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."


September 30, 2010

When you have to catch a plane, what do you take into consideration?

1. Distance to the airport, and how long it normally takes to get there.
2. Traffic at the hour you are traveling.
3. Routes/alternatives.

Well, did you ever take into consideration the horsepower of the vehicle that takes you there?!?!?
Let me tell you it is crucial to take it into consideration when traveling by tuk tuk !!!
The fact that the tuk tuk looks shiny and new (@ local standards) does not mean it is fast as well…

So when my parents asked me how long they need to get to the airport I had to factor this in as well: 4. Horsepower of tuk tuk.

September 21, 2010

Shhhhht…don’t tell that to anyone…

This is a phrase that even if you use in Cambodia, you will be sure that NO one respects your privacy… So whatever u have in mind, better keep it to yourself!!!
First week in Cambodia, exposed to everything new, including the food and water, of course there were some problems of adaptation. We were in a workshop in Sihanoukville (cannot believe how time flies) with all the organization, and I made the mistake to ask someone whether they had some pills for stomachache. Next thing I knew, everyone was asking me (by words or signs): is your stomach better? I knew then that privacy is not really an option around :-)

One day, one of the project managers (with everyone in CC) received an email with a report from one of the colleagues, and in PS I hope u feel better.. He had to reply to EVERYONE in CC that he had stomach pain and bad stomach because the vegetables are not treated with the legal chemicals and other details like that…

Today, we are having a surprise party for one of the expats who is leaving…Guess what? well, it’s not a surprise anymore..the cleaner made sure to go to Astrid and tell her paty fo you, me buy fru (fruits)… hahaha

Personal matters of the staff are basically known by everyone…

If I take a sick day and I stay at home, the cleaner will make sure that everyone in the office knows how "sick" I actually was...hahaha

So careful with the secrets when in Cambodia!!

September 14, 2010

Pasaj din Amintiri din pribegie, Neagu Djuvara

"In primele zile de la sosirea mea, Leca mi-a spus un lucru pe care l-am luat intai ca o butada. Mi-a zis cam asa ceva: "Dumneata, daca nu te apuci sa-ti scrii impresiile in primele trei luni, n-ai sa mai scrii niciodata nimic. Eu, dupa douazeci de ani aici, nu stiu ce as mai putea scrie.." Azi, imi dau seama ca nu era o butada. Oricat parea de paradoxal la prima vedere, strainul inzestrat cu spirit de observatie si perspicacitate-si un minim de talent-poate, dupa o sedere de cateva luni, sa-ti zugraveasca un tablou destul de original al noii societati pe care a descoperit-o si pe care o observa. Dupa douazeci de ani, daca-i cinstit sufleteste, nu poate decat constata cu intristare ca n-a inteles nimic din moravurile si psihicul populatiei in mijlocul careia a trait si ca toate observatiile sale au ramas inspaimantator de superficiale. (..) Pentru a patrunde cat de cat in lumea lor cea mai tainica, cea mai adevarata, ar fi trebuit sa traiesc intr-un colt de tara veche, ca ei, intr-o casa cu chirpici cu usa si fereastra de tabla sau-mai bine- intr-o coliba de rogojina, cu o femeie, sau mai multe, si o droaie de copii goi in jur, in aceeasi ograda cu capra si curcanii si gainile golase, sa invat limbile lor, sa traiesc ca ei, sa drm ca ei, sa bolesc ca ei, sa ascult seara de seara povesti din trecut, povesti de vraci si de vrajitoare, si atunci poate-poate, dupa zeci de ani, as fi inceput sa patrund in lumea lor. Si inca..."

Neagu Djuvara a petrecut 23 de ani in Niger

Weekend getaway in a shopper's paradise

You can ask me: how was KL Andra? What did you see there, how was the city? What did you do there? And I will reply well, the shops were very very nice :-D
Kuala Lumpur is something like midtown Manhattan with huuuuge skyscrapers everywhere, and nothing much beside. It was built in what used to be a rainforest, and from the plane you can see green everywhere when you approach the city. Once you are in the city it’s mostly concrete and steel. But there is some vegetation left here and there. The people of the city are a combination of cultures and religion, something that I have never seen before. Most Malay are Muslims, so you can see women covered by their colourful veils, but there are also Buddhists, Hindus etc. In terms of origins, you can see Indians, alongside Chinese, alongside the majority Malay people. It is very interesting to observe how they can peacefully co-habit and respect each other’s religion and culture.. Also because they were celebrating the end of Ramadhan this weekend, it was public holiday and so they had many tourists- Muslims from all over the world- hence, an even larger variety of people.. And what can tourists to in this “concrete jungle” ..well, they can shop ‘till they drop.. I have never seen such malls in my life, probably something similar to those in Dubai. Huge and with all possible shops u dream of… they even had Harrods, Topshop!!! and Nandos!! (well, maybe because of their ties to the British Empire; a bit of London there :-D ) What striked me most was that they had the autum/winter collection in the shops, and I cannot possibly imagine what people in KL could do with boots and winter jackets, in this tropical country…But then I realized: they love their AC turned at maximum power. So for the strolls in the shopping mall, they can use their winter clothes (it was freeeezing inside).
The second day, feeling guilty that we only saw what was the inside of a mall in our first day, we decided to take a bus tour…well, we saw nothing but some other shopping centres, and some more skyscrapers and 2 colonial buildings, and a nice view of the fast developing city from the telecommunications tower. Malaysia is the 3rd richest country in SE Asia, after Singapore and Brunei. It is mainly due to its natural resources, most importantly oil!! The Petronas towers, are the towers of the oil industry … I don’t know why I had the impression that only in the West you can live at the highest possible standards. Well, I was extremely ignorant of this region… And also, after being in Cambodia for a while, maybe I was expecting the whole region to be more or less like that. Well, wrong again there…very wrong for that matter…
After having seen a bit more of the city, we decided to finish our sightseeing with the fanciest mall of them all- the Pavillion. Do not imagine that I shopped a lot, because I was going back to my Cambodians, where I could not use most of the things they were selling there- like proper shoes, and proper clothes :-). I only bought some nice smelling creams – a girl’s got to do what a girl’s gotta do..
We went back early to the hotel as we had to wake up at 4 am to get to the airport in time to fly back to work in PP. But because of stupid Lonely Planet ( I found many of its shortcomings while here), we miscalculated the time we needed to get to the airport… Also, there was no mention that there were 2 airports!!! and of course our airport was the far away one…and so we got there just 20 minutes before the flight…the b*!$ch at the counter didn’t let us through so 9 hours and 175$ later, we got on the next flight…back in PP we were again stroked by the reality here. It is funny how after living in a place like Cambodia you consider this to be your reality and your normality, and you start to think, well this place is quite developed and you find most things that you need (the only imported salad in town is sold in this tiny little shop, in a hidden frigorific room; makes u feel you’re buying drugs…) and then you go away one weekend in a neighboring country and you feel your reality shaken up… and you don’t understand what is the reality anymore…haha, you guys probably lost me by now...I know I did…

