a&a; new deodorant, soggy football and getting fat

This week was really difficult for Zac, who was having his ‘tough week’ – we’ve all had one, but I think knowing how close he is to a week near the beach, with the potential to do some island hopping and write in his ‘Indiana Jones journal’ has him itching for the finish line.

Zac’s been the most consistent with his teaching, generally he’s enjoyed it and once he found a style of teaching that suited him, and the kids, he’s really rolled with it. While he’s still a way off from ‘teacher’, I do think he was on to something when he started that teaching degree, but if he goes back to Uni perhaps trying to find a more ‘hands on’ degree would suit him better.

This week I relished in the simple things, enjoying the fact that even if I was ‘fat’ I still smelt good.

I feel I have to start with the awkward, just to get it out of the way with.

It still hurts a little, even though I tried to shrug it off and laugh and remember what Kimlay said in our orientation:

“If they say you’re so fat, that’s ok, because here that’s a good thing. Big belly is lucky.”

Doesn’t feel lucky. As always, I’ve been struggling with the whole body image thing, even being here. The girls on the trip are all stunning and look great wiggled in to their bikinis and bathers.

While, on the whole, I feel comfortable in a bikini (after all, the water is my home) not being able to gym and lift and do reformer and, to me, a noticeable decline in strength makes it a little harder when I derobe and wobble over to the pool.

And there’s the whole ‘back fat’ thing that has forever plagued me (alarmingly, I have memories of being 7 or 8 and sucking my belly in, twisting my body around to try and somehow move my back fat before a swim training session). It’s the one thing, that no matter how hard I try never seems to shift and the biggest part of me I’m ashamed of.

My hungry back. That eats clothes. The only part of me I wish I could chop off and banish forever. Love handles these are not.

I digress.

I was teaching a ‘seasons’ lesson with my class for science and had a photo taken just after we got back to the UK last year, on the Bath Grounds.

I was showing the kids and they were suitably impressed with the fact their teacher had a life beyond teaching, when the Khmer teacher in the class asked:

How long until this? How long, because teacher, here you are so small and now you are so fat!”

I laughed nervously, “Oh, erm, one year, this was last year, so a year ago, but I’m stretching up so I look smaller.”

Yes I put on weight in the UK, but – largely due to the significant decrease in calories and chocolate here – I have lost a few inches from the waistline. Despite knowing there was no malice, it was hard to get past the ingrained stigma synonymous with the word ‘fat’ in Western culture.

I spent the rest of the afternoon dreading the next class in case the kids started calling me fat too, but, again, they were just excited by the realia.

It’s perhaps telling of our time here that one of the best things that happened to me this week was getting more deoderant.

Mine was starting to run out and I’ve found, no matter which brand I use when it gets towards the end, it just straight up stops working and I’m left smelling kind of fresh, with an over riding stench of b.o. and grime.

It’s grim.
I notice it and then I sweat more, fearful that my stench with over power those noses of those around me, and too polite, or too appalled to say anything will merely hold their breath and laugh about it later over martini’s while they smoke fat cigars.

I realise how improbable that is.
Martini’s are far too expensive here.
Zac said I was being ridiculous, because he couldn’t smell me.

It took a while to find a deodorant that I wanted, because most of the products here are ‘whitening’.
The same way we have tinted moisturisers and tanning lotions, they’re obsessed with being ‘white’.
I still can’t get my head around the notion that white is somehow better.

The teachers laugh at Zac and I, constantly comparing tans, trying to see who’s the darkest, saying: “Teacher, you get less and less valuable by the day!”

In the end Nivea sorted me out.
Good old Nivea.
And now I smell like a dream.

The other awesome thing was going to see Cambodia play Brunei in the football.
Yes, you did read that right.
I just said football and awesome in the same sentence.
Thing is, it’s the national sport and it’s hard not to get suckered in to the atmosphere.


The Olympic Stadium, slick with water

We were supposed to be meeting the rest of the group there, Lucy had zipped in to town on her moto to get our tickets. Ewan was a champ and dropped them off at the school for us, which was just as well as the Princial warned us if we had to get a Tuk Tuk we’d need to get one soon after school finished to make it in time.

The rain had started to pour as we set off and the Tuk Tuk limped through potholes and puddles, 45 minutes after we’d set off!
The 15 minute drive thwarted by weather and ardent footy fans.

We had been dropped outside the stadium and were looking for something to eat before meeting everyone else outside Dominoes. Hunger satisfied, we were heading to our rendezvous when I was grabbed bay anxious looking Cambodian lady on a moto.

“Are you going inside? Sister, are you going inside? I have no friends, can I come with you?”

I don’t react well under pressure and deferred the question to Zac. We were walking in the opposite direction, but already soaked to the bone, she seemed genuine. “Sure.”

She smiled and hopped off her moto, disappearing to buy a ticket, while we were left watching the vehicle and, as it turned out, her dog.

She was gone for ages and we weren’t sure what to do, but she came back eventually, smiling with her ticket and water for us to drink.

I should be in school, but I wanted to watch the football. My uncle used to be professional footballer.”

We told her we had to meet our friends and she said she needed to park her moto, but there was a better place for meeting inside and Zac was verging an anxiety attack worrying about getting a seat.

For the sake of keeping him calm, we followed her, squeezing through the tiny gates in to the stadium, she said it was the only way in. She seemed like she knew her stuff, so after we’d found a spot (and Zac messaged everyone our location, helpful when mostly we operate on wifi…) I went back up to an obvious point to see if I could see the others.

Turns out, there was another gate, everyone else had gone in the opposite end to us, so despite her helpfully pointing out every white person she saw (“Sister, your friends?” “No, different white people.”) there was no way we were going to find them.

We were so wet I was wringing water out of my hands, and her dog was seeking shelter under any poncho she could find. Rae Rae bought us food, some coconut and sesame crepe and fruit and kept offering us more snacks, while chattering away about how the country was better before Pol Pot and explaining who the footballers were in relation to her and her, now deceased, ex-pro uncle.

Best of all, she kept dodging calls from her Mum who was chastising her for skiving school.

The whole thing felt incredibly naughty, she was supposed to be in school and we were supposed to meet our friends but we had somehow met in the middle to enjoy the game.

It was entirely surreal. The whole experience, not least of which being adopted by RaeRae and Poppy (the dog), but in the end I was glad we went…even if we didn’t find ‘our white people’.

Cambodia won 3 – 0.


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