Back to Siem Reap

We woke up early because the animals around the house were not about to permit sleeping after 6am. Emily’s dog Ninja burst through the door and surprised me with a very friendly morning kiss all over my face and promptly jumped into bed with us. Emily tries not to encourage him to be in her bed because he’s often not clean and gets fleas regularly. We walked to the market to find something for breakfast and felt lucky to find some deep fried bananas almost immediately that were filling, but delicious. The market was a chaotic, impressive scene. The market contains live fish flopping around, pig heads, animal intestines, meats of all kinds hanging from the ceiling or lying on mats on the ground, fruits not common in other parts of the world, clothes, baskets, toiletries, drinks – all for sale. Shoppers and sellers push through the tight spaces in the maze of the market. I love markets in other countries, just having such a different kind of shopping experience. I was able to meet one of Emily’s friends, a tailor in the village. Younger than both Emily and me, she has a young baby and incredible beauty. She was excited to meet me, even though a little hesitant to practice her English with someone new. The old lady from the day before ran into us again and grabbed me arm and quickly gave me a huge hug and told us again in Khmer how beautiful she thinks we are and that she loves us. It felt good to be welcomed by someone because people in the market area couldn’t stop looking at us. Many of them knew Emily already and as we walked by would ask if I was her sister and say we looked so alike. Every time this happened Emily would shake her head and say no and explain I was her friend (all in Khmer, but I started to learn the routine) and look at me and tell me we look nothing alike we’re both just white. I guess it’s like some Americans thinking all people from other races look the same. To me, this is one of the most important parts of traveling the world – you get taken out of your comfort zone and placed into different perspectives and realities. What could be more humbling?

Once we left the market, I realized how claustrophobic it had felt even though it hadn’t bothered me in the moment. We walked down the main road a little to this open restaurant (3 walls) and sat down at a table. We each got chocolate ovaltine on ice and ate our fried bananas. I know it shouldn’t have kept surprising me, but the prices were so low. For the time we were in her village, we lived on less than $8 – including transportation to get there and back to Siem Reap. The average income for people in Cambodia is $3 a day. Imagine earning less than $5 for an entire’s day labor. And they work hard there. Shocking facts like that exist all of the world and many people already know them, but seeing it and meeting people who actually live it makes it much more real. It’s not just a fact thrown at you by some professor or activist.

We spent the rest of the morning relaxing at Emily’s home and watched 12 Years a Slave – an excellent movie! We ate lunch on the living room floor with Emily’s host family and enjoyed rice with vegetables, meat, and sauce. I was able to try some new fruits that were interesting and awesome, I wish I could have some now. Then we had to pack up our stuff and say goodbye. We walked down that dirt road to the main road and hitchhiked, waiting for someone going to Siem Reap. One person stopped pretty quickly, but he was only going half the way we needed to go so we kept waiting. A guy in a pickup truck pulled over and offered to take us the whole way and to our hotel, he was kind and helpful getting our stuff in the backseat. Just under an hour, the ride went by quickly, mostly quiet.

We had a few issues once we got back to our hotel – the one we had stayed at before we left. They had put us in a room with one king size bed instead of two queens like we had requested and had our other nights there. Expect the unexpected. Emily and I had been sharing beds in a lot of the hotels, but this was a nicer one and for what we were paying compared to other places and because we would be staying there two more nights, we wanted it to be right. They weren’t able to get us a room with two beds so they said they would bring in a new bed. We decided to go into the city and let them figure that out.

Emily has friends from the Peace Corps who had gone to this store in Siem Reap where you can get professional photo shoots done – like traditional Cambodian style photo shoots. P1010075

We went upstairs and were met by makeup artists. We looked through rows of outfits and picked matching styles with complementing colors and the makeup artists made us up with more makeup than I’ve ever worn in my life! Fake eyelashes and all. I peaked in the mirror and almost didn’t recognize myself. Then they did our hair with braids turned into updos that were gorgeous. I felt like a celebrity or something. They helped dress us, covered us in jewelry, and put us in front of the camera. It was such a huge contrast from earlier in the day.

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We had a fantastic photographer who made us look incredible and posed us like we were in real Cambodia advertisements. We modeled together and separate. The whole process from arriving in the studio to walking out took a few hours. It was amazing and so so much fun! We got a bunch of photos that we’ll always be able to keep and look back on our spectacular trip together.

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Walking around Siem Reap with our fancy hair and makeup, we looked like super models the rest of the day. People looked at us everywhere we went. Because Siem Reap is the main tourist area of Cambodia, for once it wasn’t just Cambodian people looking at us. It was so much fun and exciting.

And we totally acted like grown ups

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We went to a cafe where Emily spends a lot of time when she’s in Siem Reap – all the employees know her, except they didn’t recognize her with all the makeup! Well I mean, I probably wouldn’t have either. We spent most of the evening there and after a great dinner we went to the night markets. I wanted to get some gifts for my family and find some stuff to fill my crazy apartment with. I have stuff from all over the world busting out of every space in my place, it’s starting to look like a fair trade shop. I found beautiful table cloths and bowls to take home and got to practice my bargaining skills. Emily has a friend who works in one of the places in the market, she was so excited about our model appearances.

When we finally made it back to the hotel, ready to crash, we came home to a disappointment – they hadn’t put in the new bed! So we went to the front desk and said something, the guy was genuinely embarrassed and claimed to have sent people to add in the new bed hours ago. We waited in the dark by the pool for the new bed to be added into our room and found this cool dude sitting outside.

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We were happy to wipe off the makeup and remove the fake eyelashes and go right to bed. It had been another crazy, adventurous day!

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