Adjusting to Life in Cambodia
Email #2

Friends and Family,

I love a culture that doesn't wear shoes ... most people here in Cambodia just wear sandals, and I wonder if I will ever put shoes on again.   Things are going well for me in Southeast Asia.   I had some cold/sickness for the first few weeks, but it was going around.   Everyone's been hacking and sneezing.

The weather's really not too bad here.   It's the "cool" season right now, and it's actually quite pleasant in the morning and evenings.   I've got wheels now ... just bought a motorbike.   But I'm waiting for the licensing to come through, and trying to learn how to ride it.   The traffic here is terrifying for new drivers in Cambodia ... I'm completely comfortable with "city driving" anywhere in the States, but this place scares me in the worst way.   In other news, I had my first encounter with the police ... no, Greg M., I was not thrown into Cambodian prison.   They stopped by our office to "check our fire extinguisher" and fine us $20.   One of the Cambodian staff talked his way out of it, but foreigners are targeted sometimes with ridiculous fines.   One American lady was recently pulled over while driving, and after some debate the police finally just admitted "We want $2 for Coca-Cola."

As promised, here's a little more about what I'm doing in Cambodia.   I'm working for two NGOs ... mostly with the New Life Foundation.   NLF was started by a church, and is composed of three separate groups ... a health care program, a children at risk program, and an income generating program.   I'm working with the income generating group.   They are relatively new to development work, so I am helping them write up proposals for funding and coming up with a training program for the villagers who will participate in our projects.   The idea is that we will provide rural Cambodians with the training, skills, and motivation to start up small income generating businesses so that they can break out of the cycle of poverty.   I've also been spending time visiting the different provincial villages where we will try to start up projects.   This has been absolutely incredible.   I'm still completely captivated by the Cambodian countryside.   I'm sure this will wear off, but sometimes I can't believe that I'm here.

Side note:   working with an NGO that has a health care center is good because it means that I can get cheap medications when I get sick.   I've had some mild stomach sickness so far, but nothing too bad.   I've heard incredibly horrendous stories about what can happen if you're not careful, most of them involving worms ... NOT dinner time conversation.

I really appreciate all your replies and emails.   I'm sorry if I'm not good at getting back personally to each of you, but this is only because the internet cafes are SO INCREDIBLY SLOW.   I've estimated that it takes me about one hour to simply check my email and send two (yes, two) replies.   So when you hear from me, know that you are very special and important to me.   (I've gotten smarter though ... now I bring a book to read while I'm waiting for pages to load.)

Well, this has turned into a long update, but I wanted to let you know how things are going.   I'm getting familiar with the city, and can find my way around now.   In the future, I will also use these updates to let you know a little more about Cambodia and some of the problems faced here.   I hope all is well for each of you.   Take care.

David


Back to Cambodia 2004-2005