Monthly Archives: May 2012

Punctuality vs Procrastination

Found out today that the date of our event has been moved pushed ahead a week. We now have an extra week to get things done, but at the same time so much will have to be rearranged.

The date was changed by MTV Exit to accommodate the upcoming commune elections. Well, that’s just great, MTV Exit, but why didn’t you tell us this until we asked? It may be because we are just very low-status yet, or it might be because randomly changing things, making decisions at the last minute is just normal in Cambodia.

I try to imagine certain members of my family or certain friends living here, or even visiting… I think it would bring on unbearable anxiety. “What do you mean, the bus is going to be an hour late?” “I’ve been waiting half an hour, you guys said you would be here at noon.” “What, you’re changing the day of our project on us which we’ve been planning for months and months, just a week before the event? Oh, okay.”

I think if I were a more normal American (i.e. not so lazy, more punctual, etc.), I would be having a freak-out right now. It does irritate me that we will have to disappoint some people who really wanted to attend, and now won’t be able to. But I feel surprisingly able to cope with this sudden change. One can be much happier here if one is flexible.

Procrastination is sort of an acceptable lifestyle in Cambodia, but it’s even annoying for me, at times. I was like the master of procrastination in high school and most of college. But in Cambodia, I do things on time (or even early) without making an effort. An American day late is often a Cambodian day early.

If you show up half an hour early to something here, like a big important meeting, you’re liable to wait an hour for the meeting to get started. I’m so used to lateness now that when I’m teaching, I literally don’t notice my students walking in twenty minutes late as I’m in the middle of a lesson. It gives me pause to consider what a return to American life will be like. People are probably going to find me annoyingly laid back about time.

Not being so concerned about time, though, has its perks. Like a serious reduction in stress. I can recall panicking when I’d leave for work with plenty of time, encounter an unexpected traffic jam or get stuck by a train, and be just barely on time for the shift change. In the Kingdom, though, if something unexpected happens, people just say, “Whatever. Things happen.” I was even at a wedding once where the groom showed up an hour late; it was definitely face-losing, but no one said a word! Teachers at my school regularly go to class five minutes late, and they’re not fired yet. I don’t think anyone even notices. Once in a while a student will give me an excuse for why they were late or absent, but generally no one seems to think it necessary to bother with an excuse.

And as for being early… No one gives kudos to the person who shows up ten minutes early to something. They might even complain that you got there “too early”. Yeah, definitely a lot of Americans I know would need a serious paradigm shift in their perception of time before they could cope with CST (Cambodian Standard Time).

Anyway, guess I better get going. I was going to do some chores before I have to run an errand at 3, but that’s 4 CST (or 4:30? Who knows), so maybe I’ll just take a nap, or do some laundry, or read a book… I’ve got all the time in the world.

This was appropriate when I was a PCV, but be it a gov’t non profit, an NGO, it’s always the same with the “wellness program”… ^_^

 

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Filed under changes, one of those days, take back the night, the States vs the Kingdom, time

Can’t you read?

The Indian embassy is interesting.

Never been before.

No one warned me about the crazy visa man.

I went to pick up the passport/visa of a friend of mine who will be visiting India soon. The two Khmer security guards were friendly, showed me in– or showed me the door, rather. They pointed straight. “Go that way,” they said, but they didn’t come in. Actually they slammed the door on me. Huh, that was strange, I thought as I meandered down an exterior corridor of a large, fancy house. Strange-looking embassy, if you ask me.

I was beginning to think I got it wrong when I noticed an open window and a counter under it. It said “visa services”, or something to that effect. I approached and saw a man on the other side, sitting facing away from me, staring intently at a computer.

“Excuse me,” I said. The pale, spectacled man turned and glared at me.

“What?”

I experienced a moment of doubt. Why was I here?  “Uh, I need to pick up a passport.”

The man’s frowned deepened. “No, that’s not right.” It wasn’t? Was this a Jedi mind trick?

“Well, I’m picking it up for a friend, actually.” I started fishing for the receipt. He moved to a desk drawer and started pawing through a stack of passports. He seemed to hesitate on one, but the put them away and looked at me sharply. I gave him the receipt. After glancing at it but a moment, he said,

“Can’t you read?” He told me in the Queen’s English (or that’s what they say) with a pronounced Indian accent. “It says the 23rd.”

“It does?” I was amazed. I hadn’t realized the cryptic scribbles were actually writing,  let alone in a language I could recognize.  I looked it over. “No, actually, I can’t read that.”

“Come back then.” He started to go back to his desk.

“So, it isn’t ready yet…?” I ventured.

“Of course it isn’t ready yet!” The pale man spat, “How can it be ready? It isn’t the twenty-third!” He eyeballed me like I was wearing a big fat dunce cap.

“Uh, hm. Okay. I’ll… be back then. Goodbye.”

“Yes.” He dismissed me.

