Posted by: astrom36 | December 26, 2013

Christmas in (What Feels Like) July

An early Spring or fall month would be more appropriate.  It is not as hot as a Louisiana July right now.  The mornings and nights are cool.  Cool enough to forgo use of a fan and to fear the nightly shower (don’t have a water heater).  But the term/movie is July.

Yesterday was Christmas.  My third in Cambodia and hopefully last.  It was definitely the best of the three.  The first year began as a trip on my own, to a delicious town.  I just happened to meet up with other volunteers and we had a nice weekend.  The second year… it fell on a Tuesday and I stayed at site.  This year, no longer bound by rules, Sorphorn and I joined in a small party in the capital.

It began near noon with Chinese food for lunch.  Not my families typical Christmas food, but it was delicious nonetheless.  We dug into the apple pie I bought and watched “Home Alone.”  Terrific.  After a few hands in ‘Seku Thai’ (a Khmer card game for money, it is my spelling) and then a few more with Texas Hold ’em, we went for a bit more pie (this time, we went with the pumpkin pie), popcorn, wine and/or beer, we started “Home Alone 2.”

We had to pause a little while to get a couple more people and to cook dinner.  Dinner consisted of fried tofu (with garlic chives) and chicken korma.  Great stuff all around.  We finished the movie while we ate and then started Charlie Brown.  Again, more pie.

I am not sure what the time was at this point, but we began to play a game called “Cards Against Humanity”.  Apple to Apple, but raunchy…at times.  It was spectacular and I fared much better than the last time we played.  We were just about to switch back to cards when Sorphorn noticed the time.  Just 920 at night.  We live far from where we were and couldn’t stay much longer, unfortunately.  So we all packed up and headed to our places.

It was a great night.  When you can’t spend it with your immediate family and friends, spending it with your Peace Corps family is the next best thing.  Sorphorn and I are lucky for that.

Posted by: astrom36 | November 20, 2013

Industrial-sized Vent

This isn’t the easiest post I have had to write.

Sorphorn and I are still in the beginning stages of the visa process.  We are STILL waiting for them to approve our petition so that we may actually begin to apply for the visa.  We are (mostly) ready.  We have nearly all the required paperwork ready to go, but have nowhere to send it.  They said 5 months, it has been 6.  They said 60 days, it has been 70+.  Yeah, we are all frustrated about that, but at the same time, there is one nagging thing on my mind.

I still do not have a job.

I don’t know what it is.  Maybe it is that I am unwilling to leave Sorphorn for an undetermined amount of time (meaning, I still live in Cambodia).  Maybe it is that I don’t have a solid “start/return” date.  Maybe not a single employer actually understands what Peace Corps does.  “Why does this dirty hippy think he is qualified for this job?  What does going out in the sticks for two years have to do with project management?” FFFFFUUUUUUUUUUdge…  You’ve got to be kidding me.

Yes, I did live in a small village for two years.  No, I never wore a tie-die shirt, I dressed professionally, every day.  I wore slacks and dress shirts to work.  Yes, work.  I, nearly single-handedly (until it came time for translations), created a resource not only for volunteers, but also for national counterparts.  I managed to write, receive and complete a grant for a separate project that… and get this… I managed.  It wasn’t a local project for my village either.  It was national.

I’m fed up with it.  Maybe it is something else, but it feels like employers are completely dismissing the experience I gained over the last two years.  Do they honestly believe that working in Louisiana is more difficult, requires more skills, than trying to do it in Cambodia?  Pure ignorance.  I had a project completely fail because a contractor in my village, the only willing to listen, only preferred “big” jobs.  He wanted to build big buildings.  Not some mere basketball court.  The others, they did not know how, even though we had the plans in their native language.  That wouldn’t happen in the states.

I am a bit bitter right now.

I want this visa more than anyone.  Within a second of seeing Sorphorn and I together, you will know how much in love we are.  We do not have to work hard at all to prove it.  My family loves her the same.  They want us back home.  We want to go home.  When we visited, I saw how they interacted.  They talked on Skype a few times, but in person, it is much more real.  After that, I had no worries about whether it would all fit.  Just a few days after arrival, we announced our engagement and everyone was ecstatic.

