PST is a bubble. We speak a lot of Khmenglish (Khmer and English), we buy a lot of snacks and sugar from the vendors at school, we bike a lot, we sweat 24/7 (and it’s not even hot season yet), and we do it all in our little bubble. Our community is not new to Peace Corps. They have hosted many volunteers before us during PST and our presence in the community is nothing new other than new American faces. With that said most of our days are spent together in language and technical training classes and meals are spent at our host families homes. I say we are in a bubble because my fellow trainees and I are together basically 24/7 and we do absolutely everything together. It’s a fun bubble but at the end of week 9 they will pop our bubbles and send us to our permanent sites. Then we won’t see each other daily and those people I hug and talk to all the time won’t be a hop skip and a jump away. Maybe I’m thinking too far ahead but as these weeks fly by I think it’s my defense mechanism to prepare myself for the inevitable shock that I’ll have when they pop our precious, well maintained bubble. By they I mean our incredibly supportive and kind Peace Corps staff that knows exactly what they are doing and have worked diligently to perfect the PST process for us. As we were told in our first couple days we are on a ‘need to know basis’ therefore we don’t know anything until we need to know it.
I’m thinking ahead to when I have to leave my wonderful host family. From what I have heard, Cambodian people don’t like goodbyes so they just don’t really say goodbye. I haven’t experienced a goodbye so that is complete hear say. I’ll report back what I actually experience in several weeks. But in the mean time I have a couple funny stories to share with you. Within our Peace Corps bubble we share funny stories that occur with our host families which is mostly due to language barriers and inabilities to communicate perfectly if at all to be honest. On my second day with my host family I had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night because I had consumed so much water during the day. So I went to the bathroom but let me just explain to you that the bathroom is in the same room as where my jiej (grandmother, 82 years old) sleeps so I didn’t want to wake her and so I didn’t turn on the light. The next morning she comes to me and grabs me by the hand and takes me to the bathroom where she proceeds to turn the light switch on and off about four times to show me how to use the light. Light switches work the same way here as they do in America so I nodded and smiled and pretended that I had never learned how to do that before. It was sweet seeing her concern for my lack of light switch knowledge. Well then it got better. An hour later my puk (dad) comes in my room and grabs me by the hand, walks me to the light switches in my room and shows me how to use that light switch. At this point I had left the whole family thinking I was incapable of turning on a light switch. I had a good laugh at myself because this was a prime moment in my realization that this family is awesome and really cares about my wellbeing even down to my light switch comprehension. I told this story in one of our sessions yesterday and I couldn’t quite get the story out without laughing at myself the whole time because it was quite ridiculous.
There is one more story that I was to tell you and it began this morning and it is ongoing. In Cambodia you leave your shoes at the door and there is a culture of sharing and if you leave something out it is up for grabs for the whole family essentially. Well I left my “outside the house” shoes outside (they are nothing big just some teva flip flops that are easy to slide on and off. Well this morning I went out to talk on the phone with my American parents and I couldn’t find my shoes so I begrudgingly put on my Chaco sandals which take a second longer because of the back strap. I’m on the phone and kind of looking around for my shoes and I go to the road to talk, I forget about the shoes and then my puk (dad) comes up on his moto and there are my shoes! I tell my American parents what is going on, I tell them about the sharing culture here and they are having a good laugh on the other side of the phone and I’m thinking okay later when he goes in for a nap I’ll repossess my shoes. Well…..I biked to the market with my mom, sister and niece and then when I came back no shoes outside and puk (dad) is nowhere to be found. I get on with my other tasks for the day and then puk comes home on his moto and he isn’t wearing my shoes! I do a lap around the house, look under a couple things but I don’t wanna look suspicious and I still can’t find them. Long story short my puk likes my shoes and they are missing but I’ll keep hunting for them!
The hunt continues from the Eastern Hemisphere,