Publisert av: ingridmogstad | 25. juli 2011

Coming home

We arrived in Oslo the 11 of July. My flat mate and I made it home without any complications. That is not completely true; my shampoo was confiscated at the airport.

The past five months I have from time to time longed for home. I have missed the food, the nature, my summerhouse and of course all the people here. But coming home, I found myself missing Cambodia even before I landed. In the beginning I was not very hungry, and I didn’t even want to go to the summerhouse when my parents left shortly after my arrival. It’s funny how you can miss something for so long, and when it’s there, the desire is more or less gone.

This is though, not the entire truth. Seeing my friends was wonderful, and that is also the reason why I didn’t go to the summerhouse straight away. I also missed the nature, and the desire (and need) for hiking is still there! I’ve went several times.

Still, I find myself having the same symptoms as I had in Cambodia after about a month there. The experts talk about when “the tourist faze” (the first month) is over, and you realize about how strange you are to the new society.

The Bantey Srei temple (Srei meaning woman) in Siem Reap can give more than a hint about Cambodia’s extraordinary past.

I skipped the tourist phase in Oslo, and I’m definitely not strange to the society. It’s all so perfectly natural. It’s almost like I never went to Cambodia. Everything here is the same, and Cambodia seems almost like a distant dream.  My friend Kimsor who went on an exchange from Cambodia to Norway on the same program was the first to point this out when he returned to Phnom Penh, and I think my experience is similar.

In Cambodia, I could typically have six very nice days, and then one or two missing-home-days. Now, except from the first three days, it’s similar, just turned upside down.  Will I never be entirely content again? Will I always miss one place no matter where I go?

From the right my colleagues Channy, Theavy, myself, Mean Keang and her fiance.

I don’t think so. It’s a question of spending the time, and learning to appreciate Norway and especially Oslo again, not comparing it to Phnom Penh (the comparison is unfair to both cities). I also think this will be easier when everyday at the university begins again, at I mentioned before in this blog, I’m a huge fan of normal working days, they make me feel good.

Norway is great, and I’m glad to be here now that the terrible attacks in Oslo and at Utøya took place. Identity is important, and if you look the word up in a dictionary (at least in Norwegian: “identitet”) you’ll find the meaning to be where you feel like you belong. I feel like I belong in Norway, ergo; Norway is an important part of my identity.

Summarized; Cambodia is great, Norway is great. I now feel I know better how to appreciate where I come from, and at the same time I cannot wait till next time I can go and live abroad.

The world is indeed becoming smaller.

Summerhouse before midnight.

Reklamer
Publisert av: ingridmogstad | 25. juni 2011

Khmer Rouge trial 002

I’m going through a very serious-blog-period these days, maybe reflecting my field of interest the last couple of weeks. The Khmer Rouge tribunal is coming up this Monday in Cambodia, which is quite exiting. «Case 002», as the trial is called, is a trial against four suspected former Khmer Rouge leaders. If you wonder why the case is called 002, is it because 001 was carried out last summer against Kaing Guak Eav, alias Duch (pronounced «doidt» in Khmer for those who are interested). He was sentenced to 30 years of jail after being found guilty of:

• Crimes against humanity (persecution on political grounds) (subsuming the crimes against human extermination [encompassing murder], enslavement, imprisonment, torture [including one instance of rape], and other inhumane acts).

• Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, namely: – willful killing, – torture and inhumane treatment, – willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, – willfully depriving a prisoner of war or civilian of the rights of fair and regular trial, and – unlawful confinement of a civilian

[ http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en/case/topic/1%5D

Pictures of children in the prison Toul Sleng (S21) that Duch run during the KR regime. About 16 000 people are believed to have passed through here, including children (just to make this post even more miserable, I’m sorry.)

The Cambodian government has done what they can to stop case 003 and 004, Hun Sen (Cambodian Prime Minister) stating they could cause civil war. Not many observers seem to see this as a serious threat, but the result is never the less that the two cases probably will be shut down. Case 002, on the other hand, will. The case is carried out against:

Ieng Sary – held the position as minister of foreign affairs during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-1979. He has later had a lot of power in the Cambodian political scene

Khieu Samphan – Held the position as head of state during the regime, and thus functioned as a spokesman for the Khmer Rouge during the regime. Later he became vise minister of foreign affairs.