September 07, 2010

Cambodian lunchbreak

Are you one of those people who wished they had a couch in the office so they could take quick power naps? Well, in Cambodian offices couches are very common. Not that it would matter for that reason, as when it comes to lunch-break time, after very quickly eating their lunches, Cambodians would pretty much sleep anywhere.
Yes, anywhere..those sleeping or catching a spot on the couches are privileged (we have 3 couches in my office). Sleeping on chairs is common, but even on the floor. So if I happen to be here during lunch-break and if i stroll around the office, I might step on someone. I actually just did in the kitchen...
Working hours here are from 7:30 to 12:00, and from 14:00-17:00. Lunch-break (12:00-14:00)is sanctified here- NO ONE WORKS DURING LUNCH BREAK!!The actual eating phase lasts maximum 10 minutes, as Cambodians do not really like to talk during their lunch, or meals in general. They like to get over with it as soon as possible, and then they would talk, maybe... Can you imagine business lunches in Cambodia? Well, if they would involve a business nap, maybe they could work...

August 24, 2010

Smells like burnt...

That's because the rituals of offering are BIG in Cambodia, and in all Asia for that matter. Whatever religion or creed around, there will always be offerings. In the Buddhist one in Cambodia, offerings are made in the form of fruits, burned incense sticks and money in pagodas, in front of the Buddha statues, or in the little genie houses in each one’s home. Oh, but do not worry, I forgot to mention that the money is not real. You can buy fake money to offer or burn:-)..
Yes, in religions like the Taoist one, the offerings are burned..Traditionally, it was joss paper made from bamboo, also known as ghost money, that was burned in traditional Chinese deity or ancestor worship ceremonies to ensure that deities or the spirits of the deceased have lots of good things in the afterlife. People think that money can be used in the afterlife as well, and that the ancestors can influence the fortune of the living. For me it is weird to notice this emphasis on the material side… But then again, I have to admit I don’t know much about the Asian religions and creeds, am only discovering now..
To illustrate the materialism behind it: nowadays people have modernized and burn from paper credit cards, cheques, to papier-mâché clothes, houses, cars, toiletries, and servants. And even more extreme, they burn paper MP3 players, planes, boats and even paper condoms (staying safe in the afterlife), paper prostitutes and Viagra
Many temples have large furnaces outside the main gate to burn these offerings. Burning actual money is considered to be nonsensical (obviously!!) and unlucky in Asian cultures. These offerings can also be burned in front of ones house --> hence the strong smell of burnt on the streets.
The most interesting form of paper note that is burned in these rituals is the Hell Bank Note, which has a funny story. “Hell money notes is a modern form of spirit money. The word "hell" was said to be introduced to the Chinese by Christian missionaries. The missionaries told the Chinese that non-Christians go to hell when they die. The Chinese, not understanding what the missionaries were implying, translated the word "hell" to match the pre-existing Chinese concept of "underground hold/court," which in Taoist cosmology had been considered the initial destination of the soul of the dead regardless of his or her virtue during life. Hell money notes are known for their outrageous denominations ranging from $10,000 to $5,000,000,000. The bills feature an image of the Jade Emperor on the front and the "headquarters" of the Bank of Hell on the back.”(Wiki)

For me this is taking the bribe to another level .. :-)

August 23, 2010

Oh noooo, it's a funeral...

If you ever go to Cambodia, you might experience a funeral on your street, or a wedding for that matter..It's kinda the same, just the intonation of the music differs. It's a 3 days and 3 nights "fiesta", that takes place on the streets or if the family can afford renting it, in a garden. They decorate it properly as for a party, with tables and chairs covered in silk cloth, with flower arrangements and "la piece de resistance": loud, loud, incredibly loud SPEAKERS. You might notice the frustration in my words.. that is because I have experienced this wonderful event this weekend, the first weekend in the Penh when I really wanted to get some SLEEP...consideration and respect for neighbors? what???!? well, the neighbors are more than happy to be woken up in the beautiful sounds of the drums (no rhythm whatsoever just banging, loud banging, continuously) at 5 am, continued by someone singing or saying its speeches, or mourning or whatever they were doing...that went on from 5 am until 11 pm, with small, but very small breaks...when u thought they quiet down, and u could get a quick nap, they started again... I passed through various stages of thoughts and feelings, and compassion very quickly turned into hate the second day, I was extremely curious to see what is going on in that garden, and as the door was open, I had a quick glance inside... there were about 10-15 tables as I told u arranged with white silk cloth, with colorful flower arrangements and offerings, and people were dressed in white. By the sound of it, I was expecting to see thousands of people, well, there were maximum 10.... maybe the agglomeration of people depended on the hour of the day... but the sound did not depend on the hour, nor the number of people present..

A friend of mine told me when I arrived in PP that I will experience IT, but I thought oh, he is exaggerating, he has no idea how loud gypsies weddings in Romania are...well, I can tell you that after 3 days and 3 nights of this, I was missing the "fara numar" dedications of our gypsies' colorful street weddings...

PS: I hope my neighbors will stay healthy and have a long life!!

August 20, 2010


There are 900 Entertainment Establishments in Phnom Penh, with 21,000 Entertainment Workers

14% of all EWs in Cambodia (30,000) are HIV positive.

"A sad bird got feather broken"

"I should be to die because I have transmitted your demand to others topic is opposite your remind but I would like to admit a fault you that will be research which some topic as follow ensure of your demanded . right now if you want to kill me in trusty I have no powerful to find to the .. topic on my sight. Because I have a lot of task the supervision to the team technical."


"X will not present on the topic, because he has no enough time to prepare it. He said, he needs more time to prepare it. "

PS: the title is the subject of the mail

August 19, 2010

you got to love this ...

