Feeling alive

(Emma) The cars and mopeds whip by us as we stand there wondering when to cross the street. I put my head down and walk, hoping that this is not my death sentence. The tires swerve around me as the drivers realize that I am not going to yield. In the US, it would be illegal to cross the street like this, but here in Cambodia, why not?

With so much previous experience with markets and bargaining, I thought that this would be easy.  The Russian Market in Phnom Penh couldn’t be any more aggressive than other markets in the world, so I walk in with confidence that I could bargain or say “no thank you” to any shopkeeper.  But still, I am pelted.

“Madam, how much?”

“You want t-shirt?”

“I give you good price, best price for you.”

Markets are a place to buy all necessitates but also all of the knock-off materials in the world.  The shopkeepers do not give up on a sale.  Considering that all 100 stalls sell the same exact things, they definitely want my business.  My three-dollar purchase could mean the difference in paying that month’s rent, or buying their family dinner that night.

Each shop is in a small, confined area stacked from ceiling to floor with all sorts of merchandise.  The aisle ways between are nothing like you see in America in any mall.  Between the shops, there is about three or even two feet of space where we can walk single file.

The smells overwhelm me the moment I walk into the thinly covered roof. Sometimes I get lucky enough to find enjoyable scents, like pepper, or lavender, or jasmine.  Almost all of the other times, I am unlucky, and the scent of rotting fish or some other god-awful smell fills my nostrils. Personally, I definitely prefer the flowers and spices.

I know it sounds crazy that someone can enjoy this, but there is some sort of pleasure I get from being in the markets.  It feels like I am leaving behind the tourist world and really stepping into the way the Cambodians, or any other people, live.

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