Ieng Thirith – Was married to Ieng Sary and functioned as the minister of social actions during the regime.

Noun Chea – Was the deputy secretary of the Central Committee and is believed to have been the right hand of Pol Pot.

[ http://www.seasite.niu.edu/khmer/ledgerwood/biographies.htm%5D

And this is how they look like today

They are all charged of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and all four denies having anything to do with the killings.

So Monday will be exiting, I have never followed an international trial before, so I have no idea what to expect. Come to think of it, I have never tried to follow a trial before period. So this is interesting. I think at this point, justice is not what we are looking for. It is too late for any type of justice, and as a victim I talked to the other day put it; «Nothing can ever fill the holes on our hearts. Nothing». Around 2 mill people were killed and so far only five people (including the four this upcoming Monday) have been brought in to court. That’s not fair.

But there are nice things going on here too, like sunsets behind the monument of independence. Sunsets are pretty everywhere, and easy to take pictures of.

Publisert av: ingridmogstad | 11. juni 2011

Genocide – a matter of choice?

Looking into recent Cambodian history one finds a story both terrifying, spine shivering, thus, fascinating. Maybe fascinating is a poor choice of words. But if not interesting, why would we read? The main reason, some would argue, to prevent mistakes and gruesome acts from happening again. Cambodia’s history is indeed fascinating, perhaps mainly because it’s such a meaningless and bizarre phenomenon. Killing not another ethnic group, but one’s own people, is what makes the systematic killings in Cambodia so rare and even more disturbing then a “normal” genocide, in the term’s correct meaning.

The genocide in Cambodia is indeed an extraordinary event, as far as I know. But a brief Google search will show that genocide in its original (and perhaps insufficient) meaning is not rare at all. Rwanda, Yugoslavia, East Timor, Armenia and Germany have all carried out genocides where millions of people have been killed purely for their ethnical heritage.  Browsing history briefly shows that genocide has happened many times, many places, to many people, just in the last century.

In Cambodia’s case, about ¼ of the country’s inhabitants were killed in less than five years. People were driven out of the cities to start from scratch in the countryside. Intellectuals were killed; teachers, historians, mathematicians, engineers and artists. Everybody having anything to do with the former government was killed. Everybody who questioned the Khmer Rouge was killed. Whole families were extinguished. Starvation, torture, sexual abuse and slavery were the rule more than the exception. How could this happen? Whose fault was it? And most important; how can we prevent it from happening again?

There are many factors here, enough for several people to study it for decades. I will therefore only list the stuff I’ve read lately. I know Cambodia was fed up being colonized by France. I know young Cambodian students in Paris, including Ieng Sary, Thionn Mumm, Keng Vannsak and Saloth Sâr (later to go under the name Pol Pot) were looking for a way out, seeing the communists as the only ones being interested to help. It has been questioned again and again why such a thing happened in Cambodia. There are about as many answers as questions, some blaming it on the Americans, some on the French, others the Vietnamese and others again on Cambodian culture in itself.

So when genocide is not just a weird historical niche, what are we? When it has happened many times before and probably will happen again, is there something natural about one people trying to extinguish another? It makes me question myself; would I be able to carry out the same acts under the right circumstances? Am I not a killer just because the God-given circumstances of how, where and when I was raised allowed it?

This autumn I read a book called “How to map arguments in political science” by Parsons (in introduction to political science). It didn’t make much sense, but what the book in essence is trying to do, is to make a typology that divides the reasons for political actions in to four; Structural, cultural, psychological and material.

StructuralSystems that are made in a society, institutions like money or a specific way to do something. CulturalSomething that happens in a certain culture. Women being expected to have long hair, boys being expected to hunt, and so on.
MaterialPhysical circumstances like stone, a house and so on: “I need water, I’ll take that river over there”. PsychologicalSomething that all people would do in the same situation because we are made that way. Like cheating for own benefit if there are no consequences.

This is an oversimplified way to view the world, and that most actions are a mix of two or more of them. That is, however, how soft science works.