"I’m not hesitate to congratulate you for your generosity .

Because this is the first time as I seen your gentles letters were wrote from your

Self to me. a staying for knowledge beggar I would like to supplicate you go on

Artily of sharing for providing of your capacity building to me

I would like to admit a fault to you that I want to improve of English language."

August 16, 2010

Long time..

It has been a long time since I didn't update my life in the Kingdom... well, I had guests for one month, they are leaving this week ..It's going to be sad cause I got used to them around..We did many things, went to the seaside here in Cambodia where we went on an island from where I thought we will get back only when the rainy season ends; went to Siem Reap to visit the Angkor temples-AMAZING!!!- and last week went to Vietnam, in Saigon, Hanoi and Halong Bay- AMAZING!!!
Vietnam was interesting as we never expected to find it soooo developed compared to its neighbor Cambodia.. I mean I knew it was more developed but I never expected such development.. Not only did u see that in the big brand shops and huge luxurious hotels, cause you can find those in less developed countries as well, but you could notice it in the Vietnamese people behavior.. In Cambodia, you will rarely see groups of young men and women in bars/restaurants/clubs, you will only see men in beer gardens and restaurants, or women in nightclubs, for a specific purpose as you may guess. Well, in Vietnam people go out like back home. The girls dress up to go out, very cool I have to say, and go out in groups to bars/restaurants/clubs and what have you... it's full of people on the streets at night, compared to Cambodia where life stops around 8pm; people ride on motos only in 2s, and both wear helmets, unlike Cambodia where the number of persons can reach 5/6 and no helmets, except the driver; there are no tuk tuks, only taxis; when you walk on the street you don't hear: ladyyyyyyy/siiiiiir moto, moto? , as you do in Cambodia...; girls smoke and drink beer too...and so on and so forth...
it seems that the Communism that they have works for them. when you talk to Vietnamese you feel they are a bit too rigid, and strict, maybe Communist thinking, but whatever works for them i guess... however, used to the Cambodian big smile, we were a bit shocked when we got there, cause people are very cold and indifferent...maybe they are too used to tourists, or too developed... strange anyway, and because people were so aggressive we felt very strange... it was an extra boost of cultural shock i suppose...
However, the highlight of the trip was Halong Bay which was amazing!!!
We cruised around the rocks, we visited caves, and we kayak-ed a lot!! Most amazing was kayaking in a cave with no source of natural lighting, so very dark and spooky, we only had a torch with us; very nice! we managed to sink the kayak as well, because George and the boys thought they would like to play a game of who splashes the water better? and so it seems the boys won, and I got stuck in the kayak, panicked a bit cause I couldn't get my feet out of it..but in the end succeeded..we became the stars of Halong Bay- the brothers who sank the kayak- the second day we managed not to sink it again...mind you, it's not like they taught us anything they just gave us lifevests, a kayak and 2 paddles- on the kayak there was a big sign of CAUTION saying that you cannot kayak, if you have not been properly trained before :-))) we jumped from the roof of the boat, which was 10-15 metres high I suppose...anywhere in Europe they would not let you do that hahah but there it was possible :-) we hurt our behinds and backs... i thought I didnt have a swimming suit anymore when I hit the water..but it was good fun :-D
Hanoi is a beautiful city, especially the old quarter, has some nice architecture; but it;s extremely busy, tiring and aggressive; whereas Saigon, is much more relaxed, and streets are broad, and there is space to breathe...maybe because it's in the South, closer to Cambodia (used to be a part of Cambodia), people are different, they seem nicer.. did not have time for central Vietnam this time, but to be honest don't feel like going back there, at least not for a while now... was happy to be back to the smiley Cambodians..

August 05, 2010

Ganduri exprimate cu voce tare

Mergand sa vizitez Muzeul Tuol Sleng din Phnom Penh, cel mai mare centru de tortura din vremea Khmerilor Rosii, am realizat ca eu nu am vizitat niciun muzeu care sa aminteasca de torturile din vremea comunismului in Romania, spre rusinea mea. Mai ales ca bunicul meu a murit intr-o astfel de inchisoare. Mi-am propus sa fac asta cand ma intorc... Dar nu pot sa nu ma intreb de ce la noi nu se stie de aceste muzee de comemorare asa cum se stie aici. Aici sunt un punct turistic, la noi sunt ceva dat ce? cu totii ar trebui sa stim de unde venim si prin ce am trecut pentru a intelege ce traim...
spre exemplu experimentul Pitesti --->

August 04, 2010

A new adventure every day...

Did you ever think that crossing the road can be an adventure? Or printing a document, when you have a deadline? Or getting into your own house when you have the keys, but have to climb the gates??? Or explaining to someone where you live when they don't know how to read a map or the number of the road, nor understand any word of what you say?? For all of these there is Cambodia, for the rest there is MasterCard...

July 23, 2010

Hello! Good morning! Susdei!!

Sophal: Good morning!
Me: Susdei! (Hello in Khmer)
S: Did you dream well last night?
Me(shocked, not remembering what I dreamed of last night): Yes, yes..
S: Did you have breakfast?
Me(I don't really have breakfast, just coffee): Not yet..
S: Ok! Bye bye!
Me: Byeee, have a good day!

Preluare de pe la vecini

July 22, 2010

Guests in PP

Au venit baietii :-)

O sa adaug aici link la posturile lui Gik, my guest blogger :-)

July 14, 2010

Free your mind and the rest will follow...

I don’t think that I ever fully grasped the importance of education until now. That is not to say that I didn’t think it was very important. On the contrary, I was always of the principle that education contributes a lot to one’s personal development. But probably I was taking it for granted, even in Romania, where the education system still has a lot of room for improvement.
Being here, made me realize that the divide that has been created between the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ world, could only be bridged by education. I think education is essential for the development of a nation. Culture is important too, that is for sure, and it can definitely shape development. However, only through education, people begin thinking on their own, can open their minds, and take initiative. In the same time, education can be a tool of keeping minds ‘closed’, and manipulating them…
Education in Cambodia does not seem to concentrate on the development of analytical thinking, and creativity. However, it is focused on repetition of basic information.
People here like to be told what to do (this can also be part of their culture), they act in set parameters and they NEVER cross the lines. Very rare are the ones who do, and those usually do so because they have been educated in a different system.
It is not necessary the lack of education, but the wrong type of education (by my standards). It is an education that does not encourage the free spirit, that does not enhance one’s ability to think on their own.
It is also a lack of good teachers; it is also the fact that class size is 60 kids. It is also that the salaries are extra low and the teacher makes the children pay a fee when in class. The poor cannot afford it so they don’t even get the basic education.

