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Published: December 25th 2010
It's everyone's favorite time of year. In Cambodia.
The country definitely understands the holidays a bit more than they understand Halloween. Christmas displays--complete with Santa Claus, red and green letters, and pine trees covered with tinsel--line the streets. A sizeable number of companies have decorated their businesses with Christmas lights. It's not especially commercialized, and you're allowed to say Merry Christmas in public.
All of my students said as much to me, despite the fact that they don't celebrate Christmas. My last class literally coerced me into singing Jingle Bells with them, and all the students in one of my other classes gave me Christmas cards and pretty packets of candy. Isn't that nice?
I'd rather have a benefactor give me money, however, given that I am only teaching 3 classes and am earning that much in hundreds per month. Two-thirds of what I earn goes towards rent; still the assumption that I am white and therefore rich pervades every aspect of what I do. I've already learned that it sucks to be white, and that it sucks to be poor. Many people have also told me (and I might dispute this) that it sucks to live in Cambodia. But you combine all three--man, that's a new level of sucking entirely.
But the fact remains, I'd rather be here than in Jining, China. Any day of any season at any level of poverty.
I'm personally not celebrating today, not having any friends and family in close proximity and not having the money to so much as travel to the opposite end of the city. I spent the day buying cheap groceries (like banana flowers and gourds), cooking, and studying the Khmer language. My tutor is helping solve the mystery of a group of soldiers with guns who like to hurl rudeness at me when I walk past. In return, I told him what a "one horse open sleigh" is (I'm not actually that sure).
I am also sick with something I think I contracted from being locked in a car for six hours with sick children. It appears to be a cold, but it's destroying my sinuses and making me feel feverish. And you know something? I don't care. I'd rather have a cold in Cambodia, than multiple food-borne illnesses and other poisoning attempts
in China. Yes, I would.
So long, friends and family, have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.
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