Sunday, November 30, 2008

Call to what?

On Friday morning, soon after I hit the snooze and declined to go running with Carrie, I heard a sound very similar to the call to prayer. In my half sleep I thought, that's nice. Then I remembered there are no mosques in my neighborhood. In fact, I have only seen mosques near the river on the outskirts of town. By then the music was louder and closer than before.

About this time I was feeling not so happy about the music (it was 5:45) and then I remembered the pink and yellow tent set up just a few houses down from us. Oh no, it's a wedding.

Since the cool season started (temperatures are in the mid 70s to low 80s) so have the weddings. They start out early in the morning at the bride's house and part of any wedding in Cambodia is some really loud music. The tents sometimes cause traffic chaos and the music is sure to be heard round the block. The music in question is a hybrid of singing/chanting reminiscent of the call to prayer and someone rocking out on a xylophone.

My slight bitterness towards the music was mitigated when I left for work just in time to see the wedding procession shuffling along to the tunes. The groom led the way with a giant floral arrangement spilling over his arms, while the guests followed him in pairs looking as if they were about to board Noah's ark bearing gifts. Each person carried a silver tray with some food item wrapped in cellophane and ribbon. Fruit and vegetables all passed by. One man even balanced a fresh leg and haunch of pork on his tray. Two young men jumped off their motos just in time to hop on the end of the line clutching trays with small pyramids of Tiger Beer.

Moral of the story: So what if the music is loud, wedding season only comes once a year.

I am bad and have no pictures of this event either so here is the link to a friend's blog if you are wondering, Just what do those pink tents look like?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I ate a cricket and I liked it

Hehehe, sorry I couldn't resist the title. You will probably only understand the song reference if you are under 30 and living in the US. To all others, I apologize.

Last week was four days for province visits with the communications team. On Thursday, Ratna and I visited a brick making group in the evening. After an interview, we watched them make bricks using concrete, sand and one mold. Obviously, having only one mold means it takes a bit of time to make a couple bricks in the yard.

While we watched the men scoop the sand mix into the mold, one of the LWF project staff walked over from the house carrying a bowl. Something in me knew this bowl was not the usual fruit or ambok (more on ambok to come). Sure enough, the bowl was filled with crickets but not the little kind. No, these were the crickets as long as my little finger. She held out the bowl to me. I smiled (as I often do here) and took one.

For a moment, I am sure my expression was 100% culturally insensitive as I looked into the crickets little black eyes and he looked back at me. A little shiver of panic in my brain said, "Ahhh! Crickets are not for eating." Luckily, that tiny spasm was overcome by a voice saying, "Stop being rude and eat it you pansy!" And into my mouth went the cricket.

Now while I won't say I loved the cricket, it was actually good. Like salty, extra crunchy and sometimes chewy sunflower seeds. At first it was weird to feel the shape of the bug but once you start chewing, it is not bad at all. I even at a few more and Ratna took a picture of me eating one. I am not sure if eating a cricket means I am ready for one of the giant fried spiders here but I am one step closer to giving it a try.

Number of Provinces Visited: 5
Number of Crickets Eaten: 5

Monday, November 17, 2008

A series of fortunate unfortunate events

Over the past two months, I have had the wonderful chance to visit four of LWF Cambodia's projects in the provinces. This where the majority of LWF's work happens, in the rural areas of the country.

I will post some fast facts about Cambodia when I have more time. For now, I would like to share about a particularly special trip. In the first week of November, Ratna (my boss) and I headed to Battambang province four and half hours away from Phnom Penh. It was the tail end of the rainy season. While areas of Phnom Penh have been submerged by nasty water and floods, I have been lucky enough to escape most the season's harsher effects (minus a large leak in my roof that floods my closet). The rain has dramatic effects in the provinces as well. Pothole, bump roads become muddy, jarring slip and slides. As evidenced by this picture. Despite the best efforts, our car went off the road twice. Fortunately, people were quick to jump into the mud behind the Jeep and push.

After our off road adventures, I assumed we wouldn't be doing any more mucking around. However, our first planned activity was accompanying a community forestry group as they marched to their forest to check its boundaries and monitor illegal encroachments. The march was ten miles total, half through knee-deep waters in flooded rice fields. I had to admire the dedication of the group as we wade through the fields and forded chest-deep rivers. (Note: The villagers and LWF staff told me this is an unusual activity for the rainy season so please don't get the idea that people in the country side here love to run around in flooded rice fields.)

So here we are, me in my poncho from Vietnam, clutching my camera and following along. Thankfully, the Community Empowerment Officers lead me along when the water was too deep and carried my camera across the river for me. The experience was unpredictable and amazing.