Even with the educated ones, you have a different kind of communication than you are used to. The older ones cannot be questioned and the younger ones have to listen (I believe this is very much to do with the culture). With expats, communication is different because the ‘barang’ is always the superior one, the expert, even though you can be an inexperienced teenager who begins to learn about life. In my world we QUESTION things. Here, you only ask one question and you take for granted whatever the answer is.
People here are very good with numbers (i.e. accounting), however when it comes to more creative work they just stick to a specific set of instructions they are given.
For instance, an outreach worker educating entertainment workers (prostitutes to be more blunt) on health matters, should engage with these on a more psychological level. The discussions should be adapted and fitted to the situation, so that the message gets to them. However, here an outreach worker does his/her job in the following way: hands out some prospects on health, disregarding the fact that most girls can’t read and tells them that they have to do this and that. Maybe for them it’s enough, because the girls are taught to listen and to act accordingly, but will they understand why they have to do this and that? Will they be empowered to say no to a man who forces them to have sex with no condom? Will they know they CAN say NO to him?? not really…This is not to say that all are like that, and I hope that is not the case. However, this is to emphasize that the way in which one is brought about and educated matters in the way he will later on perform his/her job…
Probably I will need more time to understand how to connect with people here, and how to make myself understood (don’t know if I ever will). But sometimes I feel discouraged by this very different approach on life, and I don’t know how to help and if I can help at all. Telling someone all the time what to do and how to do it is not the way. And applying this on a higher level: the West telling developing countries what to do and how to do it, is not the way. Yes they have to be shown how maybe, but they have to do it by themselves.
I am not saying that our way is THE way, maybe there is another way. But I think that in order for them (I hate using these terms: us and them…) to be able to take the lead, education is key. Maybe this is an obvious observation to you all, but being here made me realize this much more.

July 13, 2010

A day in Kompong Chhnang

We started with big plans for the weekend, not to say it wasn’t a full weekend because it was... We wanted to go to Kratie to see the Irrawady dolphins, but because Kratie is soooooofar away, it would have taken us ages to go there, and taxi was expensive too, so we decided to go somewhere closer. So we woke up on Sat morning, after a very nice evening out in the Chinese house (blues concert there was amazing!!), and we took the bus from Psar Thmei (central market) to Kompong Chhnang.
The bus ride took around 2 hours, and it cost me 2.5 dollars. The bus ride in Cambodia is a unique experience, because Cambodians like listening to music and watching movies in the bus. Thing is music is very very loud  and movies are very very bad, and still very very loud. And everyone watches like they are hypnotized and when there’s something funny they all laugh. It’s v v funny to see that
So after 2 hours of this, couldn’t wait to get out of the bus haha, we got off in Kompong Chhnang. In the bus station there were motos waiting for new visitors, especially barangs (white people). Not too many barangs in Kompong Chhnang, just some lost ones passing by on their way to Battambang. We made a very good deal with one moto driver who wanted to show us around by moto, and he took us everywhere. So, we rented 2 motos for the day with our private guide for just 10 dollars, so 3.333 each hahah. We spent the night in the Sokha Guesthouse, recommended by the Lonely Planet, I was expecting something more rustic, but it wasn’t really. Very basic and cheap, 5 dollars each.
The moto driver/guide he was special. He used to be a monk but now he was not anymore, that was probably why he indulged in the beauties of life, that is alcohol . So he started off a bit tipsy and by the end of the day he was drunk I suppose. You could smell the alcohol off him, but also you could see it in his eyes hahahha I was a bit nervous cause at the end he was driving very fast and I had the impression he was not driving very straight either  but I survived, I’m OK
He took us to a place where they produce chilli, they grow it, pluck it, cook it and dry it, and then they sell it in the local markets ( See pics here Most of the people in the community contribute to this. These people live in the houses on high pillars (see pics), and in the dry season they work under them. When the wet season comes, the water level reaches so high, that the pillars are fully covered, and so these places become villages on water , and people switch to fishing and using boats. This is not the same as the floating villages, which are already on the river, and the little houses are actually floating they don’t have any support, they are just anchored. As the wet season starts, the level of water raises and so it doesn’t affect the floating houses in any way. The people there are prepared for everything as you can see. Most of the people living in the floating villages are Vietnamese, probably came up on the Mekong with the flow. The houses have digital antennas so they can watch TV, they have a school (this I thought was amazing), they have floating restaurants, so what more can you wish for. The ride by boat around the floating village cost us 7 dollars, so a bit more than 2$ per person. The boat was the tiny wooden one, very challenging to get in as it bounced a lot hahahah and the sailor resembled one of the Venetian gondola sailors, only that he was taking water out of the boat on a regular basis…happy we made it alive hahah; every one was waving hellos to us, especially the kids who know how to say hello in English and who love posing for pictures. It was very interesting to see how these people live. The ride in the boat was fun, but it was so hot that we were dead by the end of it. We bought some Vietnamese hats which are great to protect you from the sun!! But we bought them after the boat ride…smart no??? hahah
After disembarking, the guide took us to the vegetable market (see pics), where everyone was talking about the barangs. so they were arguing with our guide that we are all sisters, that I was the older one, astrid was the middle one, and eva was the youngest. At least they got the ages right. But when the guide was telling them we are just friends, they did not believe him…One of them even told him that the girls were the sisters and I was the older brother ( that was weird, seeing that I thought my chest would make it obvious I am a woman…but who knows how they look at us hahahha) so, we were ‘the attraction of the market’, maybe they even had bets on us who knows hahahah. We stopped for a Vietnamese coffee which is a bit different than the Cambodian one. We went on one of the boats to have it, so a little boat-café, very very nice!!