And now, the final piece before we can come home is a job for me.  I need to be able to support her.  Yes, we have the FULL backing of my family.  Anything we need, we have, but America can be fickle sometimes.  I do not want to give any reason for them to deny us.  And finances is the only reason they could.

I am about to resort to begging or…anything to shore up that last piece of the puzzle.  I grew up wanting, needing to earn my own.  I hated/hate asking for money.  I absolutely loath to do it.  Over the years, it was necessary and my parents never said no or complained, but I always preferred to do it on my own.  And maybe that is my problem.  I am too afraid, too unwilling to ask for help.

Today, my current distance should not be a problem for interviews.  Skype and internet exist, even in Cambodia.

What I am saying is… be on the lookout for me.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we desperately need to get away from here.  Yes, there are nagging things, but the family here outweighs that.  We are not trying to get away from here.  We are just trying to go home.  Cambodia will always stay with us and we will visit as often as we can, but America, or Louisiana are calling.

This is me getting over my ridiculous, at times harmful pride.  My search has been too narrow.

Friends, Family, if you see anything, let me know.  Put in a good word and all that.  I have no doubt, whatever the job, I can do it.

Hmm… I don’t even have to earn $20,000 a year.  Just under that.

In other news, Sorphorn and I are happy.  We have the visa on our minds, but we are together and we are happy.  All I can say is, we hope to be home soon.  It may not be when we like, but we will be home eventually.  That’s the most important thing to remember when we are frustrated with the process.  That, and that we are still together.  This process would be unbearable if we were apart.

I hope this post wasn’t too depressing, but after venting… a cliché has been lifted off my cliché.

Posted by: astrom36 | October 16, 2013

A (Super) Short Story

My mind slowly awakens.

I am still stuck in this uncomfortable chair.  I can’t get out of it.

That man, that demon of a man, is still standing behind the chair.

He is snipping away at me little by little.  Which each snip of his shears, another piece of me falls to the floor.

I want to scream out in pain, but that part of me feels dead already.  Though, I am certain it was never alive.  Pieces amassed around me, pooling black, and I feel sick.  I knew it was a mistake to come here.  With each passing second, I regret it more and more.  I feel as if my life could slip away at any second.  He took my glasses from me, leaving me partially blind to his work.  Through the blur, I can see the damage he has dealt.  I just wish I could wipe the smile on his face.  The smirk is evident through the blue surgical mask he wears.

I hate him.

His physical torture ends when he holds up a mirror so that I may see his masterpiece.  I can only nod my head for fear he picks up his tools again.  Satisfied, he lifts my restraints.  I feel uneasy.  It is difficult to walk.  I had resigned myself to be a prisoner for life, but it seems he takes much joy in sharing the evidence of his demonic work.  Now, his mental torture has begun.  To prove his kinship to the devil, he has the nerve to ask me for money.  In my weak state, so damaged from the loss I just suffered, I can only nod and hand him the money and leave to face the world in my shame, forever broken.

I hate getting a haircut in Cambodia.



I miss Ena’s haircuts.  There are a few things I am extremely picky about.  What toilet I use, my brand of coffee, the root beer I drink, a few other brand loyalties here and there, and who cuts my hair.  Ena is one of three I ful…one of two I fully trust.  There is a third, but that one is not fully trusted.  The second is a military guy, skilled with a straight razor, who was my barber during my college years.  We chitchat when necessary. Grunting is preferred.

Seems our government has decided to do their job and avoided defaulting (for now at least).  I don’t like posting my political opinions on a site such as this.  I don’t like voicing them to others unless I am fully informed so… Yay!

My birthday was this last Tuesday.  It was terrific and filled with food.  A lot of delicious food.  And a fantastic movie.  All thanks to my lovely fiance, Sorphorn.  And I got some new books! As if I needed more!  (Of course I did)

Posted by: astrom36 | October 10, 2013

Traveling Accomplishments…

This past weekend was a huge holiday in Cambodia called Pchum Ben.  It involves just sitting around, playing cards for money (or, in our case, a different person getting money each day), going to the wat (pagoda) and…sitting there.

That was my experience.

The more involved people do a lot more.  They make food donations to said pagoda (and the Monks who live there) and there are blessings.  I dressed all fancy and read a book… and went back to the house with Sorphorn where we played more cards.

