Category Archives: Cambodia

Don’t Touch the Monks

Siem Reap, Cambodia (I wrote this post 3 months ago)

In the all-monk class today we planned to do an exercise that involved working with the students individually. Right before starting the exercise the teacher turned to me and told me not to touch any of the monks.


“Because you are a woman.”

One of the classes we taught in Cambodia

One of the classes we taught in Cambodia

I was taken aback, but I had to teach class so I continued with the lesson. Afterwards I asked the teacher about the no-touching rule.

“It’s illegal for the monks to touch women.”

He explained to me that many years ago there were female monks, and they were allowed to keep their hair unshaven. The story goes that there was one monk in particular who was really beautiful.A lot of monks desired her, and so one day as she was praying they raped her. Afterwards when the male monks stepped into the temple, they were swallowed up by the ground.

After hearing this news, the head monk banned women from becoming monks. Eventually the monks were banned from touching women. The only women allowed to touch the monks now are their mothers.

I Killed My First Bug Last Week

I grew up Buddhist. I spent 3 hours in church (we called it church instead of temple) every Sunday for 5 years, and then just a one hour service every couple of weeks for the other 15 years.

During this time I was told not to kill bugs, since it is possible to reincarnate as a bug or some other hungry animal spirit in our next life.

I remember killing ants when I was little, long before I started attending Sunday School. But it had been at least 15 years since I killed my last bug. It first started out as petty revenge on my family for making me go to church. “ew a bug! I can’t kill it since they tell me not to in church”. Then I’d half-jokingly start a whole lecture about karma and reincarnation until my mom eventually rolled her eyes and killed the spider for me.

I’d even do it as my mom was about to kill a spider. “hey mom, you shouldn’t kill that. It could be grandpa”. It was a joke, because my mom and I have a weird since of humor and frequently made jokes like that.

Eventually I started seeing them as things that I should let live since they weren’t bothering me.

Since I’m not Buddhist (and therefore not having any more excuses) I’ve simply ignored the bugs.

About a month ago I was reading in the mosquito net when I heard some buzzing around me.
If you’ve seen my earlier posts, you will see that I have been eaten alive by bugs since I’ve been here. At this point I was unwilling to get even one more bug bite. It was either me or the bug. I decided that I was going to kill it.

I’m sure I’ve accidentally killed bugs by walking on them or slapping them away when they flew too close, but that was the first bug where I was like “okay. I will hunt you down, and when you land I will smash you until you die”.

I spent minutes in the mosquito net trying to hunt my first victim. I even offered my juicy leg as bait. Then I spotted it, and prepared to pounce on my prey. It would tantalizingly fly near a landing place, slow down, and change its mind. I swear it was teasing me. After minutes of this, (with Wendy laughing at my determination) it finally landed on my pillow. I was prepared to pounce and then…

I couldn’t do it.

Ugh. It flew away and I was partially relieved, until I realized the consequences of my squeamishness. I would probably wake up with another set of mosquito bites.

By the time I tracked it down, Wendy was asleep. I held my breath, slowly removed my headlamp, and smashed the bug with the front of my headlamp. The thought of killing it with my hands disgusted me.

I didn’t have any new mosquito bites when I woke up.

Bug Bites

So apparently the bugs in Cambodia like me.

They LOVE me.

picture of my bug bites

Don’t worry, I’m wearing shorts.

I have no idea where they’re coming from and I’m constantly finding new bug bites. I haven’t seen too many bugs during the day and I haven’t felt very many of them biting me. I’ve also been covering myself with bug repellent right before I go to sleep, and that’s been working for the most part. But now they’re just biting me in odd places, like between my fingers and the backs of my heels. I have a cluster of 4 bites right where my shoe rubs on my left foot. It’s been driving me crazy.

It’s so hard to stop scratching too! Ben and Conor have been pretty diligent about reminding me to stop. I think I’m going to run out of the insect bite relief stuff before the year is over.

Any tips on how to prevent bug bites or make them stop itching? I have plenty of opportunities to experiment.