Have you ever felt lost in translation? Cause I certainly do now!!! Khmer is sooo far away from any language, of course maybe if you are familiar with Asian languages you can understand or at least get something of Khmer. But not me… :-)
I arrived in PP on Tuesday afternoon, and was received at the airport by our office administrator Navann. Guess by the name, is it a male or a female? Well, guess what it’s a female!! A beautiful and lovely Khmer lady. Trying to explain the customs that I had my letter of attestation there and I don’t want a travel visa was tricky, and in the end she arrived and cleared that with them and I got in on a 3 month visa with a single entry.
She and one of the organization’s drivers took me to what is to be my home for the next 6 months. Well, on the way there my feelings were more than mixed, I was trying to figure out where we were and what PP is about. I got home, took my huge backpack, Peakdey helped me with my huge luggage, and we went in. In, that is through a super tight passage and climber a super tight staircase ( see pics) to get to my flat. Got in, the flat is basic but ok (see pics). It has AC and ventilators :-D and a bathroom where there is no bath or shower tub, just a shower head :-D and cold water. Well, it works, I can wash it’s fine :-) The bed is a bit tough but it’s big haha
I am sharing the flat with a very nice French girl, who works a lot in the provinces so I see her only in the weekends.
Ok, so I could not stay home I was a bit in shock, so I said I want to go to the office and say hi to everyone. And so I went…(see pics) everyone was very welcoming and nice. Astrid came home in the evening and we went out to eat. The next day I woke up at 7, packed in 10 min and left to meet the team. Two buses were waiting for the new expat in the organization, (here I make a paranthesis to tell u that Khmers wake up VERY early and go to bed VERY early; so they planned to leave at 7 already!!!)
And there I went to Sihanoukville with 70 Khmers…. I was extremely tired, and they were extremely LOUD!!!
And now begins the nice part of my stories: everyone was smiling to me, and waving and talking, saying things in Khmer. They thought I understood, until I told them I didn’t have a clue. I cannot tell you how that trip of 5 hours was!!! It was funny but in the same time I wanted to KILL someone :-) you know when you’re trying to sleep but there’s a FULL bus giggling and speaking and singing soooo loud :-) well, I guess I made my point. Oh, and the girl in charge of our bus had a microphone too :-))) that made it even ‘funnier’ and who knows me better, knows how I can be in the mornings :-)) anyways, first stop was at 9 for a pee, second stop was at 10 for LUNCH…they were asking me lunch, you hungry? I was like people it’s 10!!! Well, Khmers, you know those tiny tiny slim people EAT more than any other race I have met so far at 12 we stopped at the market in Sihanoukville for another refill, no not gas, but FOOD – we were having dinner…the market, well the market was huge and HOT and full of everything you can think of but mostly SMELLY food…I only bought some bananas, bananas here are tiny and they come in a bundle… cause that’s all I could eat with all those smells and at that hour. We got to the hotel and we rested for 1 hour before going to the beach (the hotel looked very good from the outside but it was sooo dirty that half of the team got down with bad bad bad stomach the following day, including me of course!!! I was soooo sick… :-( )
On the beach (see pics) guess what we did the first thing when we got there? I was expecting people to get undressed and run in the see…but guess what they did…well, you can figure out from the pics. We sat down and they started eating. There are plenty of food sellers on the beach and they come and cook in front of you, if you have the courage to eat. I only tried the squids and shrimps, but they had everything including the famous egg –( wiki link) BLEACHS!!! This is something I will NEVER try, not even if you pay me big money
After that they all went to swim. I was a bit surprised when we left from the hotel to see that people didn’t seem to have any bathing suits but just regular summer clothes, and no bags to have changes or anything like that… I thought hmmm maybe they’re not gonna bathe after all..but I forgot that the guide said that Khmer people bathe in their clothes!! Yes, they do not wear swimming suits- bikini- women, I mean… they’re to shy!!! and they were asking me hey come to swim with us, I was like hmmm I forgot my bathing suit (had it in my bag, but could not go ‘naked’ like that with all the dressed people no?? :-)
And after the bath there were THE GAMES- Khmers love to play games!!! And they have sooo many games, and of course they asked me to join them so I joined, we played this game we were 5 in a team and each one of us held a spoon in his/her teeth and with the spoon we carried an egg and had to transfer the egg to the next person in line, on the spoon, without hands. The team who got the most eggs transferred won. My team did not win :-( but we were not last either, and I didn’t drop the spoon or the egg :-D well done they told me hahah. And then there was dancing on Khmer music. This is very funny they dance in a circle, one behind the other :-) with a kind of hula hula moves. And their music is well, all songs seem very similar to me, but the funniest part was when Pitbull's "I know you want me" started, but in Khmer. Khmers copy EU/US music and translate it. Oooor they take a US hip hop video and over it they record their own music, so you can see Timbaland but hear Khmer music hahahah funny
Where I come from, a party usually is accompanied by …yes, of course ALCOHOL!!! Especially in my alcoholic group of friends…But here no one drinks :-) (it’s the opposite of Brussels :-) except the older men, so only maybe 4 men drank Angkor beer. And they asked me to join at one point. I was longing for a beer, but realized that I was the only one drinking with them. The others didn’t drink. They like juices a lot, but alcohol is not very common with them :-) I felt a bit like an alcoholic, but the beer was good so I didn’t care :-D
After a full day we returned to the hotel at 9, sleeping time :-) oh yes, here the sun sets at 18:30 during summer, this is the longest day. In winter it sets at 5… I was shocked to hear that!!
The next day we woke up, (well they did cause I slept until 10), at 7 to start our workshop…how do you think the workshop started?? Yes you guessed with a GAME :-) (see pic)
Otherwise the workshop was all in Khmer…they translated to me as far as they could, the ones speaking English, but oh well…it’s not their strongest point ..and their accent makes it even harder, they do not finish words ..for instance they can tell you something like “ha you me my wi?” ( to be translated “have you met my wife?”) or “ I want to cha” ( I want to change) or are you from Fra..(France) so yes it can be tricky…but once you get it..u get used to it. The problem is I really hope I will not destroy my English here, because they do not understand my accent, they understand English with French accent, and so I have to adapt my accent to the localc conditions..and also my vocabulary :-)) funny…
But the people are the warmest people I have ever met, and friendly and their SMILE is amazing :-)
PS pics are in next post...i'm new to blogging...