Hello! My name is Polai and I am the new Kiva Fellow at field partner AMK. I arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia a little over a week ago. As I start my second week here, I wanted to reflect on my experience so far being Kiva’s first Khmer speaking fellow and a Cambodian-American living here. Here are some thoughts:
- Me as an Asian-American vs. a Cambodian-Khmer-speaking-American. In one instance, I went apartment hunting with my boyfriend (tall white American) here and at one of the apartments when we were introduced to the female apartment manager, the woman glossed over me and gave my boyfriend a shy and smiling “Hello, welcome Sir” and nothing to me. I conversed in English with my boyfriend about the apartment and she would speak to my boyfriend as though he was the only one renting. After a few minutes in the apartment, I started to speak to her in Khmer to ask her about utilities and renting logistics, and immediately her face lit up with a big smile and she started talking to me in khmer at 100 mph. On our way out, she said good-bye and gave me her card. I can’t remember if she even said “goodbye” to my boyfriend or not.
- There are some words in Khmer that sound similar to english. Switching back from english to khmer with my co-workers can get confusing.
Co-worker: Do you have chat? (In khmer english accent)
Me: No, but I have a raincoat.
Everyone stops working, stares at me for a minute and breaks out in laughter. He was asking if I had a Skype Chat ID and I thought he was asking me if I had an umbrella.
- I am the office Khmer-English dictionary. This is fun and I am glad to teach them new words to help make the business profiles and journals more accurate.
- I am in great company. The Kiva office at AMK is made up of three hardworking individuals who amaze me with their excel skills, joke telling, and openness. I have not been at AMK for very long, but I get the feeling that this a very pleasant place to work. A large office with a bright purple facade filled with over 60 employees coming in and out in their purple and white dress shirts greet me with smiles and “Suesday” (hello/good morning/good day) everyday. From the cleaning ladies to the managers, everyone is a friend here.
- I thought that I would miss cake on Fridays at work, but having khmer snacks brought over by another colleague is just as good if not yummier.
Tomorrow I go into the field to meet the borrowers!