After that, the guide took us to a little mountain with a big Wat where many monks lived and went to school at (I am very bad with names here!!!). Apparently this mountain here has the shape of a woman, namely the daughter of Kong Rey…
Here is a story I have found online:
“A prince suspects that there is a Yeak (Giant woman/evil witch) amongst his people in his castle but doesn't know which woman is the Yeak because she blends into the territory by transforming herself into one of the concubines.
The Yeak realizes that she is in danger of being discovered so she gives the Prince a job by sending him away with a letter. His duty was to give the sealed letter to The Yeak's daughter known as Princess Neang Kong Rey. And in that letter it states for Neang Kong Rey to KILL the Prince. On his way to the princess, an angel magically changed the letter to mean something else which was ---------> for her to marry him.
The two actually fell in love and became husband and wife. Because she loved him so much she told him all the secrets including his 11 aunts and mother's eyeballs that were removed years before by the Yeak. Obviously he had to save his mother so he took the eyeballs without Neang Kong Rey's awareness. As he was leaving on his magical flying horse, Neang Kong Rey runs after him and cries for his return. Unfortunately she fell off a cliff when the Prince (named Puthisen) parted the ground with his magic wand lol. And where she fell, the mountain was formed in her shape… After healing his mother and aunts, he came back to look for her but she was already dead. The mountain was named after Neang Kong Rey where her bones were buried. To many people, there is a part of the mountain where there is a big cave that has a certain herb called "Ma-Omm" that naturally grows there in huge amounts. To the villagers, they believe that the Ma-Omm is the pubic hair of Neang Kong Rey so they refrain from eating Ma-Omm grown from that area. Otherwise Ma-Omm is a popular Cambodian herb consumed by millions of Cambodians.”

We also had a nice little talk with a monk there, who was trying to practice his English. He told us he wants to become a teacher when he finishes his studies ( Education Science) and teach about the Buddhist religion. He wakes up every morning at 4. and the only meal is at 6 or 7, he is allowed to eat rice and meat. He cooks his own food. The rest of the day he can’t eat anything, but he can drink. And drinks include Coca Cola!!! Can u believe it? Coca Cola can use this as a marketing tool, such as even monks drink Coca Cola… During the morning he goes to school and in the afternoon he preys and meditates. He goes to bed around 9-10 in the evening.

The province is famous for its clay pots. In fact, Kampong Chhnang means "Port of Pottery", Kompong – port, and Chhnang pottery. I bought some nice objects there, a little pot, and a candle holder for only 2 $. I would’ve bought more but it is very hard to transport…

The countryside there looked amazing very green, many palm trees, and nice little huts. We stopped on the road to have a nibble- a piece of meat and a piece of snake for the courageous ones…we could’ve had some bugs also…and then returned to the hotel after a full day. We had dinner in a hotel restaurant, which was not very good actually, but that’s all we could find at that hour
…and next day back in Phnom Penh for a full day of shopping in the Russian market – I bought sooo many stuff, with the purpose of decorating my room hahah; girls you would love it here !!! (next time I go I’ll take my camera with to show you what it’s all about…)

Very short everyday stories

Do you know the “chicken game”? Well, I’m sure you have seen it in the movies… it’s when two cars approach each other and one of them has to get out of the way for the other to pass…and so one of them is the chicken who gets scared and gets out of the way…well, try to imagine that game applied in traffic here, where everyone is playing the chicken game all the time… mind you, Cambodians really like playing games, so maybe that’s why…AND of course I have also been playing it, because there is no opt-out possibility…what annoys me most is when a big Lexus sees me on a bike and still does not care…I thought that the weaker vehicles, i.e. a bike, would have priority in this madness here...but NO!!! I promise to film this one of these days and post it here…

I have shown you in a previous post the monsoon in Cambodia…there is a LOT of water no? and plants get soaked with water here…well, after one monsoon 2 hour – episode, our guard at the office was…guess what he was doing… hahahha yes indeed, he was WATERING THE PLANTS!!! why??? I have no idea whatsoever…

And the funniest story is the story of the HUNGRY gecko… geckos here are everywhere but usually on the walls or ceilings, outside or in bathrooms…they make specific sounds – you would think it’s bird, but it’s that bloody little lizard… ( you get used to them, they become your pets, your friends hahah but yesterday when astrid opened the door to the fridge, we discovered a small gecko…which was disgustingly ugly hahaha but probably he was looking for food, that is insects in our fridge…well, he might as well found some, as it is FULL of insects everywhere…all kinds of them, yes girls all kinds of them ( pt tze si alina, stiti gandacu de la voi din baie, well, sa zicem ca ala e minciuna pe langa orataniile de aici…si alina stii cand iti cadeau gandaci in cap la crazy? well, sa zicem ca aia sunt furnici pe langa monstrii de aici hahahha; e drept sunt mai putini in capitala, dar in provincii am fost atacata de cel putin 10 ori…)

oh and of course i need to mention this, i think i shortly mentioned it before :-) people here do not really speak english, some tuk tuk drivers do, but very rarely are the ones who do..BUT don't think that even if they do speak english they will understand YOUR english :-))) because they have a very special accent, and if you do not adapt to that accent they will never understand you. one day we spent maybe about 10 minutes explaining to this tuk tuk driver that we wanted to get to the lucky supermarket, which is very known around. we told him where it was, of course we tried in khmer with the 3 words we know, we tried showing him the map (most don't know how to read the map, and do not know streets by their numbers..), and when we were almost giving up, another guy comes along and tries to help us, and he figures out where we want to go and he tells the tuk tuk driver, in khmer: they want to go to the luuuuuuuuckyyyyy markiiiiit and the tuk tuk driver goes aaaaaaaaaahhhhhh, luuuuuckyyyyy markiiiiiit and he takes us there right, it was just a matter of pronounciation :-)))
the idea behind it is that you do not finish the words...i will give you an example:
if you want to ask for some lemon juice for instance, you ask for some liiimon ju ( we tried that in the russian market and it worked perfectly)hahah
the only problem with this would be that i forget all my english and i will start speaking khmer english pretty soon :-)))))

July 07, 2010

Funny e-mail :-)


How do you do? I’m very happy to meet you on Email address

how are you ? I think that 100% maybe on my self and New clinic staff. we so to miss you !

Because you are a top actress been popular and warm blooded to Staff in during were staff retreat work shop on seaside.

This is a symbol of creative souvenir for heritage of my mention that I got best Director.

Right now I got a top of honorable to send you of Monthly report.

July 06, 2010

A small excerpt from a motivation letter..

