02 February 2011

[K'chea 4] : City / country

French influence in Siem Reap shows a classier coffee stop than Starbucks - thankfully.
Despite today being the first day of the Spring semester, I still am constantly asked about Cambodia, and memories of it keep coming to mind.  One definitive characteristic about my trip that I like to emphasize to people was the fact that we were in the countryside and not in the city, which made an incredible difference in the richness of my experience.

I typically enjoy cities.  I grew up in the suburbs of Philly, went to college in the big NYC, and now attend grad school in the snow-laden urban spaces of Boston.  I could see myself living in cities in the long term, and otherwise couldn't really imagine an existence apart from them.  Down the line, I might even want to study cities.


But this IAP, I reveled in the rural.  Angkor Chum was certainly not the most rustic of areas and still had a landmark cell phone tower planted in the middle of a cow pasture.  However, it was certainly more so than most areas, and despite my inability to fully get the dust and cement out of my hair with the pour "showers" (basically dumping cold water on my head), some of the things I enjoyed most were:
  • the rides in the back of Sokum's pick up truck
  • limited to no internet access (which warranted me to have a "limited access" automated email response, liberating me from actually having to write people back for almost 3 weeks :D )
  • brilliant sunsets framed by brush and palm / coconut trees
  • not caring whether I was dirty or not
  • realizing the amazingness of human networks: who needs Google when you can ask your construction manager, who asks his neighbor, who asks his neighbor where to find rice husk ash.  And then instead of calling ahead, we show up at some family's backyard noodle operation and they stare a bit but are kind enough to entertain strangers.
Although we didn't get as entrenched in the community as could be, we still had the great chance to observe true life and work within the village, outside of the tourist lens.  (But yes...I did take plenty of pictures nonetheless.)

Once back in Siem Reap, though, I couldn't help but indulge in some hand-foot luxury - in bright pink!