I was completely steamed when I signed out with the guards. “That guy is really rude!” I exclaimed in Khmer.  They seemed to give me a look that said newb. I thanked them and left. I was still pissed until I called a friend, but as I told her what had happened, the crazy visa man sounded to start funnier and funnier.

Still,  I wish I didn’t have to go back in two days…

 

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Filed under crazy people, embassies, one of those days, phnom penh

The Avengers in Cambodia

This is going to sound like old news to most of you, since The Avengers opened a month ago, but this was opening weekend here in the Kingdom! This is about the third movie I’ve seen here on the big screen– and this time in 3D, no less!

The movie, itself, was pretty awesome– written and directed by Joss Whedon, so naturally funny. But an epic comic book movie experience is only fulfilling if it has the right crowd dynamics. And I have to say, the Phnom Penhers didn’t disappoint. It was a diverse crowd, mostly Khmer but lots of foreigners, too: Americans, Brits, Africans, Indians, Koreans… But evidently with a shared love of Marvel heroes. The banter and approving applause at various points was reminiscent of movie-going with my comic bookie friends back home. The Khmer women sitting next to me very much liked Captain America.

So what else did the Avengers do this week in Cambodia? They saw the sights, of course.

The Avengers at Angkor Wat.

 

The Avengers at the King’s Palace.

 

Black Widow at the beach in Kep.

 

(Do I have other things I should be doing besides photoshopping copyrighted pictures? But of course!)

I have no complaints about the film (well, one could always launch into an academic or feminist discourse about it, I suppose), except for one…

*Plot Spoiler!*

 

They killed Phil, wtf!

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Filed under comic books, movies, phnom penh, photoshop happiness

Neglect! And news.

Dear Blog,

I have been terribly neglectful of you. I will try my best to take more responsibility for you in the future, including providing you with regular updates. So sorry!

Love,
Liz

There is a reason for my lack of blogginess lately, though, apart from midterms at my school. My crazy colleague (and friend!) Eileen and I have been keeping quite busy with our second Take Back the Night project, which is coming up fast at the beginning of June.

Take Back the Night, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, is an event to promote awareness of gender-based violence held around the world. Generally there is a series of events of the course of one day which provide a safe place for survivors to speak about their experiences, educate the community about gendered violence, and create discussion about how to end it, culminating in a night-time march and candlelight vigil. My school, Michigan State, usually hosts this event in April (which is sexual assault awareness month). MSU’s TBTN always has a “clothespin line”, where clotheslines are strung across a large area near Beaumont Tower. Upon these lines are hung t-shirts which have been recreated as artwork by survivors, friends and family of survivors, and allies within the community; they draw, write, and decorate the shirts to share their experience of violence, how it has affected them or someone they know, and how to end it. I have always found it to be a very cathartic experience, and also a powerful message to the community, showing that violence is not an isolated occurrence, that it can happen to anyone, and that we all have a stake in stopping it. Last year in Eileen’s village, we recreated the clothesline project. Although it was small, with only 100+ participants, it had an impact on the people in the surrounding villages and we received a lot of positive feedback. This year’s event in Koh Kong will be much bigger, as we have partnered with MTV Exit (an anti-human trafficking campaign in Southeast Asia) who are hosting a rock concert in the evening, following TBTN. We are expecting over 1,000 people!

Between trying to find funding, arrange a venue, locate partners and sponsors, organize volunteers, collect art supplies, etc. etc…not much time to blog or do much else. This event has prompted me to finally dish out the $4 for Photoshop, though, so I’ve been designing logos and flyers and such lately. In fact, why don’t you guys vote for the one you prefer! (It’s okay to say ‘neither’ if you think they’re both blah, by the way.)

Fundraising has probably been the most time-consuming aspect. Between two tabling events (5 days during the past 6 months), we managed to raise over $300– thank you to all the PCVs who helped table, contributed money, and just stopped by to chat! Also thank you to all the Long Islanders from Eileen’s hometown who contributed over $500, from her community and her mom’s church! Because of the generosity of these donations, we will be able to provide accommodations for our 7 Khmer volunteers who would otherwise not be able to afford to travel with us. We have also been able to purchase many art supplies which will make the TBTN t-shirt art event even more successful!

I am nervous and excited for Koh Kong, but the day-long event there won’t technically be the end of our Take Back the Night endeavors. Metahouse, a German-run art gallery/cafe/cinema in Phnom Penh, has agreed to include our t-shirt art project in an upcoming exhibition themed “Freedom”. We will select a portion of the most creative, expressive shirts that suit the themes of anti-violence and freedom from the Koh Kong event, and use them for a participant-engaging exhibit. This Metahouse exhibit is set to run from mid-July to mid-August. I must say… I’M TOTALLY STOKED! I was joking that it’ll be my first art exhibit ever…Only it’s not my art. ;P

Anyway, there will definitely be updates and photos from these events, I promise I will try not to post them 3 months late.

Til’ next time, to quote Red-Green, keep your stick on the ice. ^_^

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Filed under art, gender-based violence, koh kong, phnom penh, take back the night