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Earthquake Survival

Hey All,

First off, I am in Sumatra right now but obviously I am alive here and survived the earthquake that happened three days ago. It occurred on the North part of the island, and we felt the shake but nothing other than that. At the time of the Shake, we were sleeping near a volcano in the town of Berastagi. I will give a much more extensive update once I am not paying for internet by the hour and have much more time to give everyone the update of my journey here… but it has been fun. Orangutans, Volcanos, and Crater Lakes.. thats the gist of it all.

My friend Jason, who some of you may or may not know, visited me in Cambodia recently, and I have asked him to write an outsiders perspective of what I have gotten myself into in Cambodia. Here is what he had to say:

Recently I had the opportunity to spend 8 days in Cambodia with Ryan, who asked me to share my thoughts and experiences of my visit. As an avid food lover, I had great expectations coming into this trip especially given the highly esteemed cuisine of the French Indochina region. Gladly, I was not let down. Some of my favorites included bobor, a rice porridge with fish and various condiments like chiles and lime; curry soups eaten with rice noodles and fresh herbs; grilled river fish with various sauces; and the ubiquitous French-style baguette. Cambodia’s oven-like temperature makes eating feel like a chore at times, but the determined appetite in me set aside all hesitation.

While the food was remarkable, the beer was not; however, after drinking 6+, any beer seems to be good beer. Ryan and I lived by this philosophy in our daily beer drinking regimen. Perhaps the weirdest experience of my whole journey though was learning to drink beer over ice. In fact, traditional practice at the bars is roaming waitresses with ice buckets, ready to refill your melted ice. By the end of my trip, ice + beer became not only tolerable but preferable given the hellish temperatures and non-refrigerated (hot) beer.

As for sights and sounds, nothing really exceeded expectation. Endless rice fields in the countryside and endless motorbike traffic in the city—all mainstays of Southeast Asia. More interesting were the cultural learnings, especially that of the Khmer peoples’ obsession with light skin color. Most Khmer people could be seen—especially during the middle of the day—wearing long sleeved shirts, jackets, long pants, and face/head coverings. Although this fits in with the highly conservative nature of Cambodian society, the underlying motive is to retain light skin, which is considered more beautiful. The funny thing about this was that I had browner skin than some (ugly?) and could care less about being covered up or not; in fact, much of the time I ended up going shirtless because of the heat, which is unheard of among Khmers. Along with my brown skin was the ongoing joke/confusion that I looked like a Khmer guy except that I couldn’t speak Khmer. As I quickly learned, the fact that I was from America but looked like Khmers was an unattainable concept. To make the situation even odder for local spectators, traveling with Ryan and Eddie and having them speak Khmer on my behalf really would really screw with minds—i.e. how can the white tourists speak Khmer but the Khmer guy can’t? Even after somewhat explaining to them my ethnic heritage, I don’t think most Khmers we encountered quite understood that people other than whites live in America. They probably thought I was just an anomaly in my own country as I was in theirs.

All in all, Cambodia was a blast (no landmine joke intended). The Khmer people were extremely nice and the food was outstanding. Getting to see Ryan on his home turf was interesting as well. While there is definitely ruggedness in his third world lifestyle, it is certainly not the popularly conjured Peace Corps experience of sleeping in dirt, eating crickets, and teaching natives how to brush their teeth. Ryan has an awesome support system there that watches out for him and, more importantly, he’s adapted well to his settings. And, in Cambodia or not, he can still throw a few beers back. – Jason Borja

Pictures from both my trip to Sumatra and Jasons trip to Cambodia will be posted shortly. For now this is all I have to say and all of the money I feel like spending on the internet. Hope everyone is well, because I am. Take care people.

– Ryan

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