And Just Like That, It’s All Coming to a Close

This is it! I had my last day of Khmer language class today. My test is over and my presentation is complete!

This must have been the most difficult six weeks in my academic career. I’m lucky that a lot of things come easy to me; foreign language does not. I’ve had nine-hour school days just to go home and study for several hours more, drilled my brain with new concepts and words, and generally immersed myself in this program.

I knew an accelerated course would be tough, but I had no idea how much content we would truly pack into this month and a half. I probably end up doing more work than this during the school year, but the difference is the type of work. At least with several slower classes I can take a break from a subject if I need one. With this course, I had to power through without stopping.

I feel like I gained valuable skills from this class. My language has improved tremendously over this last six weeks, arguably progressing more than I have in my two years of language courses. Immersion does wonders. I’m able to carry on conversations and understand more than ever before. Even beyond language, I feel as though I’ve learned some other important things as well. Determination was essential, discipline mandatory, and sheer willpower to carry me through.

This course has taught me about what it means to be a hard-working and driven student, from accepting your challenges and working to correct them, communicating problems with your professors, asking for help if you need it… All of these are things that I’ve had to do in this class, and many that I’ve refused to do before. Moving forwards, I need to remember this.

Overall, I’m so grateful to my professors, the coordinators of this program, and my amazing host family. Thank you for helping me learn so much.


My Weekend in Krong Kampot

Despite this being my third time in Cambodia, I have never made it to the beautiful Kampot.

I was in awe of the scenery. I haven’t yet seen a place in Cambodia with so many mountains (or hills, I suppose). Most of my weekend was unfortunately consumed by studying, given that my final test is coming up in only four days now. Fortunately my hotel had a pool, so I was able to take a dip every so often and lay out in the sun while I studied.

I did manage to make it out just a little on Saturday morning. I went to see a cave in one of the nearby mountains, and also to visit a pepper farm.

My guide and I clambered up 200 or so steps. I chose to take the easy route, as my guide pointed to a cliff and said the hard route used only vines to climb up the surface. Given the inside of the cave, I don’t doubt it. The cave had a beautiful little temple dating clear back to the 1300’s, even before Angkor wat, a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Shiva. The way down was the really interesting part: the drops were steep, climbing through the cave and sometimes lowering myself down about six feet or so. The truly terrifying part was when I had to climb upwards on the side of the rocks directly next to a twenty foot drop to craggy rocks below. I was painfully aware the drop would cause some serious injuries, but we made it through safe and sound.


Kampot is known for its pepper, a major export which is highly praised by cooks around the world for its qualities. The farm I visited was called La Plantation, which prides itself on organic growing and uses no chemicals in their production. They also provide housing for their workers, should they choose to live on the farm.

Growing the pepper is a complicated and carefully designed process. First, the ground is tilled and any large rocks or roots are removed. Four-meter poles are placed in the ground to tie the growing pepper plant to. After one month the sprouts come up out of the dirt. After one year the plants are as tall as the poles, but the pepper isn’t ready yet; for the first two years, the flowers are trimmed off because the pepper isn’t of a high enough quality. The third year, they begin harvesting.

After harvest, the pepper is processed to become red, white, or black. All three come from the same plant, but are treated differently after harvest to produce the different varieties. The black comes from green kernels. The red is soaked and sundried, or the skins are removed to create white pepper. The farm also produces long pepper, and a tiny kernel called pearl pepper.

In addition to growing pepper, the farm also produces saffron and other various herbs.

Overall, a lovely and much-needed getaway.

