Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A few notable differences...

* Guys in Cambodia take their shirts off more than Taylor Lautner in Twilight
* It is normal for kids to be out past dusk even without street isn't time to come home till your mother yells your name
*Need something from the market but too busy to go yourself? Just hand over some money to your 7 year old...they can bike there to pick up whatever you need!
*No need for care instructions on clothes...your only option is to hand wash everything...and drying instructions? Yea right?! Hang them outside and hope it doesn't rain till they have dried.
*A child is never to young to start working in the fields, tending to the cows or managing the family shop while the parents are long as the 5 year old can make change and remember what things cost, they can "man the fort" for a while
*Kids don't skip school...they are more than willing to skip out on time with friends though, if it means taking private lessons
*School is 6 days a week and uniforms are mandatory
*In the states no one thinks twice about someone jogging down the, I can't go 1k without a moto stopping to see if I need a ride
*In the Khmer culture, family is everything. Little girls do not have dance recitals here, but if they did the dads would surely not miss a single one and mothers rise early each day to ensure clothes are clean and meals are made before it's time to leave for school
*Cambodian's don't believe in directness or confrontation. They often will answer a question with the answer they think you are looking for and if they have a problem with you, they are more than likely going to tell those around you before they tell you.
*Instead of asking the phrase "Hey, how are you?" in passing, they ask "Where are you going?" They also expect an answer...and anyone will ask you, even a complete stranger.
*It is not customary to tip here, but you would not imagine the type of service you get after doing so!
*The police would never think to charge someone with disturbing the it is socially acceptable to start banging drums and chanting into a load speaker at 4am
*Kids don't need tv, electronics or the new toy advertised during their favorite program to keep them entertained. As I sit here writing this in my notebook, my little niece is twisting the top of a flower stem to form a loop...she will now use this "wand" to blow bubbles with a bit of soapy water. You should see what these kids can do with dirt, vines and a little imagination!
*A cold glass of clean water is a luxury...not a given
*Dr. visits are not private- at least 3 other women, 2 nurses and a handful of other people will be in the room with you as you get your ANC check up- all of them talking, questioning and giving advice
*Diapers are not used- I will let you imagine the downfalls of this practice...needless to say I am glad black lights are not used many germs!!!!!!!!!!!
*Left handed people are not common- when patients make a fuss about me writing with my left hand I like to switch to my right hand just for shock value...I figure it is nice to have at least one parlor trick up my sleeve

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cooking In Cambodia...1st addition

Everyone that knows me, knows that I love to cook. Being in a third world country has not changed that, it has just changed the frequency in which I do it.

My plan, is to take "western" recipes and turn them into suitable recipes for Cooking In Cambodia. Typically this means, cooking over an open fire or in some cases on a one burner gas stove. Basically the recipes will translate well for those avid campers who may be reading this...or for my mom who is pass on to my dad :) Then again, all recipes can be made at home just as easy! Most of my cooking will be done without dairy, oils or too many if you want a specific recipe "Westernized" for cooking at home, let me know and I will help you out! Also, if you have a recipe for me to try out please send it my way!

So for this first addition, I will provide the 2 recipes I have tried out so far.

I am really hoping that my host family starts letting me cook...because I am pretty sure I am showing symptoms of withdraw.

So, here goes...

Apple Crisp- Yields about 15 cups (or enough for 30 hungry PCV's)

8lbs of apples- red apples are best
2 1/2 tbsp of Cinnamon- this will get used in 2 different ways
2 c sugar- this will get used in 2 different ways
3-4 c of rolled oats

Cutting Board
Large Pot
Camping Stove

1. Wash apples and then dice into penny sized chunks (I prefer to leave the skin on)
2. Place the oats, 1/2 tbsp of cinnamon and 1/4 c of sugar into a pot (like one you would make pasta in). Cook the oats on low until they start to become golden in color. It is important to stir frequently so as to not burn the oats.
3. Once golden, place the oats into a ziploc bag and seal. The trapped steam will continue to soften the oats.
4. Toss the apples with 2 tbsp of cinnamon and 1 3/4 cups of sugar  (if you like your crisp really sweet or with a very strong cinnamon flavor you can increase the amounts) into the pot you just cooked the oats in.
5. Cook on low for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the apples are soft and the sugar has turned to a caramel like syrup.
6. Leave the apples in the pot, but take 3/4 of the oats and mix into the apples.
7. Top the crisp with the remainder of the oats. Cover and let stand until ready to eat.

