Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I love this country

As is pretty typical, I was the first one out of bed this morning. I got up shortly after dawn – about 6am – and headed out into the city.

My first stop was soup restaurant across from a mosque not far from our guest house. The shop is run by a Cham family who escaped Cambodia for France in the early 70s just as things were getting dicey with the Khmer Rouge. They got out just in time, as the Cham – Muslim minorities who live in Vietnam and Cambodia – received special “attention” by the murderous Cambodian Communist regime.

The restaurant serves a mean bowl of pho bo, or Vietnamese beef noodle soup. The version I had this morning differs slightly from what one would find on the streets of Hanoi, but it was just as delicious. Clearly the cook took time to do it right, simmering the beef bones for hours and hours to evince the subtly round meatiness that can’t be rushed and can’t be faked with MSG. I also ordered two cups of dense and sweet café sua, or Vietnamese coffee.

At breakfast, I shared one of the long, communal tables with a bunch of Cham Muslim men, and struck up a conversation with a guy named (go figure) Muhammed. His English was nearly perfect, and he told me that he had lived in Sacramento for a time. He complimented me on my Khmer (again, Cambodians love to exaggerate when making kind comments), and we chatted. He invited me to visit the mosque some day, and I promised I would.

Can I say it again? I love this country. After breakfast, I hailed a mototaxi and rode down to Psar Tuol Tom Poung (also called Russian Market), and I bought some fresh dragon fruit and pineapple. As my motodop weaved in and out of traffic, my affection for this country swelled. The people. The food. The life.

I’m heading off now to get some shirts made and then to the school. I’ll also go to the orphan homes. I hope to spend the rest of the evening out there, and post this along with any photos I took later today.

Peace.

...I’m back. It’s 3:18 in the afternoon. The tailor shop was closed for Chinese New Year, and will reopen tomorrow. The school was great. When I arrived, the kids went nuts. I could barely get out of the truck, and when I did finally get out, I couldn’t move for the throngs of children. Many were kids I’ve known and loved for years. But there were also many, many new faces, mostly from Prek Eng 4, which has opened since my last trip here.

I worked with some 5th graders on their English pronunciation – X, SH and F sounds are very difficult for Cambodians to say. I also taught a couple of songs, and then ate lunch with the staff. After the kids went down for their post-lunch nap, I went with Savorn to Prek Eng 1, where I ate another lunch with his wife and with Sopang and his wife.

Both lunches were great. I found especially intriguing the quails, which were pregnant when they were killed. They grilled the birds with the eggs inside intact – we broke open the eggsac and ate the (thankfully unfertilized) eggs. A bit odd, but tasty.

Now I’m heading back to visit all four of the orphan homes in rapid succession, and this time I’m bringing the team. I’ll try to post photos soon.

Did I mention that I love this country?

3 comments:

Amanda said...

"I found especially intriguing the quails, which were pregnant when they were killed. They grilled the birds with the eggs inside intact – we broke open the eggsac and ate the (thankfully unfertilized) eggs. A bit odd, but tasty."

Um were the eggs cooked inside??? This sounds fascinating and delicious!! I want to try!

brian carlson said...

Mmmmm, pho bo, dragon fruit, mmmm.

I haven't been faithful in keeping up.
I'll try harder.
I'm glad you're there for me.
Love,
Erica on Brian's account

Jessie said...

So good to hear from you in this way, John. Thanks for telling stories...