Tuesday, July 26, 2005

My thoughts are turning to home. I deigned to answer my boss' e-mail yesterday. The United States is starting to have a concrete presence in my mind.

Groanmumblemumble

I have one more day before I leave on the 48 hour journey.

I visited the Pagoda again yesterday. This time I saw some classrooms. The monks run a free school for the village. I went in the evening, while N was teaching. I think they are looking for more teachers. They kept inviting me to teach. The class I visited was huge. The teacher looked like he was all of 15 years old. He had about 50 students, ranging in ages. It could have been a one room school house on the Prairie. They were learning the "a" sound. The students were sitting at benches. Some of them had notebooks, others didn't. It was quite a zoo. They asked me to say something to the students, I could only stand and wave. My mind was blank. One hundred black eyes starede at me. Later one of the monks asked me what I thought. I tried to think of a non-committal "chinese" answer. We went upstairs to an intermediate class. A monk was teaching and he was lecturing, so I didn't want to interrupt. I know when I teach, I hate interruptions. My guide (I have a different one each time) told me he wanted to learn computers and get married and have his own business when he is done with being a monk. He gave me his picture and asked for my phone number. I gave it to him, and wrote him a note, to remind him of the 13 hour time difference. Do monks drunk-dial, I wonder?

I spent the rest of the evening with K*. He was the one who waited for me all day on Sat. He struggles with his english. I did my best to make it easy to understand me. He had to repeat things so I could understand. Some of the others came out into the lobby to do their homework, but were otherwise quiet. I left well after the sun went down, and slogging through the mud (I'd like to donate a truckload of gravel) in the dark was messy. As I left my guide asked me what I thought of the government. I asked my inner-confucius.

"Scary," I said.

Later, N, D and I went out for authentic khmer BBQ. N's landlord's husband is a tuk tuk driver, so we engaged him to take us across town to the restaurant. When we arrived we were greeted by the sound of live cambodian pop music. A strange mixture of traditional music with electric drums and cheesy guitar and western covers. My favorite was their rendition of "Hotel California" I don't think the Eagles need to worry. They also did a *terrific* cover of "House of the Rising Sun." Maybe they thought it was about Bangkok.

The officious waitresses brought a number of small dishes with mysterious items to the table. D chose a dark "cottage" for us to eat in. When N registered her objection, he silenced her with "no insects." Can't argue with that. A waiter brought a camp stove. It took a while to light. In the meantime the waitresses very carefully, one cube at a time, loaded our cups with ice. Once the stove was lit, they put a metal dish that looked like half of a globe with a moat around it. Daintily, with a pair of chopsticks, one of the waitresses took a huge cube of lard, and rubbed it all over the top. Then she took a huge scoop of butter and crowned the top. The hot fats melted into the broth that was in the moat. Now I know why khmer food is so good. N took the plate of meat and broke up the raw egg yolk that had pooled in the top. Then she started laying the thin slices of beef on the top and D put the raw veggies into the moat. The fat sizzled. yum yum. Then the waitress came by with a big bowl of rice and dished us out some. little veg, on a little mound of rice, and down the hatch. I only had one bowl, since there was no hostess to offend.

all of this, and Hotel California, to boot. When we were done, D called our driver and he was there in about 30 seconds. When he pulled into the communal yard, N gave him the agreed-upon 2 bucks. During the high season they can pull $150 a day.

This morning I noticed a symptom. I am not going into details, but I took the special horse-pill my doctor sent for this contingency. So far, so good. Took it easy this morning (no early morning jaunts to go get lost in the market).

We saw the River Boy today. He flipped us off as he ran to catch up with some backpackers. we heaved the proverbial sigh, that was close. N yelled ahead to the backpackers that he hates foreigners and not to give him any money. We didn't stick around to hear his parting invective.

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