Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
There was no temple hopping this time around, no tourist sights to be seen. Instead, after checking into a guesthouse on Silom Road, we walked, walked past and into food vendors that reminded me how good and ubquituous street food is in Thailand (and how cheap, too!) and around and in shiny light-filled malls, where I perused clothing and makeup offerings among lovely powdered lady-boys. In the afternoon, we let ourselves get lost at Chatuchak Market, the weekend market where you can find nearly everything, and where I picked up a restructured plaid dress. We people-watched and then watched a movie in a proper cinema. We stayed out late into the night, bearing witness to the seedy evening movement.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Much to my chagrin, our office is moving today, south, so south we will surely fall off the Phnom Penh map, so south my Khmer colleagues tell me we can no longer be called city folk. I sat and watched the movers this morning before realizing it was a complete waste of my time to wait. So Anna, the Russian lawyer, and I dashed off to my home, where we siphoned internet and made lunch.
I go through phases where all I want to do is cook at home. In the past, it was typically Indian food, as evidenced by the countless cookbooks I left stateside. Lately, it's been a mix of baking, roasting and cooking concoctions from recipes I Frankenstein from blogs. There are limitations -- two rules that dictate cooking for me these days.
The first is simplicity. How is it that roasting fresh vegetables from my neighborhood market gives me such satisfaction? That baking potatoes tossed in olive oil and rosemary could make me so happy?
The second is that it must involve cream and/or cheese. I blame my French-American flatmate, whose phone conversations with her mum always provide me countless food inspiration. Cheese, cream, all dairy are very expensive in Phnom Penh.
Back to lunch today: I made this simple pasta dish, throwing in a few handfuls of fresh basil, lemon zest, and grating Pecorino Romano on top.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
When I was a little girl, my sisters and I, in between spurts of running amok and driving our parents crazy, would take the yards and yards of fabric strewn about (for my grandma's sewing adventures) and prance around the house in makeshift dresses. Mine was always Grecian-inspired, with folds and folds of cascading fabric, which I always imagined was of an aqua-marine hue. The younger me would have approved of that first Electric Feathers dress.
The second dress, that stunning billowy nearly-backless number that teeters on unflattering muumuu, must happen, in some form. Via my Cambodian dressmaker. I'll keep you posted.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Random thoughts today:
1. Spring Equinox!
2. Green shoes are such a basic. As are purple-blue hued shoes.
3. I took in a lost Russian lawyer last week, for a few days, while she looked for housing. She's volunteering with our organization, and she, with her star CV, six spoken languages, and hunger for human rights lawyering, reminded me why and how I landed in dusty Cambodia.
4. I am so exhausted from all the meetings and from my work with railway communities last week. But dammit, I love this work!
5. I'm thinking of my dear friend, Cherlou, who is expecting her first child.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
The day began with an early start, with a cup of coffee and a meeting with a colleague, directly across Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. I watched the attendants open the gates to the museum and continued to watch as the visitors trickled in.
The rest of the day was visiting the railway communities, this time in Phnom Penh - walking, talking, sitting in homes, listening to stories.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
When I worked at the Firm, I would also find myself unable to write, unable to reach for the right words to finish a pleading, a memo, or an opinion letter, fumbling for the words to appropriately punctate a line of reasoning, a thought. How did I cope then? I would close my office door, stare out the window at the rolling West Hills dotted in numerous shades of green, at the flock of birds that sat perched on the Heathman rooftop, at the slow moving traffic below, the pedestrians walking to their next destination, intent in their steps.
But in Cambodia, it feels different. For one thing, I'm plagued by a greater sense of urgency. Most of the communities I work with face imminent forced eviction, often by violent means. They face physical and economic displacement, the disassembling of their homes and lives, and, shortly after, the task of rebuilding anew. Despite my attempts to cope with these realities, I simply cannot be removed from them. And, at the risk of sounding ridiculously and unreasonably self important (and having no intention to trivialize the work of others in Western countries), I know that if I/we don't write these words, no one else will.
