Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Re-entry shock: Episode 3-family

Family is wonderful when you don't have to live with them day in and day out.

It was yet another excessive Christmas. I asked for no gifts, and yet there were more for me than everyone else except the baby. What part of "no Christmas presents" is not understood? It was a lot of lovely stuff that I probably won't be able to take with me since I am limited by baggage weight. And by golly, I just don't want to haul it all back!

Dinner was the new Amnerican style: boxed and instant mixes. Yep, that's right, the turkey came in a box with its own cranberry basting sauce and a "festive mix" which was rice with seasonings. Add to that a tub of microwavable mashed sweet potatoes, instant Stouffer's stuffing and frozen vegetables in a cheese sauce. Is this the new homecooked meal? Calgon, take me away! The dessert was a frozen (though we thawed ours) Creme Brulee cheesecake with the option of adding French vanilla cool whip on top.

I think all the meals at my sister's will come out of a box, bag or can. I guess I won't be cooking after all.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Re-entry shock: Episode 2-food

Staying with Camille is always a treat for victuals. We are kindred cooking spirits and we always manage to eat very well when we're together. Those who join us also reap the benefits of our gastronomic adventures.

Wednesday was the arrival and we began the evening with pumpkin and cheese tamales. Anything Mexican always hits the spot for me since that is one thing that is not really offered properly in Siem Reap. Although I must admit that Jim's California 2 fish tacos are the best thing on that side of the Pacific after Ensenada street vendors.

Thursday it was homemade salsa (with an /s/ not /z/ sound) and pumpkin tamales. Dinner was more salsa and baked delicata squash washed down with a pumpkin ale. And, lots of tea.

Friday it was a morning of omelets with chard and salsa, then lunch was a very filling Sri Lankan meal complete with a Sri Lankan coffee with milk. Ginger rice with cauliflower and cashews, chard and grated coconut plus chutney and a lovely paan bread with a garlic butter dipping sauce. So tasty!

In the evening we enjoyed a lovely party with lots of party snacks. I baked a non-traditional banana bread with flaxseeds and blueberries. Unfortunately the bread did not cook completely and was left with a huge sink hole of uncooked mush. What to do but fill it with pudding! Yippee. Maybe an unusual combination, but it worked and was a hit.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Re-entry shock: Episode 1-temperature

Having just arrived back in the USofA in SF yesterday, I find I am in a constant state of chill. Going from the tropical climes of SE Asia where it's cold when it hits 20 (C that is), or for you Americaners, 50ish.

It feels like I am laying in a bath full of ice cubes and water that I cannot escape from no matter how well I bundle up. It is so strange to be so unaccustomed to this chilling effect, when I used to love the cold. Now it is the reverse. The heat is nearly unrecognizable.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The man in charge

Village Life planting rice August 2006

Leaving Cambodia, there are two options: fly or overland. Flying is much much easier, though very expensive considering the departure tax is $25. Overland is much much cheaper, though rarely easier. It is a nearly 20 kilometer long stretch that takes up to 6 hours sometimes because the road condition is very unstable. It's usually riddled with pot holes and collapsed bridges due to the constant traffic of oversized and overloaded trucks bringing in cement and goods from Thailand.

I opted for the cheaper option since cash is low at the moment and I want to have enough for spending money in the expensive US of A. I could have spent more on flight tickets direct from Cambodia and had a little more time with the family and friends, but why not have a little adventure, too?

On the drive to the border of Cambodia and Thailand, we stopped to have a bite to eat. The "fam" was famished since they probably didn't have breakfast before departing. You see we took along another teacher and then picked up Ma, sister and boyfriend for a total of 6 bodies in the Camry. I was in the back, which probably wasn't a good idea since our car already rides low and my extra kilos don't help. But it was either me in the back for 3 people there and Ma and sis sharing the front, or me in the front with 4 people squeezed in the back.

Anyhow, at the restaurant, everyone was waiting for Da to order the food since he's the ne they look to to make decisions. It didn't matter that the mother was there, as long as Da was driving and was around, he should choose the food. So, this meant I had to get up and inform him of his obligation since he was stretching his legs after the intense driving. I was handed the menu in his absence, but since I don't read Khmer, it would work.

Sambor Preikuk_Kompong Thom Mar 06
The t-shirt says "I'm not BIG, but I'm clever"

While Da is not the oldest son, he is treated like one, since the oldest is actually considered to be very feminine, preferring to stay at home and cook rather than do boy things like driving around or playing sports. It makes for a difficult relationship between the brothers, but the family always looks to Da for the important family decisions, such as if and when his sister should get married. It's a huge burden for him at times, but he can't shrug it.

What would Jesus bomb?

This was on the T-shirt of one of the characters in the final episode of "Six Feet Under", an HBO series. I was watching it in a Bangkok guesthouse with a couple of Aussies who were waiting to go home after 6 months of travelling around Asia and Europe. When we saw the T-shirt we all had the same reaction of awe and humor.

She even wanted to go so far as to have some printed to take back home to friends.

What ever could that shirt mean? There are some interesting implications that need pondering. I think it's rather poignant considering Jesus did tear through a synagogue that was being used for profit and personal gain rather than for worship.

If Jesus were alive today, would he bomb certain countries that were hypocritical and living double standards?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Baking up a storm

Pumpkin Treats 3 December 2006

It’s hard to believe it’s now December. I’ve spent a lovely Sunday morning baking pumpkin treats: some pumpkin loaf cakes and a square pumpkin pie. Apparently my first round of baked goods went over so well, that people were making requests for more. Since I had leftover flour, sugar and other spices I figured that I might as well go ahead and do it.

All it took was buying pumpkins: 2 for $1.75, which was more than enough for 5 pumpkin bread loaves and the 8” square pie. I borrowed my neighbors baking oven that has a thermostat. My little toaster oven is only good for toasting. I can use it to toast up my pumpkin seeds, and this time I’ll make sure to watch them more closely to avoid charring them like last time.

