It has been an intense week. Getting adjusted to a new city, a new style of transportation, a new language and new people all at once is overwhelming. Tonight (Thursday night, 10 Jan) is the first night that I have felt tired. I have been busy with class all week. Thankfully I’m kind of a dork and I like class. Plus, the classes are nice because it is all new information. We learn a little education theory and then a little culture lesson. We learn about drama by acting and pretending to be students. It is fun and entertaining because it is new.
On Sunday we went to Wat Phnom. Wat means temple and Phnom means hill. Phnom Penh was founded when Lady Penh found a washed up Buddha statue on the banks of the Mekong River. She felt that it was a message – Buddha needed to be in a safer place. So Wat Phnom is located on the highest point of the city (not very high). The original statue is supposedly still in the temple. So Phnom Penh means “Lady of the Hill.” The temple is absolutely beautiful. Everything is ornate and handmade.
Outside of the temple there is a huge clock in the grass. When the Khmer Rogue took over in the early 1970s they restarted the clock back to Year Zero. They attempted to get rid of people who were educated, who spoke a second language, who wore glasses, who owned a car or anyone who was associated with the government. The clock represents that Cambodia has rejoined time and is a part of the modern world again.
Also at Wat Phnom are wild monkeys! These adorable creatures are more destructive than they seem to be. This did not happen to me but apparently the monkeys will steal your camera or phone and run away. They will proceed to climb up a tree and drop your camera or phone on the ground in front of you so it shatters. I did see a monkey attempt to steal fruit from a lady’s stand in front of the temple. She chased them away before they got anything. Since I was only taking pictures of the monkeys, I thought they were super cute 🙂
After Wat Phnom, our group went to the Royal Palace. Unfortunately, we were not able to tour the entire palace. The King died in October and out of respect there is a three month waiting period before the palace reopens. They are constructing a monument to King Sihanouk because he is considered a national hero. After his burial temple is completed they will have the funeral and his son will take over. Then the Royal Palace will again be open for tourists. I am hoping to see the entire Royal Palace when I come back in April! But what we saw was pretty incredible. There is so much history and beauty associated with Cambodia. I wish we had a tour guide for the Royal Palace but we were on our own. My favorite part was a pagoda that was constructed to look like it was in a jungle. There were also a ton of awesome relics and statues to look at within the various pagodas.
After the Royal Palace on Sunday we had a welcome dinner with everyone in our group – sixteen people in total. On Monday, classes started. It was kind of a reality check. The classes have been intense but worthwhile. I am learning a lot but I am pretty exhausted every evening. Plus we have homework. On Wednesday night, a few of us ventured out to the local market. We were the only Westerners there but it was a good experience. Fresh fruit, veggies, meat and seafood everywhere. On Thursday morning, a group of us went to the Russian Market (“tool tom pong” in Khmer). It was amazing. Everything you could ever want is within those walls. The food section was spectacular, even though the smells of the meat was overpowering, it was still worth it.
That has been my week so far. I’m sure there is much I have forgotten that I will write on later. The traffic is something I want to document for sure. So far Phnom Penh is impressing me. This city feels like home after only a week. That has to be a good thing 🙂