December 11, 2010

I will miss...

... the wind blowing through my hair when i ride the motorbike,the relaxed atmosphere in the bars, the weather, the way of speaking, the sound of the gecko, people saying hello on the street, their laugh, the attention, the tuk tuk, the unfinished English, negotiating in the market, the market, the children, the wonderful people with their big hearts and most of all...

the amazing Cambodian smile

Aw kuhn!!!

November 15, 2010

The risk of staying too much in one country.. that you begin behaving like locals. Well, it is not really a risk, depending on what that behavior is :-) But our power of adaptation is incredible I have come to realize in these 5 months here. And you yourself don't realize your new/borrowed behavior until an outsider comes and tells you hey, you have changed... This is how I realized at least.. It was a friend visiting me for a couple of days who told me, hey, you start behaving just like them...and by that she was referring to the way I speak.
Cambodians have a very interesting way of speaking, depending on the point they want to make. It is always with a smile on their face and even a laugh, regardless of what they are saying- whether it is something funny/ a nice story/or a horrific event. And Cambodians will never raise their voice or yell to you. And if you do raise your voice to them, they will stop listening to you and just leave...
Women for instance when they speak to each other they sound like two chickens fighting. But they can turn their voices and attitude into a very soft and sweet voice, when they are trying to convince you to do something..especially when they talk to men.
Men on the other hand, well they always laugh, and they are rarely fighting. And they are extremely funny when negotiating with you, for instance for the tuk tuk ride. They start to make funny faces and funny noises, so they can convince you that they want more, they become like little cats 'miauw-ing' :-))) And my friend she tells me I have borrowed this very well, and not only when negotiating with them or in the market with the women, but also when talking to her, in Romanian :))) it must be very funny i guess...

November 10, 2010

Cambodian trivia

Did you know that:

- Cambodian men dye their hair? That is why you almost never see people with white hair here :)
- In restaurants, everything is thrown under the table, from tissues to chicken bones and cigarette buds. You cannot imagine the mess on the floors at the end of a night..
- Everything is eaten here, from all sorts of insects, to the chicken's toes and head...
- People, when they walk (very rarely that is), they never use the sidewalk. Probably they're used to being on the moto all the time...

November 08, 2010

The Cambodian ultimate experience: KARAOKE

If you stay long enough around, there will be at least one chance of being invited to go out to karaoke. In my organization, farewell parties for colleagues take place at the karaoke. So a big room is rented and everyone is invited. Once you get there you take your place on the couch, as there are huge couches in one side of the room, the other side, across the couches and tables, is taken of course by the huge TV screens. The music starts right as the first guests arrive. Cambodians do not need much incentive or alcohol for that matter, in order to perform. They all sit down and sing, until someone takes the microphone and breaks the ice. And then whoever wants to sing, sings. People are not shy at all, irrespective of their voices. Don’t get me wrong, the majority have very nice voices, and a talent to sing, but not all do.. :) After 5 minutes there, I was already being asked what I wanted to sing..I said maybe later, thinking that I will get out of it before I know it…I needed a bit of encouragement, if you know what I mean. Karaoke where I come from is more like a collective craziness of drunk people, here people respect each other, and they take singing very seriously. Each one chooses a song which he or she dully sings until the end, without anyone laughing at them. While one of them sings, all the others eat or enjoy a drink, but mostly eat. When the food part is over, the lights are being dimmed and people start dancing as well.
Oh yes, I didn’t tell you that the singing is performed in full light, well at least this is how it was when I had to sing “My heart will go on…” this is because the other option was “I don’t want to sleep alone..”?!?!? I also have to tell you that I didn’t have anything to drink and it was only half an hour after I arrived. I thought well if they do it, why shouldn’t I ?? hahaha it went well in the end they applauded me :-D hahahah
I was surprised to see how much passion my colleagues put into singing. People that at the office look very serious, well, in front of those TV screens they were giving it their best, with all the drama of a performer..impressing I must admit :D It is a paradox cause here people are very shy in general, however when it comes to singing in front of strangers, or work colleagues, they don’t have any issues.. :)
Cambodian music is mostly romantic music about love, and performed by couples. So of course, we had a fair share of couples singing together. The girl in one part of the room and the guy in the other, not looking at each other, just singing..I told you they really take it seriously here…
This would be a very interesting team building exercise for Europeans hahha

PS: My favourite Khmer song

October 30, 2010

It happens in Cambodia..

