Students throng event promoting studies in U.S.

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High school students surround tables at which college and university recruiters tirelessly offered answers to their questions for up to five hours at an EducationUSA fair last week.

The enrollment of foreign students is an essential source of revenue for most colleges and universities in the U.S.  Having once been in charge of communications for a university, I can report that Asians long have been a lucrative source of tuition.

Thus it was that I attended a recruiting “fair” sponsored by EducationUSA at a fancy Phnom Penh hotel a week ago.  As the Web site notes, the organization — which charges educational institutions for their participation — is a product of the U.S. government, and a laudable one at that:

EducationUSA is a U.S. Department of State network of over 400 international student advising centers in more than 170 countries. The network promotes U.S. higher education to students around the world by offering accurate, comprehensive, and current information about opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States. EducationUSA also provides services to the U.S. higher education community to help institutional leaders meet their recruitment and campus internationalization goals. 

Given the level of enthusiasm and energy that I witnessed in the crowd of more than 1,000 students, most still in their school attire, I came away from the event Continue reading

Nervous drivers promote much waving of hands

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Just how helpful is this parking attendant may well be debatable, yet nervous drivers often are too skittish to park by themselves.  (By the way, isn’t “Colorblind” is an odd name for a clothing store?)

Many drivers in Cambodia are just plain bad.

With automobiles only slowly coming into vogue following the defeat of the Khmer Rouge early in 1979 together with widespread poverty, Cambodians came to cars gradually.  It shows.

I once stood for a full five minutes watching in disbelief as Continue reading

Thinking out of proverbial box could better Cambodia

You can be sure that participants in this protest against the ruling party a while back collectively represent unfathomable need.

Modern history has demonstrated that, indeed, there always is something new under the sun.

Under this nation’s punishing sun, perhaps some possibly new ideas could improve the lives of the heartbreakingly numerous Cambodians unable even to hope for a better life.

As I make my way around the country, various Continue reading

‘I can’t come to the phone now. Please leave a message.’

iphone6s-rsgld-frontWhen you call someone in Cambodia who doesn’t answer the phone, tough luck.

When you miss a call from a number you don’t recognize, tough luck again.

In the Kingdom of Wonder, I never have laid eyes on a phone that was not a mobile.  Perhaps some businesses have them, but cellphones here in Cambodia are as inescapable as cockroaches in a New York City tenement and barbells in a gym.

As for  Continue reading

This blog post was supposed to focus on graffiti alone

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  Spotless: Security guards, who usually double as parking assistants, ensure it.  They are everywhere.

One of the striking characteristics of Phnom Penh is the near absence of graffiti.  Strikingly stark walls undoubtedly tempt a mischievous segment of the population, yet an overwhelming proportion of those walls remains pristine.  The relatively few exceptions tend to be on fences surrounding construction.

How can there be so little defacement, I have mused, though to my credit, only briefly?

I have concluded that one reason has to be Continue reading

On trip to to Kampot and Kep, three out of four ain’t bad

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Returning to the city on a sunset cruise from Kampot.

Importuned to travel somewhere in Cambodia when a friend had a long weekend, three of us headed to Kampot within a province of the same name on Sunday.  Kampot, which enjoys justifiable fame for the quality of its pepper, is on the Kampong Bay River 148 kilometers (92 miles) southeast of  Phnom Penh.

We also drove to Kep, which lies on the Gulf of Thailand only a half-hour ride from Kampot for lunch.  Aside from its pleasing coastal views, that city is notable for its crabs, which women, just women, trap and sell at the shore on the edge of the food market.

Arrival at our hotel went badly, as I will explain in some detail later, but there were at least three diversions that made the trip worthwhile.

One was Continue reading

Why so much violence in this officially Buddhist nation?

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In guest post, the writer explores the Khmer Rouge’s violence and violence today.

This illuminating post is published verbatim with the permission of journalist and novelist Philip J. Coggan, whose blog is the source and is well worth following.  If you are in Cambodia, you also likely will appreciate his new book, Spirit World, available at Monument Books.

Here is the big question: how and why did a Buddhist nation produce one of the 20th century’s worst genocides, and one which is marked by so many horrific instances of cruelty and savage violence? A whole chapter in my book Spirit Worlds is devoted to this and for my answer I relied heavily on Alexander Laban Hinton’s Why Did They Kill?. This article therefore stands as a sort of review of Hinton’s book, which is essential reading for all those who want to understand Cambodia.

At one point in my book I remark that underneath the Cambodian smile there lurks Continue reading