My question is however; what if genocide is a natural part of how big groups of people behave? What if it is a psychological weakness (or just a feature) that any society is able to carry out? What if human beings just are like that?  Is the reason to why we keep on repeating history because we forget it from time to time? Or do we carry out cruel acts like genocide as a part of our nature? Can we not help it?

If that is the case I might as well put down my history books, especially if the goal was to prevent it from happening again. If that is the case there is no point in reading uncomfortable, true history.  These thoughts have been thought long ago by thinkers like Immanuel Kant. Without freedom we have no moral. If everything is nature, and we are just robots responding to what our instincts tells us to do, we have no moral and thus no freedom. Prisons and punishment is if this is true, without purpose or effect. It is even unfair, because the violator could not help the action being performed.

I guess one can always save the point and purpose of history by denying that such is the case. One can say that genocide is a result of material or extraordinary cultural conditions, or an unfortunate mix of various historical events. Such as communism being “hip” at the time Cambodia’s angry and suppressed future elite was intellectually formed in Paris in the 1950’s.

I don’t know the answer. But I think that one way we might prevent things like this from happening again is to read, learn and talk about it. We need to come to terms with the past. We need to realize that our history is not always great, and that our forefathers sometimes acted beyond cruelly.

For Norway this means coming to terms with how we treated the Sami people, how many Norwegians accepted and helped the Nazis, and how we treated the Nazi-supporters and their innocent children after world war two.  We’re getting there, slowly, I think.

The Sami people

For Cambodia this means starting to talk about what happened not more than about 30 years ago. It means prosecuting the living violators, and coming to terms with all the gruesome acts being carried out here during the 70’s. This is just partly done, and what is done I will dare to say, has been done poorly. None of my Cambodian friends can say they have actually learned anything about the Khmer Rouge or the genocide from 1975 in school. No doubt the Cambodian society is carrying grief, shame and terrible memories. Many don’t even talk about it with their own parents, and have to uncover their own history by themselves. A new trial is comming up in Cambodia to prosecute the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders, more then 30 years after the killings. Hopefully there will be some justice.

For futher reading about the trial and ECCC, go here.

I’ve been spending the last weeks trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I have plenty of ideas, but the problem is; how do I get there? What should I study this autumn? Should I go on with political science or should I do something else? I who hoped this choice was already taken. So wrong can you be, especially when you go to South East Asia to find yourself (I’m such a cliché). Anyhow, I think this is a good thing. No matter how difficult, pausing to figure out what I really want to do is probably a good idea.

Last weekend Aiesec Cambodia arranged a seminar for us, a midterm evaluation, for all the Aiesec-interns in Cambodia to sit together and discuss their cultural experience. The only problem was that my flat mate and I are the only Aiesec interns in Cambodia, and we already talk quite a lot about our experience as it is. To avoid having an awkward seminar in big conference hall with two participants who already knows each other above average well, Aiesec invited us to Sihanouk Ville. Here we had a relaxed atmosphere and creative tasks, a brilliant alternative. We made a short film and we got to draw our stay here so far on a piece of paper! Here is my drawing:

I feel my skills as an artist is very much justified in this picture, so at least I can eliminate «painting artist» as an alternative trade when I grow up.

There is one more thing I feel I have to share here while I’m at it; we have a bat living in our hallway! Isn’t that bizarre? I named him «Steffen» after I met him while he was hanging from the lamp outside of our door. I looked at him, he looked at me, both curious, but a bit insecure. Suddenly he yawned, blinked a few times with his black eyes before he dropped from the lamp and swayed over my head, down the stairs, in to the night. It was incredible. I have seen him on numerous occasions later, but he’s always quick to leave. The only problem is that he is a messy bat, and always leaves his waste including green leafs and berries in front of the door. But, as Hannah Montana puts it; nobody’s perfect. And I have no clue of how to get rid of bats; my bat experience is fairly limited. Not that I would want to anyways.