"Hopefully your organization would be highly consideration, and providing me this position as request so that i could have a time to take part of a good opportunity to develop further more skill on behalf of your organization as staff member. Waiting to hear from your calling at any time, this would be appropriately time."

July 05, 2010

Here comes the monsoon!!!

Here you can see what a real rain is!!! it's true that probably it's the same in Romania at the moment with all the floods going on...

The drainage system doesn't work properly because there is sooo much garbage that it gets stuck and the water cannot be evacuated...
But it's amazing how life doesn't stop even when it rains like that... yes, the office might get flooded and the internet connection will drop, but that doesn't mean that u can't go outside and wash you car.. :-)

and even though it is a bit scary, u come to LOVE IT!!!

July 02, 2010

Life on ONE level

I am slowly adjusting to life here, which is so different than what I have experienced so far. Here, life has another rhythm, maybe because of the weather, and the fact that the sun sets very early. After 8 pm, the streets are empty and it is a pleasure to ride a moto or a tuk tuk and see the city by night, when the craziness and the chaos is no longer there…
I took the risk to drive a moto a few times, and it’s so fun, but so dangerous, because they don’t have any rules whatsoever here. The rules apply only to expats. When an expat is caught passing on red light, or turning where in theory u’re not supposed to, the police will try to get some money from you, if not they threaten you with jail or expulsion of the country… it’s funny...
So, thinking that I will take it easier with the moto, I bought myself a bike from a friend who is leaving. And yesterday I had to ride it back home, through the rush hour and the biggest boulevard in Phnom Penh. But I survived..after yelling at some moto drivers, not that anyone cares…I had the urge to take everyone and show them how they’re supposed to drive. I think one of the thousands NGO here should try to help the government with designing a traffic law and should help them enforce it.
There are soooo many NGOs here in PP, and they do all sorts of projects. For instance, yesterday I went for lunch in this restaurant which was founded by an NGO. There, they take women who used to work in garment factories and teach them how to cook with a focus on Western food. Because most of the women go and work in the expats’ houses after this. So basically the profits they make from the restaurant there they invest in these cooking classes. I think this is a very nice idea. Similarly to this, there are some NGOs who train women to do craftworks and then they sell it in stores around PP. NGOs here employ many Cambodians, which is a very good way of using local resources. But it also makes you think whether this is sustainable, and what will happen when there will be no more project aid. Especially now with a tendency towards other aid modalities…
The other day I went to one of the poorest areas in Phnom Penh, Chbar Ampouv area (SE of PP on the riverbank). You can see the pics here:
It was impressing to see that community, the huts (houses) were very crowded, the streets were very tight, it was like one huge family. No privacy whatsoever…here I am talking about privacy when the people there barely had food to survive. I was visiting one of our partners NGO –Friends International- program, Mith Samlanh. This program is mainly focused on street children and youth, but they also do a lot of social work for the community. Some of the activities they do are: outreach services, educational services on health issues (STI/HIV), medical consultations, counseling... They also have an education center in Phnom Penh that has primary remedial classes, they offer vocational training classes, like cooking, beauty classes, for boys they have some mechanical classes… they focus on drug users, because this is probably the biggest issue there, and so they offer free syringes so that HIV is not spread (out of 750 people in the community, Friends have identified 150 drug users, but there are many more, as not all disclose this information)
In their office there, they have a team of 8 staff, but they also work with the support of volunteers from the community, who help them with the outreach work.
One of the initiatives that seemed very interesting to me was the Home Based Product program. So, basically they identify the poorest families in the community, and they offer them sewing machines or other kits like that, so that the family is able to manufacture home based products, that they can sell back to the organization. For instance, one of the families I visited was producing with the help of this sewing machine, headbands, purses, and bags. After that they sell it back to the organization (headband – 1$, bag 5$) and then the organization sells these products in a store in central PP, for maybe 4 times the sum they paid for. With the profit they make, they buy the materials for the products that they give back to the families. With the money the family makes, they can send their children to school. If they do not send the children to school and they use the money for other purposes and if they send their children to work, the organization takes back the sewing machine from them.
While I was there, I could not stop thinking why they keep on having children if they don’t have the means to raise them. And I can tell you it was full of children, like in any other developing country. And as much as I love kids, when you see they have no’s sad… it makes me think of what the Chinese did by imposing that families should have only one child…I know this contravenes with all the possible human rights issues and it’s a drastic measure…but it makes u think that it could be one option…even though I think education is the key. They keep on having children because they don’t know there is an alternative. When they are told about reproductive health and contraception, this is how they react:
- “You know, these pills are made in Vietnam. Vietnamese want to eliminate Cambodian people; in that way they can take Angkor temples and other lands. ”
- “Injection makes us lose weight, menstruation doesn’t come regularly, and the old blood containing viruses is not evacuated so that we have black spots on the skin”
Therefore, abortion is very common, and unfortunately it is not safe abortion, because they usually refuse women in public hospitals so they have to do it God knows where. But this is what they think: “With the contraceptive pill we always have problems, bellyaches for two months or more, headaches. Abortion only takes 10 minutes and then that’s over”
They’re afraid that by taking the pill they will get cancer and many many many other excuses like this. So, it is clearly a matter of lack of information and education. And this is what some of the NGOs try to do by their outreach programs. But seeing the number of children, there is still a lot of work to be done…Probably this education should be given in schools, but who has access to education in schools…and so on and on…
We take these things for granted, but clearly they’re not. You think that life in general comes on many levels, but here it is just ONE level, and that is survival.
I could not help thinking when walking through that community, what do these people do? don’t they get bored? no work, nothing to read..some of them had TVs…
and so what they do is eat, or look for food (maybe that’s why they eat everything here – all possible insects) , most of them are garbage collectors ( I don’t know where they drop the collected garbage, because you can see garbage everywhere here…); and other than food, they reproduce, because they don’t know what else to do..

So life here is very simple, no? only ONE level- survival…

June 29, 2010

On field and beyond..