We’ve had some overcast skies due to the typhoon that hit the Philippines and it even rained. Rain is rare at this time of year since the dry season began officially in November during the Water Festival. It’s very refreshing. Not only that, but my potted palms and other plants are happy to have rain to water them.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Traffic Woes

motorbike views 29 Sept 06

Sometimes I just wish that Cambodians actually learned to drive properly. I am so tired of making a right turn properly and finding myself head-on with a car or a motorbike taking the lazy left turn into the opposing flow of traffic. I have seen so many accidents caused by this lack of understanding of the rules of the road. I figure if I keep forcing them to turn out of my way, then eventually someone will learn.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Travel log from times past

Kuala Lumpur Carrefour durians July 2006

I was cooking tofu and vegetables for lunch today on my one-burner camp stove when I was reminded of an enjoyable evening outside of Kuala Lumpur with a friend of a friend.

This friend had picked us up for an afternoon of seeing something more than just was KL urban center had to offer. We got a tour of the Carrefour department store and supermarket, then drove around the suburbs. For dinner we were given the choice of Indian or Chinese food. Since Indian food in Malaysia would probably be too spicy, we opted for Chinese food.

Kuala Lumpur Carrefour coconuts July 2006

My friend ordered for us and the dishes just started coming in Chinese tradition. Fried Frogs legs, some kind of a fish, another seafood type thing, vegetables and on. The frog's legs were different, yet had a taste I could get used to. Overall the food was really delicious though not what I normally would choose.

What we didn't know until after the meal was finished was that it was a completely vegetarian Chinese restaurant. So, it wasn't frog after all, but a soybean version. What a pleasant surprise, and yet how foolish I felt getting disgusted at the seafood and frog's legs.

I like dining experiences like that!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Forgotten birthday

Yesterday was a birthday that was supposed to be important, but forgotten by most. The birthday boy didn't say that it was important, merely that it was going to be his birthday. Admitedly, I forgot until 7:45pm on the birthday night, but it was too late. He already was at another person's birthday (and apparently didn't have any fun - boo hoo!).

The next day it was announced that nobody remembered his birthday and therefore he was unimportant, so he will no longer think of the 28th of November as a special day.

What is the lesson learned? Him: don't make this day special anymore. Me: Tell people when something is important to you and what they can do to make it special. Don't expect them to do your thinking for you!

If it's going to be your birthday, or any other special day, PLEASE, let me know about it and what you'd like done!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Too much or too little

Sugar Palm Tree

What can I say? There's either too much happening or not enough things to do. I just don't have the time to journal every single last thought in my mind. Where's that brain plug that I need so I can just download, or is it upload, my thoughts directly to my blog?

School: going well. I don't feel so inundated with stuff. There's only 4 weeks left!

Pig Project: The fundraiser's coming along well with the products sorted out and pictures taken. Just waiting for all the products to be ready for final organizing and packing for the sale in January during my holiday tour. By the way, I'm going to be selling some locally made handcraft items when I come through Cali in Dec/Jan. All proceeds go directly to the village families for buying and raising piglets for fattening and sale. It's an investment in providing alternative profit-making ventures beyond the rice growing and harvesting.

Umbrella Tours: There's a 20 person group arriving on Dec 20 from Singapore. It'll be our official first customers. But it can be a real headache to manage the finances of this.

Personal: I'm happy, I'm sad. It's a little of both because there are so many ups and downs of life, especially in Cambodia. But overall, I'm content with what I'm doing. There's always plenty of opportunities for growth and character-building.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Suffering is character building!

Boat races at the Siem Reap Water Festival Nov 4-5 2006

Some days it just feels like I'm riding my bicycle through a continual dust bowl everywhere I go. Yesterday was one of the those days. I really enjoy when the dust settles and I can breath much easier.

Sunday evening provided an excellent lesson on suffering in ministry from a wonderful person who had just gone through a bunch of it. It was refreshing to hear a biblical viewpoint of lamenting (see the book of Lamentations) over our suffering rather than pushing it aside as ungodly.

There is a time for every season of life.

Boat races at the Siem Reap Water Festival Nov 4-5 2006

Boat races at the Siem Reap Water Festival Nov 4-5 2006

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Holiday log: Cambodian Independence from France Day

Night train: Nong Khai to Bangkok, Thailand  September 2006

I don't really know what to do with myself today since I don't have to teach and it's a Thursday. A friend just left who was in town for a week, but he'll be back in December for about another week. It's good to catch up.

I've been waking up before 5:00 am lately, and today wasn't any different. However, I decided to lay in bed since I didn't have to be at school for my 6am class. It was nice, though I felt lazy since I could have been starting my laundry, taking a shower or folding clothes rather than zoning out flipping through TV programs, none of which were really that interesting.

I managed to take a shower and start folding clothes that had been piled up. Then it was time for breakfast at the Soupie.

The rest of the day is wide open.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A walk along the river

Boat races at the Siem Reap Water Festival Nov 4-5 2006

I've been walking along the river the past couple of mornings for some exercise. The only problem is the constant staring, and what would be considered rude comments in America (ohh, so big!), by the the Cambodians.

Most of them have come from the countryside anyway to race their boats in the competitions over the weekend. It is understood that countryside folks don't know what us foreigners look like and so we're all BIG to them.

I pretend like I am deaf and keep walking and looking elsewhere so as not to acknowledge the ignorant comments. It is for this reason that I know why I prefer to stay indoors during these festival days. Too many people, too many vehicles and too much junk!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Morning bike ride

I just realized that my previous entry was on Halloween and the subject matter was rather critical. Hmmm. . . Could there be a connection?

On to brighter and more interesting things. . .

I was up at 5:00 this morning and I didn't even have to teach at 6:00 like usual. But laundry was calling. I managed two loads in my kitchen sink (I handwash all my clothes. I don't trust the laundry shop anymore.) I got it hung on the line and then went on to the next chore. . .