Publisert av: ingridmogstad | 20. mai 2011

Losing my Norwegian

The 17 of May (The Norwegian constitution day) has passed, and celebrating it without Norwegians or anybody who actually knows what the 17 of May is (at least not before I forced them to listen while I enthusiastically explained it) was a new experience to me. I must admit I felt more than pathetic when I suddenly found out that every Norwegian I know in Phnom Penh had left for Norway. Even the nice southern hotel owner at “Velkommen inn” said he was going home when I asked if he was planning anything. “No, I’m very sorry about that” he said, trying to comfort me. “I’m sure we have some “kjøttkaker” (traditional Norwegian meat cakes) but nothing special I’m afraid”. In his very considerate attempt at making me feel better I felt even lonelier. My flat mate left too, blaming it on her sister’s confirmation.  Good one.

After finding myself in Phnom Penh without any other Norwegians on the 17 of May, I now see that it is indeed doable. I went to Sihanouk Ville with good friends, which was very nice despite the fact that they just couldn’t bring themselves to stop teasing Norway about its late independence from Sweden (1905). I guess celebrating Norwegian constitution day abroad requires a certain level of nationalistic humour.

Indeed, this year’s 17 of May was different from the last one, when my friends and I were «russ«. Here doing the «One honk, one sip/cheers»-knot (or something like that).

The dramatic headline is caused by the recent experience of trying to write an E-mail to a Norwegian organization, in Norwegian. The words just won’t come to me. The prepositions are awkward and the language is generally poor. So sad. I’ll blame it on the fact that I have only read one Norwegian book the last six months or so, combined with not having had any Norwegians to talk to the last two weeks (the flat mate’s fault!). And the fact that I haven’t written anything except my diary in Norwegian since I came to Cambodia.  Is this is how quickly languages fade when you don’t use them? I’m amazed, and a bit disturbed.

Publisert av: ingridmogstad | 11. mai 2011

Working in Phnom Penh

I have now worked in Phnom Penh at Mekong Quilts for about three months. I’m starting to know my way around the shop, and I’m starting to feel comfortable the times I’m there alone.  It is indeed different to work in a foreign country, than working from home. The differences are even bigger because Cambodia is a developing country, and the fact that it is in South-East Asia makes it like another planet. Maybe the differences I’m experiencing are partly the difference between working with a salary and without? Probably a combination.

One difference from working at home is that in the beginning I was almost treated like guest by my colleagues. I don’t blame them; I’m foreign and weird and am only here for a few months. Still it feels funny when you’re almost not allowed to do the dishes after lunch. It’s better now; my colleagues have accepted my dishwashing. I think.

How many girls does it take to close a bag full of quilts? Answer: around three.

Another thing that is different from home is that people often assume that I am the manager or the shop owner. That would never have happened Norway. As I have mentioned before, Cambodia is not an ethnicity neutral country. If you are white you have money, end of discussion.

Working with people with such a different background is also different. This can be a major challenge for all parts, but I believe (in the name of politically correctness) that the gain is even greater. I feel privileged to get to know and work with such wonderful Cambodian girls my own age. All in all in Phnom Penh there are five girls (not including me) managing and running two shops, all under the age of 28. Impressive!

 

This is how the shop usually looks like after a delivery from Vietnam. I would say it gives the Norwegian expression «teppebombet» a new meaning. (Teppe=carpet or quilt, bombet=bombed. Meaning; when you bomb a place as with a carpet of bombes. That is, thouroghly.)

I am supposed to do marketing for the two shops here, but I feel like I’m somewhat stumbling in the dark. The lack of guidance, limits, restrictions and a detailed working description was in the beginning outweighed by my motivation and naïve “save the world”-attitude. After a while I started questioning myself again, and felt useless and guilty for not contributing more to the organization I work for. A feeling of being ignored every time I had a question also contributed to my frustration. What does one do when feeling like that? My solution; you ask for help.

I asked my Aiesec-contact for guidance, and boy did it help to have a meeting with her. The day after I went to Siem Reap on a monthly meeting and talked to the administration stationed in Vietnam. That helped as well! I now know that there will not come an angry Belgian (the manager in Vietnam is Belgian) storming in to the shop one day and yell at me for not being productive enough.

