Today was an exotic adventure into sights, smells and lots of taste. As I lay in our room, my body sore from trekking from one end to the city to the other, I am reflecting on the myriad of new experiences. We started with an early breakfast of soup, omlettes and iced vietnamese coffee (which makes Starbucks look weak). With full gullets, we mosied out and over the the Central Market. There are many markets in Phnom Penh, two of which we have ventured to already. Now, when I say market, you may think of a farmer's market, or even something like the North Market in Columbus. Let me enlighten you. The markets here are enormous. So dense internally, that you can not see the light of day. Granted there are roofs (or what is considered roofs), but the amount of goods that are stacked up and spread out in one square foot blows your mind. Every direction I turned, every which way my eyes moved, I was inundated with glittery scarves, shiny jewelry, housewares, bags, shoes, silverware, clothes upon clothes upon clothes. And EVERY stand you pass (some are only a foot away from the others), the worker is talking to you. You stop to look at one thing and they are trying to bargain with you. Cambodian people are hard, hard workers. Eitherway, we wanted to get some specific things, so we dove in. I enter a kind of dream like state when I am in these places. I can get so overwhelmed, but I put my game face on. We did good there. Talked with many people and it is during these times, the impromtu conversations at the market or at a restaurant when I can connect with the people of this place. I practice my Khemer and they practice their English and somehow we meet in the middle. As difficult as it can be to cross the language barrier, I've come to really enjoy the work of it. There's a magical feeling when simple communication takes over. There's no need for extra words. Basic becomes beautiful.
After a bit of the Central Market, we hopped in a Tuk Tuk (think carriage attatched to a moped), our daily mode of transportation besides walking, to lunch. A wonderful exquisite place of tapas and fair trade goodies. "Friends" is an organization that trains teens on the streets to work in the food industry here. It's a really amazing place.
We then ventured to the Russian Market. I feel as though there should be a huge "ta da" shouting as I say that. Yes, the Russian Market is even larger than the Central Market with a vast array of food oddities and delicacies culminating in the center. It's rough on it's edges, with raw meat hanging for sale along side of colorful and exotic fruits. On the outer parts of the market, stands many shops that serve....smoothies. Yes, Cambodia is filled with a love of smoothies. Fresh fruit smoothies, milkshakes and coffee drinks. We have a smoothie at least once a day. Today I had a mango with lime. Flippin' amazing!
Lastly, as we came back "home" to the hotel to refresh before dinner, I realized how tired I was. All I wanted to do was lay down. But, it was time to go to dinner. And am I ever glad I didn't stay in. We went down to the River, as it is called here. The part of the city that runs along the Mekong river. This riverfront is filled with even more life. Shops and restaurants and people! People everywhere. Seriously. I took a video. I hope I can post it soon.
This was the highlight of my day. There were Cambodian people gathering on the walkway by the river engaging in so many activities together. Some were playing Cambodian hacky sack, some where doing aerobics with music and an instructor, some were playing badminton, and all were enjoying life at that moment. It was in that moment that I deeply understand the resilience of the people of this country. After a near genocide, the rebuilding of this place can be seen. There are buildings being built and a moving commerce, and corruptions still runs deep in it's roots. But, I looked at this tonight and acknowledged that these beautiful people will continue to carry on. They were finding joy in community, laughter and smiles amidst the extreme poverty, and somehow, this commune of regular gathering pointed to one fact- their spirits are not easily broken. I wanted to be a part of that. This nationality that has a horrifying yet rich and vibrant past, a culture of deep wounds, but even deeper roots. I have felt so acclimated here, that I surprise myself. This place, in some strange way, feels like a home I never knew I had.
now, if i can just get my kids here with me, I'll feel like the world is at ease........
tomorrow, we are taking the children of Prek Eng 2 to a water park! we may all burst with joy and excitement. going one day without being at the children's home has made me miss them so dearly. I already know....my heart is sold out for them and I can't keep it from breaking when it will come time to leave. i have a feeling we won't be staying away for long.
until tomorrow. i will sleep now.