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.