My Southeast Asia Trip Part 6 (and I haven’t stepped on a landmine yet)!

Dear friends and family,


I know it’s been a while since my last email, and I apologize for that. I have been quite busy going here and there and exploring all over. What I’ve noticed, other than my expanding figure, is that many of you seem confused by the various terms I use. “What in the world is a ______, Kathryn?” Or sometimes it’s, “You managed to do WHAT in a ______?” So to help make it easier, I’ve made up a dictionary of sorts of Southeast Asian terms. I know it’s not in alphabetical order, but I just wrote a word down when I thought of it, and that’s what you’re reading. There are two sections for your viewing pleasure: Words and Numbers. I hope that by reading this, you’re able to learn a few new words and numbers in the Khmer, Thai, and Malay languages. Enjoy!




Bed (phlawhr) – n. ­ 

a place on which to sleep. Surfaces include cement, tile, wood, bamboo, or other cuddly materials


Mat  tress (yous´ – less) – n.  an optical and physical illusion taking place where an inviting sleeping cushion actually provides no padding and serves no purpose


Clean (???æ¡??) – ? – No entry found; origin unknown


Sizz  ler (dohn’t´ – goh´) – not a tr.v..  a once-popular steakhouse and buffet chain considered delicious only by faulty childhood memories. Occasionally spotted in unfortunate American towns. Recently spotted in northern Thailand. Avoid at all costs. Any consumer will want to kill him or herself after consuming any food or liquid at this establishment. This is a fact


Ice  Cream (r??ce´ – dr??m) – n.  a sweet confection messed up by Southeast Asia. Eaten with bread and rice in Thailand, but messed up further in Malaysia. Considered shaved ice mixed with rosewater syrup, coconut milk, and tamarind juice atop rice threads, several kinds of beans, and corn. Also considered wrong


Cock  roach  es (eh´ – vr?? – wear) – n.  a visual weight-loss supplement


Tail  gate  ing (th??s´ – ??z – tooh´ – cl??hs) – tr.v.  traveling in one moving vehicle dangerously closely behind another moving vehicle, allowing the follower a closer encounter w/ a water buffalo’s posterior than ever desired


Ro  ti – Ca  nai (wear´ – ??n – n?? – yourk´?) – n.   the new favorite dish of a certain fatso. Not commonly found unless in Malaysia, where it’s served at Indian-Malaysian restaurants. Consists of the most delicious, chewy and multi-layered warm flatbread and served with spicy dhals, chicken gravies, beef curries, and more. Costs under $1 before conversion.


Fat (koop) – – Kathryn Cooper


Fatter (koop nowh´) – – Kathryn Cooper now.


Obese (wurks´ tooh) – – a multi-purpose word used to describe Kathryn Cooper spanning any time period between the last 10 years and the next many decades.


Mul  lets (hear – tooh´?) – pl.n.  an unfortunately common site in Malaysia, most often found on middle-aged, creepy, and single Malay men waiting to prey on and/or grope Kathryn Cooper


Air  con  di  tion  er (nawt – n??s – wahl´ – h??ng- ??ng) – n.  Infrequent Usage  a stagnant, unattractive wall decoration


Toi  let – Pa  per (1.) ??hn´ – l?? – ??hn – dr??hmz or (2.) shr??dz´  ??hn – s??´ – k??ndz  n.  Infrequent Usage – 1. (rare) a thin sheet of semi-absorbent paper product intended for use as a cleansing wipe for the buttocks. 2. (common) the familiar roll serving a different function, and doing a rather poor job


Pa  per – Tow  els – see Toilet Paper (2)


Dish – Tow  els – see Toilet Paper (2)


Tis  sue (spr??d – jermz) 1. (futuristic) a thin sheet of soft, semi-absorbent paper meant to catch anything blown from the nasal passages. 2. (common; no relation to word) a lack of said material, leading to public nose-picking and snotting over any balcony or deck


Mon  gol  i  a (??z´ – nt – tooh – l??te; alt. sheed´ – f??ned – ?? – whay) – n.  a place recommended to Kathryn Cooper as the one possible country where, due to a likely lack of good food, she might not gain weight.