Basic BBQ Sauce- Yields about 3 cups (if you intend to baste the meat multiple times I would recommend doubling recipe)

1 small onion- diced very small
6 cloves of garlic- minced
2 limes- juiced
8 oz ketchup
1/4 c soy sauce
1 tsp of vegetable oil
2 chilli peppers- crush under a knife (one jalapeno minced would work also)
16 oz of Whiskey (I used a $2 bottle but you can use your favorite)
1 tbsp salt

Cutting Board
Sauce Pan
Camping Stove

1. Mince garlic and dice onions and set aside
2. Place chilli peppers under blade of knife and crush till seeds are exposed
3. On low heat, saute garlic and onions in the oil until the onions are softened and golden brown
4. Add the chilli peppers to the pot
5. Stir in the ketchup and soy sauce
6. Add the whiskey and turn the heat up to high
7. Allow the mixture to boil for upwards of 30 minutes- or until the mixture has thickened. The longer you cook the sauce, the stronger the flavor. When you dip a metal spoon into the pot the sauce should drip off the spoon but leave the back coated.
8. When the sauce is thick turn the heat to low, add the lime juice and continue to cook for 5 more minutes.
9. To use: throw the meat of your choice on the grill and baste with the sauce throughout the cooking process

*** This sauce is best with pork...if you are using beef try using a beer like Blue Moon or something "hoppy" instead. For chicken, use something light like Heineken.
*** If you have Liquid Smoke available to you, use 2-3 tsp for a slightly smoky flavor

Monday, October 8, 2012

Through my eyes, ears and mouth...

Cambodia is...
~clothes drying in the sun
~smells; the air after it rains, fried bananas...and unfortunately manure
~ruffled shirts and frilly hats that would rival the hats worn at the Kentucky Derby
~monks and orange robes
~yays (grandmothers) pinching you or rubbing your skin while chewing beetlenut (chewing tobacco that stains your mouth red)
~kids jump roping in all kinds of weather
~torrential downpours
~squatty potties
~mosquitos...pretty sure they are the national bird
~dengue and mosquito nets
~rice...everywhere and for every meal
~kids yelling "Hello-what is your name" every time I ride by them
~flooded dirt roads on my way to work
~stands on the side of the road selling fried bananas, fried sweets, fried _______ : you fill in the blank and they could potentially be selling it
~markets that give any corn maze I have visited a run for its money
~surviving and rebuilding; despite its past
~an infatuation with angry birds and the need to have it on hats, shoes, shirts, pj's, notebooks, etc
~laughter when nervous
~cows hanging out in the front yard, on the side of the road, and in the middle of the high school campus
~roosters at 2am, 4am, 6am and sporadically throughout the day
~people thinking my freckles are mosquito bites
~holidays that last anywhere from 3 days to 15 days
~monks starting the morning chants on the load speakers at 4am
~questionable meats being served at meals
~simple but generally delicious foods
~people trying to rub the freckles off of my skin
~babies riding in the baskets on bikes
~an entire family on one moto
~pajamas as active wear
~fascinating and intriguing
~trees that look like they were drawn by Dr. Suess
~growing on me

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's Official!

So I made it through Pre-Service Training! I tested at a Intermediate Low level on the Language Proficiency test and I was sworn in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer on September, 7th 2012 at 3pm. It feels good to be official!
A lot has happened since the 7th, so I will try my best to give you all a run down. After swearing in, the majority of the new PCV's headed to Phnom Penh for a day of relaxing and hanging out before heading to our permanent sites.
I arrived in Kampong Chhnang on Sept. 10th and met my new permanent family that afternoon. I can't give the name of the specific village I am in for safety and security reasons, but I am about a 15 mile round trip from the provincial town.
My family is big! Including me there are 10 people...I was only expecting 3! Here is the run down...there is my Ma(mom) and Poke (dad), an aunt (maybe sister) and her 8 month old boy, a brother, another brother and his wife as well as their 5 year old daughter and 4 month old baby boy. I live in one house with my brother, his wife and kids. The other members of the family occupy the house next door, but both houses are enclosed by the same gate (this style of living is known as a compound here).
There is a market (p'saa) 1k from me where I go to get lunch every day. Sometimes I go with the usual rice and meat and other times I go with just fruits and veggies. It is crazy to think though that I can get a plate of rice, meat and veggies for the same price as a carrot and two apples! My family generally provides me with plenty of veggies in my dinner and a bowl of baby bananas at mid day, so I don't always feel too bad skipping them at lunch. 
My Health Center is small, but it is nice. There are 10 staff members at the center; the HC director and 9 female nurses. Some of the nurses are Pharmacists, general nurses and midwives. The HC serves 22 villages in the surrounding area. Since transportation from the far villages can be difficult, the HC does outreach activities every few months. During these activities the nurses go out and provide vaccinations and vitamins those that want them. Most of the cases that come to the center are for basic things like colds, fevers, etc but the HC also does deliveries.
I am still working on exploring the has only been a week after all! I have been told that a few K from me there is an airport that was built during the Pol Pot regime and it was used to smuggle goods in and out of the country. From what I have learned, someone in the regime was afraid word would get out about the airport so they murdered all of the workers. It is an extremely sad occurrence obviously, but I still want to go out to the airport and see what the place looks like. There is something called the Killing Caves near me as well...another location marred by the acts of the Pol Pot Regime during the Khmer Rouge. Once I visit these places I will be sure to share what I learn.
So- that is what I have for you all for now. It is hard to know what to write sometimes, so if you have any questions feel free to ask them on here or email me, and then I can respond to those questions in future posts. Thanks again for reading this blog- I will try to do better about posting more often!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Kampuchea Lessons: Volume One

Someone once told me that "when you stop learning, you start dying." Since I do not want anyone reading this blog to meet their demise any time in the immediate future, I am going to make it a habit of educating my readers on all things Kampuchea throughout the next two years. Be sure to take note and learn from my observations and zany insight into the amazingly wonderful Khmer culture! 