It was a good relaxing weekend.  Would’ve been better if my back wasn’t as sore or if I had won more money.

blahblahblah segue blah blah

During my Peace Corps service, my traveling options were limited due to safety issues.  And rightfully so as the roads are dangerous here.  We were not allowed to ride motos, I didn’t, and most often, still do not.

I would most often ride in taxis (normal sedans), touris (vans packed to the brim…usually) or, occasionally, a bus.  Once, when I was visiting with Sorphorn, we took a tuk tuk (google it) to Phnom Penh.  I felt that was a nice accomplishment.  It was about $5 for 40+ kilometers. 26 or so miles.

On the way there this weekend, I rode a moto.  The road was packed and the traffic was crawling so I felt safer.  There was no chance of a car running us over as they didn’t have room to move.

The way back… it was a romorge.  A large trailer on the back of a moto.  Kind of like a hay ride, but with a moto instead.  It took over 3 hours in all, but cost a total of $2…for both of us…total.  We paid more for a tuk tuk back to our apartment than the 20 something mile ride.  Oh, and it was raining, a lot.

Two important accomplishments captured in one weekend.  Next… A horse cart? A bike? My legs!?

Maybe not.  The bike is possible.

Oh…I took a plane to Phnom Penh too.

That counts.

Posted by: astrom36 | September 30, 2013

When You’re No Longer a PCV…

…You forget about your blog…

I’m not doing much now anyway.

Sorphorn and I are still awaiting movement for her visa.  Our original date will not happen.  We are a bit sad about that, but there is some hope of a Christmas return.  We are not remaining idle, but trying to make sure we are completely ready for when it is time.

Since moving into our apartment we’ve… not done much again.  I am still looking for short-term work here in Cambodia, but mostly, trying to line up a job in the states.

That includes hours spent looking at various postings and applying.  It is my biggest concern as the visa process moves forward.

In other news, a big holiday is coming up and I’ll be away from the computer for a while.  After that, an even bigger holiday will occur.  My birthday!  Yes, the day of my birth is actually a holiday in Cambodia… as a day of remembrance for the late King Sihanouk.

He died last year on October 15th.  Much loved by the people here and such, a new holiday was born.

That’s all really.

Just didn’t want my blog to think I forgot about it.

Posted by: astrom36 | August 2, 2013

The Next Step

While I’m not sure what is going to happen n the next few months, Sorphorn and I have taken the next step and found a place together.  Here is a quick tour.

We are really happy about this place.

All that said, I hope it is only for a few months.

Posted by: astrom36 | August 1, 2013

The Last Day

I only have a few hours left as a PCV.  Emma is sitting right next to me yelling about how she is now famous for being on the “internets.”  There is not much left to do today.  It has been a whirlwind three days.

I wrote those few sentences earlier in the day.  Now, I have less than 5 hours remaining in my service.

It feels good.

I had wanted to write a post reflecting on Peace Corps as an organization and my role in it, but now… nothing I could write would seem fitting.

This is it.  My service as a Peace Corps Volunteer has reached its end and there is nothing I really want to say.

Starting at 12 am on August 2nd, I will be a Returned PCV (RPCV)… though I am not returning just yet.


I’m glad I did it.

Posted by: astrom36 | July 26, 2013

Nonsensical Goals

After having meaningful goals for my service, I needed a few silly goals to…just because.  These are not goals that I actually pursued with much effort, but they kept me sane all the same.

1. Attend 10 (and 15) weddings… I did attend 10 weddings and actually had 16 scheduled, but in the end, Cambodia decided it was not meant to be.  I ended with 14 (14!!) weddings.  10 was my practical goal and 15 was my lofty…so close…

2. Eat snake, spider, cricket, bat, ants, etc… Well… I missed out on most of those.  I did have cricket and ants, but none of the rest.

3. Win the WAR OF CRITTERS… Oh yeah, all rats have been vanquished.

4. Be called beautiful by 50 strangers… Completed monthly.

5.  Travel… And I did. Not only have I seen much of Cambodia, but I’ve also visited Vietnam and Thailand.

6.  Win a fantasy sports league… This goal is for the sheer joy of having unbeatable bragging rights.  To look someone in the face and tell them, “I was in Cambodia and you had Sportscenter.”  It would be perfect.  I had a poor year last year, but this year… I have good chances.  Though they don’t finish until long after I leave PC, they still started during my service.

