The Stink of Durian for Newbies, and Adjusting to Cambodia

A royal decree was issued in the night. Everyone in Cambodia who has shoes is to take them off, and they are to do it inside my room. Groan. Below my hotel window (wide open cuz the one AC unit in the entire town was not allocated to this hut) is a fruit stall enterprise specializing in durian, a treat to wake up to at 6am. It is that time of year when foreigners are subjected to Fear Factor challenges involving this foul mishap of creation. It is the season, they are everywhere, and the Khmers must share. There is particular affinity for this fruit, drawing national pride, cherished reverently, like there is a little god inside the paranormal-looking blob. When foreigners are offered a piece of it Khmer radars within a mile radius zero in … [Read more...]

About fieldwork: "and oh, the places you’ll go!"

I'm more often than not in the provinces for one of my bigger projects, an STI (sexually transmitted infections) survey*. I am the only foreigner, and no one on my survey teams or the provincial offices that I interact with for days on end is competent enough in English that every utterance does not need to be repeated multiple times, loud and punctuated by wild gesturing. Even my translator needs much explaining. This can be draining...Although communication difficulties are a given, that daily reserve of energy sometimes isn't enough to stay afloat deep waters of frustration. Especially when you are hot, tired, dehydrated, waiting to finish the day's work, and you catch one of your lab techs taking ice out of the cold chain for his drink. … [Read more...]