Food is always an interesting part of culture, isn’t it? I’d like to think there is nothing I won’t try at least once…maybe just give me a little more time, ok?
I’ve often been asked as I walk by the restaurant next door (you know the one…) “you eat dog?”…I smile and reply in my best Khmer, “maybe another day.” They laugh and I laugh, but one of these days I’m going to surprise both of us.
I have started to slow down and check out street vendors as I walk by to see if there is anything tasty I would like to try. Some of the vendors on wheels walk the streets with their goodies. Not only is it a chance to try something new, but it’s a chance to practice speaking Khmer. So I stop and buy some grilled bananas, fresh pineapple, roasted crickets or maybe ice-cream….Gotcha..haha! I haven’t had the guts to try the crickets yet….maybe another day 🙂
Last week during class my Khmer teacher took me to the market to practice bargaining for something, in Khmer, of course. After making our purchase, a stylish rug for her bathroom, she wanted me to try some food with her. She expressed concern that I wouldn’t want to eat there because it’s very dirty in the market.
“It’s ok,” I said. “I’ll try whatever you put in front of me.”
I’ve heard rumors of people in other countries eating partially developed chickens or ducks out of the egg.
We sat down at a short table on little stools and she ordered up some eggs and sugar cane juice. She showed me how to take my mini-spoon and tap through the top of the egg to make a whole in the top. Add a touch of salt/pepper and a splash of lime juice and you’re good to go.
Just so you know, partially developed baby ducks have already begun growing bones and feathers.
I’m sorry for all the time and gas I have wasted trying to direct you when I don’t know where I’m going. And for all the extra miles on your moto because I only know how to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ via familiar landmarks when there is probably a much more direct route. I’m sorry for the times when you knew exactly where we were supposed to be going and I steered you wrong thinking that I knew the best way, causing us to drive in circles.
Thank you for your patience, kind smiles and faithful service.
Here’s the thing…every building here is hidden away behind large metal gates that all look remarkably similar. So one of the first days to go to school by myself I was sure I had found the right place, but since I was 15 minutes early the doors were not yet open for business. No problem, I found a shady spot and waited….and waited….until it was very nearly time. The doors were still not open and I started to second guess my ability to find the right place.
I texted my friend to double check the address…and what she sent back was not a match. I started walking. After walking several blocks in the blazing heat and smiling at the moto-taxi’s on the corner as I passed them a second and third time I found my school….in the very same place that I started. And now I was 15 minutes late for class. Real cool.
No worries. My teacher is very gracious and laughed with me when I told her what happened.
You’d think I’m a Rockstar for all the stares I was getting. Really I was just doing what everyone does here…carry something way too big for a moto… on a moto. You wouldn’t believe the kind of stuff that gets transported on motos: a hundred chickens, several days worth of merchandise to sell in your shop, 10-15 foot pieces of metal or other various construction materials, the hood of a car…or in my case, a guitar. No matter what or how big…saddle up!
While near misses with other motor vehicles is common, the chance of collision increases greatly when you are peering around the neck of a guitar standing upright in front of you. After making a quick stop at the market I wised up and shifted the guitar to the seat between the driver and me. Much better.
So I moved in with two Khmer girls, Pouv and Rotha, for a few weeks. We discussed that I had the option to live downstairs with them or have the upstairs room all to myself. Of course, being an American I chose the upstairs room all to myself. Or so I thought…
We enjoyed the evening together talking, playing games and “joking” about the rat they heard upstairs. I’m playing it cool on the outside, but really I’m paranoid about “the rat upstairs.” You see where this is going, don’t you?
I retired to my room for the evening. Confessional: I wished I had eyes in the back of my head, but instead I had shifty eyes, not wanting to suffer a surprise attack. I settled in and turned out the light which activated my imagination.
One minute can be very long when you’re sure something is creeping next to you that you can’t see. I flipped the light back on…in a flash I heard, then saw him (blurry without my glasses) skittering across the room on a ledge along the wall about eye level when I’m standing.
Not sure what shot up quicker, me or my heart rate, but with a muffled scream I jumped out of bed. Take a moment to enjoy the mental picture.
I live downstairs now 🙂