๐Š๐ก๐ฆ๐ž๐ซ๐ข๐œ๐š๐ง ๐…๐š๐ฆ๐ข๐ฅ๐ฒ ๐€๐›๐ซ๐จ๐š๐ | โŒ— โฝ ๐‡๐จ๐ฐ ๐–๐ž ๐†๐จ๐ญ "๐Œ๐จ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ซโˆ˜๐“๐ฎ๐ซ๐ญ๐ฅ๐ž๐"

justinparke
Justin Parke @justinparkeSeptember 2019 ยท 8 min read
TravelFeed

๐Ÿ‘ต๐Ÿพ๐Ÿข| ๐Œ๐Ž๐“๐‡๐„๐‘ย ย ๐“๐”๐‘๐“๐‹๐„๐ƒโ“ |๐Ÿข๐Ÿ‘ต๐Ÿพ


ย ย ย ย ย "Mother Turtle" (แž˜แŸแžขแžŽแŸ’แžŠแžพแž€) is a Cambodian colloquial term for a matchmaker. I'll also add something that will give you a window into the Khmer culture: the epic dictionary defintion. When have you ever heard or seen the word "procuress" in your life ๐Ÿค”?


แž˜แŸแžขแžŽแŸ’แžŠแžพแž€ โž™ "mee ส”ษ‘ndaษ™k"


  • 1a. ย ย ย matchmaker (esp. someone who arranges a clandestine or secretive liaison between a girl and boy); procuress; pimp.
  • 1b. ย ย ย mediator / facilitator in negotiations (USAGE: FIGURATIVE)

๐Ÿ›ฃ๏ธ | ๐๐‘๐„โˆ™๐“๐”๐‘๐“๐‹๐„ย ย ๐๐‘๐„๐‹๐”๐ƒ๐„ | ๐Ÿข


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My first tie, bye manual labor ๐Ÿ‘”

ย ย ย ย ย I arrived in Cambodia in 2010 having just turned 27 years old; young, naive and eager to carve out a new and better life for myself. I was uneducated, but ready to turn my life around in a wild ๐Ÿค  west economy.

ย ย ย ย ย Having never typed a resumรฉ in my life and not even knowing what a CV was yet, I attempted to land a job doing what so-called "expats" said was the most abundant work available. I am of course talking about ESL ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿซ teaching jobs. The closest I had come to escaping manual labor in the USA was working as a vegan ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿณ cook, so I didn't feel capable of teaching. After all this was a job technically illegal for me to do in my own country.


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Barely a teacher, hardly a classroom ๐ŸŽ“

ย ย ย ย ย After every school in Siem Reap turned me down due to my inexperience teaching, beard and turban ๐Ÿ‘ณ๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ, lack of education and horrible CV. I eventually got lucky and landed a job teaching English to Pavillon D'Orient Hotel tuk-tuk ๐Ÿ›บ drivers. The job was brutal; my students were responsible for taking hotel guests on Angkor Wat ๐ŸŒ… sunrise photo trips every morning, and we had to conduct lessons just before they departed each day.

ย ย ย ย ย Due to the student's constraints I had to wake up at 3:30am โฐ for an 1ยฝ hour round-trip bicycle commute, 5 days a week, for a ๐Ÿ’ฒ60 per month salary, but it allowed me to stay in Cambodia, rent a ๐Ÿ’ฒ50 per month studio apartment and not deplete my ๐Ÿ’ฒ500 life savings.


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After-class sports with students โšฝ
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Testing day got serious real quick ๐Ÿ–‹๏ธ
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Typical commute to work ๐ŸŒŠ
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At the Angkor temples ๐Ÿ•‰๏ธ๐Ÿ›•โ˜ธ๏ธ

ย ย ย ย ย Not too many foreigners gladly live under such circumstances in Cambodia, but in my little block of rental rooms, I was surrounded by some very loving people, and a few meth heads ๐Ÿ’Š. My next-door neighbor happened to be a deportee from Rhode Island. Having left Cambodia when he was only a baby ๐Ÿ‘ถ๐Ÿฝ, he struggled and learned to adapt to life in a country he barely knew. He had already been in Cambodia 10 years, married a Cambodian woman and fathered 2 children.


