Alcohol consumption is harmful way of life in Cambodia

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Photo recently posted on Facebook is obviously whimsical, but it harbors a darker meaning.

Whether those who imbibe are rich or poor, excessive consumption of alcohol appears to be a widespread practice in the Kingdom of Wonder.  The World Health Organization attributed 2,000 deaths and injuries to the drink last year.

Although the government of Cambodia has been drafting legislation since 2008 to discourage some drinking, enactment has yet to be achieved.

Incredibly, Continue reading

Police corruption in Cambodia comes home to a friend

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Always hard at work, our underpaid constabulary.

A Khmer-American friend of mine acknowledges that he made a mistake when trusting a Cambodian acquaintance.  That trust has cost him well more than $1 million, a loss he can ill-afford.  Not many ordinary Khmer-American businessmen could.

From what I gather, my friend — call him Hak — doled out monthly payments to the guy.  The man — I’ll call him Vwibol — apparently was to lend that money to other Cambodians at admittedly exorbitant, but commonly charged, rates.  (The details that Hak provides tend to be kind of vague, so I am not even positive about the nature of his monthly investments.)

Every month, Vwibol would return some thousands of dollars to Hak. But the money stopped coming in September.  Vwibol says Continue reading

Almost everything they say about Japan turns to be true

img_1780When we went to Japan last month on a whim motivated by an uncommonly cheap air fare ($300 round trip from Cambodia), I imagined the experience would be pretty much as reputed.

The country would be clean, the crowds orderly, the trains always on time, the cities exhilarating, the history temples and shrines impressive, English rarely spoken, prices high and gardens gorgeous to the extreme.  (Many more photos on Facebook.)

I was not disappointed.

“Clean” doesn’t begin to describe the contrasts between most of the rest of the world and everywhere we visited over three weeks — in order, Tokyo, Yokohama, Hakone (to view Mt. Fuji), Hiroshima, Miyajima, Himeji, Kobe, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Takayama and Matsumoto.  “Immaculate” is more to the point.

There wasn’t a shred of litter on the streets or in the subway or train stations, though maybe I have figured out how that could be the case in view of the rarity of trash receptacles on sidewalks and elsewhere.

One explanation may be that Continue reading

Modesty runs rampant in my health club’s locker room

MichelangeloDavidCensored_zps0bf756d0A stocky Asian  strode through the relatively empty locker room of my gym one afternoon not long ago.  He was nude.  Because of his nonchalance, I knew that he could not be from Cambodia.

At my former gym in the States, he would not have drawn a second glance. Few members were present at my current gym that time of day, and those changing clothes also paid no discernible attention.

But the locker room attendant certainly noticed.  A look of horror, or possibly disgust, crossed his countenance.

I asked him if the sight disturbed him. The memory of what he had just witnessed caused him to scowl deeply, making me wonder whether perhaps he was joking.

When I told him how it was at my old gym in New York, Continue reading

Efficient waste management, recycling elude Cambodia

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These men and teenagers are not merely dumping trash into the truck. They are sorting it as well.

The problems that Phnom Penh faces with trash disposal are evident on virtually every corner.

Although there seem to be laws on the books mandating proper handling of recyclables and other commercial and residential waste, there appears to be virtually no enforcement.

Cintri — the company that enjoys a sweetheart contract in its monopoly for the collection of garbage in Phnom Penh — is pictured here with one of its green trucks.  You can see that the enterprise is no more exempt from overlooked child labor than are building contractors. You also can see in the photo below with one of the company’s yellow trucks that waste is separated by gloveless hands as the vehicles creep along the city’s blocks. Continue reading

Not the worst, but friends’ travel ordeal nears extreme

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Up, up and away doesn’t quite describe my friends’ vacation saga.

Pat and Sandy much enjoyed their recent cruise, and then began their problems.  They didn’t suffer a hijacking or a deadly crash, but suffer they did on their way home to Australia from the Baltic states and the final leg of their cruise.

On their cruise to Amsterdam from Norway, the weather was bad and the sea so rough that the ship had to divert to Rotterdam.  So far, not so bad.  So far.
 
Wth minimal editing on my part, Pat gives the following account in a jet-lagged e-mail written in the middle of the night of one disastrous event after another, thankfully none involving violence:
 
Luckily, the ship supplied buses to the terminal in Amsterdam, but we lost nearly a whole day in Amsterdam.

Continue reading

I digress: Some Americans respond selfishly to election

american-flag-3Consider this post from an expat I do not know in response to a rant on Facebook today:

So happy I’m living in France. So happy I’m living in France. So happy I’m living in France.

Which of the four candidates I favor for U.S. president is beside the point of this post, but let me say that the foregoing quote is one of the milder reactions I have seen especially to the possibility of Donald Trump’s winning the election over Hillary Clinton.

Even as an expat myself, I confess to feeling holier than those who fantasize about leaving their country behind for what I contend is the wrong reason.  They despair of one candidate or another leading a nation of more a third of a billion persons and, not incidentally, the whole free world.  They seem to think that leaving will improve their lives . . . and theirs alone.

Those who talk about quitting the United States seem to overlook at least four things: Continue reading