Let me tell you a bit about my work, because many of you don’t understand what am I doing here and why? Well, first of all I work for a French NGO who is present in 27 developing countries, usually in post conflict and post disaster areas, providing emergency humanitarian aid, but has also some development projects. In Cambodia ACTED took over another NGO, namely PSF (Pharmaciens Sans Frontieres), and continued it’s projects here. Thus for now its projects are focused on health issues, more specifically on HIV/AIDS. But it aims to expand into different areas of intervention in the future also. After working at the European Commission and hearing about all these projects from far away, and reading only policy papers and about aid effectiveness and all that, I was very curious to see what actually happens on field. And this is why I came and after my first week of work I can tell you that people here actually make an impact. It is hard to see from a desk in Brussels or wherever in the developed world, but project aid usually helps. If it is a sustainable way and how some organizations use it, well it is questionable sometimes, and I have yet to make an opinion on that, but so far, at least the organization I am working for has a clear impact, which can be quantified and which you can see immediately. And this is a great feeling. So, I started work by visiting the sites that our teams work on, and the activities of the projects, so that I can better understand what is going on. The focus of most projects is on ‘entertainment workers’ (girls who work in karaoke bars, in beer gardens, in restaurants, but to gain some extra money they also sell sex). Here, the culture of men having sex with other women than their wives is very common and accepted, hence there is a huge market for prostitution. Usually men do not go out with their wives, but with other male friends. But when they go out for a drink they like to be accompanied by a female. Girls who work as waitresses also work as “escorts”. However due to the high rate in HIV, in 1998 the government with all the international donors started to take measures against this. One of the laws they passed out was on trafficking. So since, they closed down many many brothels, many hotels and other places. Thus all sexual workers had to find new directions, and have mostly went into the entertainment business or in “freelancing”as they call it. So, from what I understood so far, it works in the following way: clients go to karaoke bars (very very common here) or to beer gardens/restaurants where they come into contact with entertainment workers, and then, they somehow arrange with them and take the girls to guesthouses, or hotels where they can indulge in their pleasures. A night is 10$. But I believe there is a commission girls pay to the owner..i am not sure about that 100% I am still trying to find out exactly how it works, but again the language barrier comes into play..
Before the law became so tough, well, they could pretty much do whatever they wanted (imagine orgies and whatever u think of). But even now, when you see these places that the girls work in, because I have visited two establishments…oh well, I cannot believe that it’s not still happening there..even if they ensured me that they don’t have sex on the premises, when you go in those karaoke vip and super vip rooms…I cannot believe they don’t do anything behind closed doors…
The girls sleep there overnight, and their work starts around 3 pm…they get around 80$/month for changing the CDs or pouring beer into the client’s glass…When a client come, they all go and the client chooses who he wants in the karaoke room…

Our mobile intervention teams go to these establishments where entertainment workers work and provide education on the risk of STI/HIV and reproductive health to them ( I will come back to that in another post), but also there is a medical team that does a basic gynecological consultation and refers the girls to hospitals to be tested for HIV, and they also provide free drugs ( such as multivitamins,paracetamol, anti STD drugs..)
Another activity is to take girls or men who have sex with men to hospitals and clinics where they can be tested..because most of the times they don’t go because they don’t have money for transportation… the consultations/tests, drugs and condoms are for free..
We are not allowed to distribute condoms in establishments because the owner thinks this is a sign that they have sex there and they are afraid of the police…can u believe that??? anyways…the girls take the risk to carry condoms in their purses because it happens the police arrests them if they found they have condoms on them…or maybe who knows, policemen use that as a bribing tool for some sexual favours…

oh well, it’s all f***ed up…to be continued …

June 28, 2010

Rain, weekend and other trivia

I don’t think I have experienced rain like this before. Rain here starts all of a sudden, without giving you any time do run home or go and hide somewhere. It is just like pressing a button and it starts pouring down and it can pour down for hours... When you are inside, it is a very nice feeling, at least for me. I like rain and the sound of it when I am inside. But if you are unlucky to be outside, well..tough luck!
Anyway, my first weekend in PP was good fun. We went out to this bar called Equinox, where most expats and travelers hang out, where there was a live band – Los Poporks – ( a mix of all possible nationalities) playing some funky jazz. It was good music and nice atmosphere, but sooooo HOT…I could feel the sweat drops dripping of me…Make up? All gone after one hour… the people are very laid back here, all smiley and very’s a nice atmosphere, you can talk to anyone without any prejudices..
I also went out to this club where the music was good but the atmosphere was a bit strange.. It was full of travelers I suppose, looking like Americans on their spring break, trying to get as much xxx as they could.. and it was full of Khmer girls, dressed in mini shorts, trying to get foreign men. I was a bit disgusted by this to be honest, but at least they had common interests and probably no one was leaving home without getting what they wanted… Khmer people do not usually go out (very rare are the ones who do, usually the ones who are better off), the only ones who go out are Khmer girls looking for I dunno, a better life I suppose.. I think me and my group we were just a bit lost there, trying to dance and have a bit of fun.. the weirdest part was when this American bloke asked me whether we were prostitutes..i thought I did not understand correctly so I asked him to repeat… and he repeated.. oh well, I suppose he thought all girls there were there for business…
But you can definitely have fun here as well, and drinks cost so much less (2.5$ a cocktail is good no?)
From all things planned for the weekend, I didn’t get to do even half of them…because of the bloody rain that perturbed my plans, and also a bit of laziness..but I went to this place where you can do shoes on your measure with 15$, and I could not resist not ordering a pair of sandals..mind you, I am investing in their economy so I am doing a good thing no? haha
I was also looking for a helmet, as I am planning to drive the moto again, however all helmets we found were too large..which is a bit strange seeing how small people are here..not that the helmet would protect too much as usually the quality is very very bad… and the traffic, well I cannot even begin to explain the traffic. What can I tell you? That when you go out of the house you might as well say your prayers and goodbyes to everyone just in case you won’t make it to the office or where you are supposed to go ? hahah, maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but just a bit .. I think the riskier way to commute here is by feet haha as no one but NO ONE stops at the crossovers..they barely stop at the traffic lights.. there are some policemen at the crossovers with big STOP signs who cross the street with you while holding the sign up and whistling that the cars and motos and tuk tuks stop. But not even then do they stop!!! I think there is a single rule for traffic here: NOT TO STOP WHATEVER HAPPENS…that is why I guess Cambodians who afford cars buy big Lexuses and Toyota 4x4, because the bigger you are the less risky it is to get killed, if bumped into haha..but no, it is not a, it is the survival of the fittest when it comes to walking or driving on the streets ..
There are fakes for everything here, but EVERYTHING you can think of. For example, ladies they have MAC make up here, with very small prices..and OPI nail polish here, called can’t imagine what it smells like haha
I went to the biggest shopping center in PP and it’s something on 7 floors, something like our Unirea in Bucharest, but with all the possible fakes you can think of, probably imported from China…And there I had a manicure and pedicure with 2$, which wasn’t that professional, not to say unprofessional at all..they had all their utensils on the floor with no hygiene whatsoever, they were 5-6 girls working there in a very very small place, but hopefully my nails won’t fall off haha… here it is very common to have the nails done, but not like we do, but with a lot of designs and stones and flowers and flags and everything you can think of …they are very skilled in paintings on the nails..i will try that once haha but not in the same place. I will go in the 4 $ I heard is a bit more professional!!

