In Phnom Penh, home often is where the tuk-tuk parks

See you again in September

It is a common enough sight to see tuk-tuk drivers sound asleep with their bare feet sticking outside their vehicles, mostly rented for $100 a month more or less, when the sun is high.

Less frequently, a pedestrian may well spot drivers taking more than a short nap when it is dark.

There is a simple reason: Continue reading

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Like others, Cambodians have their own verbal habits

5 Aug - 1When they answer their ubiquitous cellphones, Cambodians begin by saying Hallo, which is not a typo.  I suspect the word has its roots from the years that this nation was a protectorate of France, where they don’t pronounce the h” and the first sound is “ah.”

The telephone greeting often is linked to the Khmer phrase for “how are you?”  The populace apparently has tired of the words, and many can be counted on to reassemble the few syllables in their response to amuse themselves.

When I answer the way they do, I await Continue reading

Homelessness is not surprising, but its face has changed

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Visitors to Europe expect to see sites such as the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum and remnants of the Berlin Wall.  Probably most also are little surprised to see homeless individuals on the street.

But the sight of homeless (presumably) whole families like the ones in three of my photos here can be jarring.  I know that I was shocked to see Continue reading

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

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