Shopping at the market this morning cost me 500 Riel (15 cents) to park my bike as opposed to the usual 300 Riel (5 cents), since this is Water Festival Weekend, so therefore all parking fees must increase. I picked up my vegies and beef to make myself lunch today, for a change of pace from my most recent routine of going out somewhere to eat.

I took my bag of food and popped it in my bike basket and wheeled off in the direction of the river road. The plan was to get in some pictures of the boat racing activities to take advantage of the better morning light (I'm starting to think more photographer-like). I got a usual comment from some teenage boys, "Ohh. big, big." You don't really want to know my witty comeback in Cambodian. They shut-up quick, though.

Boat races at the Siem Reap Water Festival Nov 4-5 2006

I rode around and snapped shots then pulled in to school for some work and sorting out copy requests and lesson plans for the next week since I have a whole 3 days of holiday: Saturday, Sunday AND Monday. Yippee!

I'm feeling very happy today. To top it off a friend from California showed up and I retrieved some much-longed-for red vines (the wide kind). Can you hear me smiling?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

On deception

Kuala Lumpur July 2006

Life has a funny way of causing me to question motives and re-think actions and attitudes. I've been reflecting a lot on the issue of deceipt and dishonesty.

I am confronted on a daily basis with the choice to trust or not to trust the people around me. I have commented to others that my faith in the decency and purity of people has plummeted. I now have a very difficult time trusting anyone because I have been lied to and cheated so many times since I've been in Asia.

In fact, when I did a fun quiz with of a group of my pre-intermediate students on how honest they were (as an introduction to teaching the 2nd conditional, unreal/unlikely future), only 3 students out of about 20 actually scored in the range of being honest people. The majority scored in the OK or dishonest category.

In fact, one student shocked me so much by completing the sentence, "If someone lied to me, I would. . ." and he completed it with ". . . be happy." I actually stopped class and clarified what he said because I was so shocked that he was so casual about it.

What I have been coming to realize is that lying, cheating and stealing are considered necessary and prized virtues by most Cambodians nowadays. It happens so often and is so rampant that there is an attitude: "you can't fight 'em so join 'em."

My heart is so incredibly sad to come to this realization because I know that it is a stumbing block to true freedom. And as an American (along with other western foreigners) it is not in my spirit to want to accept this. I want to believe that people are good and honest. Unfortunately, reality paints a different picture which flies in the face of everything that I have learned and been taught.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The rainy season ends

Siem Reap River August 2006

I love the idea of living close to a body of water. In China it was a canal. Now in Siem Reap, it's the Siem Reap River. While not such a beauty as the Amazon, it has been quite swollen this year with all the rain we've received.

This is a photo of it quite full. The Boat Festival is just around the corner and there will be longboats plying the waters.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Developing in the developing world

Development is the buzz word over here in Camboland. If you're not teaching English, then you are most likely involved in some sort of development work in the NGO world. Just what that means is a very obscure thing. However, personal development has been the issue for me, as it should for any Jesus Freak.

Key word: attitude. (Things are always key words for me since students have trouble identifying them and getting the point.)

I went introspective at the end of last term and the transportation journeys to Phnom Penh, Bangkok and Ventienne provided ample contemplation time for some things that have been weighing on my mind. I felt I was in a tailspin and needed to find a way out.

I turned over a new leaf, turned my frown upside down and marched forward re-invigorated with a fresh sense of purposeful direction. I also eliminated unnecessary curiosity (7 lives out of 9 to go).

Friday, October 06, 2006

a mental pile-up

OK, so the new school term has started and I'm already behind. I've got lots of catching up to do as far as lesson prep goes.

I also have a lot of blog entries in the cue about my travels in Laos, Bangkok and Phnom Penh of late. Here's a taste of what's to come:

Angel in a green t-shirt

Lovely tuk-tuk family

Suvarnabhumi, Suvarna-bust!

I'm not a doctor, I don't play one on TV
(aka Doctors without licenses)

Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Funny things have happened

I'm writing from Laos as I just arrived yesterday from an overnight train ride from the city of angels. I have really enjoyed my last two days shopping in the big city, riding the sky trains and underground, buying delicious street food. It's like a little slice of Asian heaven.

My first night in the city there was a military coup. I slept through it, which says a lot about it since it really wasn't a disasterous event. That still didn't stop me from setting out to wander the Tesco Lotus superstore. Aisles of food and clothes and home products at inexpensive prices. The Old Market just doesn't compare.

I've been buying things for myself, too, which doesn't usually happen. More often I'm on the lookout for things other people might want, so it was delightful to get things for myself that I wouldn't ordinarily do. I still managed to find things for others.

Things for myself:
a comic strip inspired purse/bag
two new pairs of sandals (almost 3, but I figured that was going overboard)
underwear (not really exciting, I know, but I don't usually find good ones here)
pretty smelling handmade soaps: coconut and rose
a new digital battery charger
towels (big, soft and fluffy)
Nescafe 3 in 1 mild coffee (just to see what is different between mild and regular)

Things for others:
handmade soap
Best of Loso VCD
white ovaltine

Still on the list is:
umbrellas for Umbrella Tours
a toaster oven
more food products unavailable in Camboland, or cheaper in BKK
and whatever else I find that suits my fancy and budget

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Driven to dance

The end of term staff party was quite the doozy, or shall I say "boozy"? It started out with drinks at the director's house: wine (Argentinian and Chilean), beer, gin & tonics and non-alcoholic stuff too. After two hours of downing the juice and putting a spin on things it was time to walk over to the restaurant across the street for some food in our bellies. Isn't that supposed to come before the drinking.

Of course more pitchers of beer adorned the table and were frequently emptied and replaced with topped up jugs. I stuck to bottle water because the two glasses of wine were plenty for me.

