I have been in Phnom Penh for about 6 weeks now. Since arriving I have…
- survived 2 stomach bugs
- learned to ride a moto
- discovered a love for bubble tea
- gained a new respect for anyone learning a new language
- started Khmer classes
- been reminded that fair skin and powerful sun rays do not mix well
Learning to drive around town is a new skill-set altogether! I remember the first time some friends took us, those new to Cambodia, to practice. It was a Sunday afternoon and we went to an empty parking lot for more space and less stop-and-go traffic. With my helmet on and palms starting to sweat, I revved the engine and set off–all the while having flashbacks to childhood when learning to ride a bike without the training wheels just praying I wouldn’t tip over. Of course, I was moving at the speed of a fast snail so all was well.
Then real life happened and when you take away the space and insert many many other moto drivers, cyclists, tuk tuks and cars with the occasional pedestrian crossing from anywhere the stakes change. Granted, in a game of “rock, paper, scissors” a moto trumps pedestrian and cyclist but care DEFINITELY trumps moto.
In Phnom Penh, there are about 1.7 million people and about 1.3 million motos.
Here are a few rules of thumb I remember…
- You are responsible for everyone in front of you… merging vehicles included
- Car trumps moto every time. Trust me, when in doubt just brake
- Your horn (more like a “beep”) is your shield… just to remind everyone you’re here and would like to remain unscathed
I’m a fan of my moto. I named him Herbie*… we are beginning to understand one another.
*to all the Tommy Boy fans reading this… Yes, that was my inspiration
I completed my first week of Khmer lessons, huzzah! It’s a challenging language to speak but I am feeling pretty inspired to learn as much as my brain can handle. The tricky part is not being able to read it and having to make up my own phonetics to write down new words. Basically, each of us who are learning Khmer, when we write out a word each our “versions” are different. This next week some of us in class are going on a little field trip to practice our Khmer introductions and basic conversation skills with locals. It is sure to be humbling for me and entertaining for those watching.
P.S. I response to those who have asked… Yes, I can receive mail:
International Justice Mission c/o Alexandra Lawson
PO Box 169
Phnom Penh, Cambodia [NO zipcode]