Thursday, August 5, 2010

A few weeks ago, the new group of Peace Corps volunteers arrived in Cambodia. This is one of the main reason I've been so slow to post in a while- that and nothing is really going on here except me visiting and learning Khmer. So, after a busy two weeks in Phnom Penh and then in Kampong Cham helping the new group, I returned to site. On my way back from Phnom Penh on Monday I was talking to my taxi driver about where I've been and what I've been doing for the past few weeks. I then told him that there would be some new volunteers visiting my site and if he could bring them to my house. So, tomorrow they arrive. Everyone here is so excited. I needed to clarify travel arrangements with my driver because they changed a bit from our previous discussion so I gave him a call. Here is our conversation and I would like to point out why I'm always confused here (Oh, I'm going to literally translate..please don't think my English has digressed to such an astounding low- even though in many ways it has):

Me: "Hello, I kristin. Uncle go to Phnom Penh tomorrow, right?"
Driver: "yes, yes, go tomorrow"
Me: "New volunteers come visit me tomorrow. Can uncle get them in Phnom Penh instead of Prey Veing?"
Driver: "Go yourself (or sometimes this word is used as to mean alone, but in my mind I thought it meant are you going by yourself to PP)

(Here is where I am thinking to myself "what I go alone?" What is he talking about? Why would I go to PP? They are coming to me! So, I ignore it and push on thinking further explanation on my part would clear up what he was asking that I didn't really understand)
Me: "tomorrow volunteers come from Kampong Cham to Phnom Penh, can you meet them at Olympic market at 11?"
Driver: "meet at 5:30"
me: "Ok, good. Good -bye"
Drive: "Ok, bye bye"
(yes, I ignore the fact that he said 5:30- clearly not the time I intended or needed...I think "I'll figure it out later...maybe he forgot the say the five first (in Khmer the number 9 is 5+4)...yes, he did say five...but for some reason I was thinking 4...I really wanted it to work out..and I only had $.30 on my phone before I started talking so I was trying to be quick...I know..a lot of excuses)

Now, I hang up the phone and realize 5:30 really is 5:30. So, I go and ask my sister.
I told her, "he said 5:30, but I need him to meet them at 11:00."
She says, "did you ask him the morning or the evening,"
I reply, "I didn't ask."
My sister, " Why?" (she says this with a look that tells me she thinks I'm crazy)
Me, " I'm bad at talking on the phone in Khmer and I thought he was trying to tell me 9:30"
Sister, "But he said 5:30"
Me, "yeah, he said 5:30. That's a problem. Maybe he cannot drive the new volunteers"

After this conversation, I immediately ran to my cousin and explained to him in Khmer my problem. My host mom and dad were there, too, and we were all speculating to what the driver could have meant..yeah, they also asked if I asked in the morning or evening.

My cousin then calls the driver and turns out he thought I was riding to Phnom Penh with him in the morning (which he leaves at 5:30 am) to get the volunteers. Therefore, "go yourself" meant "are you going with me?" Yes, this is my life and why most times I'm in a constant state of confusion.

We then all had a good laugh and I now have $.05 on my phone. A lesson to be learned maybe? Ask more questions! I've gotten so much better at doing this because they shorten stuff so much here I NEVER am rarely completely confident in my understanding what they mean unless I've heard it used over and over again. Really, it is easier to just pretend that you know what they are talking about or remain silent with the forced half smile giving off the obvious response of "I don't know what the heck you're saying."

Oh, on a completely unrelated topic, I'm coming home in less than a month!