After the meal came the karaoke and the dancing. Dancing!? Yes, good ol Cambodian style dancing of twirling the hands and walking in circles with some sort of a rhythm. It was great when it was the group thing, then it started becoming a couples thing. And who do you think asked me to dance? The driver.

This is the same guy who puts my life at peril three days a week. No one else who rides with him has the same reaction. But it always seems that the near misses only happen when I'm in the car. And then to add insult to injury, we often come screaming into the school parking lot just slam on the breaks. The driver seems to get a kick out of watching the students fly out of harms way. One of these days his breaks are going to go out and when he plows into the front office it won't be so funny anymore. I'm thankful for the seatbelt that works because someday, it'll save my life in his car.

So, all that to say, I always thought he had it in for me since his erradic driving seemed aimed at gaining pleasure from my fright. I was extremely surprised when he kept asking me to dance. Nobody else he wanted. There was even an attempt at a western slow dance. Oh well. I guess it's nice to be asked to dance even if it is by a desperate driver.

End of term relief

All results have been given. All reports have been written. Now it's time to sit back and relax and forget about all the troubles and enjoy the upcoming vacation time.

It is always difficult to give out failing results to students. It makes it worse when the try to ask for one more point or to re-take the test. These are generally the students who need to repeat the level in order to practice those skills they lack. Some manage to pass while I know that they will struggle with the next level of English just as much as they did this term.

It's party time. Students who successfully completed Pre-Intermediate, Intermediate and Upper-Intermediate levels will receive certificates today. The best part, however, is the snacks afterwards. Yummy!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

To the Wat I went

Today was a special pagoda day since I will be out of the country during one of Cambodia's biggest family holidays which includes making traditional rice cakes and visiting the pagoda to honor deceased relatives and ancestors.

Today we drove out to the countryside to visit the pagoda where the mother's mother had been buried. It was just us (Mom, Dad, sister, Da, me and an uncle plus some monks). We finished just as the rain came. Glad we had the car.

I wish it hadn't been raining because we passed some lovely pools with water lillies in bloom, 3 different colors no less. Bummer.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Post-birthday reflection

Now, there was no 5-star cake. But, that's ok. Somehow the hotel's new baker did not know how to bake cakes. Can someone explain to me why a 5-star hotel would hire a baker who can't bake a cake?

There were 11 family members from 3 generations in attendance. All sat on the floor in my little one-room flat (approx. 6 sq feet of floor space due to the furniture) to eat BBQ chicken and rice.

It was really enjoyable, though tiring cause I had just had our KIDS classes big presentation and party earlier which really wore me out, but was quite successful. All was finished by 9:30 pm.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

It's my birthday: ho hum

A birthday party is being planned for me, which is somewhat of a surprise because I expected something else. It's really sweet because I thought that there was going to be a different plan. But apparently a cake has been ordered from a 5-star hotel, and drinks are being organized. I don't have to do anything, but clean up my house.

Honestly I'm really not the birthday party kind of person. I don't really need a celebration to acknowledge the anniversary of my entrance into the world, unlike other people I know. But surprises are always appreciated!

Happy Birthday to me on September 12, 2006. As a historical note, I'll be 32 years old.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

An "I told you so" type burglary

This morning I was woken up to the loud noises eminating from the Philippino neighbors across the way. Not unusual considering I knew they were getting ready to leave on holiday. But when the screams of help and police and money/passports stolen, I knew that all was not right.

The all-too-often crime of opportunity took place. A man with a long pole snagged a purse and scored with an envelope with $600. (By the way, that's a HUGE amount of money for a person over here, so the burglar hit at the right time.) However, I don't think this was just a random theft as many window thefts are. Two poles lashed together with wire was used, indicating that this was planned.

It's a very unfortunate event, but a constant reminder that these kinds of burglaries will continue to happen. This is the 3rd or 4th time just in the two years I have lived there. Thankfully I have never been the victim, yet. But I personally warned them of the possibility and frequency of this crime for them to be vigilent. Now they really know.

The good thing is that their passports were not stolen or else it would be bye-bye vacation and visit home for them. They managed to leave per scheduled time at 5:30am. Needless to say I got no more sleep from 3:30am on.

There's really nothing to be done. The police came but, they really can't respond to this besides take a report. (which makes me think who paid for that report and how much it cost for waking up the guy at that time.)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


It has been said that Biddison women are tenacious. I am also aware that I that I take after my dad in my lack of tactfulness. This gets me in trouble.

I made a comment to a teaching colleague in regards to him having no problems in getting what schedule he wants for the next term. My method of announcing this was possibly critical in tone. Now he's a very friendly and reasonable guy, so I hope it's not held against me, or worse yet, gossipped about to others in order to point out how negative I am.

The cause for this was my own feelings of inadequacy regarding my own teaching status. I have been feeling very "at risk" in my situation, and quite possibly reading more into the non-verbal communication than is really there. I could also be creating a non-existent problem by my own runaway imagination.

The result is that I need to apologize in order to mend any possible fracture, whether or not what I said was taken inappropriately or not.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Another rainy season day

I'm sitting here playing around in the internet cafe. I spent nearly 2 hours chatting with my mom on the internet phone. It's funny, cause sometimes we're lucky to keep talking for 30 minutes. This time we both had lots to share with each other.

The rain's come early today as it's poured twice in the over 2 hours that I've been here. Usually the rain is in the afternoon or evening. I don't mind, cause I really like the rain, unless I have to go somewhere in it.

My police class that I teach 3 days a week has been so sketchy cause they're such busy men, being the department chiefs and commissioners and all. Now I just got notice that they'll be out for a week due to the vice Prime Minister coming in to town. The last two weeks it was the king, or some royal.

The school term's been going well. After two complaints, I feel like I'm on a thin line and if anything goes wrong I'll be out for good. A swift boot kick out the door and "have a nice life!" There's no job security being a sessional teacher. But a contract is nearly impossible to get, plus you lose out on any possibility of free time cause you're chained to the school. Darned if you do, darned if you don't.

