Week 5 in Cambodia| June 28, 2011
This week’s work was primarily a continuation of our previous assignments. Vlada and I assisted on more teleconferences for the Hong Kong Stock Exchange project and continued to work on our national adoption cases. We were able to participate in two new initial consultation meetings with potential clients. One of the consultations centered on the possibility of Intercountry Adoption; a subject on which Vlada and I have become quite knowledgeable and so were able to actively assist. The other was in regards to a foreigner obtaining control or assurances over land he purchased in his Khmer fiancé’s name. We also continued to work on our industry summary reports and a final presentation that we are preparing for my last day here (which is next Friday).
We spent many of our evenings hanging out with our new crew of intern friends and colleagues. We had our first taste of Lebanese food, Cambodian style and it was amazing. Trivia night this week was a bit of a bust. We only came in 8th place, but better luck next week I hope. For the record, giraffes can’t swim (a question that was greatly disputed at our table). On Wednesday night, I attended a scholarly lecture on dealing with post-conflict memories, which specifically focused on the memorializing of and coping with the Khmer Rouge. I was particularly interested in the subject since I noticed that when offered tuk-tuks, drivers often recommend that I go to visit the killing fields. I found that extremely strange at some level because there are so many amazing things to do in and around Phnom Penh and so I didn’t understand why drivers would suggest the killing fields for a tourist as opposed to other attractions. It felt completely in contrast to society remembrance of the Holocaust in that concentration camps were not widely discussed and were certainly not the first “attraction” recommended to tourists in Germany and Austria. It seems, however, that in Phnom Penh, these killing fields have become just that, tourist attractions. On Thursday, we had a farewell dinner for our Italian friend who worked at the UN.
As it was my last full weekend in Phnom Penh, we made sure to do a lot of the touristic activities we hadn’t gotten around to. On Friday night, we went to see a Khmer dance and shadow puppet show.
Saturday, I had an amazing lunch with a French co-worker and then we went on a boat party with the UN intern crew. We finished the night dancing to salsa music on a rooftop restaurant on the riverfront. Sunday, some of our Khmer colleagues took us out for a tour of their Cambodia. We started off at a Buddhist temple where we had red ribbon bracelets blessed by monks and learned how to pray in the temple. We also saw a woman blessing her moto with the red ribbon and holy water (which to be honest is probably a great idea given the number of accidents we have seen). Then we headed over to the market to our friend’s mother’s shop. Here, we tried our first sugar cane drink. I was embarrassed to admit that I had never figured out what the sugar cane drink stands were before that day. I had always thought that they were crushing bamboo and couldn’t understand why. Even though we had requested to not go to the killing fields, the Khmer group took us their anyway. As we had already been there and it was their first time, we ended up showing them around a lot of the site. Although I didn’t really want to spend any more time there (it depresses me every time), it was interesting to hear their side of the story and to see how they reacted to being there. After lunch, we went to the Royal University of Phnom Penh. Just like any US university, there were groups of students outside studying for exams. Other students, who had already taken their exams, were hosting a party. They invited us to join them and taught us how to dance to traditional Khmer songs as well as to a Khmer line dance (similar to the Electric Slide). All in all, it was a great day racing around on the back of moto bikes.
Slightly exhausted from the weekend, Vlada and I got pampered at the local salon and then went for an unsuccessful hunt for mango with sticky rice. The hunt lasted almost one hour. Then we got ready for the next week of work!