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

In many countries, U.S. greenbacks are not all the same

$2

My hot and sour soup was doubly good.

Seasoned travelers learn quickly that merchants and money changers may well reject U.S. currency that does not meet their standards.

A tiny tear, too much wrinkling or an unsightly smudge may well upend a transaction.  The New York Times’ Thomas Fuller has an amusing video on his problems changing money in Myanmar.

As someone who has traveled far and wide and worked on introducing newly designed U.S. currency to the world, I accepted a crisp $2 note unthinkingly in change from the driver of a motorbike with whom I had ridden to the Riverside neighborhood of Phnom Penh.  (I rarely take advantage of such casual “taxi” services such as motos or tuk-tuks.)

I guess I was so intrigued by the appearance of that denomination, which I never have seen here in Cambodia and hadn’t seen in the U.S. for quite some time, that Continue reading

In Cambodia, dealing with refugees remains hot issue

Sitting left to right, Brooke, Siphan, Coghlin, Tai.

Sitting left to right, Jim Brooke, Phay Siphan, Denise Coghlin, Billy Tai.

During a panel discussion last week, four individuals failed as expected to arrive at unanimous agreement about the world’s refugees in general and, in particular, the four who have arrived in Cambodia from Australia.

Former New York Times journalist, Jim Brooke, a friend who is editor of the year-old Khmer Times newspaper, stuck to the theme of a column in which he denigrated the men, women and children who braved the perils of crossing the high seas to enter Australia from distant shores.

Those souls have made it only to the independent nation of Nauru, where some 1,000 of them are held in a detention center run by Australia in what are described as deplorable conditions akin to a concentration camp’s.

Saying that Australia has the fifth highest per capital income in the world, Brooke characterized the migrants as Continue reading

Evil former Khmer Rouge official, 82, gets royal sendoff

The cremation of Cheat Sim occurred at the top of this structure.

The cremation of Cheat Sim occurred at the top of this structure, completed over two weeks.

Chea Sim was only president of the ruling party in Cambodia, yet he was remembered last week in a ceremony befitting a head of state following his death at 82.  The day of the funeral, June 19, was declared a national holiday; however, it was not strictly observed.

There were pomp, circumstance and elaborate decoration at his cremation in a park in the center of Phnom Penh.

Unfortunately, Continue reading

Water, bamboo, sugar cane and 6 of us for elephants

elephants 15

Okay, so the sixth in the group, plus the guide and two mahouts were there but clearly not in the photo. Neither is the second of the two elephants who strolled with us, busy foraging.

With an extra day to spend in the northern Thailand city of Chang Mai last week, I explored some tourist sites in search of a diversion.  And certainly I had one.

I couldn’t have done better than my choice of the Elephant Nature Park charitable organization.  Six of us had the pleasure of spending a day with elephants who essentially had been tortured in the past to carry passengers, lug logs or perform in circuses or venues such as zoos.

elephant blind

Totally blind, she uses sounds and vibrations to navigate the area contentedly.

Two or three among the 44 retired pachyderms who ramble in the woods and across the organization’s meadows, albeit in highly controlled conditions, are totally blind.  One lost her vision from being stabbed by an angry mahout (handler), and a second elephant had suffered too much time in the spotlights of a circus.

I have acquired new contempt for rival facilities that offer rides to tourists or entertain them with tricks including having elephants create paintings. Fun for those who witness and ride, not so much for the abused noble creatures.

As costly as the day ran us on the tour, each of us Continue reading

Waking up in New York, be sure to follow the rules

(Flickr photo by joiseyshowaa)

No one credibly disputes that New York City is unlike any other in the world.  In fact, no city is like another — each is unique by definition.

I drafted this post two years ago, and finally want to unload it while I am traveling in Continue reading