Fleas in my boots; Tubers in my dreams

One of the problems with this blog is that I always want to start them off by feeding you the same cheesy line “Long time no talk”. Despite it being true, yet again, I will refrain from using it directly.

Instead, *clears throat* Hope things are going well on your side of the world! Welcome to another edition of “What’s in Sienna’s what?”: the Fleas and Tubers edition.

Spring is definitely in full swing here in Siem Reap. The days are getting longer and the heat is getting hotter. I’ve started to jump in the pool after class, after lunch, before dinner, after running, before going shopping, and even before going to bed! I know, I know, poor Sienna jumping into a refreshing pool all day, what a rough life… But to be fair, it is insanely hot (100+ degrees) and the humidity feels thicker than a slab of butter fresh out of the ice box.

Since we last spoke, we traveled to Phnom Penh, where we learned about some of the grisly details of the Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia. Seeing the torture center (S21) stirred up immense despair in my heart and twisted my stomach into indescribable knots. This is a happy blog so I will hold myself back from sharing more of my personal experience with the memorial, but it is shocking and brutal to say the least. I recommend if you visit Cambodia that you make a visit, but prepare yourself beforehand.

After our travels in the Cambodian Big apple, we flew back to Siem Reap and participated in Cambodia’s first World Wildlife Day. The event was all fun and games (literally) minus the fact that it was held in midday outside with little access to shade. Besides the unrelenting heat, it was actually really rewarding to interact and inform both expats and local Cambodians more about the endangered species of the area, among other conservation topics.

My peers and I (plus a Cambodian college student) working at World Wildlife Day.

What else did we do in the last two weeks? Well, we visited a degraded wetland area and performed line transects, which meant a lot of sloshing around in knee deep water trying to identify plants. After five hours of laughter, jokery and some occasional science, we all rode the bus home feeling soggy, smelly, and high-spirited. It was also on this trip that an unfortunate event took place unbeknownst to me. Inside of my knee high rubber boots, something feasted on my legs for the whole five hours we spent at the wetland. Funny enough, I didn’t notice until I peeled off my socks to (yep you guessed it) jump in the pool. All down my legs were these raised red bumps (at least 150 or more). Actually, they really haven’t gone away, so you could say the issue is still plaguing me. The positive side is that I can’t feel them and they don’t itch or hurt, so I don’t really care. Definitely not the most attractive look though, I should add.

In the past few weeks, we have also been writing and testing like mad. I’m talking three papers due in three days and four tests in 48 hours. It was ROUGH to say the least, but it was really exciting at the same time to display our learning on paper and reflect on some of the amazing experiences we’ve had. The reward to all the exams and paper writing came in the form of a dessert tour through town and our Directed Research selection. Directed Research is a separate course from the rest of our semester, where we spend 10 days collecting data in the field with our professors and then spend two weeks writing a fat paper about it. We were all bubbling with excitement as the professors told us the different projects, but I particularly bubbled over with delight about a project trying to understand why Cambodians use and cultivate a special kind of tuber, known at Protiel. For those of you who know me, the appeal of magical tubers is obvious. I have an obsession with sweet potatoes and magic is also pretty cool, so the project seemed like a dream come true.


Showing my enthusiasm for dessert during out dessert tour.

Tubers! Not like the ones I’ll be studying though. We gathered these from a traditional Bunong farm.


ow you’re probably thinking, what the heck does Sienna’s economics major have to do with traditional medicinal tubers? The answer is absolutely nothing. I’ve learned this semester to trust in my passions and sometimes throw logic to the wind. I’m not sure what I want to do with my life and I’m not even sure what I’m doing after I finish this blog post (Probably getting another cup of coffee actually), but the point is that I am so happy because I am attentive to my interests. A real-life example of shows in my constantly changing career plans. Every day we do something new in the field I say, “I’m doing my PhD in _____”. The latest was yesterday when a bat specialist came to tell us about Cambodian fruit bats. I called my mom and was like “I’m gonna be a bat specialist!” She probably rolled her eyes. Oh well, I’ll take eye rolling over apathy.

Until next time, my readers! Hope you enjoyed this post and I appreciate all of you who have the patience to read my work.

PS- We leave for Vietnam on Tuesday, so don’t expect another post for at least two weeks LOL

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