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

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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

It is hard to keep old folks from making me feel guilty

kissingerThe older I get, the more religiously do I check out obituaries.  I doubt that I am not unlike many other of my contemporaries and folks who are much older than me.  Of particular interest to me is the causes of death.

But there is one aspect of obits of the elderly that gnaws at me.  It concerns particular phrases or sentences that I note all too frequently for my taste, especially regarding octogenarians and nonagenerians.  The phrasing tends to run something like this: Continue reading

Two schools represent distinction with a big difference

IMG_5604The complex in the photo above was called S-21 by the Khmer Rouge.  Today it is known variously as the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields Museum of Cambodia.

The facility had been converted from a public high school to an incomprehensibly brutal prison in 1975-79, when up to 2 million Cambodians died.  Of the 14,000 ordinary citizens believed to have been incarcerated there, only seven survived the starvation, inhuman living conditions, torture and outright execution.

Toul Sleng is a 10-15-minute walk from my home, and I have occasion to pass by regularly.  It is wholly visible from the roof of my 15-story building.  Seeing it Continue reading

Bhutan is a destination worth adding to your bucket list

275Bhutan is everything wonderful you may have heard about the landlocked country that celebrates its “Gross National Happiness.”  It also is a bit less.  

What’s I mean by “less” relates to
Continue reading