Epiphany Had

I don’t typically open up on the interwebs, but I’m going to be bold and share. I’ve been having an internal battle since arriving in Cambodia. One reason I chose to move here was to help Cambodia and its people evolve. In my two trips prior to moving here, I’d been captivated by their culture… they’d been through the Khmer Rouge reign (1975-9) when 2 million Cambodians were killed – most of the educated and almost 1/4 the country’s population. The country is still recuperating/rebuilding from this travesty, yet are so warm, giving, genuine and friendly. I felt a calling to give back and help their future.

Fortunately in January 2017, I was able to give back by volunteer teaching English to a wonderful school in Siem Reap. Now, living here, I would love to continue to volunteer teach in a rural village, but I need a source of income.

I knew salaries were waaaaaay less than in the US, and I’d accepted that. But I found some NGO jobs of interest paid minuscule amounts (much lower than I anticipated), only hired Khmers or I applied and didn’t hear back. I thought about teaching English, but learned that at the International schools here, the kids already spoke English, so I lost interest. And the rural village schools were far away and did not offer much salary.

Starting to feel nervous about employment options, I decided to see if there were jobs in my profession, digital marketing. There were! I applied to a marketing agency and after two interviews, was offered a position. As I contemplated the offer, I continued to struggle… was I just taking it because it was what I knew and I was eager to make money? Would I not be staying true to why I moved here?

Then it hit me! The way I can contribute to Cambodia, its people and its future, is by working in the digital marketing field, introducing new skills, opening up new revenue streams for their businesses and helping evolve a discipline that’s in its infancy and eager for people with my experience to help it grow.

In discussions with additional marketing agencies and other business professionals, I learned that my digital marketing skills are highly sought after here. With approximately 50% of the 15MM population under 25, and with the rise in social media usage in this mobile-first economy, there is a new opportunity to connect with Cambodians. And businesses need help navigating this!

I wasn’t taking the easy way out. I was just helping in a different way than I originally imagined. It seems so obvious to me now, but for the past few weeks, I’ve been blind to this thought.

I am excited now. Excited because I know I can make an impact and excited to revisit my passion for digital marketing, which I lost over the last year. I can share this passion with an eager and young audience, develop digital marketing professionals and help the foundation for this new marketing practice in Cambodia.

No pressure, right?! πŸ˜‰

Lunch Break Bites: Riverside Rendezvous

My office is in the Riverside neighborhood, which is teeming with local restaurants and street stalls. Yes!! Today I walked down the street and stopped at a corner spot packed with Khmers.

The set-up of today’s restaurant is very popular among the Khmer restos. There is a large table of pots filled with Khmer goodness that was cooked by the owners in the morning. They only serve what’s in the pots, and when it’s done, business is done.

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I peered into each pot and selected a fish and vegetable soup and a stir-fried veggie dish with what I think was pork. Or some part of a cow. Or maybe something else. HA HA! All dishes are served with a plate of rice.

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It was tasty, fresh and filled me up!

Cost: $1.65.

Lunch Break Bites: Central Market Noodles

One thing I admire about Cambodians during the work day, is that they actually take lunch breaks! In the U.S., I felt chained to my desk, had a meeting or had too much work to step out. New city. New approach. I’m going to attempt to get out for lunch while working in Phnom Penh! At least a few days a week πŸ˜‰

My goal: Walk/drive around Riverside (where my office is) and adjacent areas and pick spots with the most Cambodians and least amount of foreigners. I will chronicle my eating adventures here!

June 23

I had to go to Central Market to get a poncho, as I was stranded at the office last night as it was pouring rain and I had nothing to keep me dry. #CamboProblems

Central Market is a monstrous building with stall after stall of clothing, small electronics and home goods. They also have food stalls! Despite it being hot and humid here, I was craving noodles, so walked around until I saw some I liked, and plopped down at the counter.

I was asked to pick my noodles (fat white rice noodles) and meat (pork). A delicious bowl packed with these and bean sprouts, green onions, water spinach and onions was delivered pipping hot. Deep flavors that immediately comforted me. Tasted a bit like pho and cost $1.50!

