Monday, May 31, 2010

the Mekong River

Today we spent the day on the Mekong River!

We rented a boat and rode it up the Mekong, first to stop off at a village where people make their own silk. Of course, we all bought something :). I bought a scarf to wrap around my head to try and escape from the heat (it was around 110 degrees F), and I also wrapped it a bit around my face. Professor Kosal then proceeded to introduce me as the one "straight from Afghanistan". Thanks, Kosal.

Then we rode for about another hour up the river to an island owned by Danny, who is a friend of Kosal's that is a Cambodian genocide survivor, lived in the US, and is now retired on his private island. He welcomed us with a true Khmer lunch; we took off our shoes and sat on mats, used banana leaves as plates, and ate with our hands. The lunch was so good! We had chicken, fish caught fresh from the river, rice, beef sticks, watergrass, and then Khmer "cakes" for dessert: rice paste with either coconut, pumpkin, or purple banana inside. Soo delicious! It was extremely hot and humid today, even with being on an island in the middle of the river, so we all went swimming! We also had a small swim race, and while I won't tell you who won, I will say that I had a lot of fun with it ;).

We said goodbye to Danny and his staff on the island, and made our way back to Phnom Penh. We were all very tired, thanks to a good mix of a lot of sun, a lot of swimming, and a lot of jet lag, but the boatman had a hammock set up at the bow and I got to rest in it for a little bit. It was so comfortable, rocking back and forth. I need to get myself one of them!

Tonight for dinner we (the students) went to Friends (Lauren)!! It's this amazing restaurant where they take in street kids and train them to be waiters/waitresses and chefs, and the food is amazing! It's tapas style, so we ordered a bunch of plates to share.

Today was fun and nice to relax, and tomorrow is when work begins! We go to DC-Cam to spend I think the majority of the day doing archival research for our projects, the real reason that we're here!

Finally, HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESSIE THOMAS! I hope you have a wonderful 18th birthday all day long. I miss you and love you!


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Arrival... Finally

We've made it to Phnom Penh!! After 20 very long hours of travel from LAX to Cambodia we're finally here! Not all of it was bad, though; we had a 2 hour layover in the Taibei International Airport, which is the closest I've ever come to visiting Taiwan, so that was cool. Got to speak Chinese and eat dumplings at six in the morning!

Best part, obviously, was getting to Cambodia. We arrived at around 11:30 and, right from the start, as Kosal pointed out, we got to witness corruption first-hand (the upside of it)! We hardly went through any Customs checks; it was like traveling domestically. We did have the most amazing welcoming party, who brought flowers for all of us. Then we got in three separate cars and drove the hotel. Driving in Cambodia is CRAZY! It seems like there are absolutely no rules, and if you hesitate just a bit you're going to hit someone on a scooter or someone crossing the street with their food cart. I thought biking in Beijing was intense, but this is way different. We as a group had to practice a few times crossing the street on foot.

Our hotel is so lovely. It's called the Villa Langka, and it's right next door to a temple! It's got a beautiful outdoor seating area and check in as well as a pool! It's so serene. Right after we got settled with our rooms (the beds have canopies... or are they mosquito nets?) a bunch of us went swimming, and man did it feel good! It's so hot and humid here, more so than Boston in the middle of July. Which means my hair is having a field day and expanding to three times it's normal volume. Anyway, the pool was very refreshing, especially after all that travel.

After the pool we all went and purchased Cambodian cell phones and sim cards, so now I don't have to worry about losing Dad's GSM phone. Then we went to DC-Cam (Documentation Center of Cambodia) which houses the archives for the Cambodian Genocide and with whom we mainly work while we're here. We got a nice tour of the building and then sat down to chat with the director. Then dinner! We had real Khmer food, and it was good! Most of us even tried frog (me included!) and yes, Dad, it actually really tasted like chicken!

Now we're back and it's only 8:00 pm but I'm so tired, thanks to jet lag. Tomorrow we go on a boat ride to an island!

Peace from Cambodia!

Friday, May 28, 2010

First Post!!

Yay I figured it out! First post... well we're finally leaving for Cambodia tonight. So so SO excited! Also nervous, but mostly excited.

So I guess that's it for the first post... next time will be when I'm IN Cambodia!