RUPP (part I)

Today started out way too early.  I set the alarm for 7:30 so that I could practice my talk a bit.  Around 7:45 I started after getting ready, so I had about 15 minutes, during which I just went through my slides once and looked through pics of me that we had already taken because Dave thought it may be a good idea to include some.  I didn’t find any that were presentation worthy, so I finally managed to wake up Dave by 7:55 and we left very shortly thereafter.  The ride to the university was pretty long and the tuk tuk driver helped us find where to go once we were there.  Of course, the psych department is on the 4th floor, so Dave had to carry all of the books up 4 flights of stairs in the early morning heat.  Thank you!  We got there and a man in the psych department called Hema and we were led to another building across the ‘campus’ to where Hema was teaching.  She was a little surprised to see me, and rightfully so as I later discovered I was a whole day early!  Whoops, I don’t know how I could have made such a mistake.  I think it was a combination of both Tuesday and Wednesday being possible days for RUPP and Wings Over Cambodia.  Yes, I think originally WoC was set for Tuesday with a rain date of Wednesday but then Hema suggested Wednesday but, ugh, it’s all confusing, nevermind.  So Hema left for a sec and I introduced myself to the class and asked that they raise their hand if they didn’t understand.  The all nodded.  Did I mention they all stood up when we entered the classroom? That was great!  So I started going through the slides and made it through maybe 4 slides before Hema came back and started translating.  Haha, yea I bet they had not the foggiest idea what I had been saying.  So even without a projector for most of the presentation, I think it went really well.  The students asked amazingly insightful questions and even picked up on some of the problems with the MIDUS study – awesome!  After that, Hema took us to a cafeteria-type place where she offered us a drink and something to eat.  I got a coke and Dave got a coconut, which was actually really cool and quite delicious.  I met some of the students that were supposed to come tomorrow and felt bad that I had messed things up.  Finally, Dave spoke and said he didn’t mind coming back tomorrow.  Just amazing.  I didn’t want to come back, but only because I thought I would be monopolizing the vacation by taking a few more hours from our limited time in Phnom Penh.  But he insisted and I felt like he was being honest, so I told Hema that I could come after our WoC trip tomorrow.  We went back up to the department afterwards and she gave us water and put the fans on us westerners.  She gave me a beautiful letter with the title ‘Psychologist’ under my name which was pretty awesome, not gonna lie.  Also, I got a nice silver plate with a picture of Angkor Wat on it.  So sweet.  After that, back down the stairs and into a tuk tuk back to the river.

We told the driver just to drop us off at this coffee place that looked good yesterday.  It was pretty expensive, but they had internet — very, very bad internet.  I enjoyed my coffee and chocolate croissant on the leather couch, but the internet was really useless and the phone call of my dad sounded like a verizon commercial, or at least a parody of one.  After that, we walked back to the hotel and planned the rest of the day.  We talked to Steve at the hotel about flying tomorrow and it turns out that Lee will be at the hotel at 730 tonight to have some drinks and we could talk to him then about how much time everything would take and if he could drop us at the university on the way back.  From there, we took a tuk tuk to the Genocide Museum.  It was just a terrible place, but I guess we really had to visit it while we were here.  So it used to be a high school and was transformed into a detention center during the Khmer Rouge regime in 1975.  Over 15,000 people died there and it looked like not much had changed in terms of the structure of the buildings since that time.  We walked into classrooms that had been divided into at least 20 small cells not larger than a closet.  There were rooms detailing peoples’ stories about why they joined the regime, but other than that it was largely devoid of any text or explanations.  In another building, there were photos of the victims.  I spent a lot of time there – some people’s faces, their expressions, just caught my eye and I couldn’t get it out of my head.  I just stared at them, at the horror that was in their eyes, and in some cases, the glimmer of hope.  It was tremendously sad but at the same time I had mixed emotions because I felt that the victims should be given more of a voice aside from just having their pictures on display.  I mean, the members of the Khmer Rouge had stories – where are these peoples’ stories?  It was also eerie to leave the structures exactly how they were.  Maybe it was a good idea though, but if you’re going to leave that, perhaps have a decent museum somewhere else that would be more respectful towards all who lost their lives.  Not just this place, which even had graffiti on some of the photos.  In the final building (which was actually the first building), there were torture rooms and I overheard some of the guides describing the atrocities.  You just can’t even imagine all that took place in those rooms.

