Cambodia

To begin with I want to provide a short synopsis on what is going on and how it came to be. I am currently in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and this weekend I will make my way first to a beach town called Sihanoukville and then to Pattaya, Thailand. Thailand has been a long awaited destination and the source of most of my dreams and aspirations for the better part of 2013. So how it came to be it seems easier if  put this in a list format.

  • Ever since my study abroad trip in 2011 I’ve been addicted to travel
  • Fast forward to April 2012, I graduate college and move to London, England a week later. Visa situation does not work out so after about 7 months I move home 😦
  • I then got a job at a mortgage lender and realized the American dream and the corporate world were not for me
  • I decided that I want to be a tour guide extraordinaire and started applying for a position that would launch to me to such heights. I found out that most good tour guide positions require an extensive amount of schooling and or teaching experience along with massive amounts of knowledge in the place or thing you are guiding. Most tour guides I came across were ex teachers or had PhDs (neither of which describe me).
  • My next logical conclusion was to become a teacher! What better and more fun way to become a teacher and fulfill my love for traveling than by teaching English abroad (in Thailand)!?!
  • I asked my dear friend Latrisha to join me and 8 months later here we are

Being in South East Asia has been dazzling so far. I’ve only been here for a week and a half and all of my 5 senses have experienced a plethora of new sensations. Everything looks different: foggy, colorful, dark, smiley, cute, hilarious, naked, dangerous, shocking. Everything smells different: fishy, delicious, cheap, rancid, raw, fresh, comforting. Everything sounds different: loud, foreign, peaceful, exciting, bouncy, over-worked, fast. Everything feels silky, slimy, hot & sticky, bumpy, rough, worked over. Everything tastes greasy, fishy, fresh, succulent, sour, unknown. Now obviously all of these adjectives do not describe one thing but hopefully anyone reading this understands the point I am trying to make. Phnom Penh is an interesting city. It is so busy and crowded and full of life. We are staying in a hotel here in a part of town that isn’t particularly nice but that is ok because we get a ride to and from school everyday. I am staying on the top floor of our hotel and my view out of the window is a nice big sewer. Sometimes I see children walking through it and picking trash out, and once unfortunately there was a kid washing some piece of clothing in it. Its amazing how different life can be just 7 floors up. 70% of the people in Cambodia live on less than $1 a day which sounds pretty amazing in my opinion. There is a large amount of poverty here but from what I can see the people are happy. For the most part people are smiling and friendly and they share everything with each other. Everyone looks out for one another from what I can see and I feel like there is a direct correlation there between the amount of money and resources available to people.

So since being here we have been in school to become English teachers. Before I came here everyone kept asking me ” how are you going to teach English to people when you don’t speak the language they speak?” I did not know how to answer that question 2 weeks ago, but I am proud to say that I do now! I am not going to go into detail here in this blog because there is a lot involved. What I will say though is shout out to all teachers! I had NO idea how much work goes into being a teacher and I respect them a lot more than I ever did before. We start our student teaching in Thailand on Tuesday and I am so excited! I can’t wait to start teaching. I am aiming towards teaching English to high school kids and above. We have had to observe classes with elementary aged kids and it took me all of 10 minutes to decide I absolutely do not want to teach that age. I’ll update after I get some experience next week. After we finish our student teaching in 2 weeks we move to which ever city we’d like to settle in and then our language school helps us find jobs. Latrisha and I are aiming towards living on one of the islands near Phuket. Thailand has so many islands though so we have not made a real decision yet.

I mentioned previously that we get tuk-tuk rides to and from school each day. A tuk-tuk is a carriage and attached to a moped. It can comfortably fit about 5 people in it. Almost everyone in this city gets around by a moto (moped). There are thousands and thousands of mopeds crowding the streets at all times. In America we would probably put about 2 people on a moped max to go a short distance right? In Cambodia people put as many people and as much stuff as they can on their motos. Things I’ve seen on motos: entire 5 person families, two men and two gutted full grown pigs, naked babies with no helmets, boxes stacked 10 ft in the air, a few people and about 10 dead chickens, a moto carrying a 15 ft trailer with people and tools riding in it. The list goes on and on. It really is quite a site to see.

There is a street here called street 51 which is a place where a lot of tourists hang out. It is full of bars and restaurants, and a lot of white faces. Last night Latrisha and I wanted to get some happy hour specials after class so we decided to head down street 51. We sat down in this mall sort of area with many different bars. As we sat there and had a few beers and some food we noticed that this particular area was full of prostitutes and old western men. If you know anything about SE Asia, you know that sex is a big industry here. So with that being said, seeing these prostitutes with the old western men was not really surprising. It is just not something we are used to seeing so openly. As we sat there we noticed a couple across from us with an older British man and a younger Korean woman. They were looking at us very strange and we’d noticed it a few times but did not think much of it. A little bit later the man walked up to us with his wife and asked if she could sit with us and talk. He said ” this is my wife Jay, is it alright if she sits and talks with you for a little bit, she doesn’t have any friends. She was sitting with a group of girls over there before but maybe she can sit with you girls now.” I knew that something was off about this situation but I did not know what exactly. We let Jay sit with us and we spoke to her for about 5 minutes. She looked very scared and nervous and kept saying how stressed she was about her new job. We were so confused but after a few minutes we kind of concluded that she was working as a prostitute. Her husband was clearly facilitating this and he thought that we might show her the “business.” As one can probably imagine, I was not happy about any part of this situation. I decided to ask her husband exactly what was going on. He said to me “Well this is my wife’s first night on her new job and she just needs some help. We are looking for safe places to go.” I asked him what business exactly does he think we are going to help her with and he looked at me and said “she is in the ‘hospitality’ business,” and then winked. We made it clear that he had made a huge mistake thinking that we knew anything about this and politely made our exit.
I walked away just feeling scared horrible. I felt awful for Jay knowing that her husband was doing that, and I just couldn’t shake the feeling of disgust. I have been thinking about this situation and this woman all day and it really upset me but I’ve finally come to terms with it. People around the world live different lifestyles and I cannot be the person to judge someone for doing things that I would not. I feel bad for Jay and I at the time I felt hatred towards her husband but I realize now that it is the way of the world. All I can do is hope for the best for people.

There is OH so much to say about this journey so far but my attention span is only so long right now. However, I do not want to end this post with a story about prostitution so i’ll share my experiences from this past weekend. Our class took a trip (8 hour bus ride, but that is a whole other story) to Siem Reap, Cambodia. We went to visit Angkor Wat which is the biggest temple in Cambodia. I am so happy and so fortunate to gone to this temple. I can safely say that up to this point in my life it is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. It was built in the early 12th century and still stands today despite war and ruin. The walls are covered with intricate carvings that tell a story of the Cambodia and SE Asia’s history. I cannot fathom how humans constructed this temple at that time in history. I urge anyone who is not familiar with Angkor Wat to at least look up a photo of it to see the beauty. The photo below is me standing in front of Angkor Wat and its not a very good photo but it gives you just a bit of an idea.

And with that, this post is over. I have to get some sleep so I can get up bright and early to learn how to teach. Goodnight everyone!

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3 thoughts on “Cambodia

  1. I am remembering so much reading your post! Happy you are experiencing it all first hand. You are so right about not really being able to understand it until you dive right in. This is the only way to truly gain compassion. Good for you and so well written. Beth

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