2009.02.03: February 3, 2009: Headlines: COS - Cambodia: Blogs - Cambodia: Culture Shock: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer hhhmmm... writes: If marriages are subject to the proverbial ‘seven year itch’, then Peace Corps volunteers could be said to experience the ‘six month blues’

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Cambodia: Peace Corps Cambodia: Peace Corps Cambodia: Newest Stories: 2009.02.03: February 3, 2009: Headlines: COS - Cambodia: Blogs - Cambodia: Culture Shock: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer hhhmmm... writes: If marriages are subject to the proverbial ‘seven year itch’, then Peace Corps volunteers could be said to experience the ‘six month blues’

By Admin1 (admin) (151.196.46.182) on Saturday, February 14, 2009 - 5:24 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Volunteer hhhmmm... writes: If marriages are subject to the proverbial ‘seven year itch’, then Peace Corps volunteers could be said to experience the ‘six month blues’

Peace Corps Volunteer hhhmmm... writes: If marriages are subject to the proverbial ‘seven year itch’, then Peace Corps volunteers could be said to experience the ‘six month blues’

"But at six months, you feel like you aren’t making a difference, you just see the problems. This is compounded with another six month problem: relationships. In training, there were a lot of things we overlooked because we were only going to be living there for two months. But now, we have to make more clear decisions about what we can and can’t deal with concerning other people. We know have to deal with real relationships with real people just like we would in the states. As just like anywhere else, dealing with people (even those you generally like) can really suck sometimes. This deals with the third six month issue: culture. Basically, anything considered impolite in America, a Khmer person will say within the first five minutes of meeting you. ex. “How much do you make? How much do your parents make? Will you send me money when you go back to America? Why are you so fat? Don’t you want to be thin? How much do you weigh? I love you, do you love me? Will you teach my children for free?” Also, it is perfectly acceptable to talk about how much anyone makes. Everyone will tell you how poor they are (even if they have two cars and two motos). The sob stories begin to get on your nerves. The fact that women will just walk up to you and start petting you gets on your nerves. Mothers telling their small children to stare at the white person (literally) will get on your nerves. People messing with your bike gets on your nerves. Being a circus attraction gets on your nerves. Having a host mother who thinks she is the center of the universe gets on your nerves. People treating you like you are some fragile doll that will break if exposed to anything strenuous gets on your nerves."

Peace Corps Volunteer hhhmmm... writes: If marriages are subject to the proverbial ‘seven year itch’, then Peace Corps volunteers could be said to experience the ‘six month blues’

03 February, 2009

If marriages are subject to the proverbial ‘seven year itch’, then Peace Corps volunteers could be said to experience the ‘six month blues’. The honeymoon is over. What started out as an exciting overseas adventure has settled into the dull routine of everyday life. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We aren’t here to be adventurers. We are here to serve the people of Cambodia by living the way they live. That is a very noble thing to say, but the reality isn’t always that simple. A few other factors happen around the six month mark as well. One is that we have been here long enough to grasp the full extent of many of the problems facing this nation. One is that the people here do not seem to believe self sufficiency. The culture has operated on the patronage system for a long time, and they simply believe the only way to better their lives is through foreign donations. Some people would say that Khmer people don’t work hard. In a sense, yes, this is true. A teacher decided to have his engagement party during the week, so one day we simply didn’t have class because all the teachers were drunk. This is perfectly acceptable. Also, because of the heat, all real work tends to cease around lunch. And people don’t work if it rains. Or if it’s very cold (like 60 degrees, brrr). Now there are many people who work hard, but it is because they have to. And these people are usually poor.

You can really forget about getting things done after 11. (Although 10:30 is great because people will do whatever you want so you will stop bothering them and they can go eat) I think the problem is that they don’t see hard work rewarded. People who work hard have to because they are poor. People here who have money didn’t work for it (generally). They are either politicians or have family in America. This, in the Khmer way of thinking is how one becomes rich: have the right connections. I believe that will begin to change in the coming years, as there are many young people who understand that dependence is not going to help them or the country in the future. But for now, it is discouraging when people just want you to teach English to (or marry) their children.

But at six months, you feel like you aren’t making a difference, you just see the problems. This is compounded with another six month problem: relationships. In training, there were a lot of things we overlooked because we were only going to be living there for two months. But now, we have to make more clear decisions about what we can and can’t deal with concerning other people. We know have to deal with real relationships with real people just like we would in the states. As just like anywhere else, dealing with people (even those you generally like) can really suck sometimes. This deals with the third six month issue: culture. Basically, anything considered impolite in America, a Khmer person will say within the first five minutes of meeting you. ex. “How much do you make? How much do your parents make? Will you send me money when you go back to America? Why are you so fat? Don’t you want to be thin? How much do you weigh? I love you, do you love me? Will you teach my children for free?” Also, it is perfectly acceptable to talk about how much anyone makes. Everyone will tell you how poor they are (even if they have two cars and two motos). The sob stories begin to get on your nerves. The fact that women will just walk up to you and start petting you gets on your nerves. Mothers telling their small children to stare at the white person (literally) will get on your nerves. People messing with your bike gets on your nerves. Being a circus attraction gets on your nerves. Having a host mother who thinks she is the center of the universe gets on your nerves. People treating you like you are some fragile doll that will break if exposed to anything strenuous gets on your nerves.

Having said that; it is worth it. In general, I’m happy. And for as exasperating as people they can be, they really are the most generous people ever. The bike guy fixes my bike for free. People always want me to come to their houses just so they can feed me. The fried banana dude at school always gives me an extra banana, the other day I paid for two oranges and they gave me four. People are genuinely good hearted, it just looks a lot different than what I’m used to. There are some things that I hope I never get used to, like selling your daughter to the highest bidder so you don’t have to pay for school. So to those of you who talk to me on a regular basis: if you think I’m upset when you call, it’s not you, I’m just upset. But don’t worry; the good times outnumber the bad. My students are becoming more creative, which makes me super happy.

To any prospective K3s, this will be an awesome adventure. But the adventure will end, and you will be left with a life that is full of the same frustrations and disappointments that you had in the states. And that is a good thing. Because the most important part of this experience is realizing that other people are basically just like us. They get up in the morning, eat, do their thing, take care of their kids, and buy their groceries. People here love their children, get frustrated by traffic, put off homework, lament the loss of a sock, just like anyone else. That isn’t something you can really understand until you’ve lived here. But the simple things somehow add up to make it worth it. A friend and I were complaining to each other, and we agreed that as much as we do complain, we wouldn’t want to leave.

I’m also extremely excited about the upcoming soccer tournament my students are about to compete in. They will compete against three other teams. But the team from the provincial town has a lot more people, so we’ll see how it goes. I also have at least four weddings to go to this month, and two conferences in Phnom Penh. It will be pretty stellar.



Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: February, 2009; Peace Corps Cambodia; Directory of Cambodia RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Cambodia RPCVs; Blogs - Cambodia; Culture Shock





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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Cambodia; Blogs - Cambodia; Culture Shock

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