I'm content, though not enough to make me sit idle. I know that I must improve or at least show that I am worthy of remaining a teacher in the eyes of the students AND management. Basically this means: keep ur trap shut and eyes on the prize. A difficult thing for one who likes to ask about all sorts of things. Curiosity could very well maim this cat.

I may not be a "natural" teacher, but I think I have the potential to be a very good teacher if my style were more accepted rather than trying to fit me into a shoebox typecast "perfect teacher". I don't think I can ever be the perfect teacher because I get too involved in my students and the issues. I am too honest and realistic, so I find it difficult to sugarcoat anything.

Besides, what else can I do? I have tried running away from teaching, but am strangely drawn back to it like a rubber band. Why won't my rubber band snap?

I am one darn good organizer that's for sure! I think I am more suited to administrative type work where organization, filing and linear order is preferred to establishing and developing relationships with groups which requires emotional sensitivity.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

It snot so bad

According to an Australian study, eating your boogers is good for you. Apparently they found that the dried snot in your nose is actually beneficial for improving the anti-viral work of your intestines by introducing potential "bad things" from your snot in order to develop greater immunity. Nose pickers who eat what they find are actually healthier and more disease free!

Anyone for a hambooger?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Wrestling with old flames

Recently it was reported to me by a close friend that an old flame was asking about me. At firt I felt very uncomfortable at the idea of his continued interest in me. That funny feeling inside appears and the questions start rolling in. Am I still interested in him? Do I forsake my current relationship to return? Does he still feel the same way?

My response was to have my friend tell him to contact me directly. My email's the same. That was the problem before: lack of regular contact or communication back to me. I even gave the option of using his native language if it made it easier.

I don't like the idea of an old flame asking about me to someone else, unless it's completely impersonal information like: what's she doing now? Is she still teaching? NOT questions like: Is she dating anyone else?

Although, I must admit that I have done similar things, though not necessarily about previous boyfriends, but for people in general. It's safer to ask a neutral 3rd party about someone else than bother with confronting that person directly, especially when there's been some weirdness in the past.

Am I right? Maybe. Maybe not.

What should I do?

Another person said that she would be curious about this old flame's intentions and thought she would like to investigate more thoroughly if she were me. I'm afraid of bringing back all those old emotions and risking jeoapardizing [sp?] my current relationship commitment.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

To forgive is divine

I witnessed an amazing event this week which blew my mind in opposite directions.

Initially it was a huge disaster of negative proportions, with yelling and shouting by two of my colleagues over a radio. One wanted to listen to the radio, the other wanted to take it to class. Now, generally the unspoken school rule is that teaching use overules personal use. The listener wanted to keep the radio and make the other go out of the way to find another from a classroom. In the short end, the radio stayed, but not without cross words.

Later, when the teacher left, the listener aked if it was unreasonable to demand the teacher to fetch a different one. Simply, "Yes." Through divine assistance and a calm manner, I was able to guide the listener to an understanding that the displayed behavior was rather self-serving and improper. The reality is that the listener had actually taken the stereo from another classroom and never returned it properly so that all the other teachers have been without a CD player to use, including myself. I informed the listener that I usually have to go out of my way to another classroom to obtain a CD player to use because that room's player is missing.

Later that day as I returned to school, the listener informed me that an apology had been made to the teacher. I didn't say much, save for noting the generous response and affirming that now the response is up to the teacher to accept and move on.

Further that day, I approached the teacher to slyly ask about this apology and the teacher replied that it was so shocking to hear that a response was frozen inside. This teacher further added that it was so impressive that there was no need to hold it against the listener any longer. The teacher queried me about my role in the situation and I relayed the aforementioned episode. The gratitude was evident.

Not to boast (really), but I am very pleased that I was able to positively influence a potentially corrosive situation into a friendly understanding. Not only that, but such a huge change of heart. Believe me, an apology from the listener is a really big deal.

To God be the glory!

Now entering the modern world

I broke down today and bought a DVD/VCD/MPC/CD player. I have had this inner debate going for more than 3 years now: to buy or not to buy.

-I'll have to continually buy DVDS, etc.
-The TV provides enough entertainment.
-There are other things to do than just sit and watch a movie.
-I don't want to support the pirating industry.

-Now I can watch those Seinfeld DVDs I bought to show in my Diploma Course.
-People will no longer respond: "You don't have a DVD player!?"
-I can load up on cheap pirated flicks. (Hey, everybody else's doing it!)

What's next?
I suppose it's going to be a fridge. The excuse here is that it will use up too much electricity, plus I don't really keep that much food on hand to limit my constant foraging.

Current Modernity Index
-an iron + ironing board
-laptop + handy dandy neopreme carrying case
-electric water pot
-digital camera
-portable CD player with mini speakers
-a couple of flash drives
-flashlights (most Cambodians still use wimpy candles when the electricity goes out)
-a mobile phone

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Visited Countries

create your own visited countries map

OK, so I ran into this on flickr and it looked interesting. You can do it, too!

The comments are pretty funny though.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Near Monkey Attack

So the menacing monkey appeared again on my roof near the mango tree. He was banging away on my kitchen roof when I decided to climb the stairs outside to get a better look and confirm my suspicions.

Ah, yes. There he was, squatting on my roof looking for another place to terrorize. He caught my eye and gave me the monkey face for stay back: opening his mouth and showing me his teeth. (Thank you Jeff Corwin for your experiences on Animal Planet.)

I stared back thinking, "I'm the bigger animal." Not good. He scurried forward to my horror. I scooted as nimbly as a person can down a unevenly tiled staircase as he came leaping at me. My scream drew the attention of my Pilippino neighbor who asked what was wrong.

"Close the windows and doors! There's a monkey afoot!"