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My neighbors and future in-laws (from left: Senat, Lux, Seneat & Nov) ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ง


ย ย ย ย ย Because Nov was a native English speaker, he and his family were able to help me learn the Cambodian language ๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ, customs ๐Ÿ™‡ and culture ๐Ÿ‰ quickly. We all became fast family friends, and I eventually became well-acquainted with many extended family members too. After having some experience and confidence, I gradually landed more higher paying ๐Ÿ’ต teaching jobs through the years, and built a pretty good quality of life for myself. I later became a Khmer language teacher ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿซ, opened and closed my own schools ๐Ÿซ, ran an Ital restaurant ๐Ÿฅก, health food and Indian spices ๐ŸŒถ๏ธ store, provided translation services and left Cambodia for good twice, only to return.

๐Ÿšช | ๐„๐๐“๐„๐‘ย ย ๐Œ๐Ž๐“๐‡๐„๐‘ย ย ๐“๐”๐‘๐“๐‹๐„ | ๐Ÿข


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Mother Turtle herself pictured far right ๐ŸŽ‚

ย ย ย ย ย Lux pictured in the above photos is the niece of @Sreypov, who is now my partner, and hopefully wife ๐Ÿ‘ฐ someday if a country will let us marry and immigrate together. Lux's mother is Sreymom, aka "Mother Turtle" or the "Procuress". Sreymom is actually Sreypov's half-sister, with a 20-year age gap between them, and Sreypov was more or less raised by Sreymom.

ย ย ย ย ย It's a terribly sad story, but Sreypov's mother walked through a minefield โš ๏ธ to make it across the Thai Border during the Vietnamese Dry Season Offensive ๐Ÿ’ฃ. Because of the war and genocide created by the Khmer Rouge, anyone born before the mid 1990's usually has a very complicated and tragic life story. Sreypov was technically born in Thailand, in a U.N. Refugee Camp ๐Ÿ•๏ธ known as "Camp Site Two".


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Site Two Camp ๐Ÿšฒ (source)

ย ย ย ย ย Unfortunately for Sreypov, the relationship with her mother was quite complicated, and she was neglected quite heavily when her mother repatriated back to Cambodia. This is how Sreypov came to be raised ๐Ÿคฑ by her half-sister, Sreymom. I don't prod too much into this part of her life, and only know what she has told me. I can say that Sreypov didn't receive the same quality of life as Sreymom provided her own children, even though they were all under one roof ๐Ÿ .

ย ย ย ย ย  Well, the strange thing is that somehow, for the 7 years I had already lived in Cambodia, Sreypov and I's paths never crossed. Even though I knew almost every extended family member of hers, I had never physically come face to face ๐Ÿ™ˆ with Sreypov, sometimes missing each other by minutes in various locations through the years. All the time Sreypov was married ๐Ÿ‘ฐ I fell in and out of love ๐Ÿ’” about four times, never able to find that special someone.


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At the Tonle Sap ๐ŸŸ
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Senat & Seneat relaxing โ›ฑ๏ธ
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@Sreypov before we met ๐Ÿฅฌ
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Lux w/ brother, nephew ๐ŸŽค

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Sreymom & @Sreypov ๐Ÿ–ผ๏ธ

ย ย ย ย ย Lux and her mother Sreymom became trusted confidants in very short time. Eventually a day came when I was single and had given up ๐Ÿ˜” on relationships, and Sreypov was single too, having separated from her husband after a meth-related arrest ๐Ÿ‘ฎ. This is where mother-turtling comes into play now, because you see, there isn't a culture of dating in Cambodia, at least the way we know it the west anyways.

ย ย ย ย ย Traditionally families select a prospective partner for their daughter or son. They are then allowed to go on a handful of awkward heavily chaperoned dates before having to make a decision ๐Ÿ˜ฐ about marriage, and in some cases not even having the freeedom to choose. It makes it awfully hard to get to know your prospective partner in the Khmer culture. Now that you understand this, know that Lux decided Sreypov and I would be a good fit, and started plotting a way for us to meet within the framework of cultural norms.


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@Sreypov was not initially impressed ๐Ÿ™…โ€โ™€๏ธ

ย ย ย ย ย A plan was hatched ๐Ÿฃ that several family members would take Sreypov and I on a vacation ๐ŸŒด as a way to get know each other. Without even having a picture ๐Ÿ‘€ of Sreypov first, I agreed fully to the plan. I hadn't had any luck arranging my own relationships anyways.

