It’s Siem Reap!

16 09 2011

After literally years of waiting – waiting for applications, waiting for nominations, waiting for medical clearance, waiting for placement, waiting for that flight to take off….we’ve finally found out where we’ll actually be living for the next two years.

On Saturday, we had to explain to our host families that we were leaving for five days. “Where are you going?” they asked like all good parents. But we could have gone anywhere in the country and Peace Corps just had to make it dramatic.

We came into our hub site town for another day of meetings, knowing by the end of the day (at the very end of the day, of course), we would have our placements. They built the suspense (and maybe softened some disappointment) by driving in dozens of pizzas from Phnom Penh. Were we distracted by warm, cheesy pizza deliciousness? Only briefly. From there, we listened intently to a Commitment Speech given by Peace Corps staff. Then came site announcement. We all stood in a circle of 60 volunteers around a giant map of Cambodia made out of tape on the floor. One by one, our names were called, quickly followed by cheering, jumping in the air, and high fives.

The following morning, we left for Siem Reap city to stay for one night. Siem Reap is one of the most touristy cities in the country due to its proximity to Angkor Wat, meaning lots of poorly dressed foreigners. But also Mexican food. You take the good with the bad. Unfortunately for us, Siem Reap town was completely flooded. After getting off the bus at the bus station, we took a tuk tuk into the city to get to our hotel. After driving through knee-deep water, the driver got us close, but refused to drive any further as the water got higher. We hopped into the water and waded a few more blocks to our guest house. The kids in the city were having a blast playing in the water while store owners and hotel staff tried to prevent the rising water from entering their place of business. After settling in, we waded back into the street, eating our fill of tacos and ice cream.

Our new house in Siem Reap

The next day, with slightly higher water levels, we fought the waves to meet our new host families. We met our host mom (Chovi) and rode with her in an overcrowded pickup truck to our village. The village is larger than our training site, with a huge market and more outlying villages. Katie and I met with our respective counterparts at the health center and high school, and spent the two days getting to know the village and the family. (Pictures will be posted eventually)

From our site we caught the five hour bus back to Phnom Penh and explored the city for the first time. We were able to eat at Friends, a relatively famous restaurant promoting hospitality training for at-risk youth, and the food was delicious (for the foodie friends: mango slaw, chicken curry, cucumber with yogurt mint sauce).

We’re back in Takeo for the next few days, then take off next week for “Kampuchea Adventure,” which sounds like a two day field trip in the south. Our time with our wonderful host family in our training site is limited, so what little free time we have will be focused on spending time with them, studying for our language test next week, and preparing to move to permanent site.

-Tim

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