Thankfully I survived with no bites or scratches. The monkey climbed up to the second story house for more mayhem I suppose.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Singapore Swing

Dropped in on Singapore for a few days last week. I always love coming to this island cause everything is so modern compared to Cambodia. Things run so much more smoothly and you know what exactly to expect.

I stayed in the Little India District which is one of the more colorful areas, and pungent, of Singpore. Although Chinatown is brilliant (US meaning) at night with all the lights and lanterns lit up. My favorite here is the BBQ Pork, which are these flattened squares of BBQ'd pork which are so succulent and addicting that of course they're bad for you.

The other thing that's great about Singapore is the shopping. I swear Singapore is set up with that single purpose in mind. There are so many shopping malls, it's incredible. One even runs underground for a couple of city blocks. I have a particular favorite on the famous Orchard Road mall stretch called Urban Warehouse. Inexpensive clothes that are fashionable and comfortable. I stocked up on my favorite brand of fashionable T-shirts called Patch. Plus I found a great new denim skirt. Yay! New life in my school fashion selection.

I stay at a great hostel called The Inn Crowd, where they are very hospitable and the facilities are superb (furnished by IKEA). There's an open kitchen that hostellers are welcome to use. I did and cooked up a storm. I even had the opportunity to share my Cambodian Lok Lak with one of the staff. She graciously in return went out and bought some Singaporean Laksa to share. It was spicy and was full of raw cockles (a kind of shellfish) and prawns, so not my favorite, but nice thought. The noodles in it were great and the flavor had a really satisfying aftertaste.

So the great Singapore Adventure ended with an evening stroll about town along the waterfront and canal. Daytime is just to boiling to wander around. It's a city dedicated to celebrating art.

It's Raining, It's Pouring

So, it's the rainy season and yes, it's raining a lot these days. I don't really mind it so much cause it's really refreshing. I just have to time my leaving of the house so as not to get caught in the rain, or get caught in the house waiting for the rain to stop. It has a tendency to rain in the afternoon when I need to go to school. Thankfully it's only a short jaunt to my school: two corners and I'm there!

Friday, June 30, 2006

The KL Experience

I'm taking a vacation this week and it's starting in Kuala Lumpur. It's not really a vacation as I am doing some sales pitches for Umbrella Tours while I'm here, too. It's not very easy to find tour agencies in this city. It's almost like finding a needle in a haystack, almost. I think I've been a little more successful, but it hasn't been easy.

Next stop, Singapore. I was there about a year ago and loved the two days I had there. This time it will be a little work with the tour promotions, but I hope to see some more sights.

I'm always astounded by the mix of nationalities in Malaysia. The US is considered a melting pot by some, but I really think that Malaysia is more so. For one thing it's hotter. But it really seems like the cultures have developed within and around each other without civil disturbances. It really seems to be a very developed and well-run country. The level of English is quite astounding too.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Bald Pianist

I had the pleasure of attending a lovely Jazz piano concert for FREE at one of the local 5-star hotels. The man was bald. I only point this out because of certain friends who have drooling fascinations with the hairless type and so now have me scouting out for chrome domes.

Bald head count= 3 (1, the pianist and the other 2, in the audience)

It was amazing how 90 minutes can fly by and still want more good music. There is such a lack of this kind of cultural experiences in this town because Cambodian ideas of good music is their own knock-offs of either Thai or Chinese songs re-written into Khmer. It all sounds the same.

I love listening to Jazz because it's almost like a game to try and guess where all the bits and pieces are taken from. There's always a few notes thrown in from a variety of other musicians and songs and it's so thrilling to hear them. They're like little musical surprises every time.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

End of Term Once Again

Yes, it's that time again: the end of the term. This is when we get to sit around watching students take their exams so that they don't attempt to cheat. Then it's marking the exams and printing up results and reports. Tuesday is so close and yet so far away.

Rain has come and gone. We had a whopper of a storm the other morning. The downpour started at around 2:30 am. Woke me up cause I thought my roof was going to cave in from the pounding, or at least water would pour in from the backsplashing above my front door. Instead my kitchen flooded, as usual, though not as bad as before.

The car's got a huge scratch in in on the side and on the hood. Very unfortunate. One looked accidental, the other purposeful. Cambodians are notoriously jealous folks. They just can't stand seeing other people with something more or better than themselves. One would think they would be called 'wee little green folks' and not the Irish.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Crotch Pot Cooking: A Weather Update

For those who've seen "Good Morning, Vietnam" that was probably my favorite line in the entire movie. For some reason the thought of crotch pot cooking struck me as humorous way back then.

Now, it's a reality and I can truly understand it. It's been so hot lately, which means we're due for rain. In fact, the rain started this afternoon. It reminds me of California's Central Coast where I grew up. We'd get a few sunny days followed by the inevitable fog. It's the whole warm up, cool down cycle.

Here's to refreshing showers for those crotch pot cooking days!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

A "New" Car

OK, so I bit the bullet and went ahead and purchased a Toyota Camry. It's not really new as it is 12 years old, but it has been kept in good condition. I couldn't pass up the deal and had been thinking about it for some time. I really wasn't ready to buy it, however, the price and the car were hard to pass up and I knew that I wouldn't have the same opportunity later down the road. So, I went for it!

The car is strictly a working car, and not for pleasure. I hope to be able to drive lots of tourists around to help the investment pay for itself.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bamboo Rice Recipe

Step 1
Collect and cut 12 inch sections of bamboo. Wash.

Step 2
Soak some rice and black beans separately. Grate fresh coconut.

Step 3
Mix soaked rice, soaked black beans, fresh shredded coconut, a little salt, and some sugar in a big bowl. fill the bamboo tubes with the mixture leaving 2 inches of space at the top.

Step 4
Pour water in the bamboo tube over the mixture and cover with a piece of banana leaf that is then stopped up with rice hay. Alternately, you can roll banana leaves tightly as a plug.

