February 25, 2010

New Kids on the Block

I'm going to sleep well tonight. Today was the official first day of CWF orientation for semester 15-- the February-May group. For me, it was a day I have been longing for since I arrived. With the group of nearly 20 assembled at our breakfast table, a fresh energy radiated from the new faces. The glow of pale skin and the sugar rush of morning doughnuts and sticky rice could have contributed to the radiation, but I prefer to think that the exuberant souls who chose the hottest, driest three months to live in Cambodia have something special. We are a diverse bunch with several Americans, a sprinkling of Canadians, a few Brits, some Australians, a Singaporean, a German, a Spaniard, and a Slovakian. I share a room with a young Canadian who does things like run a creative writing center, stay at yoga ashrams for 3 months, and come to Cambodia with literally only a normal sized backpack. She's way cool.

Back to breakfast--after a crash course in eating the rambutan, an exotic fruit that reminds me of a big grape, we set off in a caravan of tuk tuks, ready to take on the city. Our first stop was the CWF school to take individual pictures to hang at the school. They made me go first, and as I can never say no to a prop, I decided to sit on a nearby motorbike for my portrait. I'm not usually a trend-setter, but as the resident expert, my opinions and actions are easier to imitate.

Several overstimulating hours of tuk tuking, sight-seeing, and cell phone-buying later, we arrived back at the house for lunch. Twenty servings of rice and mystery Khmer dish, please. The heat and dust from the morning were wearing on my energy and my patience. I've learned to give my body some form of midday rest (or face the health consequence), so my roommate and I each took a few minutes of shut eye until the next orientation activity.

The energy change is a godsend. I was in a bad place mentally the past few weeks, and I was very worried about surviving the next three months. Now, however, with the support of this group, I know I can do it.

By the way, food tastes better when people say positive things about it. Suddenly, the meals that used to be somewhat disappointing for me are tasty and satisfying—though I'm still waiting for the dessert course...