After feeling sufficiently overwhelmed, it was suggested that we get some lunch.  We walked around for a bit, but were really looking for some place that had AC.  This area of town….well, this was Cambodia as I had imagined it.  I think the area where we are stying is really nice compared to the rest of the city.  But this is more real to me.  After walking around for a while in the heat, we jumped in a tuk tuk and asked the guy for a map so we could point to a hotel or something where they would certainly have ac.  No map.  Thus began the tuk tuk ride to nowhere.  I would look for a place, the guy would turn around every few minutes for reassurance, and Dave would gesture for him to continue while saying ‘mas, mas’, because really, he didn’t know English, so why not just speak in Spanish for kicks?  Ahh, good times.  Finally, I spotted a hotel and a restaurant with walls right next to each other and we instructed him to stop.  After trying the restaurant first, we ended up in the hotel….in a room all by ourselves of course.  It was really nice and the menu looked great.  We had shrimp ball things and 2 other shrimp dishes with good sauces and vegetables, etc.  Coke tastes soo good by the way.  After a great lunch, we decided to walk back to the hotel.  We were walking along the river, with Dave getting some Tonle Sap water (mmmm), when he stopped an elephant!  This was what I had heard about, wih the Wat Phnom elephant taking a pre-sunset stroll along the river!  So I bought this large grapefruit thing from a street vendor which I was told that elephants like, and we fed the elephant!  So cool, there he was, just walking down the street with motos and cars passing him by.  Wow, only in Cambodia.  I am really liking Cambodia by the way.  I think it’s a good mix of Asia and France and I’m so excited to actually be here after being somewhat enamored with it since sophomore year in college.

Anyways, back to the hotel to cool off and decide what to do next.  I had seen a foot massage place nearly next door, so I suggested we get foot massages.  Yea, that was a really good call.  So for $4 each, we got amazing foot and leg massages in a spa-like atmosphere complete with a 5 minute neck massage and hot tea to finish off the experience.  Not sure about Dave, but I’m definitely coming back tomorrow.  After that, back to the hotel to rest and meet Lee at 7:30 for drinks.  We totally fell asleep and woke up around 8pm, whoops.  We hurried downstairs and had a few drinks and talked with Lee.  He is an incredibly nice guy and we talked about the differences between cambodian culture and american/canadian culture.  Honestly, if sounds a bit like the lower class in American, as far as what things are deemed ‘important.’  People spending their money on nice cell phones and on pimping our their cars rather than saving it or spending it on something more worthwhile.  But, that’s how it is I guess and there’s probably more to it than meets the eye.  He told us about why he moved here in the first place, and about why he preferred Cambodia to Thailand and such.  Very nice guy and I hope I get to fly with him rather than the guy from virginia!  He was telling us about a bunch of people who had also moved from America to Cambodia, which is just very interesting to me.  Then, he suggested an Italian place that wasn’t too far away and was run by a real Italian person, so that was exciting!  After finishing our drinks, we decided that we needed food and that the Italian place sounded like a nice change from Asian food, especially if it was really Italian.  We got some garlic bread, meatballs, and I got a pasta dish with a cheese sauce.  It was all very good in my opinion, especially the meatballs!  That was definitely my first time eating those, and I was a bit hesitant at first but they were covered in marinara sauce, so what could be wrong?  So I think I really like meatballs now, like, legitimately.  I think I prefer beef (its beef right?) that isn’t like, pieces, if that makes any sense.  It’s a texture thing.  So after that, we headed back to the hotel to get some rest before our extremely early day tomorrow.  Ready at 6am?! eek!

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