Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Me ... Khmer

I entered Cambodia first as a tourist with my mom and my brother. Visting Phnom Penh and seeing Angkor Wat. And as a tourist, it is vital that you learn a few basic Khmer words. And a few of those words I learned, and I still use all the time is "How much"? and the Khmer numbers.

Whenever I go to Toul Tumpong ( Russian Market ) to buy clothes and other stuff, I would usually go "Bong, pon man?", meaning "How much?". And the sellers would answer in Khmer for the price of whatever it is I want to buy and then they go on thinking I'm Khmer. Then I would usually stop them mid-sentence and tell them. "English please" and they would just smile. I usually employ this trick so I'd know the real price of whatever it is I want to buy, them thinking that I'm Khmer.

And even if I don't ask for the price, even when I'm just walking around, people would just come to me and speak to me in Khmer. And I go thinking WTF, I'm no Khmer. Can't they see I'm not chinito, I don't wear long sleeves like they do, or the kind of jackets that they wear even if it's the middle of the day and the sun is very generous in her giving of heat, or wear slacks with slippers on. :)

And then one day I got the answer to my question if I really do look like Khmer. We were at a client meeting. So there I was in the conference room with my boss, two other Khmer officemates, another Filipino officemate and our Scottish officemate. There was a point during the meeting that the Khmers were speaking in their native language. One of our Khmer clients looked at Camille my fellow Filipino manager and murmured an apology about them speaking in their native language. That same person looked at our Scottish officemate and said sorry as well.  And then that same person literally skipped looking at me and continued with their conversation in Khmer. LOL.

After the meeting, I mentioned this to Ly, one of my Khmer officemate. He just laughed and said that maybe our client mistook me for being Khmer. He further added that he also mistook me as a Khmer who can speak very fluent English.

So there, question answered. Maybe I am fated to work here. And to stay here for a long time. Who knows, I might even buy a house here. :P

Khnhom tauv phtah. Lie haey. :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Brush Strokes

As we continue on our location scouting trip, we again passed by Angkor Wat. This ancient city of ruins never fail to amaze me. Just imagine walking along the grounds were ancient Khmers walked, the thought of it is simply undefinable. It's like walking back in time as well.

We stopped at a local Khmer diner in front of Angkor Wat to have our lunch. After a hurried lunch, we again set off to do more scouting. As we were driving to another location, we passed by a quaint little shack near Angkor Wat which sells painting. My Khmer colleague decided to stop for a bit to buy a painting for his house. When I got out of our landcruiser, a kid of about 8 or 9 caught my attention. He was busily painting on a small canvas his version of the famous ancient city of Angkor.
I stopped by and said hello. He replied with a smile. I motioned to him  if I could try painting as well. He offered me his paint brush and pointed at the color palette on his right side. I dubbed the paint brush in what appears to be water, then dipped it in the color palette, got a little bit of a yellowish-greenish color in their and started to paint. And as I was just finishing off with a few brush strokes I thought to myself, "This is me painting a new chapter in my life."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Palm Sugar Something

On our way to Siem Reap for our location scouting, we passed by a mini tourist hub where they sell silk, scarf and different palm products.

This woman who was busily mixing a concoction of palm thingies offered me a taste of her produce. I gladly obliged. It was sweet, with an after taste of something a bit bitter.

And that made me laugh. I thought to myself this is where I'm at now , a point in my life where the bitterness is now just a very little after taste in all the sweet things that's happening.

I hope that the bitterness will completely be dissolved and what remains will just be the sweet part, just like the sweetness of the palm sugar something that I am now eating.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

As I Start To Wade

Shorts, shirt, flip flops and a bike. This was how I prepared for my afternoon routine on the first day of the year. This has been my usual Sunday routine since I got settled in Phnom Penh almost a month ago. I spend Sunday afternoons riding a bike and just pedaling away with no destination in mind so I'd get acquainted with the ins and outs of the city.

Before I got here, I researched the world wide web, looking for clues as to how it is living in Phnom Penh. They said that Cambodia is the third poorest country in the world so I prepared myself with that thought in mind. To add to that, a fellow Filipino working in the same company which hired me here in PP said that PP is like a city of the 70's. That got me excited as I was always fascinated with the 70s and the 80s.

But lo and behold when I got here, I saw Camry's and Lexuses abound the city almost as numerous as the TukTuks that ply the streets. I said to myself this is not a picture of a third world country. Imagine almost everyone has a Lexus here, or a Camry.

And this was the scene this afternoon as I ride my bike along Monivong Blvd, but this time with a destination. I am going to spend a lazy afternoon on the banks of the Tonle Sap River. After riding through the crazy maze of traffic here in PP, I finally got to Sisowath, the street along the river front. There, tourists and locals abound. With the tourists taking pictures as they walk along the river front or just simply idling by in a cafe having an afternoon coffee. Locals on the other hand are busy selling their stuff, from weird looking food to souvenirs to shoes to cigarettes and even, fun. :)

So there I was, walking along the river banks, bike in one hand and map on the other. I chose a good spot under a tree to sit on and just enjoy the site of the river. Sitting, and seeing local fishermen in their tiny motorboats busy with catching fishes to sell, I suddenly thought of why I was here in the first place. Of course I know the reason why I was here, and this was not because I was offered work  here. The reason why I wanted to leave Philippines was a personal one. And before going here in Cambodia, I prayed to God to give me  a sign for a new start. I said I wanted to work abroad and I wanted it ASAP. Just a few days after that conversation with God, I received an email for a video interview. To cut the story short, interview went well, got offered a nice job and so I went here. I grabbed the first offer of working abroad without even thinking if Im gonna like it here.

Then an officemate asked, " So why choose Cambodia?" . I replied, " I honestly don't know. But with the one month I'm here, I think I am loving it so far" while staring at the river cruiser slowly making its way towards the opposite side of the bank.

And as the river cruiser that I am looking at now slowly inch its way to my side of the bank, I though to myself, will I be able to cross the river and reach my goal? Only time can tell.

Happy 2012 !!!