Wear – Pa 

 ja  mas (f??´ – sh??n – m??hst) – v. what the cool crowd does. A true kind of full-frontal fashion in Cambodia. Previously thought of as simply a comfy night outfit, and now all the rage as all-day, high-fashion, functional wear. Note: Must be worn in a bright, jewel-tone color with a ridiculously child-like print, especially when worn by a grown woman. Matching top and bottom required





9  various Indian flatbreads (entire pita-sized cipatti and pouri) that Kathryn once ate for a single dinner. Served with freshly made yogurt, curry, and multiple desserts


3 – typical number of workers outnumbering actual patrons at your average guesthouse (hostel), restaurant, or mini-mart in much of Southeast Asia, due to  overstaffing and a lack of need to work or do anything other than talk with friends and sit in hammocks all day


19 – mosquito bites gotten from typing part of this email the other night on an outdoor computer


1 – stinging ant bites gotten on the neck from sending this email out tonight


26 – seconds spent wondering why there’s a dude sleeping on the pool table next to this computer


348 – seconds spent sadly pondering the fact that the pool table is a permanent sleep solution for the dude, considering the fact that he’s got a whole blanket and pillow setup with a mosquito net on top of it all


2 – times in Cambodia that Kathryn Cooper has been called “sir,” quickly followed by a giggle and then, “ma’am.”


0.7 seconds  –  the time delay between turning on a Thai or Cambodian “open drain” bathroom sink and then feeling everything that went down the train splash onto your feet


0.5 seconds  – the time it takes one to remember that what just went down the open drain is about to splash onto one’s feet, at wish point it is generally too late to do anything except accept that your feet are about to get another dose of spent flouride



So now that you’ve learned a few new terms, I hope you can start to incorporate them into your everyday language! Just try one word a day, and in no time, you’ll be speaking like a local and gaining weight like a Coop.


As you know, last you heard I went snorkeling in Malaysia for several months. Actually, it was for less than a week, and though it was wonderful, I was eager to get started on my next volunteer project. This one had many parts, and had me doing photography, videography, farming, gardening, cooking, and much more. I lived with several Chinese families, an Indian family, mixed groups, Aborigines, and others. I spent time in several different parts of Malaysia, getting to work right under the Petronas towers, on farms, in the jungle, and around limestone cliffs.


It was such a beautiful experience that made me so, so glad that I’m on this trip. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing right now, and there’s no replacement for what I’m learning on this adventure. From the good to the bad, the exciting to the downright nasty, I’m thankful for every experience. Because I stayed the majority of the time with one woman (who ran most of the non profits or had the connections to every location I volunteered with in Malaysia), I got amazing insider advice on the true beauty, and the true problems, within Malaysia. From the logging of the rainforests to religion to communism, I was told stories and histories I never had a clue existed. My host wouldn’t even let me search online or type about any of these issues for fear that the government had her home tapped. One night when she was telling me one story in particular, she was convinced that a man sitting next to us in the restaurant was listening in on our conversation and possibly targeting her for rebel activity. Interesting highlights in Malaysia include the most sketchy train ride and Malay man ever, a crew of the biggest potheads I’ve ever met (including several elderly and teachers), an Indian New Year festival where I may not have blended in, and a man who explained my entire personality to me without even talking to me. Did I mention the hammock that broke with me swinging in it? Or the bamboo palace I camped in while staying on the property of a man who believed in another dimension and married a mentally retarded native because he believes he was his wife in a past life?


Anyhow, Malaysia had to come to an end, so it was off to southern Thailand for a bit and then into Cambodia. It’s mostly traveling from now on, so there will be fewer “local” or insider stories, and likely less ranting from yours truly. I better run now since I’m on an outdoor computer in Cambodia, getting eaten alive by more mosquitoes. 


I love all the messages you guys send and all the points y’all bring up in your emails, so keep ‘em coming!


Until next time,