Were you hoping “snapshots” meant actual photos? I’m sorry. That would’ve been awesome, but it would’ve taken way more effort and energy than I’ve got at 9:00 on this humid Thursday night.
(If you like photos, I do post a lot on Instagram if you want to follow along. I can’t believe I balked at Instagram for so long. I LOVE IT.)
For our purposes tonight, “snapshot” will mean little peeks into life in Cambodia using words.
Snapshots of Cambodia:
- A beautiful little girl, maybe 6 years old. Huge eyes, even huger smile. Dark brown skin, dirty dress, bare feet. She sees us walking down the street and her eyes light up. She asks for money, sometimes food. We gave her both once. Sometimes she carries a beautiful chubby baby girl on her hip. She tries to make the baby do tricks for us. I always smile at her. I touch her arm or her face. I talk to her. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do about the giving her money part. I want to bring her home with me, but I think she has a family.
- We walk to dinner and excitement is in the air. And by excitement I mean the promise of rain. Heavy, heavy air. You almost buckle under the weight of it. An uncharacteristic breeze blowing the smoke from street vendors’ fires into our eyes and throat. Cough cough. The breeze picks up, the air gets even heavier. We sit down at the outdoor restaurant (one of our faves) just in time. That blessed sound. Rain pouring down. Cool breeze, fine wet mist. RAIN.
- There is construction being done (a great big demolition project) across the street. And to our left. And our right. And everywhere. It is too hot to work in the afternoon here. The night is a good time. Much cooler. And by night I mean 3:00am. The construction workers do hard things and dangerous things. There are not really building codes or safety policies. The workers often sleep in the half-demolished buildings. I feel sad for them. I feel like they probably don’t make much money. Maybe $5/day? Maybe $2. I don’t know.
- My nine-year-old daughter has a future career in linguistics, I’m sure. She thrives on learning new things (all self-taught), especially languages. As we learn to speak it, that’s not good enough for her. She MUST learn to read and write it. Easy enough, except the Khmer (Cambodian) script does not use our letters. It’s like Japanese or Hebrew or Arabic. It is also (rumor has it) the world’s largest alphabet. She recognizes all the consonants and has moved on to the vowels. She taught herself how to put them together. She reads signs. I shake my head. She tries to teach me. I beg her to stop. My brain can’t do it. Not yet.
- Our tuk-tuk driver, Hath (oh, we love him!), takes us to school each morning and brings us home. We’ve started calling him for other things too (but we mostly walk where we need to go). Last Sunday he drove us to church. When we came out, he asked us about it (in Khmer). We said “preah wihia” (church). He asked, “preah jesu?” JESUS. YES. We invited him to come with us this Sunday (Easter). We don’t know if he will. We are so eager to know more Khmer words to express our faith. It’s tricky, though, because Christian Khmer is a whole new set of words (it’s a royal language used for kings). Patience. We will show Jesus with our actions for now, words as we get them. (Today in school we learned “pray” and “Bible.”)
- I like laundry. I always have. I liked it when I had my own washer and dryer in my house. I liked it when the girls and I spent one morning a week (sometimes two) at Wash & Tan and got it all done at once. I like it now with my clothespins, clothesline, and my clothes drying in the sun. Laundry is the one and only household chore I enjoy. I want to do a study sometime. I think a lot of people hate it. And I think the people who love it don’t love any other chores. Why is that?
- Livi and Ava ride their bikes to school. There is lots of traffic. Gabe cannot watch them ride beside the tuk-tuk without anxiety. I tell him to close his eyes. He doesn’t want to miss all the other excitement going on around us. I love to ride in tuk-tuks. I think I always will. (Feel free to check back with me in a few months.) On our way to school, we can peek into so many lives. When you drive on interstates to work or school, you can’t do this. You can’t see into people’s houses and watch them eat breakfast. You don’t get to see men pee against the wall (okay, so I could do without this part). You don’t get to see women carrying big loads on their heads or little old grandmas without teeth gumming their rice porridge. You don’t get to see and smell a hundred (no, a thousand) different things being cooked right in front of you. I am an introvert who hates crowds, yet I thrive on the hustle & bustle & dirty & humanity of this city. So strange.
- All the girls and women (and some of the men) wear long-sleeved shirts and sometimes hoods on their heads and socks with their flip-flops and gloves. They are protecting their skin. This is probably mostly because white skin is preferred here. It is also probably healthy to protect your skin from the sun. I do not care. I can’t do it. I would suffocate. It was 99 degrees today with a heat index of 109. I have a brown face, a brown neck, brown arms, and brown feet. When I’m getting dressed in front of the mirror in the mornings, it looks like I have a white t-shirt on. I don’t. It’s my tan lines. It’s lovely.
- Khmer New Year is coming up. From what we hear, everyone leaves the city to visit families in the provinces. Everyone here has family in the provinces. It is expensive to live here in the city (relatively speaking). Many young people who have jobs stay here to work but go visit their parents, spouses, children as often as they can out in the provinces. I am looking forward to experiencing the city as a ghost town. Except I may change my tune when I am hungry and cannot find food (I will most likely be able to find some food). There is not enough room in my refrigerator to store enough food for nine days.
- My husband is a people magnet. He strikes up conversations with everyone. EVERYONE. He talks to them in Khmer. He doesn’t care if he gets the words wrong. He wants to know about them. He tells them all about himself. He is my hero.
Whoa. I totally just got carried away. That was a lot of words. Anything you’d like to know about Cambodia?