Thursday, 10 September 2009

Settling in . . .

Two weeks have passed since I arrived in Cambodia. Two weeks down, only 14 left to go. I’m here doing the field work component of my thesis research for me Masters degree in Water Resources Engineering at the University of Guelph.

So much to do, so little time to do it in…

My first couple of weeks here have been spent getting settled in, and getting things going with my research program. Things have gone well on both fronts!

My work is based out of a local NGO here called Resource Development International Cambodia. The two facets of the organization that I am most familiar with are the ceramic water filter factory and the water quality lab. RDI runs the largest ceramic water filter factory in the country. RDI also has one of the best equipped water quality labs in Cambodia – one of the reasons that has brought me here to work with them.

Photo 1: View from my room at RDI

Photo 2: My first home here was a shipping container at RDI. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds …

RDIC is located just out of Phnom Penh, in the neighboring province of Kandal. I am living in Phnom Penh, approx. a 35 minute drive away.

It was a major relief when I found myself feeling at home in the city almost right away. It is a hectic and a little rough around the edges, but after a year in the sleepy little city of Guelph (and a year before that spent in the even sleepier city of Lilongwe), it is a welcomed change of pace. The streets are busy with motor bikes flying from every direction (rules of the road don’t seem to apply to them…), food carts of all sorts (from noodles to waffles!), monks wandering in and out of wats (temples), families playing badminton . . . such energy!

Photo 3: Need to take some photos of the city . . . For now, all I have this photo of some rooftops

My house hunting experience was an absolute joy, compared to the ordeal I went through in Malawi. I hit the pavement in an area of town I was interested in living in, and within a couple hours, I had successfully found myself a great little apartment.

Photo 4: Outside view of my apartment. I’m on the 3rd floor.

Photo 5: My awesome patio

I live in the neighbourhood of O’Russei. I very much enjoy it.

I am a 5 minute walk from the biggest, busiest, and most disorienting market I have ever had the pleasure of getting lost in. My little bit of Khmer came in handy when I explored it last weekend to find some household items to make my little apartment a little more homey. You can find just about anything in that market, from electrical supplies, to salted fish, to gemstones, to suspicious North Face backpacks.

As I type this, there is something that sounds like a choir practice going on in a building across the street. I hear the honk of motorbikes whipping past and children laughing. I am actually on a relatively quiet street for the area as I have a bit of a buffer between the many restaurants and bars in the surrounding streets, so I sleep soundly in relative silence.

I am working on learning Khmer. I am well aware of my (limited) capacity to pick up new languages, but I know how important it is for me to learn as much as I can! I am taking lessons when I get the chance, offered by an audio engineer at RDI. He is a good teacher, and I am picking some up.

Khmer is not a terribly complicated language, however, the pronunciation is a major challenge for me. For example, in my lesson today we spent a few long minutes going over the difference between “p” and “pb,” - Apparently, I kept saying “pbaan” as opposed to “baan.” My Canadian ears could only barely tell the difference . . . I have never before had to focus so intently on how we make the sounds when we do when we speak. How do we make a “p” sound vs. a “b” sound? How do I make something in between: “pb”?? I end up completely tongue tied by the end of a lesson.

Things have been moving along, research wise. I won’t go into many specifics here, but I will talk a bit about the general area of interest, being water supply and sanitation in resettlement areas around Phnom Penh. My first steps have been to scope out determine my study site locations. I've had some success, and will hopefully start ramping things up next week!

Photo 6: Scoping out a potential study site

Photo 7: Another study site.

More on that in the next installment…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I didn't know that you were restarting your blog for cambodia! cool!!