Sorry, Kermit

We now live in the Boeung Keng Kang 3 (BKK3) commune (i.e. neighborhood) of Phnom Penh. Tonight, since it wasn’t raining (hello, monsoon season!), we wandered around our new hood to check out the local restaurants (i.e. where Cambodians eat, not expats/tourists). We walked 2 blocks and spotted a place that was packed and knew it was our place de jour. No clue what the name was as their sign was not in English (on the corner of Streets 113 and 350).

We walked in, and there were no free tables. Two Cambodian men, who were just sitting down, politely invited us to share their table, so we took them up on their offer!

We learned that you needed to go to the grill on the street and order your food. I boldly went and discovered I had three choices: duck, chicken feet and frog. Ummmm… duck?!

Went back to the table and the men instructed us to squeeze fresh lime into the small bowls of local salt and pepper to make a paste. We dunked each piece of duck into it before eating. The small duck was cut into tiny pieces and we pulled at the tough skin to uncover the tiny bits of meat underneath. Truth be told, there was a lot of tugging on the skin and not much meat. We looked around, and everyone was in the same boat, so we went with it.

The two Cambodian men spoke a little English, so we conversed a bit throughout the meal. I shared I had never eaten frog and was scared, so of course they ordered some and encouraged me to try it. I was scared at first, but his thigh looked so big and juicy, I needed to try. And I did! And it tasted like chicken! And I liked it! A lot!! There was an awesome spice rub on it and I ate his leg (Andreas had the other) and some of his body. Yum! Definitely over my fear of frogs and will order it again!

unnamed

Wish I had more pictures to capture this evening, but decided to go low-tech with no phone or purse. Thanks, Andreas, for capturing my trepidation!

One thing that made me curious… I noticed there were ~40 people in the restaurant. All men. No women. Except me. Why? All single men after work? Wives at home with the kids? Maybe it’s not odd, but I observed it and curious to learn more (if you know, please let me know!).

Proud of us for getting out of our comfort zone and eating at a new place where we were the only foreigners, the owners spoke little English, I tried frog for the first time and we sat with new friends. Yay us!

What shall I eat next?!?!

Advertisements

Oh Wow Orussey

When you move into a new townhouse, you quickly need the essentials. If I moved into a new place in LA, I would just bring everything from my last place in a moving truck. With limited space (and weight!) in the two suitcases and one carryon I brought on this adventure, I put all my house essentials in storage before I left LA, so we’re starting from scratch. In California, no brainer – I’d head to Target, BB+B or a department store. In Cambodia? Ummmm… where do I go?! They do have a department store, but we didn’t want to invest a ton for household items at the moment, and I moved abroad to experience a new culture, so I didn’t want to default to the more Western option (at first).

OresseyMarket

Enter: Orussey Market. We were introduced to this by another expat who we met on an expat Facebook group (another post on that soon!). This is the biggest (indoor) market and commercial center for Cambodians in Phnom Penh. You can find any and everything here. What an experience! Narrow aisles are packed to the brim with little shops over flowing with pots and pans, plates, dried fish, sausages, house essentials, clothes, trinkets and everything one could ever need. And today we only covered one of three floors!

IMG_6872

We learned it’s all about haggling here. Stay calm; don’t be in a rush; pick multiple things from the same shop and ask for the price on all of them instead of individual items; and if you don’t get the price you want, move on as there is someone else around the corner selling the same things for less. Some shop keepers see a white face and instantly mark things up, so foreign buyers beware. It’s all part of the game. This was very foreign to me (no pun intended) for household basics, so Andreas took the lead (he was a pro!) and I took notes. It was fun to watch and I’m excited to go alone next time and try it myself.

I’m working on learning some basics in Khmer (Cambodia’s language), which will hopefully help me get better prices/haggle. Think I’ll get farther asking, “How much?” in Khmer vs. English.

Would I go here every week? Probably not. It was overwhelming and you have to be in the mood for this type of environment. But for essentials when living abroad, when I’m not going to bring any of these things back to the US, this place will do. We scored some nice, reasonably priced things that get the job done. And look nice!

IMG_6871

We have motorbikes here (weeee!!!!), not cars. So how do we schlep all this home?! No trunk to throw it all in. Yet another adventure! Hung a few bags on a hook right where my feet go, hopped on, slid my feet under the bags and away we went. This was a tiny load compared to what I’ve seen some Cambodians carry on their bikes. Baby steps 😉

IMG_6877.jpg

Onto the next adventure!

 

I Fought The Law

Not even 24 hours in Phnom Penh, and I experienced my first run in with the police! I accidentally went down a one way (small) street. Didn’t see the sign. And there was a Cambodian about 10 yards in front of me going the same way, so I thought it was ok. Low and behold there was a gaggle of police hanging out at the corner and one immediately walked into the street, stopped me and pulled me over. He told me of my infraction and I was surprised. There was someone else driving the same way and didn’t get pulled over! And honestly, I didn’t see the sign. They mumbled some things, which I couldn’t decipher, but gathered I needed to pay the $7 or I would have to go to the police station.

