Cambodia = Kampuchean

Cambodia = Kampuchean

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Truth in a Grandmother's Tale

I was planning to prepare a pretty meager dinner for myself. I had just jumped into my shorts, ready to lounge for a few minutes before I began the "arduous" task of whipping up a ramen/maggi noodle storm, when I heard Mrs. Sitach Korn shuffling up

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Very Own Nest

Today I head to what is to be my home for the next nine months. The rent is a bit steep, but frills seems worth the price. Also, I think the landlady ought to be credited with a savvier sense of running a apartment rental business: she quotes a price that rolls in the cost of all the frills so that she can happily and emphatically claim that they are "all for free!" Frills, you ask? This is no shoe string budget affair, I promise you. The apartment (and landlady, to be sure) boast of its fridge, TV ("with all channels!"), washing machine (not very common to the Kampong Cham lifestyle), air conditioning, fans, two bedrooms, doors and windows doubled up with meshed ones, a kitchen stocked with utensils, and finally, a fully furnished house. All for the blessed price of $250 per month. Steep, my friends, very steep. But I took it. Reasons:  the sweet old landlady lives downstairs, I can actually bike to work in under 5 minutes, and the place is close to the market as well as the Mekong River. (For travelers interested, the latter is where all foreign visitors congregate. MUWCI folks, you will recognize it to be Kampong Cham's "German Bakery")

So I opted for safety over thriftiness. While a lion's share of my stipend will go toward the rent, I think I'll be good since I will only have utilities and food of which to take care - I guess, I'm hoping they don't amount to too much. Ultimately, safety over the Tummy, eh? Maybe, I've gone a bit overboard...

Friday, September 17, 2010

First Refuge

- Chan Sokha picked me up at the airport in Phnom Penh, and together we journeyed the 2-hour trip to Kampong Cham, all the while battling his minimal English skills and my deplorable lack of any Khmer at all. Looking out the windows, I saw the frequent presence of Cambodian and ...Indian flags! "Cambodia" is currently rejoicing it's friendship and solidarity with India, it seems. This bilateral relationship, while not entirely surprising, is news to me in its explicit display of affection. Who knew...

I will be staying at Kurt's home until I find a place to rent in town. Kurt Bredenberg may be considered the head of operations of an integrated project involving two organizations: World Education and KAPE (Kampuchean Action for Primary Education). Kurt's home also doubles up as a staff house, with four other KAPE staff members living on one of the floors. The compound surrounding this house as well as the interior design of the house present a kind of tropical paradise, no less! Lush greenery, modest areas of lawn and generous numbers of coconut and banana trees ensconce the house. Inside, (a la Kurt?) the walls are decorated with neatly framed paintings, indigenous artwork in sculpture and, once again, splashes of "natural" decor that mirror the abundant foliage present outside.

[Indirectly related aside:
I love etymology. I discovered something today from a fantastic book on the Wonders of the World that belongs to Kurt. Did you know that the word "paradise" was adapted from the Indo-Iranic word paradeisha? The latter refers to a "supreme elevated land". I also realized how similar it is to the Urdu/Hindi word pardes (pronounced par-dayz) meaning "other/ foreign land". Now, what I find fascinating is the fact that I've been using both, paradise and pardes, my entire life, without realizing that they sound incredibly alike, without realizing that there was a time deep in history when certain peoples created the common root of the word. Oh Golly Gee! Origin of language still boggles me to no end... ]

Notes on a Visa-Stamped Happy arrival

- Phnom Penh is 15hours ahead of the US west coast. Whoa. As little or much as I have traveled by airline, I refuse to "get over" the incredibly fascinating experience of flying across time zones. I boarded my flight in San Francisco 1:40am of the 14th, slept for what seemed like the night, and completed the 11-hour journey only to arrive in Taipei, Taiwan mid-morn on the "15th"!

-I try to check in online whenever I'm flying. I always have an inner struggle involving the pros and cons of the window seat versus the aisle seat. Naturally, aisle wins. Always. But this time, it was hard. Wouldn't I be missing out on some glorious views of the Pacific Ocean, as we sailed across the skies? Well, as luck would have it, I was too tired to stay awake for the show in any case. But the few times my eyes fluttered open, thanks to the nasal flight attendants, I met with a disappointing view: a relentless, inky black curtain that refused to part.

-I was told that when I arrived in Phnom Penh there was a chance I would be asked for proof of my return journey. So, it is important that you know, for the purpose of realizing the urgency in this story, that I didn't in fact have a "return ticket"! Whoops? Not really. My stay in Cambodia ends June 2011 - there's no way to get a ticket nine months in advance (of course, for obvious reasons I didn't consider the "open ended" tickets that cost a heap more). I was also told that upon showing Cambodian visa officials World Education's official letter of hire I would be whisked through the short process. After a few mini-episodes of miscommunication, the blessed letter was "recognized" and, well,...all's well that ends well, eh?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pre-Arrival Session

San Francisco is the last city/town at which I will have stayed. I think it is a lovely way to end this tryst with the USA, and I say "this" because, let's be honest, another visit/stay is inevitable. But the westward journey is incomplete yet...

It hasn't sunk in that I'm headed to work in Cambodia.  The "feel" of the flight is going to be very different considering most of the passengers seem to hail from either East  Asia or South-east Asia, by which I'm referring to the fact that I never seem to have boarded a flight that didn't have a significant number of Indian passengers. What an odd realization; an intriguing subconscious expectation.

Eva Air flies to Taiwan, and onward to Phnom Penh, Cambodia thereafter. A few complications with the visa might emerge as it is one that can be got "on arrival", but nothing too serious to remain unsolved - that's what I am told. I'll take that attitude any day.

Adios USA, hello Cambodia (Kampuchean)!