After a long and overwhelming first day at CSSD, we were ready to process the information received and come back to work swinging. However, Tuesday was a national holiday in Cambodia and the CSSD office would be closed for the day. Planning to sleep in a little, get caught up on our blogs, and go to the market for a peaceful day, I was surprised to hear a hard and persistent knocking on my hotel room door at 6:30am. After mumbling a plea for the knocking to stop, I shuffled out of bed to receive a hotel staff member with a phone in his hand. Mr. Chanthan was calling!
“Do you have any plans for the day?”
“Um, no, not really.”
“Would you like to come to the beach with family?”
So we were up, packing our bags and showering and wondering what the day would bring. Surprisingly, we were ready before Mr. Chanthan’s arrival. We piled into the 5-person car that already had his wife, 18 year old son “Whut,” and 21 year old daughter, “Sraiy Puht,” in it. Let’s just say the GROW got to bonding really fast. Music, word games, and jokes were exchanged between getting-to-know-you conversation and silent awe of the greenery and animals we were driving by.
After a few hours, a quick brunch of Chinese noodles, and a trip to the market, we were on Bokor Mountain by Kampot province. The road was long and winding, but the spectacular views of the Gulf of Thailand and the islands are lasting memories.
We were almost among the clouds, with forests and beach in our view. The Meas family was giving us tips on the history of the mountain (it was only built on in the 1940s- the king built a casino and a resort,) it’s future (they want to build a big city,) as well as some Khmer words and pronunciations (psat=mushroom.)
We set up a picnic on some rocks that led to a waterfall. The Meas family brought a gas portable stove (type thing) as well as cooking utensils and pans, supplemented by prawn, beef, and fresh fruits purchased at the market. However, we were just done cooking the rice (that is, mom and sister did, while the “kids” explored the rocks) when we felt our first Cambodian rain on our skin.
However, before it did start to downpour, Megan and I were able to gracefully (read: we didn’t fall) climb and jump over rocks and reach the waterfall. Except for the number of people present, I was strongly reminded of Garden State and I wanted to shout into the infinite abyss. It was not a strong waterfall, but it was beautiful. The scene was supplemented by a group of monks enjoying the view, kids playing in the water, and man sleeping beneath a rock.
When we had come back, I tasted durian for the first time. I didn’t love it, but it is taste I think I could get used to. The smell wasn’t even that strong!
So then it started to rain. And by rain I mean pour. And by pour I mean we were running to the car using pots as shields and already starting to shiver.
After a short ride, still on top of the mountains, we stopped by the casino the king had built decades ago. It was a cement structure that looked spooky, as it was empty except for a few construction workers using tools. We set up our postponed picnic next to the building.
Unable to quench my thirst for exploration, I followed a narrow path made in the tall gress to the back of the casino. There was an open space and a low wall.
I started jogging to the wall. Then I was running. My stomach was bubbling with curiosity and excitement. As I got closer, the view was starting to unfurl. I saw the islands. Then the ocean. Then the mountain side that was painted with dark green trees. We were on top of the world, two feet in Cambodia, eyes on Vietnam, our heads (literally) in the clouds.
Whut, our official photographer, snapped a few pictures of us. But I was memorized by the view. I was soaring.
We walked back to eat a delicious, late lunch of shrimp, beef, rice, and green tomatoes. Then before packing up, we ran back as a cloud was coming, so we could touch it. We stood on the mountain and a mist passed through us. In cloud 9, I guess I could say.
We were off again, this time to the beach. We spent only a short while with our toes in the sand, feeling the warmth of the air and the water.
Off again, we were driving to Mr. Chanthan’s home town. After a bumpy road in construction and very real concern about a breakdown, we made it to his mother’s house. It was dark and the neighborhood had only gotten electricity in the last few years. We snacked on fried treats made of rice and sugar and tried not to be awkward around a family we couldn’t speak to. After a short time, bowing and many “johm riab sua” and “ah kun” we left to Mr. Chanthan’s sister’s home and soup restaurant.
It was dark, night had fallen some time ago, but cloudy, so we were unable to see stars. We enjoyed watching all the dogs play, the cows sit, and had a delicious dinner of soup and crab, the latter which was picked up from a market on the shore. With Mr. Chanthan and his son chatting with us and the feast before us, we were tired but content. The situation was definitely a new one, being in the Cambodian countryside, eating new foods, around people we couldn’t communicate well with. There was even consideration of staying the night, but we didn’t want to rush in the morning, so we drove back after dinner.
Boy, were we tired when we got back. I think I showered and just collapsed into bed. What a day. We saw so many new, beautiful things, had a great time bonding with the Meas family, and I experience emotions ranging from wonder and awe, to perfect peace, to apprehension, to worry. I tried to keep an open mind and heart throughout the day, as I plan to for the whole internship in Cambodia. I am putting my trust into CSSD and the people in it and though I feel vulnerable, which makes me nervous, I know it is the right thing to do. Throughout the day I remembered over and over again to really experience the process, to be in the moment, to feel the joy and the bad emotions, and to really feel the warm waves kissing my toes. I can still feel them now when I think back.
I think Tuesday really showed me that 1) its the people you meet that will help you go on adventures, 2) putting your trust in the right people can pay off, 3) I love my GROW team more and more every day and that my heart will be bursting by the end of the internship in an excess I cannot imagine, and that 4) sometimes you just have to roll with it.
Though the day was not dangerous or challenging in a way my worst fears could manifest themselves, I was out of my comfort zone, which is an experience. This is partly what I hoped to get out of going to Cambodia and working with CSSD- to expand my comfort zone, to grow (pun definitely intended,) to gain a new insight into the world. I am so grateful already for my experience and feel so honored to be able to spend even more time with my GROW ladies, Mr. Chanthan, and CSSD.
Much GlobeMed and GROW love,