With that said, today, I remain distracted. There are a few reasons, and one is that my dear friend Rachel will be back in Cambodia for a few days, following my return from Bangkok. I cannot wait to catch up! Her brief return is, again, another marker of time -- I've worked in Phnom Penh for 10 months now.
I think I'll take a walk.
Tonight, this Roald Dahl quote provides just the pick-me-up I need for this increasingly busy week.
Monday, March 14, 2011
I'm finally beginning to understand the disconnect inherent in Cambodian development.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
During these hot, dry days, my laziness kicks in even more, and, among other things that fall to the wayside, I tend to forget/neglect why I started this blog -- namely, to document and to remember, both the intense, colorful moments that sweep in, shake and scare me, and the quieter moments that would otherwise slip away, quietly, without the needed care or notice.
Some quiet moments from this weekend, spent with my "former American flatmate" (he has a name, and hereafter, it will be "Ethan"):
1. Cooked dinner. We used the BBQ sauce Mami sent me in my last care package, caramelized onions, mashed some potatoes, and made BBQ baguette sandwiches. Yum.
2. Finally watched The King's Speech.
3. Walked about Phnom Penh, near Toul Tumpong (Russian Market), found a shady coffee shop, and lounged for a few hours.
4. Booked tickets to Bangkok (super excited -- more on that later).
5. Spent a few hours looking at, and deliberating about, cheap airfare to China, Sri Lanka, Malaysian Borneo, Brunei Darrusalem, India ... and decided Malaysian Borneo and Brunei Darrusalem may just work for the upcoming holiday in May. (Crossing my fingers.)
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I'm a sucker for all the French cookies at Thai Hout grocery store -- and for all the Bonne Maman jams, too. I cannot get enough.
Dinner last night: Also French. Crepes with sugar and lemon. Some delicious Algerian concoction, with egg, sausage, and other things I cannot recall. It was delicious. And for dessert, more crepes and carmelized bananas. Oh my.
I feel as if it's my turn to host something, but the thought of all the logistics makes me lazy.
Here's a confession on this increasingly hot Wednesday afternoon: I never really feel "pretty" in Cambodia. My neurotic issues with the connotation of that word aside, I admit that the heat, sweat, and other things Cambodia made it such that I once felt I was in perpetual post-gym/workout mode -- not that I've had many post-gym/workout moments, I confess.
It's a struggle.
Admittedly, there was once a part of me that said, "Who cares?! I can eschew any sort of aesthetic ideal indefinitely, for a loftier purpose, for meaning, for this work." That lasted all of 2 months. In truth, I'm just not wired that way -- I need both, I need all. And, more likely, when the entire day seems heavy and dark, and things appear insurmountable, I crave the simplicity and comfort of putting on red lipstick, a pretty silk Mayle dress, and a pair of RC sandals/clogs/heels (actually, no heels because the jagged street + heels would surely bring about my death).
On my last visit to Los Angeles, I packed even more dresses into my suitcase, including a few Mayle numbers, which I now guard closely. I went through my 3.1 Lim acquisitions and imported an old red bag I once found on eBay. I rummaged through my earrings and necklaces. I packed more body butter, more lipstick and lipstains, more lacy underpinnings -- more of the simple pleasures that combat the weariness of life in this country.
I saw this hair "how to do." (Click on the link above for instructions.) I think I'll give it a try.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Sunday, March 6, 2011
On another note, Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like really is hilarious, if not full of embarrassingly accurate tidbits of truth. A few of my favorites:
It's Monday afternoon, and I am super exhausted. Last week, I traveled to Battambang and then Banteay Meanchey to do research and meet with affected communities. As I walked around the railway communities, I could not ignore the fact that the temperature is steadily climbing in Cambodia, a steady reminder that "hot season" is just around the corner. I remember the season well, as its arrival also marks one year since my move to Cambodia.
I don't relish the thought of the several research trips I will do in the next few months, under the unforgiving heat, only matched in annoyance by the swarm of flies and mosquitos that tend to accompany that climate.
But I must do it -- and besides, my ancillary research on the gender impacts of the Railway Project gives me enough push to get over the not-so-ideal environment.