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.