ย ย ย ย ย All family members assured me Sreypov already knew I was poor ๐Ÿ’ธ, bearded ๐Ÿง”, vegan ๐Ÿฅ— and also had a "strange religion ๐Ÿ›" as they worded it. None of these things apparently put off Sreypov from agreeing to meet me and join in on the vacation introduction experiment ๐Ÿงช. I traveled from the opposite corner of the country on the southeast Vietnam border to the northwest of Cambodia, meeting Sreypov's extended family members in Siem Reap before heading out to Battambang to meet Sreypov.


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Our first picture together ๐Ÿคž
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Successfully turtled ๐Ÿฅฐ

ย ย ย ย ย We stayed a night in Battambang together, all 8 of us sharing a three-bed guesthouse room ๐Ÿจ in typical Cambodian fashion. Sreypov was very timid ๐Ÿ˜ฌ in the beginning, so I spent the days getting to know her daughters. We then headed to Pailin where we all stayed at a local resort ๐Ÿฉ, but this time Sreypov and I were made to share a bungalow together with her daughters. Sreypov and I had our first heart to heart real conversation ๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ on the stoop that night after Sakana and Srey Yuu had fallen asleep ๐Ÿ’ค. On the morning of the second day, to our surprise, Sreypov's chaperones ๐Ÿ’‚๐Ÿฝโ€โ™€๏ธ (extended family) decided to head back to Siem Reap without us.


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A happy Seneat ๐ŸŠ๐Ÿผโ€โ™€๏ธ
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Lux -The real Mother Turtle ๐Ÿ’ฏ

๐Ÿš€ | ๐“๐Žย ย ๐“๐‡๐„ย ย ๐…๐”๐“๐”๐‘๐„ | ๐Ÿฅ‚


ย ย ย ย ย In the end Sreypov wasn't pimped ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿฝโ€๐Ÿฆฏ or anything weird as the dictionary definition of mother-turtling suggests. It's mostly rather harmless matchmaking. They simply considered all the years I had lived in the country, the amount of culture and language I knew, how much I had helped this family, how much they trusted me, the fact Sreypov was a single mom, and decided to give us some time to get to know each other alone.

Failed attempt at picnic ๐ŸŒช๏ธ

ย ย ย ย ย This is really rare ๐Ÿ’Ž in the Cambodian culture by the way. We only stayed at the resort for one more day, and used the time to get know each other. From there it's a whole other story ๐Ÿ•ฎ I'll save for another day. But we went back to our separate towns and lives, and would reunite ๐Ÿค๐Ÿป nearly 4 months later to start our lives together, no regrets. In the end I guess it's clear Sreymom's daughter Lux was the real Mother Turtle, but because of culture and hierarchy, we give full credit ๐Ÿ’ณ to Sreymom. After all, without her giving our love approval, it wouldn't have been allowed.

THANKS FOR READING
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Fascinating and amazing tale my friend. You're an inspiration and I look forward to the next installment..


11

ย ย ย ย ย Thanks as always! I try to put effort into my stories. I had never even used an emoji til I began my STEEM โ™จ JOURNEY.


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Your emoji game is strong!! ๐Ÿค˜๐Ÿ•ต๐Ÿค‘๐Ÿ—ฃ


11

Woow. One of the the best posts I've seen so far! Thanks for sharing! <3


11

ย ย ย ย ย Wow! Kind words, thank you so much. I get the most rewards when I know readers enjoy my posts/stories. Give thanks @tashidelek!


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You set out to explore the world almost around the same time when we did!


11

ย ย ย ย ย Nearly 10 years then I take it. I've aged considerably. When I look back at photos of me just before I left the USA, I feel young and handsome.


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Congratulations! Your high-quality travel content was selected by @travelfeed curator @for91days and earned you a reward, in form of an upvote and a resteem. Your work really stands out! Your article now has a chance to get featured under the appropriate daily topic on our TravelFeed blog.
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ย ย ย ย ย Thanks as always @for91days for your curation, & to @travelfeed & the

Travelfeed.io / www.steemit.com
platform.


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Wow that is such a nice well written post. Love reading about to adventure on Cambodia. I'm happy seeing all the photos of your time in Khmer. Keep up the excellent teaching job, I wish you all the best in getting a good job there!


11

Thank you so much. Cambodia is a very mysterious and beautiful place. We have been away for about 6 months but we are loving life here in Paramaribo, Suriname.


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sreypov
Sreypov Heng @sreypovSeptember 2019

I have to thank my niece **Lux**, because she introduced us.


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