7.  Destroy white rice… I failed miserably.  I wanted seasoned rice to be the new thing.  I didn’t really try.

8.  Have a usual… I actually had two usuals.  One in my provincial town and one in the capital.  It feels good.

9.  Ride my bike to the capital… Yeah, 60 miles away… Didn’t even try.

10.  Ride my bike to the provincial town in under 20 minutes… I got so close.  The town is about 6 miles away.  The closest I got was about 21 minutes and 30 seconds.  Then I stopped trying.

11.  Have 10,000 views on my blog… This blog.  At as I’m typing this, I am 20 short so…tell your friends.  Only a few days to go. (EDIT: Yay! Complete!)

12.  Read 100 books… Argh! Not really close.  I’m reading my 67th book now.  There is a chance I will get to 70 but… I doubt it.  I’m a slow reader and often take breaks between books.  In the end, I couldn’t find that reading ‘spot’ and took too many breaks.  In general, I would like to increase the number of yearly books read.

And that’s the nonsensical goals I had hoped to do during my service.  They meant very little other than being fun.  Only one more post to go (of my service, the blog will continue for a while) and only a few more days before I leave site for good.

Posted by: astrom36 | July 19, 2013

Two Years in Pictures…

I’m closing in on two years with PC (Monday) and I wanted to review the last two years in a few photos.  There is food, friends, injuries, trips, illnesses and the woman I love.

I am nearly done.  I have medical next week then only a few days before I leave my village for good.  Enjoy the pictures.  Next week I’ll put up the penultimate post (of my PC service) about my “silly” goals for service.

Posted by: astrom36 | July 12, 2013

I’m Off to Save…the World?

On July 22nd, 2011 (my best friend Dillon’s birthday), I was in San Francisco to start my Peace Corps service.  It was the administrative day before leaving for Cambodia.  I wrote this blog about a month before leaving as a way to say “see you later” and to talk about my goals for the next two years.  I wanted to temper those high aspirations.

Apparently not enough.

I had very high goals for my service.  At our COS (close of service) conference, they returned our aspiration statements that we wrote before leaving.  Holy crap, it is a bunch of hog wash.  I actually question if I wrote this stuff… but I did.

But let’s review.

Number 1

Ok…public speaking is a joy to me?  Yeah, I actually do like giving presentations, but what does that matter?

A sports club… didn’t happen.  My school already had several, but I didn’t get involved.

English clubs… happened, but only for a very short time.  In hind sight, I could have had more successful clubs if I held the club at a different time.

Writing competition… WOAH! I did that! Awesome.  Thanks to K4s for starting that and then including me.

Number B  (Well… they are lettered not numbered)

Just utter crap.  Not really goals, but my planned approach to integration.

Letter C

More nonsense.  Being me, I was able to work Louisiana into this answer.  Always a good decision and never a regret.

Letter D

Ok, learning more discipline.  Yes and no.  I actually did very well preparing for the GRE, a skill (or discipline) I lacked in the past.  And I did very well despite having lived in Cambodia for a year (and not working out my brain).  Health wise, I did a little better.  Sometimes I do have the will to stop eating when I am full.  Sometimes I still go over board.  The next challenge is keeping off all the weight I lost once Sorphorn and I return to America and all my wildest dreams of food are available.

Last part of D is about learning the language.  I didn’t do so well there.  My pronunciation is good, but my vocabulary and grammar are poor.  Shocking news, I am often shy about speaking Khmer.

Letter E

Post-PC… uhh… nothing really here.  My situation of post-PC changed (for the much better) when I met Sorphorn.  I didn’t expect that though.

So there you have it.  At times, I haven’t felt very effective here.  Sometimes I nailed it. Here’s a list of the projects I attempted here and the results…

Teaching English… I did OK here.  Could have been better.

Soccer club… No go.

English club… Not much here.

Library development… Not much here either.

Writing competition… Two years of resounding success.  I was in the learning stage the first year, but the second year it was my gig.  I’m proud of this one.

Basketball court… I had it, but Cambodia took it from me.

Vocabulary book… If calling it complete is all I need to say it is a success, then it is a huge success.  I won’t really know if it is a success until the next school year (when I am no longer a PCV).  However, I am also very proud of it.

I feel like I am missing something, but meh… It’s OK.  I have a little over a week left at site before I leave.  Just sitting around.

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