My Typical Day in Cambodia

I wake up around six every morning with the full intention of working out a little bit… but usually end up hitting snooze for another half hour.
Breakfast at seven, rice (or sometimes rice porridge) and eggs, pork, or fish. For breakfast here, we eat about the same thing as for the other meals.
We study in the morning for four grueling hours… Learning vocabulary, making sentences, translating pages from our books… When I was in Khmer class at the University of Utah for two hours, I thought that was tough. Staying attentive through four hours of mentally taxing work is incredibly difficult. 
We have a two hour break for lunch. My classmates and I typically walk to the Russian Market, very nearby, and eat at one of the restaurants surrounding it. I’m partial to Bahn Mi Bros, but we found a Japanese restaurant recently that’s really good too. Usually we have time after eating to run some errands or study a little more before class starts again. On a really rough day I take a nap in the corner. I’ve figured out how to arrange the chairs to perfectly match the shape I sleep, slightly curled up and on my side.
We study for another hour with our teachers, and then have the afternoon to either be taken out on a field trip with one of our professors or stay at the school to do our own work. We can study the class materials, or work on our final research project. Mine is about Voluntourism in Cambodia, so I’ve been reading a lot of very depressing things about the orphan trade.
At night, I go home and study for a bit before dinner. My host mother is an amazing cook. We sit on the floor together, and usually one of my host father’s brother and his family joins us as well. We always have fruit after dinner, and sometimes a dessert.
More studying… If I lucky, I have a light workload and can take time to play with the kids or chat with others in the family. With class winding down, though, I’ve had a lot less leisure time.
Once everyone else drifts off to bed, I stay downstairs and stretch a little. I’ve found that this helpsy stress levels.
I end up in bed around eleven after taking some time to decompress. Then, at six, I wake up and do it all over again.

The Water Blessing

Yesterday I had the privilege of going to a pagoda to receive a water blessing from a monk.

When you arrive at a pagoda it is expected that you bring an offering of something that is useful to the monks. Typically our class brings incense and candles, drinks, and sometimes sweetened condensed milk. You sit before the monk and bow three times, placing your hands on your forehead and then on the floor each time. The monk says a blessing over the offerings and the people who bring them.

In Cambodia, the monks often play dual roles both of monk and sometimes as fortune teller. Our teacher asked the monk if he would be willing to tell our fortunes and he agreed. He pulled out a huge book, which I presume to have had written fortunes for each year and the time of year it was. I gave him my birthday and sign according to the Chinese and Cambodian years (which happens to be a rat). He told me that I don’t always listen to my family, but listen to my friends too much. He said that sometimes this leads to me being taken advantage of. For me, this year is supposed to be a good one but that next year will not be. He also said that since the angel guarding my sign is a male I am strong, and when I set my mind to something I will be sure accomplish it. I’m not sure how much I believe of fortune telling, but perhaps it’s good to keep in mind.

After we all had our fortunes told, we went back to receive the water blessing. In my sleep deprived state, I had managed to pack two extra shirts and no shorts. Fortunately, they were equipped with spare skirts and I was able to borrow one.

One of my classmates, my teacher, and I chose to receive the blessing. We sat in a small tiled room with our backs to the monk. We held our hands in a praying position. The monk began to chant something, and I heard the sounds of splashing. All of a sudden, a giant bucket of water was dumped on my head.

The blessing went on for around five minutes, and every few seconds another bucketful came crashing down on my head. I was soaked.

Afterwards we changed out of our soggy clothing into the replacements we brought and headed home. The blessing is supposed to bring one luck, so I hope it works.

How to Make Ban Chaew

So far, my absolute favorite thing I’ve had to eat in Cambodia is a dish called Ban Chaew. Ban Chaew is basically the Cambodian mix of crepes and lettuce wraps, a thin yellow pancake with meat and vegetables inside that you wrap in lettuce and dip it into a side sauce. You can find it pretty easily just about anywhere in the street carts… that is, if you’re here. I’ve been dying to learn how to make it so that I can bring this delicious food home with me, and today I got my wish!

The crepes themselves were much more difficult than expected, especially because we used a wok to cook them over a small fire pit!

In case you wanted to try making it for yourself, I included the recipe below. It should feed five or six people.


1 tablespoon salt

1 cup sugar

1 chili pepper

.25 cloves garlic

.5 cup fish sauce

.5 cups lime juice

1 can of Sprite or 7 Up



1 cube vegetable stock (crushed)

1 gram ground pork

1 gram ground chicken

1 yellow onions (chopped)

2 tablespoons oil

4 cups bean sprouts



400 grams rice flour

10 grams turmeric

2 tablespoons oil

1 can club soda

2 eggs

2 cups of water


Grind garlic and chili pepper together until it makes a paste. Add in sugar and salt, then grind again. Add fish sauce, lime juice, and Sprite or 7 up. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.

Pour oil in pan, then add the yellow onions and cook until soft. Add pork and chicken. Once no longer pink, add in the vegetable stock cube. Remove from heat, and gently mix in the bean sprouts. Set aside.

