my new place!

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Monk Prayer time!

I have really enjoyed seeing monks walk by every morning and visited one temple today!

I even prayed with one monk! I love that they wear bright orange!

My first week

My first ride on a tuk tuk!
The driving gets even more chaotic in the rain- which happens almost each afternoon! everyone dons ponchos and carries on their way!

A cute kitty for connie- my lunch kitty - there was another one too that looked just like it too!
This was my very first lunch here in Cambodia -my lunch kitty accompanied me for this very first meal! It was noodles with chicken and some salad greens mixed in. It would have been nicer if it was hot but it was still tasty. I am slowly mastering the art of eating with chopsticks

This week has been a rollercoaster. I was pretty terrified showing up but everyone I have met has made me feel really welcome. The office is nice and my work there is slowly taking shape. Mostly I have been doing a lot of reading to inform me about the culture and the topic that I will be working on- which is related to gender and agricultural entrepreneurship. The whole office shuts now each day for a really long lunch break which may very well be my favorite part of the day. The food here is pretty good. I have been given some suggestions on where to eat and it is just a matter of time before I am able to try them all. I am surprised at the familiarity of some of the food, I have had pancakes with bacon, and a to die for brownie, as well as some decent pizza and some pretty tasty eggs benedict here!

I have just started to explore in the last day or two because most days I have just come home after work and fallen asleep. I think I am finally getting a handle on the jet lag. I did have a few unpleasant mornings when I woke quite early and couldnt fall back asleep.

I have taken the tuk tuk- a little asian taxi a couple of time which has been kind of fun and better than walking around in the heat and getting lost.

Getting around in this city is always an adventure. My work- IDE has been nice enough to come pick me up and drop me off each day, until I can figure things out here. Being a passenger in a car is always a spectacle. The driving patterns are much different here. One one waits for an opening in traffic or you would be there all day! You just ease out into the madness and cars and motos, tuk tuks and bikers make way. I would describe is as a chaotic ballet. The same goes for crossing the street!

I had breakfast with a new friend I met thru an expat site this morning and then wandered around and went to a Buddhist temple. It was so beautiful it brought me to tears. I had a pretty emotional afternoon becasue I still feel really unfamiliar in this city and it made me miss home and all of my family and friends soo much! But then I wandered around and went to the Central market which was a bit underwhelming. But at least I saw it and know what is there.Which is a lot of household good, clothes, books, jewelery, watches and sunglasses- and a bunch of stuff I just dont need! I may go back to purchase some silver jewelery but first I will need to find out what a fair price is for silver so I dont get ripped off. I will look in some of the other markets for some Cambodian souvenirs and some wonderfully baggy and flowy asian pants I have seen so many people wearing!

I have spent the majority of the afternoon hanging out in one of the neighborhood coffee houses which has been nice and relaxing. Lucking there are many places you can duck into that are air-conditioned and block out the noisy outdoors.

Arrival to the other side of the world

So the pictures are uploaded in reverse order so start from the bottom and scroll up - maybe Ill do it differently next time, but above is the sun set on the flight from from Seoul to Phnom Penh
I didnt take business class tho I would have been nice on such a long trip!
The slippers they gave me on the 13 hr haul from LA to Seoul!
Korea from the Air
I was however lucky enough to score a first class upgrade on the first leg of my flight on Virgin America! It was a pretty sweet way to start my trip! the seat fully reclined- perfect for napping!

Well I survived the three long plane flights it took to get here but now I have to survive the jet lag! I am staying at the Mad Monkey Hotel here in Phnom Penh which is a fine place to stay until I have an apartment. I am eager to get settled and unpack my bags once I have a place to live. I met some nice people while in transit. One girl was on her way to travel around South Korea and Japan, and another has come to Phnom Penh to work in an orphanage. I was so excited/ nervous when I got off of my last plane that I forgot to take any pictures at the airport that say welcome to Cambodia! But I have taken pictures from my trip along the way and have taken a few since I have gotten here. So far things are going smoothly and better than my stint in Ghana, although I dont know if I can really compare them, but there are some similarities and differences.
I have met mostly everyone here at the IDE office where I will be doing my practicum and everyone is very welcoming! I have my own desk in an air condidtioned office and am excited to start actually working once I have gotten enough sleep and can think straight.
The weather is hot but not so unbearable, but then again I havent been walking around so much just yet.