The Cambodian Swagger
Sus day! (Hello!) We’re 11 days in, and loving every moment. We’re certainly getting adjusted to some cultural differences. For instance, asking the students out to lunch or coffee turns into a much more complicated experience than you would ever think. They assume we’re just being polite, and also issues of payment make a simple trip more confusing. In general foreigners pay. We’ve learned to be very direct, and state rather than ask, “I want to take you to lunch.” Also, we’ve been informed that most Cambodians don’t talk during meals, but wait till afterwards…this made a lot more sense after several awkwardly silent meals. Also, Cambodians eat rice with every meal (breakfast included), and as Carly has discovered, they LOVE to make fun of you if you don’t like rice. Also, they are CONSTANTLY bringing food back to the centers, mostly fruit…mostly fried. We’ve also noticed a difference in approach to topics of age and weight. People are very blunt in asking about each, especially since the older you are, the more respect you receive…the weight one makes a little less sense, BUT it does exemplify the Cambodians unique ability to laugh at themselves; everything is in fun. No one is mean spirited. Ever. Everyone here is playful and there is an innocence in all of their fun.
Also…we’re all swooning to the Cambodian men’s swagger. Their backs lean back, their arms–which despite their heights are ALWAYS lanky…but somehow still attractive–swing freely from their body, and their legs strut forward…kind of bowlegged…but in a good way. In combination with their fitted black pants, silky tight button up shirts, and flip flops…there’s definitely a swagger.
Brittany– During the day I stay at Young Life center 1 (our home center), and spend my days hanging out with the students here until 5:30 when I teach English at a VERY beginner level to about 12 students of varying ages (14-22)…this is a very interesting task considering they speak practically no English and I speak practically no Khmer…and God did not gift me with artistic capabilities. You’ll be happy to know that my kids at center one LOVE Taylor Swift. Their English may not be perfect, but they have the words memorized to almost all of T-Swift’s songs…which I plan to implement as a teaching tool in the “Conversation with an American (girl)” class I start teaching on Monday July 4th. The first thing I had my kids teach me in Khmer though, was “I want iced coffee with milk.” I know my priorities. Each day I spend with these kids is more fun and more rewarding than the last, even though the language barrier hasn’t necessarily decreased. I’m still not quite sure what God has in store for me here, but I’m excited to be on this adventure!
Lael—Every weekday morning I leave center one by Tuk Tuk (essentially a guy driving a motorcycle with a carriage attached to it). It is great. I love the 15 minute ride to my center everyday. Once arriving at the second center I usually relax and either hang out with the kids at the center or discuss plans with Sophy, the center two director. I have come to be very close with Sophy and his wife Saraw. They actually live at the second center and so every day for lunch I eat with them the meals Saraw prepares—which means eating delicious homemade kmer food. Saraw’s family happens to run a catering company so I am quite fortunate. Saraw agreed to teach me how to cook so every now and then I step in and help her in the kitchen—it is really fun. This week, as soon as I am done recovering from my stomach bug, I will start teaching two different Powerpoint classes in the mornings at the local high school, the first starting at nine am. From there I will head back to center two to hang out with volunteer Young Life leaders and any other kids that might be at the center. I will also start teaching conversation class at 5:30 pm every night as soon as I start feeling better. This will involve me reading various conversations out of a book and helping the kids to use the correct pronunciation and to understand the meaning of the conversation. I am very excited about the relationships I am developing with the volunteer YL leaders at center two. Please pray that I will know how to connect with them as friends and also on a deeper level.
Carly-I also get to take a tuk tuk through the crazy traffic every morning, but I’m at Center 3, which is nicknamed the “monkey” center, I guess because they are all a little bit crazy there. I am teased, made fun of, and constantly the victim of some practical joke, usually involving spiders, all in good fun though. At center 3, depending on the morning, I either have a meeting with Sokah (Center 3’s director) and Theary (his side kick) or am doing contact work at a near by high school or helping out in Sokah’s Excel class at the center. Next comes lunch, which usually involves riding on the back on Sokah’s motorcycle to KFC (which they have decided all Americans love) or staying at the center and eating home-cooked Khmer food with some of the student leaders, all of whom I have come to love and look forward to seeing everyday! In the afternoons, starting this week, I will start going to the Muslim district of Cambodia and teaching English to a small group of Muslim teenagers, that we met through doing contact work. After that I will go back to the center and teach a beginners English conversation class. Then I get to hang out with the kids at the center and join one of the student leader’s Bible study. By the time I leave everyday I end up working a 12-hour day, but I love every minute of it!
Our prayer requests are for continued patience in language difficulties, our health (all three of us got sick at the same time, nothing serious, but we need to get our strength back), and for us to be good English teachers, but to be cognizant of the fact that that is not our sole purpose here.