For those who had the chance to visit Cambodia, you know what the traffic here looks like. Well, a little recap: it seems there are no rules of traffic, there are motos, bikes, bycicles, Lexuses, driving everywhere, without always taking into account that they might be driving on the wrong side of the street. Moreover, the majority don;t even have driving license, they drive being very drunk, carrying what have you on their motos - from 5 passengers, to 30 kg bags of rice, boxes with life poultry, or other animals, newborn babies between their legs, with no protection whatsoever.. well think of anything that needs to be carried, and you will see it being carried on a moto in Cambodia...
But my point was not necessarily this :-) My question to you: Do you think the police, which you see at every corner on the streets(most of the time not doing anything), stop any of these things from happening?? no way..however, they are very strict when it comes to headlights being turned on during the day!?!?! In most of the countries you are compelled to keep them on, as it better serves visibility. However here by law, it is one of the things that is actually enforced in traffic, you have to keep them off during the day...that is not to say that Cambodians turn their headlights on during the night, no..It's a privilege reserved to the officials to keep headlights on here... SO you can carry your whole family and newborn baby, and your pet, while drunk and driving on the moto, if you keep your headlight OFF during the day...otherwise you might be in trouble..
Talking to other barangs, we were wondering what rules they teach you here in the driving school? What can they possibly teach you? Probably to break all the rules ..or how to break them without causing accidents..hmmm..

October 18, 2010

Sick leave...

..because the spirit has overtaken her body/she is possessed. The whole village was sick because of the spirit, but she was worst affected. 3 monks are healing her now in a pagoda.

October 05, 2010

Preparing for Pchum Ben Festival

For me it means some free days, but locally it is a very important festival..

"This question has been a major topic of the discussion among Cambodians for the past few days – even when they randomly meet for just one second on the street – preparing for the approaching Pchum Ben Festival.
Pchum Ben Festival, the Festival for the Commemoration of the Spirits of the Dead, is usually celebrated on the 15th day of the waxing moon during the tenth month of the Khmer calendar, called Pheaktrobotr – October 7th this year.
So why is that festival so important to the Cambodian society, though for any Buddhist, every living being is reincarnated after its death? Shouldn’t that mean that there is no need to pray for him/her?
Always putting up with the syncretism linking Buddhism, Animism and Brahmanism, Cambodian people believe that souls are still trapped in the spirit world because of their bad Karma. Pchum Ben is then their opportunity to be released back into the living world. These souls will be able to seek absolution and peace for their families. Tradition has it that Yama, the King of Hell, frees those souls found guilty during those 15 days. If, after having looked in at least seven pagodas, these spirits find out they are not part of their close ones’ offerings, they curse their families, who will run out of food the following year. On the contrary, if the family has given enough offerings for these souls, Yama may then decide that they can go back into the living world and reincarnate…
Some technical points on the Pchum Ben’s: Ben is the offering made to the souls. During these 15 days, Cambodian people will bring to the pagoda, along with other offerings, a platter of sticky rice balls (Bay Ben) covered with a conical-shaped banana leaf cover, on top of which are placed some incense, candles and flowers.
They are thrown around the main chanting room of the pagoda before sunrise (so normally from 4am onwards). Strange? There actually is a reason for this (aside from the Cambodians’ obvious taste for unreasonably early rising habit, that is): apparently, souls, who are afraid of the sunrise, wander around that time… but their mouths have become too small! So, of course! it makes sense to throw the bens, so they fall apart and the souls’ little mouths can eat them up.
Well now you know…!!! Make sure that the festival is not over and done with in just one day – it should be 15 days long... From the 1st to the 14th day, it is Kan Ben (Holding the offering) and the last day, the 15th, is called Pchum Ben (Gather for the offering). The most important is not to miss Pchum Ben’s eve, because people will make a lot of special Cambodian cakes (Onsom, Numkom and Nomthmeiy) for offering to the monks and the neighbours, which will generate “good Karma” for their ancestors. On the night of the 14th day, the monks will chant the whole night long until the morning of the last day, when people – whatever they believe – MUST come to the pagoda. Under no circumstances may they miss this important day! The last night, people will make a small boat out of banana tree trunk, fill it up with cakes, and put it in the river to accompany their ancestors back to hell."