Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Language problems....still

So, while my language has progressed to a point where I feel comfortable using it everywhere and teaching lower-level English by myself, there have been times when I wonder if I'll ever really understand all that is said to me. Usually, I can pick out the main point of the questions or statement when people are trying to talk to me. Or, if it's something talked about a lot- farming, weather, the new road, weddings, deaths- I understand easily. However, I have two stories that might highlight my confusion here, still, despite my progress.
Last night I was watching tv with my host dad under the mosquito net- because the mosquitoes are terrible right now being that it's rainy season and I don't want dengue. So, this program comes on TV- which I'll note that TV is usually hard for me to understand. They talk really fast and if it's the news or something they use words I don't understand. So, this program comes on TV and I have no clue what's going on because they are talking about words I don't understand. They are showing these teenagers (and I hear the word teenager) and some younger men doing exercises. I understand that they are talking about their daily activities. They are all wearing the same clothes- pants and a shirt (well..usually a shirt). There is a guy with a military uniform bossing them around. Then they switch to a doctor whose talking about I have no idea what. Then they pan the camera to these boys (maybe 13, 14 years old) who are hooked-up to an IV (which I'll also point out is no big deal- probably if I complained of a stomach ache they'd hook me up to an IV)- yet these boys were really skinny and looked sick. Then after this they go back to the boys exercising and playing soccer. Then back to the sick kids. I just keep thinking "what the heck do these two things have in common? What's the link? What are they talking about?" Finally, I ask my host dad, " what are they sick with?" He tells me but I don't recognize the words he's using. Then he explains to me that they are trying to make "bad people" into "good people"...then it makes since- they are drug addicts and they are at a recovery center. This is how I learn here- and how I'm confused a lot of the time-- still.
Today, I had language lessons with my language teacher. At the end of our session I was asking about using pronouns and if it was rude to use them. In the example I used, I told him in Khmer that "I wanted to meet with my friend in Svay Rieng." He corrected me and said that instead of using "I want" I needed to use "I want give". Now, this might sound like not much of a mistake, but according to him if I leave out the "give" it means I want to meet my friend for sex. Yep. And, I'd like to point out that I say "I want" rather than "I want give" ALL THE TIME- especially, in relation to meeting up with people. I'm hoping people just know I'm speaking incorrectly, or they think were all meeting up for a lot of sex- which of course were not. It seems like I should have learned this before being here over a year....
Other than that, I'm about to head down to the beach for the holiday (it's the Kings Birthday and Independence) because we have Friday and Monday off. It's going to be amazing...I'll post pictures. Also going on here is that my sister, who is the oldest, left last week for Phnom Penh to study at university where she got a full ride because she's smart. However, she is really, really homesick (has called everyday crying my mom told me tonight) and wants to come home. I'll probably see her next week- unfortunately. In May, she went to study in the provincial town for the grade 12 exam and lasted 2 nights. I thought this would be great in that I'd have the entire upstairs to myself. No such luck. My neighbor- who is marrying my sister sometime- has moved into her room. This happens to be super annoying because there is no ceiling and I can hear everything. Privacy seems like such a luxury.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Today I didn't have school so I went to the health center (my usual routine). It was a BUSY place to be- that's for sure. There was an organization there whose focus is on TB education (they are also funded by Angelina Joli interestingly enough). I asked them what they were doing there and they said "talking about TB." However, they were also generously dispensing other health information, too. Like one lady had a sick baby (diarrhea, fever- the normal). The TB lady was asking if she fed him solid food already. Of course the lady said yes- which, of course is the wrong answer because the baby was way too young to be eating solids. Then the lady shared with her about when she started to give her kids food and explained that they are fatter than normal kids their age because breast milk is enough for them to be healthy. Usually, if they are feeding them food, they are feeding them other stuff that uses unclean water or the food is not prepared in a way that is sanitary; which results in sickness. It was good to overhear this much needed advise. Anyway, I've seen the TB people there before, but have never really chatted with them. However, today the waiting area was so busy with patients I decided to kick it with them on the picnic table in the yard until things became a little more calm inside the health center. I also got to learn a lot about TB and TB in my district; which, it turns out there is a lot! I've been wanting to do some work with this organization for a while now, so it was good to make some connections with some of the people doing work in my district.
Also at the health center today, someone I know was going to have her baby. The midwife, who knows I REALLY REALLY REALLY (I tell them all the time:) want to see a birth, invited me to come back at 1:00 because that's when they thought she'd have it. So, I went home, ate, checked my email and then went back to the health center. However, when I returned she had already had her baby! This is the third birth I've missed. So disappointing. However, at least one person has a baby here a week...so me seeing a birth is bound to happen sooner or later. Despite missing it, it was a lot of fun to just chat with my midwives and the mother and her family- and of course to see the new baby boy who was so sweet! I definitely need to get more of my mornings off from school!
Finally, BATS, BATS and more BATS! When I was home I told some of you this story, so you can ignore it if I've told you already. It's just too funny not to share. So, a couple of months ago I was at the health center and when I got there the director was sitting on the bench playing with a sling shot. I thought it strange at first- a grown man fooling with a sling shot- but nothing too out of the ordinary. There was also a fishing net on the bench. This started a conversation about the net (or asking if I knew how to say it in Khmer)which led to the pharmacist acting out a turtle because I didn't know what the heck he was talking about- quite hilarious, really. The director then gets on his moto and returns 2 minutes later with a camo army hat on- so, he went home just for that hat which I thought funny in light of what he was about to do next. Then, he gets one of the other doctors who grabs the net and they leave for the other building. I didn't really think too much of it until I heard loud noises coming from the other building about 5 minutes later. So, I went over there only to see a different doctor on a plank outside the building hanging up the fishing net over a hole between the roof and the building. Now, in my mind I was thinking "what the heck is going on????" Then I hear shouting and a loud bang from the inside. Then out walks one of the doctors with a dead bat in his hand which he then places in a box. It's my guess that half the bats died due to the director's mad sling shot skills and the other half flew into the fishing net where another doctor beat it with a broom (kid you not)! As all this is going on- and more and more bats are being added to the already fallen- one of the sick ladies that lives in one of the buildings at the health center comes over and starts talking with me. She says, "Bats are so delicious." To which I respond, "No way, not delicious!" "Yes, they are so delicious." To which I explain that in my country we don't eat bats- or dogs for that matter. Now at some point during this whole ordeal my health center director is running around the health center building while smoking a cigarette and shooting at bats with his sling shot! It was the funniest thing (seriously, imagine an Asian male, with a camo hat, sling shot in hand, cigarette dangling from the lips, running around a building and stopping only to shoot at a bat with a sling shot- very funny stuff.) Then one of the midwives comes over and the doctor in the rafters tells her to go to her house and get a pan, oil, pepper, salt and MSG. That's when I knew they were going to eat those bats! Which, is also when I decided I needed to get out of there- and sooner rather than later. So, I said, "I've gotta go eat with my family." To which they told me to stay and eat at the health center. I politely refused, got on my bike and went home. The next day when I returned to the health center I asked how many bats they killed. 25-30. I then asked if they ate them. Yes. I asked, why they ate them. "Very delicious" and "important people eat bats." I then asked if they knew bats carried disease. Yes they knew and then listed some of the diseases, but didn't I know that they are delicious?!? Just when I think I've seen all the crazy stuff that is to be seen here.....

