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

WSJ lists 7 things you may not know about expat life

Teaching is a job to which expats tend to gravitate. Source: Khmer440.com

Teaching is a job to which expats tend to gravitate, but pay in Cambodia is low. Source: Khmer440.com

The life of an expat may contain many surprises, the Wall Street Journal noted in an article not so long ago.

It turns out, according to a survey on which the article is based, that Ecuador provides the most happiness to expats and that Europe, unsurprisingly, offers the best education.

But would you imagine that Ireland falls behind Russia, Oman and Continue reading

Good news arrives about accident victim, mother of 3

Poul during better days.

Poul during better days.

If you happened to read my post last week, then perhaps you noticed that a woman who is a trainer at my gym was hurt in an accident only a few blocks from the facility on a major boulevard.  Her condition has improved somewhat, but that is hardly the end of her troubles.

Details are kind of sparse.  It seems she was riding her moto home from a night out early Sunday morning a week and a half ago.  Apparently, Poul pulled over and stopped when she noticed a car driving dangerously close to her.

I gather that the vehicle clipped her bike and tossed her onto the pavement.  Poul was not wearing a helmet, an oversight that technically is against a law and more often honored in the breach (especially passengers) and less often enforced with anything approaching determination.

The car Continue reading

When Cambodians sneeze, listen to sound of silence

5036593719_6dd776fc28_bAmong the countless cultural differences between Cambodians and Westerners is what happens when someone sneezes.

After 20 months living in Phnom Penh, I find it hard to drop certain reactions and expectations. One that comes readily to mind and that I cannot seem to accept concerns cars turning into a street; I still think they will give way to a pedestrian automatically — me.  They usually don’t.

Another has to do with sneezing.  Probably like you, my automatic reaction is to utter a “bless you” or “gesundheit” when someone, even a stranger, sneezes.  Where I come from, I know that I can count on hearing wishes for good health when I sneeze or anyone else does in virtually any situation but a performance.

Not so in Cambodia.  It is as if nothing ever happened or that no one cares about another person’s health.

What surprises me is Continue reading

Trying to book short flights with Garuda is nightmare

5-Star?  Not in my book.  Not by a very long shot given appalling customer service.

5-Star? Not in my book. Not by a very long shot given appalling customer service.

The sluggish saga of my attempt to book a roundtrip flight between Bali and a small island began last Saturday.  As I start to draft this post on Wednesday morning, I still have been unable to get my tickets from Garuda, the small Indonesian airline with which I am condemned to deal.

Moreover, responses to my e-mail have gone unanswered or delayed intolerably.  When they arrive, the e-mails contain unreasonable requests.  The only time I seem to get anywhere is when I complain on Twitter and Facebook, proving that social media can have a use beyond seeing what “friends” enjoy for dinner.

You may wonder why I haven’t tried the services of a travel agency, as my wise friend Amanda advised me, or a travel site such as Orbitz.  Continue reading

Weddings in Cambodia usually grounded in tradition

cambodia-wedding

Since this is nothing more than a photo that I have plucked from the Internet, I have no idea who these wedding participants are.  But the bridegroom’s family certainly looks happy.

One of my Cambodian “nephews” — I am merely close to the family of five — has been talking for several months about marrying a young women with whom he works.

Like many prospective bridegrooms, “Socheat” is full of anxiety about spending the rest of his life with someone.  But he is going ahead with the planning because, he says, the bond will make his parents, her parents and her happy.

Whether he is truly in love with “Sophea” Continue reading

For many Cambodians, giving birth is perilous journey

maternity 6

Far too many Cambodians live like this in the provinces, even within Phnom Penh limits, with few having either the means for or access to (or both) maternity healthcare that normally is appropriate.

This post is published verbatim with the permission of Banyan Blog, where it originally appeared. The writer’s insights are always worth reading, and I highly recommend the blog as well as its Twitter feed. The source of all but one of the photos, which I have added to the Banyan Blog post, is Kuma Cambodia, funded by a Norwegian association that goes by NAPIC.

One of the most dangerous moments in a woman’s life is giving birth, especially when access to quality medical care is not easily available.  In Khmer, the term to give birth is called “ch’long tonle” which means to “cross the river”. The elders use this phrase to describe the dangerous journey of crossing the river, which was oftentimes difficult and dangerous. Some would make it, others would drown. The phrase is appropriate in describing the perilous and uncertain journey of childbirth.

According to UNICEF, Cambodia’s maternal mortality rate is 170 per 100,000 live births (2013). While the rate has improved significantly since 1990 (1,200 per 100,000), it is still one of the highest in the world. The biggest challenge is Continue reading