Svay Rieng

Wednesday, July 27, 2012

Yesterday Vaughn and I made our way to his province in Southeast Cambodia, Svay Rieng (pronounced something like Svy Ring) in a ‘turie’ (a large van that comfortably sits 12 but more often carries more – we got lucky as ours only had about 12).  Along the way the vendors that wait before the ferry crossing at the Mekong made me try kindly gave me a spicy fried cricket to try.  It took some time to put it in my mouth, but not bad, I might go as far as to say ‘tasty.’  Fried, and spicy can do wonders for insects.

He lives with a family in the town of Svay Chrum (pronounced:  Svi Shroom).  His host is a a beautiful woman, Sinet (sp?) and her two children.  She doesn’t speak any English minus one or two phrases*, which is equally my extent of Khmer** so Vaughn spends a lot of time translating.  She is very kind to let me stay in her spare room, especially as it is not culturally acceptable for a female to stay with a male but as we are not Cambodian it’s considered ok.

Right before an evening storm hits we join a private class of students in year 11 studying English where they ask me many personal questions to practice their English.  Questions I seem to get a lot here include:

are you married/do you have a boyfriend?‘ (answer:  yes, but I killed him),

‘how old are you?’ (which makes me feel very old every time),

how many siblings do you have?

‘Where are you from?’ (PNG doesn’t make it on their mental map)…

How do you feel when you are in Cambodia? Svay Rieng? Svay Chrum? our school? (is there a better answer each time than ‘I like it / I am happy’?)

We practiced going through ‘favorites,’ ‘differences/comparisons,’ and other generalities.  The kids are pretty funny, happy to help each other find the right words, and seem relaxed with each other and us.


Our plans for a morning bike tour of the area are postponed by one activity after another when first a teacher at Vaughn’s school stops by for assistance on a job application and then the Peace Corp medical officer makes a home visit to chat with Vaughn and his host-sister.  I listen to the chatter in Khmer, and drift asleep in my chair, not even moving sweat is beginning to pour down the back of my legs and my back.  They take us out to eat at Svay Chrum’s one and only restaurant, where the doctor orders one of each of the 4 dishes for our table.  Like most of the food thus far in Cambodia this also has my stomach sprinting far away and hiding.  I bravely try each on rice one of them has a nice, light lemongrass flavor, the others are a bit too strong for my palette.  Like all Cambodians from her generation she has a story, but what’s fascinating is her smile and passion for learning.  After lunch the doctor buys us some ‘cakes,’ made by one of the neighbors who sells them out of her bike.  These turn out to be tasty treats, made from rice flower, coconut and cooked in banana leaves.

I am so thankful for an afternoon thundershower which brings the temperature down to a more reasonable level making the bike ride very enjoyable.  My lens has been sticking and not focusing so I’m having trouble with the pictures which is soooo frustrating when everything is so perfectly scenic.  At the school where Sinat works we stop in to say hi, meet some of her colleagues and the very friendly school director who wants to make sure that when I go home I tell people about him.  We discuss the director after we leave, wondering if he possibly has some illness, perhaps early Parkinsons?  When we ask Sinat later, she tells us that he had been drinking, this explains a lot.  (I’m pretty sure that is not what I’m supposed to tell people).

We have dinner with Sinat and Renit (her daughter) who is learning English in school. She’s very shy about using it but when she does pipe up it is in perfect English.  Sinat is an excellent cook and I enjoy both of the meals she’s made, so while I have a hard time with some of the food here, I have found a fair amount that is edible good.  ————

*Sinat learned ‘Get Out!’ to tell Vaughn to go away when he tries to do dishes and ‘Sit down’ to tell him this at dinner time.

**Khmer (pronounced: keh-my) – my phrases when I leave are 3 (sad, I know, but it’s a very difficult language making Vaughn’s fluency that much more impressive):  Thank you, and two greetings.


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