Alone in our bedroom, Jackie shrieked, and my mind immediately went to spiders. A massive spider, at least the size of a dinner plate, must have just crawled from under the bed and cornered Jackie, fangs gnashing.
Fortunately, my imagination is overactive and my fear of spiders is irrationally large. Jackie was safe. Instead, a small lizard had darted out from behind the curtain in our bedroom when she tried to open it. Good. Lizards eat spiders. I can handle lizards.
We had started the day at our hotel in Siem Reap at 6 am. We woke that early in order to pack, shower, and eat in time to be ready for our 8 o’clock bus….which apparently could pick us up as early as 7 am. All for it, we were ready on the dot of seven for a bus that didn’t pick us up until 8:30 am. And so we had our first TIG moment…This Is GROW*. TIG is our way of saying to each other hey, it’s ok, let’s just roll with it. We are visitors here, and we don’t have a good handle on the way things work so let’s try to be flexible.
The bus swerves within 2 feet of a family on a motorbike on the road to Kampong Thom?
Just stepped in a questionable looking puddle?
People stare at us everywhere we go?
Spiders? Spiders everywhere? In the corners of the rooms in our house? In the bathroom/shower?
TIG, dude. TIG.
After 3 interesting hours on the Paramount Express, we were picked up at the curb in Kampong Thom by three of the staff from COWS (the Cambodian Organization for Women’s Support). Using a car and two motorbikes, they helped transport our heavy backpacks and bus-weary bodies 5 minutes away to where we’ll be staying. In our stead, COWS rented out the upper floor of the governor’s home for the month. With a gated yard, good water pressure, two separate bedrooms, and beautifully tiled floors, it will be fine place to call home-base. We spent the rest of the day on our first bumbling trip to the market, buying water, and visiting the COWS office. On an evening stroll, we were delighted to run into several students participating in our project, vocational training. Though communication was difficult (they didn’t speak any English), it was uplifting to meeting the living, breathing people benefiting from our partnership. Almost equally as wonderful, we ran across a lovely food cart only steps from our house that is sure to become a dinner favorite.
In the days to come, I want to devote separate posts to topics such as the traffic, markets, food carts, our home here, and mud. For now though, I just want you to know that we made it to Kampong Thom, we are LOVING the chance to spend time with our partner organization (they are beyond wonderful), and we’re doing our best to settle into an environment that is foreign to say the least. It’s more difficult than I was expecting. There’s a certain level of shock that comes from walking into a new country with very different expectations, standards, customs, manners, and routines than what you’re used to. Add in the fact that we can’t understand anyone, and you’ve got five people who are easily overwhelmed. We went to bed at 8 pm last night. ‘Nuff said. But we’re all in it together, and I’m so glad I’ve got these five lovely ladies with me. We’re staying positive, we’re feeling our way through unsure situations, and we’re sticking together. We’re also leaning on our partner contacts, Yunthy and Signan, who are patient with us beyond our most generous expectations.
Day 2 Kampong Thom. That’s how I’m feeling.
Also, to read the blogs we are writing as a team, please visit this link. I might be a little biased, but so far I think they’re lovely and informative.
(*Grassroots Onsite Work….the acronym for the GlobeMed internship students participate in with their chapter’s respective partner organization)