1. The Khmer people shorten the names of all of the countries around them, for example Thailand becomes Thai, China becomes Chen...the one exception to the rule? Their own country of course...instead of being shortened, it is merely changed all together to Kampuchea. Interesting...
2. Supposedly a natural remedy for diarrhea is to take the bark from a mango tree and steep it in a tea and then drink it. Who was it that decided to pull some bark off a tea and drink it anyways?
3. Coconuts can be used as a natural laxative...simply drink the water and eat the flesh and there you go!
4. There are no need for public bathrooms...drivers simply stop on the side of the road and relieve themselves then and there!
5. Gecko's don't just sell car they hang out in your room all day eating pesky bugs!
6. Garages are not necessary additions to your house...simply park your moto in your kitchen!
7. In the states we tell students not to wear pajamas to school...well in Kampuchea you would be hard pressed to ride from your house to any local establishment without seeing at least 20 people in pajamas as they go about shopping, cleaning or other daily tasks. Not only are these pajamas easy to wash but they are also comfortable, lively patterned and cheap!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Just a thought

I have hit the one month mark here in Cambodia...and despite the fact that I am loving being here my mind keeps drifting back to the US. I am not homesick, not yet at least, but I have never stayed out of the country longer than the summer and with the school year quickly approaching I keep feeling as if I am about to miss something. I keep thinking:
~ When I wake up on the 16th (15th for you all in the states) I will be going to language class...not the Teacher's Breakfast at WRHS
~ When I work with youth, it will be infrequent and not have the same ease as it did this past year
~ I will miss my first student going off to JWU (culinary school)
~ I will miss seeing my FCCLA students Senior portraits, last homecoming and Prom
~ Despite only being at Wheat Ridge for one year, it was a great experience...leaving was a very difficult decision...but one that turned out to be the best in the long run 
~ A month from now I will be placed in my permanent site...possibly far from any other volunteer. This experience will be vastly different from living with two of my best friends for the past year (with another one just a short distance away)

I would not trade this experience for another year at WRHS or at another school...but being here does not mean that my mind won't drift back to the states at times. I hope to keep everyone updated on what is going on in my life here in Cambodia...but in the same respect I hope people take the time to reflect on what is going on in their lives and share that with me as well.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Let's get riel...

For starters...the currency here in Cambodia is the riel. Now the title seems clever aye? For every $1, you get 4,100 riels. Just a little bit of currency training for you all. Now...time to get riel and fill you in on the things that I have yet to adjust too...nor do I think I ever will.

1. The traffic pattern; or lack there of. There are no posted speed limits and every time you go out on the streets it is like a game of chicken. Whoever is faster or larger has the right of way. Some of the streets are "divided" by a paint line but that doesn't mean that a car (lan), truck (lan tom), motorcycle (moto) or biker (gong) won't end up driving the wrong way down that road. Be alert!
2. 10 year old kids driving motos. They teach them young here! Not only does the child drive a moto, but they also tote around their friends and siblings as well.
3. A family of 4 riding one moto. No lie, I have seen a mother breast feeding her infant while her toddler sits on her lap and the dad drives the moto. No one here uses car seats, seat belts or helmets!
4. The amount of people/materials you can fit on a moto. I have seen 4 grown men riding on one moto. It is crazy to see how much you can fit on one moto. It is normal to see a driver at the front of the seat, bags of rice piled 4 high behind them with someone sitting on them. Talk about balancing skills!
5. Torrey packing skills. A torrey is basically a van that you can hire to drive you to different cities. According to my host sister, a 10 person torrey should hold 20 people and their bags. I have also seen a packed torrey with another 15 people sitting on the top.
6. Children smoking. This happens in the states too...but I am always caught off guard when I see a young boy smoking on the side of the road.
7. Squat toilets and no toilet paper. I am sure you can all figure this one need for details. Needless to say it is a different experience. 

A few people have asked me what my favorite parts of Cambodia are so is so difficult to say at this point. I love learning a new language, experiencing a new culture and learning something new but it is still all so new to me that it is hard to pin point one thing. Hopefully as time goes by, I can give more specifics...but for now you will have to deal with generalizations and random lists of information! Cheers!