I knew this was bound to happen in Cambodia because I’m a foreigner. Thankfully I read a few blogs on what to do in this situation, so I was prepared (even though I was shaking inside!!). I learned that you should put your money into two compartments, and have only a few dollars in one, so if pulled over, and asked to pay, you can show them that you only have a few dollars. In my wallet I have these two compartments: small bills just in case I get pulled over and the rest. I’ve been keeping 10,000 riel (~$2.50) in my “just in case” compartment, but just bought petrol, so only had 7,500 (~$1.90). I showed him all pockets in my purse and said it was all I had as I just went out to get petrol. Little white lie, I know. But it’s the game!

He grumbled a few times but finally took the money and sent me home. Pfew. I made it through!!

While I’ve learned there is some corruption with the police in Cambodia, they do not make a lot of money and are not publicly funded by taxes, so this situation is typical and I chalked it up to helping their families eat.

And now I’m more prepared for the next time this happens 🙂

Going To The Chapel…

While devouring every word on MovingToCambodia.com (and their book!), I learned what an enormous two-to-three day event Cambodian weddings were. I *had* to get invited and experience this cultural event! Two days in… I got that coveted invite! Well, truth be told, it’s not *that* coveted… the more the merrier is the theme with Cambodian weddings and foreigners get invited even if they have not met the bride or groom! Details 😉 I still felt special.

We were invited to my Cambodian friend’s brother-in-law’s wedding. This friend was my Angkor Wat tour guide in 2014, we kept in touch, I donated money to help him build a school to teach English to and volunteer taught English at this school in January. He feels like family now! Got the invite to the ceremony too late, so attended the wedding reception the next day.

I wanted to be respectful of the Cambodian culture, so read up on what to wear, how to act, etc.

All articles said it was a semi-formal to formal event. I brought one fancy dress, but it was sleeveless, and I didn’t want to be disrespectful by showing my shoulders, so opted for a wrap dress, which graced my knees, and I was insecure about that (another sign of respect – cover the knees!), but it was all I had so went with it.

We traveled 20km out of Siem Reap into the country and arrived at an elaborate tent filled with 200+ family and friends. We were warmly greeted by the ornately dressed bride, groom and wedding party. They immediately wanted to take photos with us, thanked us for coming and showed us to a table.

IMG_6614

Everyone smiled and stared at us. Not in a “what are white people doing here?” way, but in a “I felt like a celebrity” way. My friend introduced us to half the guests, people came up to our table and engaged in conversation and we were demanded on the dance floor! Everyone displayed so much warmth and kindness. I felt loved even though I didn’t know anyone!

IMG_6603

Had a blast dancing and showing guests moves, and learning moves from them. Everyone danced in the same direction around a table.

With each new drink (mostly beer), and when meeting new people, we would cheers our glasses (and say, “luek-tuk-chet!”)… and sometimes before each sip! And drink beer with ice. Always.

IMG_6604

It surpassed my expectations, I was once again reminded how warm and genuine Cambodians are, and I am excited for my next invite!!

 

A New Adventure Awaits!

LeavingLAX

I moved to Cambodia. Wow. Feels incredible to say! And scary as hell!

I’ve been wanting to live abroad for years, but was too scared to do it (and sad to leave family and friends!), so pushed the desire aside. And with each of my three trips to Southeast Asia, my crush on the region grew and on my last trip in December 2016/January 2017, a voice inside of me said, “Marisa, you gotta do it.” I had to listen.

Let’s back up… how did I get here? For multiple reasons, 2016 was my most challenging year yet. In November, I quit my job without a new one. I wanted to get away and contemplate my future. Pictures of Bali danced in my mind (never been before) and the decision was made: Bali for December 2016.

I had always followed the rules and went from school to school to job to job to job. I’d never done anything like this before. Friends joked that it was my “Eat, Pray, Love” trip. I was heavily focused on the eating and praying portion and jetted off with a sense of curiosity and adventure.

I had an incredible, liberating month in Bali. I continued to listen to the voice inside of me and next went to:

  • Siem Reap, Cambodia, to volunteer teach English for a week as I wanted to start 2017 by doing something good for the world (and had been wanting to do this since my first trip to Cambodia in 2014).
  • Koh Samui, Thailand, to work out at a fitness camp for two weeks as I wanted to do something good for me.

While I was focused on eating and praying in Bali, I unexpectedly fell in love. Guess my friends foresaw the future 😉  I went back to Bali to spend more time with him before we came back to Los Angeles together.

Being back in LA was a challenge. I love LA. I adore LA. But my heart was not there.  That yearning to experience life outside the US was burning hot and I heard the voice again, “GO!!”

With my last few adventurous vacations, I’ve felt alive discovering new lands and communities; have seen life from a different perspective; have reprioritized what is important to me.

I wanted to slow life down and do something more meaningful with my time. So, with all these new feelings, yearnings and love by my side, we decided to move to Cambodia. Why Cambodia? To me, this country and its people are special. So warm, welcoming and appreciative. I still remember riding my motorbike to volunteer teach English one morning in January 2017… I had a huge smile on my face and that inner voice said, “You are supposed to be here.”

I’m aiming to work for a non-profit, teach English or something that’s heavily involved in the community… a complete departure from my 14+ year career in digital marketing, communications and public relations!!

As of now, despite neither of us ever being there, we plan to settle in or around the Sihanoukville area, a coastal city in Southern Cambodia.

Excited for this adventure and hope you will follow along!