Kampong Cham, which we Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) call K Cham, is my home for the next two years. Kampong Cham means "Port of the Chams". K Cham province is located in the Eastern part of Cambodia and at the crossroads of many national highways. The Mekong River is also flowing through the entire state, which gives us a big water supply as well as a charming and bustling river-side scene in the K Cham city area.
It’s been exactly a week since I have arrived to this cozy little town in K Cham. Never in my dreams I thought a complete change of lifestyle would be this easy. Maybe I’m just blessed with this extraordinary location. Everything I need and everywhere I will work is literally 2-5 minutes’ walk away.
I was first a little disappointed by how nice my home is, how close I am to Carley’s home, and how everything seemed. I wondered if Peace Corps thought I couldn’t survive in a worse place. I wondered if it was because I’m lacking in some way or needed someone I know nearby. After getting to know the community though, there seems to be a major Maternal and Child Health issue, which is exactly the area I had asked to work in during my placement interview. After some reflection, I do believe that I’m meant to be here, and that God put me here for a reason.
How will I even get the community together to teach them English?
Literally within 24 hours of my arrival, I was asked to teach my first English class in the community. My little neighbors (11 and 13 year olds) came to ask me, and they made it sound like it was just going to be them. When I showed up, there were 20 kids. All ready to participate and take notes. I literally thought “What have I gotten myself into?”. Not only did it go well, they want more and more lessons each week. I’m definitely excited and nervous for our session tomorrow.
What will the Health Center staff be like?
With my limited Khmer, I was really nervous about my first day. I arrived 1 hour early. I talked to some of the staff. Literally 5 minutes after meeting the Health Center Chief, I was whisked away to a commune meeting where I was introduced to the village chiefs, police, and all kinds of government officials. I also had to make an impromptu speech. After we got back to the Health Center, I was instructed to weigh babies, observe how vaccines are done, fill out growth charts, and even was told to give nutrition education. They also gave me my own office! All the staff were really nice and helpful. They were all so excited to have me there. I was also super excited at the end of my first day that I couldn’t wait to go back again!
Will I even bike or still exercise?
Oh, boy, do I bike these days. Call it my new addiction, if you will. Once I love something, I need to do it all the time. My body is in constant pain, but every day, I feel jittery if I don’t go on a bike ride. It doesn’t matter that everything I need was within walking distance, I just really wanted to ride my bike.
Before I arrived here, I had 2 little goals.
For the past 2 years in the United States, I worked full time and went to grad school full time. I commute by car. I literally sat all day and night. In my 2 months of living in Cambodia, I worked out more than I did in the last 2 years. I’ve already lost 37lbs (17kg) since I got here! I feel much healthier and energetic too.
I’ve always dreamed of joining the Peace Corps and immersing myself in the culture of the host country. I knew there were going to be exciting things as well as hardships. Little did I know, how great and significant every little and big moment we have here is. We are constantly learning, adapting, and changing for the better while living here.
Life is beautiful.
Language is hard.
The heat is intense.
The food is delicious.
People are welcoming.
Bike rides are exhilarating.
Spiders found in our bedrooms.
Squatting toilets in the bathroom.
Sometimes, we miss our PCV friends.
Sometimes, we miss our loved ones at home.
Some days will be more amazing than you expect.
Some days will be more difficult than you can handle.
But it’s okay, because life truly is beautiful here in Cambodia.
Besides, how else would we experience the true Cambodian life as Peace Corps Volunteers?