Mix the rice flour and turmeric together, then add water and club soda. Add eggs in, and whisk until smooth.

In a pan (non-stick is much easier) wipe with oil and pour in a scoop of the batter. Swirl around, then cover with a lid for a minute or so. Remove lid and place filling in the center. Place the lid back on. Once the edges of the crepe begin to lift, fold in half and place on a plate.

Serve with a large plate of lettuce and your choosing of fresh vegetables.

Banteay Srei

This last weekend at the Angkor Wat temple complex, I was also able to see Banteay Srei! I’d never seen this temple before, but I’ve been dying to because of all the good things I’ve heard and read about it. Banteay Srei is unique because of the pink color of its sandstone and the incredibly detailed quality of its carvings.

I’m happy to report that it lived up to all of the hype, and became one of my new favorite temples! I’ve always loved Bayon because of the massive faces that make it unique, but Banteay Srei and its intricate artwork take a very close second.

Although the temple was small, every portion of it was elegantly carved, from pillars at the doorways to murals higher on the walls, to inscriptions. It always amazes me to think about how much work and effort went into these temples.

Lucky for me, I went with three of my Cambodian teachers who were able to give me a little more enlightenment on what all of the carvings meant. My favorite was a god who eats time. As you live out your life, he eats more and more of your time away until you don’t have any left.


I thought it might be fun to write another version of yesterday’s post about the Dinosaur of Ta Prohm…. But this time in Khmer language! I know most of you won’t understand, but I think the script is incredibly beautiful. And, if you do understand, I’d love some pointers! I’m loving learning, and want to continue improving as much as I can.

ពេលមិត្តរួមថ្នាក់និងខ្ញុំទៅទីក្រុងសៀមរាប     យើងទៅលេងអង្គរវត្ត។     ខ្ញុំមិនដែលឃើញប្រាសាទដែលខ្ញុំបានឃើញពីមុនមកដូច្នេះខ្ញុំសប្បាយណាស់។     លោកគ្រូនិងងអ្នកគ្រូរបស់ខ្ញុំដឹងច្រើនអំពីប្រាសាទ។     យើងខ្ញុំទៅប្រាសាទបន្ទាយស្រី     ប្រាសាទនាគព័ន្ធ     ប្រាសាទព្រោះគំលង់     និងប្រាសាទតាព្រហ្ម។     ខ្ញុំចូលចិត្តប្រាសាទបន្ទាយស្រីជាងគេពីព្រោះមានចម្លាក់ស្អាតជាងគេបំផុត។

ខ្ញុំទៅប្រាសាទតាព្រហ្មឆ្នាំមុន     ប៉ុន្តែខ្ញុំមិនដឹងអំពីប្រវត្តិសាស្ត្រប្រាសាទដែល។     លោកគ្រូរបស់ខ្ញុំបង្ហាញមិត្តរួមថ្នាក់សត្វដាយនូស័រនៅតាព្រហ្ម។

ពេល​ខ្ញុំក្មេងៗ     ខ្ញុំចុលចិត្តសត្វដាយនូស័រច្រើនណាស់។     តាព្រហ្មសាងនៅសតវត្សទី១២។     សត្វដាយនូស័របានងាប់៦៥លានឆ្នាំមុន។     ប្រទេសកម្ពុជាមិនមានឆ្អឹងសត្វដាយនូស័រទេ។     ខ្ញុំចង់ដឹងហេតុអ្វីប្រាសាទតាព្រហ្មមានចម្លាក់សត្វដាយនូស័រ។     ខ្ញុំឃើនអ៊ីនធឺណិត។     មាន៣គំនិត។

១)     ជា Stegosaurus​ ។     ខ្ញុំមិនគិតថាជា Stegosaurus ពិព្រោះមិនមានភស្តុតាងផ្សាងៗ

២)     ជាសត្វរមាសនិងស្លឹកឈើនៅពីក្រាយ។     គេឆ្លាក់សត្វផ្សាងជាមួយស្លឹកឈើ     និងវាមើលទៅដូចសត្វដាយនូស័រ។

៣)     ជាការលេងសើច។     ខ្ញុំគិតថាទំនងជាងគេបំផុត។