Still, it didn’t solve my lack-of-guidance/lack-of -person-to-work-with-problem. Sothida, a volunteer from America on the other hand, did! I will now have a colleague that shares my way of thinking, and who has a lot more experience then I have. She will come to Phnom Penh this week, and we will work together on marketing the next month or so. Woho! Motivation is back in business.

The last picture is of Sinat receiving blessings from a monk. Isn’t he cute, the monk? I’m very fascinated by them:

Publisert av: ingridmogstad | 20. april 2011

New Year in Bangkok

Khmer New Year has just passed, a holiday where all Khmers living in Phnom Penh have a few days off and go visit their family in the provinces. The city literally shuts down for almost a week. Having some trouble with my visa (the rules are very confusing) I found it as the simplest and cheapest solution to go out of the country. Hassle, but I saw the Khmer New Year as a good time to travel. «Bangkok», I thought. «I have never been to Bangkok. I’ll go there.»

What I didn’t know was that they also celebrate new year in Thailand at this time; Thai New Year. And it’s quite different from the Cambodian celebration. I had heard rumors about some water splashing before I went, but I did not know what to expect. On the monorail from the airport I kept seeing soaked people with water guns and white paint in their faces. When I took a tuktuk to find the hostel, my driver at some point slowed down the pace when we passed a family in a narrow ally, and they all started splashing water and clay at me! I was stunned. A whole family who splashes down strange foreigners in a tuktuk? When I got to the hostel and started talking to people I quickly found the solution:

During Thai New year (this year from the 12 to the 17 of April) the whole city of Bangkok turnes in to a giant water fight! Incredible. Literally everyone takes part in the water throwing, from the youngest of children to the oldest people. If you are white and dry you are an even better target. The water fight was incredibly fun the first couple of days. We couldn’t go around the corner to buy food without getting soaked and covered in white clay. Going out in the night was also interesting, never have I had so many people touching my face at one time. I’ll give that to the Thais, they are very good at including everybody in their festivities.

Not even the busses are spared during Thai New Year.

At some point I was thrown in to a pool. In the middle of the street. In the middle of the night. I lost my shoes. The water was dirty. After some help and a couple of minutes I found my shoes again. After the pool I got so cold that it was the end of the night for me, and I went back to the hostel. The rest of the stay in Bangkok circled around water, and after a while it circled around trying to not get wet. The effort was futile.

The group was very serious about learning all we could about Thai culture, so we all bought water guns.

Anyway I recommend celebrating Thai New Year in Bangkok to everybody! You feel like you’re eleven, and so are everyone else too. For me this was the first time to travel somewhere all by myself, and it was a great first time experience. I want to thank the Cambodian visa system for being impossible to understand, so I got the chance to go. Even though it didn’t solve my visa problems. Happy New Year!

Publisert av: ingridmogstad | 5. april 2011

Almost half-way through

I have had a lot to do lately, and have not been able to find the energy or motivation to blog in a couple of weeks. I can’t believe I’m soon half-way in my stay here. When think about the rest of my stay is seems like a very long time, but when I look back it feels like I just arrived.

I’m starting to find some routines, like bicycling to work three times a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays I work from home. I know where to shop, where to find brown bread, cheese, fruits, vegetables and most of all the other stuff I need to feel comfortable. I have also found out how to make coffee from home in a cheap and relatively healthy way; instant coffee! I praise you instant coffee from Nescafe, thank you for your presence in Cambodia. I would never have imagined how extremely important it would be for me to be able to make my own coffee at home, to be properly comfortable.

I also learn a lot. Thanks to my wonderful Cambodian colleagues I feel like I’m having an actual «cultural experience». The expat scene in Phnom Penh is not big, but if you’re not interested in mingling with locals it is definitively possible to just hang out with other «westerners». I am happy to have a natural place to get to know people from a very different culture than myself, and I feel very included and taken cared of when I go to work. Being the only westerner has it’s benefits and challenges, but most benefits, I like to think.

Almost every week Sinat and I drive around to distribute Mekong Quilts-flyers. This is how we look.

