Monthly Archives: December 2010

Christmas by the Sea

They’re playing the Kmai version of “Poker Face” right now. I kinda like it better than the original.

Thank you thank you thank you for all the holiday wishes, cards, and presents! You are all the best! Aunt Shirley, I stuck those Christmas window clings on the family mirror and my little sister thinks they are the coolest thing ever (although at first I think she thought she could eat them– they do sort of resemble jellies, I guess)! And the album of Christmas music was especially awesome. I listened to Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” a couple of times just to feel sorry for myself. 😉 Mom, I gave the MSU shirts to both my families as Christmas presents and they are totally reppin’ State now. Now I just have to teach them the Fight Song. Also, if any of you sent me something and I haven’t thanked you yet, it’s possible it hasn’t gotten here yet. (For example, one of my friend’s boxes showed up barely on time, apparently sent one month ago, with “REROUTED TO LAOS” written on it. We all looked at it and said, “Yes yes, an easy mistake to make, anyone would think so.”)

So anyway, about Christmas. It was like Christmas in July here, it was really bizarre. I kept thinking, Why are they playing Christmas music? At first it drove me a little crazy, all the lights and trees and decorations, it was a little theme-parkish (and they started before Thanksgiving– hey, just like back home!), but after a while I came to appreciate it. Surprisingly it didn’t make me homesick. I only had two minor Christmas meltdowns. One was when I ate one of the Christmas cookies that my friend Taylor’s gramma sent to her. We were eating them and feeling really happy and Taylor joked, “I think I’m gonna cry!” “Me too!” I said. Then, “No really, I think I’m gonna cry!” Then we both cried and her host brother stared at us, and looked at the cookie she had given him, and was very confused. It was awesome. (Also, her little sister didn’t like the cookie we gave her, and threw it on the ground, and I ate it.) My second Christmas “moment” was when one of my Kmai friends asked me what my family would do on Christmas Eve, and I got all choked up trying to tell him about it. So much for cultural exchange. Anyhow.

The beach! The beach was awesome. Christmas on the beach was a very novel concept to me. My friends and I laid around on the sand and ate grilled octopus and drank sugar cane juice (the most delicious to date) and did basically nothing. It was awesome. That’s not true, I took a few long walks, and I even studied a little Kmai. I can read and write a little now. I know all the consonants and most of the vowels, but their vowel system is enough to put one in the hospital. I mean the mental hospital. My tutor keeps telling me, “A little at a time, one day, one day, soon you know all!” I think it’s a big secret in Cambodia that if you try to learn them all at once you’ll lose your mind. That’s why it takes kids like three years to learn how to read.

As for your holiday, everybody, I hope it was a good one. Please make snowpeople for me. Naturally they will need snowcastles to live in. And if you go to all that trouble you may as well have a snowship for them to get around in. And if you really accomplish all this, I want photo evidence! Hey, I miss snow, I’ve developed some kind of complex about it!


p.s. so so sorry for my horrendous English. I read through a couple old posts and was like what?! I really can’t speak my native tongue anymore.

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I dedicate this post to Angie Rippy, my partner in crime (aka co-barista) at the Beaner’s on Ottawa Street, downtown Lansing.

Many of my fellow PCVs, upon first arriving in our training villages, were more than a little alarmed about what was going to happen in the wake of severe withdrawal. Withdrawal, that is, from caffeine. As it happens, one cannot simply walk down the block to the inevitable Starbucks or, more ideally, liberal-politics-talking-Ray-Ban-wearing-snob-filled indie coffee shop around the corner. (Some of you may be happy to know that there’s not a single Starbizzle in the whole of Kampuchea.)

Not to worry, though! Guess what? I drink coffee almost every day! And it’s crazy-delicious (even more so than Mr. Pibb and Red Vines)!

The secret to Kmai coffee is this: sweetened condensed milk. You can get a tall glass (or a grande, 16 oz or medium, as they say, depending on where you feed your addiction) of sweetened iced coffee for just fifty cents! Very good for the bank account, very bad for addicts with heart conditions. And iced coffee is truly a blessing on an unreasonably hot day in Cambodia. You can even order your coffee with modifiers, for those of you who feel your coffee-getting experience is not complete unless you have loudly made it known how special your order is: with or without sugar; with or without milk; with or without sweetened-condensed milk (yes, they tend to add sugar even when using the sweetened-condensed milk); iced or hot; bag or glass. Well, actually you can’t get the hot coffee in a bag, that would probably just result in third-degree burns and a lot of lost face.

Iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk is good unto itself. My favourite thing to have with hot coffee, though, is a kind of nohm (or “cake”) which I won’t attempt to Romanize here, but if you visit me I WILL BUY IT FOR YOU. It is delicious. It is long and vaguely rectangular and tastes reminiscent of a plain doughnut, and two of them are stuck together so it kind of reminds me of a double helix. Pulled apart and dipped in hot coffee, this is reason enough to visit Cambodia.

The other remarkable thing about Kmai coffee is how well it travels. As a recovering barista (I’ll always be one at heart, you can’t stop me), I’m used to going places with a latte-filled paper cup in my hand. Portable coffee in Kampuchea, however, comes in small plastic bags, suitable for about 20 ounces, and perfect for hanging on your bike handle. Just don’t forget a straw. One looks like something of a tool drinking out of the side of a plastic bag (though it can be done). ^_^


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