After a Little Time Away…

25 01 2012

An incredibly busy husband and a computer-less wife has meant an unusually long hiatus from the blogging world. But, after more than two weeks, we’re back!

First of all, let me clarify one thing since I’ve received so many inquiries in my inbox about it: I do not actually have rabies! The dog that bit me is still alive and acting perfectly normal. So nothing to worry about. The truth of it is that I probably won’t even end up with a battle scar. Oh well, I’m sure there are many more of those waiting for me in this country.

So as I mentioned before, Anne Marie came to visit. Let me give you the low down on how that was. In a word: refreshing. But I’m guessing if you read this blog, you’d probably appreciate more than a single word. (Be sure to click on the links, they lead to more pictures!)

Anne Marie arrived on Sunday the 8th. I was supposed to pick her up at the airport but I was getting my rabies shot at the time so Tim got to do the honor solo. That evening, we were able to meet up in Kampong Kdey at long last. After a dramatic sprint across the street and long, backpack-filled hug, the warp-speed chatting began. “How has the trip been? What was your favorite part? What do you want to do here? What will happen when you head back to the ‘burgh?” My questions for her were rapid fire, but so were hers for me. “How’s Cambodia? What’s Peace Corps like? How do you like your town? What should we do while I’m here?”

We spent the next two days together at site. She got to see our Angkorian era bridge, the large produce selection at the market, my health center, and all the charm that a small Cambodian town has to offer. Because she was here for Victory Over Genocide Day, she even got to attend a traditional Cambodian party with us. Sampot and all!

Together again at last

Then she took off to Siem Reap, leaving me and Tim at site for a few days to continue our daily work (hence the boring work-related post that seemed to almost immediately follow the dramatic announcement of her arrival). On Friday though, we all headed to Battambang together to explore the laid back, artsy town I first discovered during our in-service training.

We took a boat ride from Siem Reap to Battambang. It was supposed to take six hours but, in reality, ended up being closer to nine and a half. The first five hours were lovely. The views were beautiful, and it provided insight into a side of Cambodian life that I hadn’t gotten to see yet. However, after gently crashing once and having to pump water out from the boat twice, we were ready to arrive at our destination.

Three passengers set sail that day for a nine hour tour, a nine hour tour

We spent a few days in Battambang being tourists, something else I had yet to really experience in my first six months in country. We ate at all the Western restaurants, shopped at the Japanese thrift store and visited Cambodia’s only winery. We also hit up one “must see” for tourists: the bamboo train. It’s a small wooden platform that is powered by a motor along train tracks. It’s simultaneously exhilarating and relaxing. I’m not sure if I need to do it again but it was definitely worth the five bucks. The highlight, however, was the circus. Seeing the young people, who are trained at a French-run school in Battambang, contort themselves, balance on the tightrope and do all sorts of flips in the air was nothing less than impressive. The most impressive thing, however, was their spirit. All of the kids were such great performers. They were so funny, so talented and so extroverted. It was a side of Cambodian youth that I don’t often get to see at site.

Batambang circus

From Battambang, we headed southeast to Phnom Penh. And once again, I got to be a tourist, taking photos of the markets, the riverfront and the colonial architecture. While in Phnom Penh, we took a tuk tuk out to one of the biggest killing fields in the country. The Khmer Rouge killed approximately 17,000 Cambodians at this site, often by beating them to death as to save precious bullets. Although there isn’t much to see at the site, the audio tour was well done, and it’s important for any foreigner in Cambodia to see. After all of the death and destruction, we were lucky enough to be able to book ourselves some luxury treatment at one of the many spas in the city. After an hour long massage and a pedicure, I was feeling like I could take on the world. (Isn’t life as a Peace Corps Volunteer hard?)

Royal Palace Complex in Phnom Penh

But it wasn’t the world I had to take on, it was “goodbye.” Anne Marie’s ten days in Cambodia had come to an end already. At one of our last meals together, I realized how energized I was feeling after having seen her. I was worried that having a piece of home close to me again would make me sad, but it had the opposite effect. It was so wonderful to see such a close friend; I am so lucky.

When I asked Anne Marie her thoughts on Cambodia, one of the things she kept repeating was how “reasonable” it is. Tourists use many words to describe Cambodia: tragic, enchanting, humble, beautiful. “Reasonable?” I hadn’t heard that one. “It’s all so reasonable,” she’d start. “The prices, the food, the people, the accommodations. Even the buses are reasonable.” And it’s true, especially for a tourist. Cambodia is a reasonable country in a lot of ways. I had been using the words “gentle” and “easy,” but I think ultimately, we were saying the same thing. It’s easy to be happy here as a foreigner. You’re not working against the culture or the people to feel good.Things just seem to work in your favor, even if the country is still going through some serious struggles at the macro level. There’s little harassment or violence toward outsiders. Locals tend to be open and appreciate your limited language skills or cultural knowledge. You get your own seat on the bus. You can afford to treat yourself once in while. These are perfectly reasonable things that don’t exist everywhere. It’s an interesting perspective.

After Anne Marie left me to go explore the beaches of Thailand (and then the hidden wonders of Laos), I stayed in Phnom Penh for a few meetings, and just got back to site on Sunday. It’s so refreshing to be back. I always miss this place when I’m away. It’s not that I feel like I have so many friends here or that my work is too important to leave for a week. It’s not any of that. This place is just comfortable and happy. It makes me breathe a sigh of relief every time I get off the bus and head toward my house.

So anyway, I’m back in the swing of things. You can expect more posts soon.

Katie

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4 responses

25 01 2012
Susannah

Sounds like a lovely visit! I’m jealous of the boat and train rides the most, somehow. I guess they sound adventurous. Glad you both had fun!!

26 01 2012
kbergen

It sounds like it was fabulous! I’m just sorry I didn’t get to meet her! Your descriptions of Battambong are great!

31 12 2012
Celebrating the Highlights of 2012 « TimKat's Travels

[…] year started off with a visit from one of my dearest friends from home: Anne Marie. We spent a week or so hitting the major […]

30 04 2013
Warm Fuzzy Feelings | TimKat's Travels

[…] home. In addition to the wedding festivities, we were able to sneak in a show at the circus (the second time, for me) and a quick swim in a brand new rooftop pool. Clearly, when I describe my busy schedule, […]

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