The day starts early, 6am at the latest. All the girls cook all the meals according to a rotating schedule. The breakfast cook of the day, still in her nightgown, stands over a hot wok while the electric rice cooker works its magic on the counter. This morning, breakfast was a chopped-up combo of soybeans and pork — sweet, spicy and smoky. Scoop rice into the bowl first, add meat. If a few people are eating at the same time, someone pulls out the straw mat, and all sit cross-legged on the floor with their bowls.
Every meal I’ve had so far brings a new conversation. This morning I learned that one girl is working on a new project to export Cambodia’s legendarily delicious green mangoes. I’m someone who’s usually pro-local food in the US, so this was a good eye-opener for me. She told me about how Cambodia’s wide network of farmer’s can’t standardize its production and distribution enough to become an exporter. Instead companies from Vietnam and Thailand come over the border, buy what they like and label them as their own for resale.
She talked about looking at a map one day, of all the countries that export mangoes, and wondered, “Why not Cambodia?”
Later she wants to go back to her hometown and work with an old high school friend to start a new agricultural initiatives that would bring work to the area.
Next, coffee. A boiling teapot on the electric stove, a packet of Nescafe, a mug. In the slightly cool early morning, cross-legged on a straw mat with inspiration brewing, it was just about perfect.