Step 5
Place over fire standing with the opening face-up. Light the fire and cook for 30 to 60 minutes. Let cool before cutting off the burned outer layer of the bamboo.

Step 6
Peel the bamboo to open and enjoy!

Corruption is Everywhere

So, you think that the good 'ol US of A is corruption free? Think again.

I was chatting with an American who's on R&R from his government/military contract job in Iraq (though he's not military). He had tons of interesting things to say and could talk forever, but the most intersting thing was what he said about the amount of money being spent every week by the US government for the war in Iraq.

Get ready for this!

The US government spends one billion dollars a week on the war in Iraq. Yes, that's $1 BILLION, not million.

His company alone charged the US government $10 billion for a year contract. And guess which Whitehouse VP benefits from that little contract?

I am no longer going to complain about Cambodia's corruption as if it's the worst in the world. At least here people are aware of it on a daily basis. Most Americans live in a dream world thinking that their country is supremely perfect and unblemished. Little do they realize that the American government has a greater stronghold on their lives than a less advanced country. Who has the freedom now?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Everyday Objects: the Junk "Drawer"

I'm doing a study on everyday objects in Cambodian households. Americans have a junk drawer, but Cambodian households have a junk basket.

This is an all-purpose balm. Cambodians have all sorts of little bottles and tins of things they sniff and wipe. I once read a news story about Thai nasal inhalers that are commonly used to mask the effects of pollution. Apparently this "cure" actually makes things worse for the nose.

Pizza Party

A couple of weekends ago in one of my English classes, the students saw we would be reading about pizza in the textbook so one suggested we eat pizza. What a great idea! Someone knew a great local pizza place, I ordered the pizza, it was delivered, and the students chipped in for the cost of the pizza.

Now normally people might think that pizza is so boring and ordinary. But we're talking pizza in Cambodia. It's hard to find really good pizza. I know. I've tried. This was some of the best I've had, especially since I had tried out most of the places offering pizza.

The best thing was that at least two of the students had never eaten pizza before. We all had a great time munching on pizza at the end of the lesson.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Caged clothes and other Phnom Penh oddities

One of the strangest and funniest observations I made while visiting Phnom Penh lately are the clothing cages. Yes, there are locked cages on rollers on the sidewalks holding laundry. I guess there is a fear that passersby will steal their laundry. It's not just a single incident either. I saw several of these things along the roads.

On Tuesday, which also happened to be Royal Ploughing Day, the street near my guesthouse was blocked because of its close proximity to the ceremony. This resulted in traffic congestion along the small street in front of the guesthouse. While I was standing in front pondering my breakfast options and watching this chaos unfold I was amuzed at the spectacle of a certain foreigner in a Honda CRV who was trying to move against the flow of motorbikes but was stuck. It was incredible to see him heave his oversized white body out of the passenger side door with such a violent jerk that I thought some motorkbikes were going to tumble like bowling pins. Instead of the possibility of some raging "barang" explosion, he parked his bulk in the road to block any oncoming traffic thus making way for his own vehicle driven by a much smaller Cambodian man. The traffic continued as if he were never there.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Police

While I wish I was teaching Sting, unfortunately it's only special contract work teaching English to Siem Reap's "finest", their police.

Last term I taught a group of high level men and police commissioners. This term it's just the regular ones. But there's plenty of time for observations, like, 'Why don't the police where uniforms to work?'

There are a couple of officers I've noted for their curious appendages. One man last term had the pudgiest fingers. I would frequently find myself watching him write with his little sausages. The funniest is when he was actually using one of those pencils where the leads are re-filled by popping one out and pushing it in the end to reveal a newer, sharper lead. My kids classes all have those!

The latest note is for an officer who seems to be one of the older and more English literate. He likes to wear what look like Doc Marten boots, but they must be a kids size cause they are so tiny. I couldn't help glancing back numerous times in class today just to get a peep at his little feet.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Saved from death by the Khmer Rouge

I spent the day on Sunday out in the way out countryside in order to attend a special ceremony organized by my man's grandfather in order to thank a man in that village for saving him from death by the Khmer Rouge.

Now, for outsiders these ceremonies are quite boring. I was bored. The main attraction is for the old folks to sit around ceremoniously chanting. They are later joined by monks, who must only come to legitimize the ceremony and get a free meal. Monks are served their food first and everyone else must wait to eat until they are finished. As soon as they eat, the monks take off with their monk bowls full of rice and special monk gift baskets with all those things monks might want or need: candles, canned milk, coffee, tea, notebooks, noodles, and so on.

So the old people do the ceremony, the men help set up and haul the heavy things and cook the rice or sit around. The women prepare the food and do the cooking. The young people set tables, serve rice, wash dishes and sit around chatting with each other. The children play, as usual.

That leaves me with nothing to do but sitting around. Why? Because the women don't want me, as a foreigner seen with a higher position, to do any hard work. It's a hard thing to grasp because I don't want to be put on a pedestal, but have to understand their idea of status postions. The other thing is my language abilities just aren't good enough to clearly communicate.

Slices in Siem Reap

Who knew the quest for pizza could be so rewarding. A year ago for fun, me and my man set off on a quest for the best pizza in Siem Reap. Friday nights were pizza nights, so we could try all the pizza joints in town. We've had a lot of pizza and I thought I found my favorite place.

But, last weekend one of my classes was doing a reading about pizza, so someone suggested having pizza in class. A different student had a friend in the pizza business, one of which I had never tried, so I went with that pizza. Wow! It was great. The best pizza this side of the Pacific. I now have a new favorite pizza restaurant in Siem Reap.

Continental Cafe by far has the best tasting pizza in Siem Reap, according to my American tastes. The crust is more American-like and less cracker-like.

A good 2nd goes to Kampuccino. They have very tasty pizzas though the crust is a bit thin and crispy.

