I left the guesthouse early to make sure I won’t be late for my appointment. It was my first interview during my fieldwork in Cambodia and I had to start it right, the way I planned. I hailed a “moto” (motorcycle taxi), showed him the destination on the map, and negotiated for the fare. He nodded several times and said “yes yes yes”. I sat at the backseat, clutched my sling bag, and covered my mouth and nose with the “krama” I bought the night before. I have been warned that this mode of transportation is dangerous but I just love the thrill, the wind, the speed of riding on a motorbike. I wish I know how to drive one.
“This is local!” I thought. I always prefer this kind of experience over pampered style of touring. Fifteen minutes passed and we haven’t reached our destination yet. We should have arrived five minutes ago and we were slowing down. I asked my driver, “Do you know where we’re going?” He responded, “Yes yes yes.” Good. And I went back to observing the street views.
Might as well check the map just to make sure we were going on the right direction. If I didn’t arrive in ten minutes, I would be late. I better check on my driver again. I asked for his name to make our conversation easier. “What’s you name?” I inquired. I wanted to hit myself and throw the map when he replied, “Yes yes yes!”
Of course, why would I assume that everyone speaks English here? It is a country with its own beautiful and rich Khmer language. Besides, I’ve read from guidebooks that some drivers would take any foreign passenger for higher fares even though they don’t know the destination because they don’t understand or speak a single English word…other than “yes.”
Good thing I’m not bad at reading maps and Phnom Penh’s urban planning is quite easy to navigate. With the few Khmer words for directions I learned from a friend yesterday, I was able to show him the way and arrive at my interview participant’s residence right on time–two minutes early to be exact.
I still have so much to learn from solo traveling. And most importantly, I still have so much to learn from those destinations I’ve traveled and will travel to.
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