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Farmers Market: Cambo Style

I want to stay true to one of the reasons I moved abroad: to experience life like a local, not finding the Western way of doing things.

Enter our next adventure: buying groceries.

The supermarkets in Phnom Penh are much smaller than those in the US. There are more products available that I anticipated, but most condiments and dairy are imported (from the US!) and are way more expensive than in the US. Some produce and dry goods are imported too, and are sometimes in the same boat. Some essentials we need (i.e. olive oil, simple spices), but I’m challenging myself Β to change what and how I eat to complement what’s grown in Cambodia to fully experience living here. And save costs. $13 strawberries? I’ll pass.

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Today we headed to Russian Market, a smorgasbord of produce, meats, fresh fish, pickled veggies, clothes, home goods and everything else. Felt like a mini Orussey Market, but much easier to navigate and closer to home. It’s like the Brentwood Farmers’ Market every day and night here. Although Russian Market, and other smaller markets around town, are not called “farmers’ markets,” just “markets,” and they’re cheaper and little more smelly πŸ˜‰

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We’ve learned that a lot of restaurants buy food each morning from these markets and sometimes even drive over and purchase ingredients after an order has been placed, so it’s super fresh, and they don’t have waste.

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We’ve also learned that supermarkets buy produce here and mark it up to sell in their stores. Since learning this, we no longer buy produce at the supermarket.

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It’s a mixture of sights, sounds and smells walking through the wet aisles. So many new types of lettuce, herbs and vegetables that I’d never seen. Promised myself I would purchase something I didn’t recognize each time and experiment.

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I definitely need to learn to eye my cuts of chicken, pork, beef, etc. since nothing is labeled like the markets I’m used to. Some cuts are recognizable, but some are not.

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Today’s haul:

  • 1 dozen eggs ($1.37)
  • 3 roma tomatoes, 3 large carrots, 2 garlic, 4 shallot, 10 baby cucumbers ($2.25)
  • 1 large leek, baby chives, 1 large mushroom, bundle of enoki mushrooms ($1.75)
  • 1 bunch bananas (14), 1 dragonfruit, 4 rambutan ($2.38)

I’d like to find stands that sells a lot of what I buy, and always buy there so they get to know me and give me deals. Also, I’m keeping track of prices so I can tell if next time I’m getting a better/worse deal and go/don’t go back to that stand. Generally people seem honest. They weigh everything. Produce tastes delicious and fresh. Everything has tasted delicious so far!

ET Phone Home

One thing I do not miss about the US is the exorbitant cell phone plan prices! Or at least mine was.

Enter cell phone usage in Cambodia. With an unlocked US phone, I purchased a Cambodian SIM card ($2). From there, I added a monthly data plan. 2GB, which is all I need (there is Wi-Fi everywhere!), is $3/month. Yes, you read that correctly. $3 PER MONTH!!

CambodiaCellPhoneMinuteScratchersMinutes/text are handled differently. You put money on your phone and when it runs out, it runs out, even if it’s after month’s end. And when you need to refill it, you pick up a scratcher (like a lotto ticket) at a multitude of stores and from your phone dial *197*scratchernumber# and dial, and it automatically adds that moneyΒ on your phone!

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The one thing different here is that it costs more to call people on other networks vs. on your own. Some Cambodians have multiple phones for the different carriers as it’s more cost effective (and a sign of status). I don’t plan to talk on the phone much, but want minutes/texts for quick local calls and emergencies. Will be using Wi-Fi/data for all my communications to the US;)

Within Network:Β $0.05/min,Β $0.07/min 6:00 – 11:59 p.m., $0.025/SMS

Out of Network:Β $0.08/min 12:01 – 11:59 a.m., $0.09/min 12:00 – 11:59 p.m., $0.04/SMS

There are promotions, so I need to figure out what they are and how to take advantage. Just saw one that advertised $1 = $30 on something. Show me the minutes!