3rd place will tie with FCC and Ecstatic Pizza. FCC tastes great and has a reasonable price considering it's in the 5-star bracket. Ecstatic is delicious simply because it's concoctions and combinations are unusual and unexpected, yet tasty. Plus they always have great service!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bamboo Rice Episode

This is a basket of bamboo rice. I used to love this stuff and got to see it made first hand in the village. However, I ate one too many in a sitting and found myself sick the next day. Though unrelated, I now have lost the appetite for eating it.

The bamboo rice is a mixture of coconut, black beans, and rice with a little sugar that is stuffed into a piece of bamboo then roasted over an open fire. It's really quite delicious as long as you don't eat three of them in a row!

Village People

One of my most favorite experiences in Cambodia is dancing with the locals at their village party. Note, thre is no YMCA at this party!

Last weekend was the 2nd year I had the privilege to attend and the women were waiting for me. As soon as I pulled up on the motorbike they were pulling at my arms to join the circle of dancers. After waving them off assuring them I would soon return after parking and greeting my mother-in-law, I returned.

All had been well-soused with the local rice wine. Apparently Cambodians can't start dancing until they have had a few drinks in their system.

Nothing beats the playfulness of live music of drums, whistles and home-made rattles. I just wish I had remembered my camera. Cambodians have such a gracefulness of movement when they dance, especially women who are able to bend their hands in ways mine would never go. The men are more jumpy and love shaking their hands and bouncing all over the place. All the time people are moving in a circle around a table.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Taxi Hassles

It's bad enough to ride in a minivan in Cambodia with a cracked windshield, no air conditioning and blaring Cambodian music. But when this minivan dumps it's 12 or so passengers off at the side of the road only 1 hour from its final destination only to be told we're supposed to pile into a car for the remainder of the journey, I am not a happy camper.
Being in the front seat of the minivan, I got the front bucket seat of the car. But my friend who I was sharing the bench with in the minivan had the pleasure of straddling mine seat and the driver's seat with the gear shift in his crotch. (Lovely picture, I know.) The remaining ten or so people literally were piled on top of each other in the back seat with a couple in the hatch area with the hatch open and the luggage hanging from it.
Thankfully it was only an hour. Though upon arrival it took nearly half and hour just to get away from the driver who refused to take our lowered fare even though we were stuffed into a smaller car. There was no way I was paying full "overprice" for that experience. Arguing to no avail, I threw the money in the front seat of the car since the driver refused to accept it, and then yanked my suitcase away and stomped off.
OK, so that may not have been totally smart and I was a little fearful for the rest of the evening, but we were fine. When the next taxi driver wanted to overcharge me and overfill the car I walked away and then squabbled with the motorbike driver who drove me 5 minutes to the bus station and wanted double than the taxi driver did who actually drove me 3 times as far. So tiring. Such cheating, greedy bastards!

T-shirt: "I survived in Cambodia"

So I was wandering amongst the clothing stalls in a Phnom Penh market last week and ran across a tourist T-shirt printed with the slogan, "I survived in Cambodia." Nevermind the unnecessary preposition. All I was thinking was
Where's the T-shirt that says 'I'm still surviving in Cambodia'?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

end of term weariness

Exams have been completed.

Scores have been entered.

Results have been given.

Now it's time to pick up the paycheck.

Oh, but wait, there's a meeting.

Does that mean we'll get paid after the meeting?

Does that mean we'll get paid for the meeting?

What about our holiday?

Just another must-do thing for a teacher.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I'm back. . .darn those passwords!

OK, so after a long-anticipated, or not, wait I'm finally back to the blogging world. It's all those passwords and internet connections one must remember that got me tripped up. I just couldn't figure out how to get into my blog.

So, Cambodia is still here in all its strange ways.

Get this, in the middle of the high tourist season, the main roads in town are being torn up and sewage dug up. This makes for one huge dusty stink causing many tourists to forego their late night stroll down the tuk-tuk filled lanes of Siem Reap.

I for one do not appreciate the continual visits to the bicycle fix-it shop every time I plow through an unexpected pot hole. They must think it's because I'm a "fat Barang", especially when they gesture and comment about my size and the reason for flat tires. I just laugh and smirk and ride away. Eat my dust!

Ode to Camille

I love a rainy night
When all is fair and bright
Birds flock together
In all sorts of weather
And the teacher is always right.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Hometown Return

Finally I'm back in the house where I grew up.

After nearly 3 weeks in country and not being "home" it's nice to be back, yet it isn't really home anymore. My stuff is still here, but there's lots of new stuff, too. It's like I'm only a visitor, which I really am now.

Who knew it would be like this?

Now it's on to visiting friends I haven't seen in ages and appointments and organizing my stuff for the return to Siem Reap. How will I ever fit all my things into my suitcases and make the airline weight requirements?

With one week to go before the long flight back, it's a little daunting imagining what I need to do.

Tomorrow I have a dentist appointment and then lunch with the office ladies.

Next week will be eyes and basic check-up.

Monday, January 02, 2006

snappin' with the Advantix

snappin' with the Advantix
Originally uploaded by Only in Cambodia.

Hanging around my aunt's chillin trailor park waiting for my mom to arrive to pick me up. No, I'm not underage, just an ex-patriot who didn't have my own car at the time.

The lady in red was snappin off pics of the landscape, especially the seasonal objects in the background. I think half of them were cookie jars. And, low and behold, upon inspection this was found to be conclusive.

Note the artsy shirt.


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Welcome 2006!

Happy New Year!

I'm in Nevada and it's snowing. This gal is not used to such bone-chilling weather. Where oh where are those sunny, dry days in Cambodia?

Me and the fam took a drive out into the snow in the SUV just to get out of the house. Lil B loves riding and shopping even more. So much, it puts him to sleep, but we don't have to worry about fussing.

Now of course Big Sis didn't mind cussin out every other driver for being idiots either because the truck had lifts or it was a car that didn't belong out in the snow. Now come on! That just wouldn't fly in Camboland.