The other day I got to give a sacrifice or a gift to a couple of monks that came to the shop. The monks go around to people’s houses and gather the gifts, and then they bless them with a nice prayer for good luck and with some singing. One day I went out to give some Riel, and the poor monk got so surprised he gave me a short blessing (very short!) in English before he run away. Sinat and Channy thought it was hilarious, and I was a little offended. Second try was better; I got a long and nice blessing and some English at the end. «Good luck in your life» he said, and I must say it felt great having somebody saying that to me! Thank you, little monk. Next time I’ll even remember to take off my shoes which is considered polite in Khmer culture, and then I’ll be a great blessing-receiver.

Besides from addressing monks I try to pick up some Khmer, the official Cambodian language. I have three classes a week with my great Khmer-teacher Vibol, who comes to our house to teach Bianca and me. Bianca takes it all a little faster than I do so we figures it was better to have separate classes. In addition to language Vibol also teaches us Khmer etiquette, because he believes that is just as important as the language. I will now demonstrate some of the Khmer I have Learned the last six weeks;

-Sousdey, Bong! Knom schmuah Inga. Sok-sa-bai dtee?

*Sousdey, paan, sok-sa-bai, ah-kun. -Bong schmuah ai?

*Knom schmuah Vibol. Inga twaa-gaa nau naa?

-Kmom twaa-gaa nau Mekong Quilts. Bong mook-bii naa?

*Knom mook-bii Kampuchea.

-Li hay!

Is roughly translated to:

-Good day, older brother! My name is Inga. How are you?

*Good day, younger sister, I’m fine thank you.

-What is your name?

*My name is Vibol. Where do you work?

-I work at Mekong Quilts. Where are you from?

*I am from Cambodia.

-Bye!

One piece of quite awkward conversation there, but the point is, I can introduce myself in Khmer. Which is more satisfying than being able to do it in French.

Vibol desperately trying to teach me how to count Riel in Khmer.

Other highlights for me have been to take pictures for the «Let’s do it! Cambodia»-project some friends of mine are working on. They are going to clean the city Phnom Penh on the 23. of April. The poster turned out quite interesting, thank you Let’s do it!-team for letting me join.

Indeed, I made this my profile picture on Facebook.

I have also held a presentation about Mekong Plus for almost 200 Cambodian students this week-end, which was first nerve wrecking and then quite satisfying to be done with. It was great for me to practice in a place where probably only half of the audience actually could understand what I was saying.

So with all its beauty, weirdness, randomness, friendliness and challenges, these are some parts of my Phnom Penh life. For my own sake I should blog more often, considering it will be valuable material when I’m doing my mandatory post-work in Norway. It is also a good way to get stuff of my chest. I still though, find my current lifestyle exhausting. How do you working people do it? Can’t say I don’t miss the freedom and independence of the student life from time to time. The grass will always be greener on the other side, I suppose. Just for the sake of ending my post with a cheesy pro-verb.

Publisert av: ingridmogstad | 15. mars 2011

Hash-trips and Hospitals

And by writing «Hash-trips» I am not referring to the drug, I just wanted a catchy title so you would press this link! «Hash» is a global concept that happens in almost every big city in the world.  You can read about the phenomenon on Wikipedia here, and I’ll be bold enough to borrow a few sentences from the article to my blog:

«The Hash House Harriers (abbreviated to HHH, H3, or referred to simply as Hashing) is an international group of non-competitive running, social and drinking clubs. An event organized by a club is known as a Hash or Hash Run, with participants calling themselves Hashers.»

So running. Every Sunday about 20 people gather at the railway station in Phnom Penh to drive out to a place outside the city to run or walk for a couple of hours. This Sunday I walked, but next time I will try and run. As long as I drink enough on Saturday to have a chance of compensating for my loss of water.

After the run they gather in a circle where they drink (preferably) beer and sing dirty über-British (at least I think British) songs. At least in our group, which was somewhat dominated by middle-aged men from Australia, the States and Europe. Nonetheless, a fun (and a bit disturbing) way to end a workout. I must admit I found the circle a bit uncomfortable, but I think I’ll try it again because of the good workout and hopefully I’ll adjust.

