Sandals, flip-flops prove to be a way of life in Cambodia

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This is a nation of roads that are alternately dusty or flowing with rain water, depending on our two seasons — hot or wet, it is said with a small smile.  The sidewalks are impassable or absent. Continue reading

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Being a foreigner in local markets can be daunting

This is not my local market, but it is typical of markets found everywhere in Cambodia.

This is not my local market, but, other than its spaciousness, it’s typical of indoor markets found everywhere in Cambodia.  I recall that I took this photo on an important Buddhist holiday.

Closing in on two years in this country, I relish more than ever my daily encounters with Cambodians and the chance to practice my atrocious grasp of the language.

It is one thing to try to speak and understand Khmer with waiters and gym trainers who are bilingual to greater or lesser degrees. They seem to enjoy my struggles with pronunciation — you try to articulate as one sound the diphthong “ng” and the triphthong “pdt.”

It is quite another thing to climb the Mount Everest of fathoming a normal rush of words that I know yet fail miserably to hear when they are strung together in speech.

I long ago gave up trying to read or, horrors, write the language.  But words and some grammar are beginning to sink in and I now can engage in the most rudimentary of short conversations such as ordering food in a restaurant.

The big problem with learning Khmer where I usually range is that almost everyone seems to speak enough English that I am not called upon to use the local language.  Moreover, they usually don’t expect me to speak Khmer and I don’t always expect them to speak English, inevitably causing confusion.  Still, I persist stubbornly.

In the last several weeks, I finally have become emboldened to Continue reading

A way of life in Cambodia, makes expressions obscure

Even in a university classroom, there are those who choose to wear a mask as this Facebook photo demonstrates.

Even in a university classroom, some students  wear a mask, as this Facebook photo demonstrates.

Given the way so many Cambodians lead their lives, you might be forgiven for thinking you are in a nation with an enduring epidemic of contagious diseases. Continue reading

In Cambodia, too, death is certain in life–but not taxes

money_5When you know someone well enough here in Cambodia, sometimes even not so well, it is acceptable to ask financial questions thought elsewhere to be too personal.

To query all but the elite about how much they spend on housing or even how much money they earn every month may not be considered to be the least bit impolite.  Asking about the cost of household help is fine.

And you may inquire without hesitation about the taxes that someone pays. However, you can count on a response that will in most cases be surprisingly short: an unabashed chortle.

I sometimes have had occasion to  Continue reading