Saturday, December 11, 2010

Harvesting Rice

This year some of the ladies from my market invited me to harvest rice with them. Last year I rode my bike to the rice field, took a few pictures, then got outta there once it started to get hot (so a half an hour later). This year if only I'd been so lucky. I really wasn't too keen on going in the first place, but because they are so kind to me I just couldn't say no. I asked what time I should go and they said "when the sun starts to come up." However, this morning when the sun came up I decided to finish drinking my coffee and listen to NPR (I love having Internet all the time). So, I arrived at their house around 6:30 am ready to harvest rice. Ready in that I was wearing my ridiculous bear pajama pants (gift from first host family and COMPLETELY socially acceptable to wear anywhere in public), a tee-shirt, long sleeve shirt and hat. Entirely too hot. However, they don't want you to turn dark .

Now, in my mind I was hoping that by "harvesting rice" they meant I would show up, they would teach me how to cut a few stalks of rice, we'd take some pictures, then they would send me on my way home. In fact, this is what all volunteers I know have done when they have "harvested rice." However, no such luck for me- they really wanted my help harvesting rice(probably because it was only 4 women harvesting a huge plot by themselves) . We cut rice until 12:00. It is such hard work. A couple hours into it I could barely stand up (to which I took a water break and secretly popped some IBUPROFEN.)To make matters worse, there has been entirely too much rain this year so most of the rice has been blown down and is in standing water. So, we were all cutting rice in water above our ankles. Additionally, there are leaches. Which is the main reason I didn't ever want to harvest rice. I cannot tell you how many leaches I or someone else picked off me (it's because my skin is white and my blood is sweet that they bit me everyone said). Then you pick them off and you're bleeding everywhere. To which they told me to wash it in the water. Yes, the water I was wading in that is brown from dirt, water buffalo droppings and who knows what else. Despite the backbreaking work, heat and general difficulty of the task it was a lot of fun. Everyone that passed got a kick out of me harvesting rice. They would yell, "The American knows how to harvest rice!" or "Does your back hurt yet?" In a way it was a unique way to bond with my community and to better understand them. It once again gave me a greater appreciation for the bowl of rice I daily eat knowing that it came at the expense of someone's very hard work.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thanksgiving, Running and Babies Being Born

I am definitely overdue on posting. My apologies.
This year I was able to celebrate Thanksgiving twice. The first time was a celebration involving all members of my province. We ended up making tacos (yeah, not Thanksgiving food, but easy to make and so tasty). Jac and I made the homemade tortillas (using beer bottles as the rolling pins) and everyone else worked together to make the salsa, meat and veggies. We then made two homemade pecan pies and brownies. We of course didn't have an oven (because no one here uses them) so we made friends with the only family in town that sells bread and has an oven. They tasted AMAZING.
My second Thanksgiving was at my wonderful friends Tim and Jess's house (along with their son Ian). We made omelets for breakfast then ordered a traditional Thanksgiving meal from a restaurant in town (it included everything important: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce and PUMPKIN PIE!) for dinner. It all tasted so good! We also made coffee cake and lemon bars. All the while a year old football game was playing in the background! I even took a nap mid-afternoon and complained a couple dozen times about how full I was. Thanksgiving in its truest form.
Since being back from America I've attempted to train for a 1/2 marathon. It's been difficult to train due to the rain, muddy- and sometimes impassible- roads, dogs, Cambodians thinking I'm from another planet and constantly asking me if I'm "tired", etc. However, this Sunday I finished my second 1/2 marathon. The race was in Siem Reap province at Angkor Wat. There were a few moments- those precious few when I wasn't thinking about how stupid I was for running a 1/2 in Cambodia, talking myself out of stopping, or generally thinking about how much pain I was in- that I was struck by how beautiful and surreal it was to run in the temple ruins of an ancient civilization. It was also fun to see so many Cambodians come out to cheer us on and have little kids give us a high-five (which I did a few times but then decided against it for various sanitary reasons). Also, it was encouraging to see Cambodians, who had been disabled by landmines, participate in the race (maybe it was 3K). That was truly inspiring and made me realize how lucky I was to have a body that was healthy and able to run so far. Overall a good experience and many of us are looking for another one to run in the near future.
Babies, Babies, Babies:
I FINALLY got to see a baby born at my health center! I've missed about 3 births thus far so I was very excited when the midwives invited me to come after lunch to see a birth. I showed up at 1:00 when they told me to come; however, she had already "crossed the river" as they say here! I couldn't believe it, but then they told me not to worry because there was another woman in labor. At one point during the 3 hour adventure, the midwives told the woman that the child would come out with a face as white and beautiful as mine saying "bonjour" (the slang word for foreigner is French, thus, why the baby would say "bonjour" instead of "hello").
My conclusions I hear you ask? First, I will hopefully NEVER have a child in rural Cambodia. Second, the woman barely made a noise. Pain medicine you ask? Nope. No pain medicine. What happens when the head is too big to exit? They take scissors and make it bigger. Then they sewed her up and she didn't make a peep. I couldn't believe it. The baby didn't cry for the first 5 minutes. I, in my inexperience, didn't think she was going to make it and thought that if that happened I'd never see another birth because I'd be bad luck. The baby was so white and clearly lacking oxygen. Finally, after rubbing the baby, blood started to circulate and she began to whimper (because she couldn't cry). The whole time the midwife kept telling me that I was never going to want a husband after watching. To myself I was thinking maybe I'll adopt. The other midwife asked if I wanted to see another birth- which, I answered yes. I thought all the blood would freak me out, but it didn't in the least. I just kind of stood there in awe of what was going on. Furthermore, what I liked most was that the mother, sister, and aunt were all there encouraging her and helping her with the birth of her first child. The men were sitting in the next room looking nervous (or possibly drunk?) I felt so lucky to be a part of it. The new mother even thanked me (in English) for coming. I definitely want to see another.