I am pretty much settled in…I think. After several housing plans falling through, my supervisor graciously offered the room I’d been staying in for the duration of my visit. I am very grateful and excited about this situation because she has been in Cambodia for over twenty years and can recommend adventures, food, etc. that will take me beyond the typical tourist or expat experience.
Phnom Penh is a relatively small city, which is great because I love walking and I can easily cover large sections of the city in an afternoon. There are amazing cafes and restaurants, markets, boutiques and spas throughout the city. Generally, I have been fortunate enough to have positive experiences with food! My favorite Phnom Penh eats include: amok (a scrumptious traditional Cambodian dish), anything from one of the glorious bakeries, fresh fruit and fresh fruit drinks. I also tried the infamous durian – a local fruit that smells atrocious, but supposedly tastes better. In my opinion, it tastes like rotten egg or straight up sulfur. I have yet to taste the other notorious Cambodian staple, prahoc or fermented fish. I am saving that experience for a later date when I am feeling better.
Unlike last week, however, I have not been able to visit as many places because I have been sick with an upper respiratory infection. Apparently, this is going around. I, along with twenty-five others, did rent a boat for an evening boat ride on the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers.
Most of my second week at work was spent fact-checking and editing the quarterly report. Due to my supervisor’s illness when I arrived I had not yet received an introduction or orientation, but the report provided the most thorough and the quickest orientation I could have asked for about the program’s many partners and initiatives.
I have also gained insight into the hassles and headaches of regular reporting. In addition to working on the quarterly report, weekly reports must also be compiled and submitted. Although I understand the necessity of demonstrating to donors, especially the U.S. government, that their money is being well spent, reporting is a very laborious and time consuming undertaking that has the potential to distract programs from the work they are funded to complete. This is especially true when momentous cases and demonstrations are taking place everyday, but the appropriate amount of attention and resources simply cannot be devoted to these events because staffers are compiling a report. Moreover, some Cambodians are apprehensive about working for NGOs at a time when things are starting to “shake up”. As a result, they are leaving the organizations for safer jobs with private businesses and no one is replacing them. There must be a better balance.