January 19, 2010

Ready to Write

I may have called it a failed post before, but what the heck...here it is.

Every boat trip needs a soundtrack. It was Imogen's (she's a current volunteer) birthday, and CWF staff and volunteers rented a party boat for the evening. Luckily, Cambodia has no shortage of music. Morning, noon, and night music blasts from TVs and radios all over the city. My favorite songs include the Khmer version of that Spanish-language pop-hit of late “I know you want me, you know I want cha...” I found the original version tacky, yet irresistible. The Khmer version, in my humble and biased opinion, is not only tacky and irresistible, but also educational. Listeners can learn to count in Khmer (Muay, Pii, Bey, Buan!!), enjoy the synchronized male dancers, and get a hearty chuckle at the Khmenglish (?) in the chorus.

As though cutting a rug to the tune of knock-off R&B hits wasn't enough for one weekend, Cambodia continues to amaze, confound, and intimidate me. Although the Mai tai from the night before was haunting me, I woke up early to visit the market with my Khmer teacher. She took me and her younger cousin to the Olympic Market to shop for a few things. The Olympic, unlike the Russian, is housed in a two story warehouse. Imagine a department store with no a/c in the middle of summer. Now picture wall to wall vendor displays. The eyes are bombarded with creepy mannequins, uncompromising stacks of clothing, and more glitzy shoes than all the strip joints in town. Between claustrophobia and dander, breathing is difficult at best. The Khmer like colorful clothing—and I don't blame them. The trouble is that they are a petite crowd, with very little variation in height or size. As much trouble as I have communicating (in any language) with my Khmer teacher, no more than 10 minutes at the market and we both understood that Khmer clothing just wasn't going to fit me. However, it didn't stop me from buying a cute school bag and teaching-appropriate smock-type shirt.

The CWF volunteers and I went for lunch at a Dim Sum style restaurant. Authentic Chinese food served on a turntable—that's heaven for sure. Later, I accompanied Fiona to the Province outside Phnom Penh to hear about the hell in which some of the women are living. One of Fiona's Khmer acquaintances wants to start improving conditions for the elderly and widowed women in his community, but he has no NGO experience. Enter Fiona, fledgling NGO-ista. Listening to the Khmer women (or the translation thereof) broke my heart. Many of them are facing problems as basic as not having enough food. Without proper nutrition, of course these women, elderly and otherwise can't take care of their children because they are too weak and dizzy. I've never gone hungry against my will, and I can't imagine what these women are going through. Many NGOs focus on helping the children, but if we help the mothers, the mothers can take better care of the children. Something to think about.