So as you might have figured out by now, there is no correlation between the Hash-trip and the hospital. The hospital was not me, it was a friend of mine. In the middle of the night she decided she wanted to go to the hospital just in case (she didn’t feel well), not a bad decision when you’re in a country like Cambodia. I have heard many stories about terrible hospitals in Cambodia that you will leave with the condition you came with – and HIV. Nonsense, as long as you go to a decent hospital. We went to The Royal Ratanakk Hospital and they were very helpful and friendly. The biggest problem we had was actually the taxi. It took 40 minutes and three phone calls for it to arrive. In day time here you drown in tuktuks, but in the middle of the night even a taxi can be difficult to get hold of. Funny, funny country. But the hospital was nice, it was 25$ for a doctor’s appointment. She is much better today:)

Publisert av: ingridmogstad | 11. mars 2011

In search for everyday

I am a big fan of everyday, and I think it is very important to enjoy them. They are, at the end of it, the days there are most of. Living without everyday for about six weeks has made me appreciate them even more (at least I think I appreciated them before as well, most of them at least). Tomorrow I have worked at Mekong Quilts for two weeks after I returned from Vietnam, and I hope I the habits and the everyday-patterns will come after a while. I guess it takes a bit more than two weeks to make habits. Or does it?

At least there are a few questions I before spent time and energy on thinking over, that I now have the answers to. One of them is: should I get a motorbike here in Phnom Penh? The answer is (sadly): no. Maybe if I was going to be here for a whole year, but not when I only have four months left. The traffic here takes longer to get used to and I don’t even have my drivers license in Norway yet (not that I think that would be a huge benefit anyway, there seems to be few rules to follow).  My conclusion is none the less; no motorbike for Ingrid.

Instead I got a bike. Biking in Phnom Penh is fantastic, as long as one can keep from being distracted by all the interesting stuff one sees around here.  When people see «barangs» (the word they use for white people in Khmer, exact meaning is «French») they smile humorously and the tuktuk-drivers will shout «tuktuk lady!?» after you just for fun. I feel like an idiot, but I know they don’t mean it like that. I think they just think I look a bit funny, and the tuktuk-drivers would of course like to see that I took a tuktuk instead of saving money biking. For those who wonder, this is a tuktuk:

I was also informed by my colleagues Sinat and Channy that bicycling is very low status in Cambodia. «But for you Inga, it’s ok. You have golden hair and long nose, so no problem», they reassured me. Again this ethnicity-stuff. Today though, I got a flat tire. Two days after purchase, and my fantastic 40-dollar-second-hand -bike is breaking. «Gah», is the best word I know to express my feelings in English.

I feel everything breaks in Cambodia. We live in a brand new apartment, but nothing lasts for longer than two weeks at a time. The sink was stuffed, the shower didn’t work, the light went away, the floor has scratches after the sofa, which is without those white cotton-things one usually has under heavy furniture. Luckily we have the sweetest janitor who is one big smile and always helps us when something is wrong. I really don’t mind the apartment being a bit unstable, but I’m wondering how they’re going to make money on it in ten years when everything in it is broken for good. This is not sustainable (sustainable is a very fancy word I have learned the last few weeks, frequently used when talking about development).

Another thing that is «breaking» these days is my flat mate Bianca. She is sick, and that is not something you want to be when you’re in Cambodia. As our German neighbor kindly was reassured when she got a bad fewer a while ago; «It’s Cambodia, July. It can be anything!»  Great.  Hopefully, and I think chances are, Bianca will be better quite soon.

I myself am feeling another type of sickness that comes to me as a surprise; homesickness. Quite mild, but it’s there. And I who thought I was so tough and wouldn’t get it, I was wrong.  I miss our summer house, my Moccamaster coffee, my university, Oslo, the Norwegian mountains, the Norwegian writer Tarjei Vesaas (I was stupid enough not to bring any books in Norwegian), my family and my friends in Norway. My suggestion for a quick cure is to keep busy (that shouldn’t be a problem) and to ban myself from Facebook for a couple of days. The last one is bigger of a challenge but I have already decided that this is not something that will last for a long time. I have no time to waste when I live for such a short while in Cambodia. But right now I’m going to be sentimental and past in a picture from Kjerag (lysefjorden) in Norway:

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