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I'm Back

I finally made it back! Sorry, I've not posted in so long. I finally just got internet back at my site. I had to make the long journey into town on my bike to download the software so that my internet phone could connect to my new computer I got in America. Thus, once again, from my small village I am connected to the world per internet. I must say, though, I did kind of enjoy those few weeks of ignorance and not feeling like I'm missing out on something back home because there was no way for me to know what I was missing!

The flight home went very smooth. However, at the Cedar Rapids airport I was not allowed to take on peanut butter (a gift for the new volunteers in my province), lotion (gift for people in my village) and toothpaste. Apparently, these are all dangerous liquids (yes, peanut butter is classified as a liquid) that should not be allowed on planes. However, I did get one tube of toothpaste through the security check, but I bet if they would have checked my bags for a third time they would have found it! At first it wasn't so great to be back, but that was when I arrived in Vietnam. However, once I crossed into Cambodia into my province it actually started to feel good to be back. I could then understand the language and the rice is so green right now making travel through my province absolutely beautiful!

Since I've been back everything has essentially fallen back into place. The comforts of home seem like a dream quickly forgot. It's amazing how easily you adapt. However, things like ants in my bed (and everywhere for that matter), constantly sweating, and doing my laundry by hand are still as annoying as ever.

School has started and I've established a routine similar to my routine last year. However, I wanted to go to the health center more this year so I asked the school director to schedule some of my classes in the afternoon. However, per usual, this didn't really work out like I had originally envisioned. I'm teaching 17 hours and my morning schedule makes it impossible for me to go the health center. So, I've decided to wait a bit and then rearrange my schedule so that it suits me better!

I've also started training for the Angkor Wat Half Marathon in December. Last time I ran a half I swore I would train for it. However, the last few weeks it has rained every day and pretty much all day leaving the roads a muddy mess and making it enough of an annoyance I haven't run. So, now I'm a couple weeks behind on my training, but I still think I'm going to try to run it. I ran this weekend and I was fine. So, I'll keep you updated about how that goes. I'm sure there will be some entertaining stories that will follow because no one runs in my village (actually, there is a teacher that I've heard runs, but I've never seen him doing it) There are 4 of us in my province running the 1/2 and some pretty funny stories have emerged. One of my friends was running- in his own little world listening to music and thinking- when a little kid with a plastic gun jumped out of no where and scared the living daylights out of him! He said everyone was laughing because he was so startled, but he was so angry that he started lecturing the kid as to why "foreigners don't like guns being pointed at them".....I thought it too funny because I could imagine how it all went down so clearly.

Well..I need to get going, but I'll post again soon. I have some really funny stories to post that I was too busy/lazy to post from before I left for America! Also, I do promise to post more per many peoples' request....new year resolution in September!

OH, I will leave you with a VERY funny Cambodia proverb I heard this weekend: "If you are shy with your teacher you will never learn anything, if you are shy with your wife you will never have any kids".....something to think about.....