You’re lucky to see more than two stars over the capital

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At the edge of a slim park dividing Sihanouk Boulevard, an advertising sign insults most views east. It obscures the top of Independence Monument, which commemorates a modern achievement and is a two-minute walk from the sign. One end of the NagaWorld complex lurks above the trees at right.

They are immense, nearly blinding in intensity and grotesquely damaging to the experience of living in Phnom Penh.

They are advertising displays mounted on brutally big columns, except in the case of the NagaWorld casino and hotel complex, where Continue reading

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Surprisingly, New York City is loosening its grip on me

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The Oculus, imposing portion of New York’s transit hub cum shopping mall that I photographed near One World Trade Center (also called Freedom Tower) in downtown Manhattan.

Thirty-five years.

That is how long I had made my home in New York City — only in Manhattan, from Washington Heights to Greenwich Village — in two long periods before moving to Phnom Penh toward the end of 2013.

How I loved New York over any other place I had lived such as Boston, San Francisco, Hartford and the Washington, D.C. area, where I went in my relative youth to work in the Pentagon and again, in 1995.  At that time, I worked in the U.S. Treasury Department before heading back to Manhattan in 2006 after having transitioned to real estate sales.

To my mind, Manhattan’s highlights run the gamut of the many clichés that you know as well as I do — energy, diversity, cultural opportunities, Central Park and, among so many other attributes, paradise for a food lover.
Continue reading

In Western restaurants, Cambodians use knife and fork

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You easily can guess where I snapped this photo of a man enjoying his chocolate croissant.

When most Cambodians eat, the implements of choice are chopsticks for transporting noodles to their mouth, of course a spoon alone for soups lacking noodles, or a fork that pushes most other food to be consumed onto a spoon.

Never is a knife used at the home table or in Cambodian restaurants; spoons do the same work instead.

However, when Cambodians order croissants, doughnuts, a slice of banana loaf or pizza in Western-style eateries, Continue reading

Rampant injustice can be almost too much to bear

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The unfortunate victim of extortion for a crime that he did not commit has been working at this pool.

The 18-year-old pool attendant at my gym is gawky, gangly and unusually skinny.  No taller than my chin, he has kind of a goofy smile that always accompanies his dependably friendly greeting when we run into each other at the facility.

His was only one of two recent incidents that are symptomatic of rampant injustice in Cambodia.

I got to know the young man — call him Chan — when his job was to clean the equipment on one of the gym’s floors I visit.  I since have seen him frequently when he stands outside the glass doors at the entrance of the pool, where he has been assigned for more than a year.

On March 13, Continue reading

Even in capital, pipes don’t deliver cooking gas

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No pipeline?  Cambodians have you covered.  They are the delivery system.

Phnom Penh is not fully developed, though a plenitude of high buildings new or under construction creates a different impression.

5 Aug - 3 (3)To get an idea of the reality, you need look no farther than the kitchens of restaurants and newly completed luxe kitchens in residences with virtually all the amenities found in the West. What you see in them is Continue reading

A barista’s struggle exemplifies Cambodia’s best hope

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Since I prefer to patronize local merchants in my neighborhood, not foreign franchises, the Starbucks flagship in Boeung Keng Kang I has won my affection reluctantly.  Here, the coffee can’t be beat.

A 20-year-old waiter at the Starbucks in my Phnom Penh neighborhood recently told me a bit about his life.  His story is much like that of the other employees who work there and in the myriad cafes around town.

A finance major with very good command of English, he starts his college classes at 7 a.m. They don’t end until Continue reading

When dining al fresco, Cambodians may sit like children

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Your first encounter with streetside dining in Cambodia may well produce a smile and a puzzled expression. It did mine.

You’ll see grown men and women Continue reading