June 23, 2010

My first moto ride and my first tukluk

Monday I had my first moto ride, with Pheakdey, one of our drivers on one of those small motos he was wearing a helmet I was not this is how people do it here..they didn’t use to wear helmets at all, until there was a law introduced saying the driver is supposed to wear one, cause they have maaaaany accidents so this at least protects you a bit… but I can tell you I was holding him like there was no tomorrow, and I don’t think they are used to that :-)) and then even funnier, astrid joined, yes on the moto…so we were three… for them is common to ride even 5-6 but they are tiny …can u imagine 2 of us ‘European taille’ girls and him :-D but we survived, I had to close my eyes several times …when he was turning in the middle of another hundred motos hahah but he is a good driver maybe I try driving a moto one of these days..but first I’m gonna get a bike… and a helmet..i am going to ride my bike with a helmet hahahah
And so after eating some Thai food, we went to drink a tukluk – see wiki- we stopped on the side of the road, where there were some improvised tables in the middle of a garbage damp…oh , the smell..and some girls prepared some tukluk, a kind of smoothie..very good and refreshing, you can have it with an egg inside..but I thought I risked enough without the egg in…but I thought, well if they drink it why couldn’t I?? and I survived…well, until now :-P

Oh, and jumping to a different point: they have a fetish for European noses here…they fell in love with my nose, because it is pointed :-D they do not like they’re noses because they are flat…but all the men tell me I have a beautiful nose !! I have never been told I have a beautiful nose :-D ah, an the hair!!! they love my hair.. I think they’re not too happy that it is short, they prefer long hair :-P two women stopped me on the street to ask me whether my hair was real!! Mind you, they were asking me that in Brussels as well hahah..
Apparently wealthy Khmer lady’s get nose-jobs, so that they have ‘pointed’ noses.. So for the people out there who think their nose is too big, like my brother :-P, well here YOU can be a MODEL :-D

If I can make it there I can make it anywhere!

If I can make it there I can make it anywhere! There, being New York… As much as I love Frank, Mr Sinatra, I will have to contradict him on this one… I guess he never went to a developing country … it’s too early to tell I know, but for me at least, the first few days had a huge impact, and not necessarily in a good sense… I guess it depends on how strong a person you are. I thought of myself as being strong; well, I guess I was wrong! It is tough to see such contrasts on one street (you can see the pics on fb). You have a huge villa, and then next to it you have a wooden hut, with a bunch of kiosks on the street; all kinds of vendors and all kinds of smells. Oh, the smells…that’s probably the worst thing…

Full of motos, tuk tuks and Lexuses. Yes, Lexus is like a national car here, and it is owned by the rich Khmer.

Sunday, I had my first tour of PP- lonely planet’s suggested tour was very good actually and I could figure out where I live and where are the places to go out to..

I had my first tuk tuk ride :-) and my first tuk tuk negotiation!! And even the worst negotiatior knows that you cannot negotiate again after you already agreed on a price.. well, the tuk tuk driver, he thought he could do that, so what he did is after we agreed on 3 dollars, when we arrived he asked for 5… :-) well, he didn’t get it! Muahahaaa (cheap Romanian leaving on 300 $/month)

The riverside is the nicest with most bars, and where you can see most of the expats, so I felt a bit more like home… after 3 days of Khmer culture, I needed to see some ‘white’ people J when you are away in a different civilization, you feel the need to find your own people from time to time. After my tour, where I was again shocked to see all the contrasts, I went into a nice bar where journalists usually go, it’s called the foreign correspondents club and it looks very colonial, and you can imagine how the old times used to be, when French used to be the colonial power..interesting, sad..don’t know… there you go…contrasts..

The American embassy is one of the biggest buildings in PP, and very pompous…I will refrain from further comments… in the park in front of the embassy you can see a woman breastfeeding her newborn…no comment…

And then the ‘funniest thing’- the disabled ramp- looking as you could see…

it is a bit shocking ...or not?

leave me comments also pls ;-)

My office and my room

my office

my room and terrace

My building and my street

building where i live,
the tight tight corridor to get to the stairs and the tight tight stairs

across the street is a school;


June 19, 2010

Lost in translation

Have you ever felt lost in translation? Cause I certainly do now!!! Khmer is sooo far away from any language, of course maybe if you are familiar with Asian languages you can understand or at least get something of Khmer. But not me… :-)

I arrived in PP on Tuesday afternoon, and was received at the airport by our office administrator Navann. Guess by the name, is it a male or a female? Well, guess what it’s a female!! A beautiful and lovely Khmer lady. Trying to explain the customs that I had my letter of attestation there and I don’t want a travel visa was tricky, and in the end she arrived and cleared that with them and I got in on a 3 month visa with a single entry.

She and one of the organization’s drivers took me to what is to be my home for the next 6 months. Well, on the way there my feelings were more than mixed, I was trying to figure out where we were and what PP is about. I got home, took my huge backpack, Peakdey helped me with my huge luggage, and we went in. In, that is through a super tight passage and climber a super tight staircase ( see pics) to get to my flat. Got in, the flat is basic but ok (see pics). It has AC and ventilators :-D and a bathroom where there is no bath or shower tub, just a shower head :-D and cold water. Well, it works, I can wash it’s fine :-) The bed is a bit tough but it’s big haha

I am sharing the flat with a very nice French girl, who works a lot in the provinces so I see her only in the weekends.

Ok, so I could not stay home I was a bit in shock, so I said I want to go to the office and say hi to everyone. And so I went…(see pics) everyone was very welcoming and nice. Astrid came home in the evening and we went out to eat. The next day I woke up at 7, packed in 10 min and left to meet the team. Two buses were waiting for the new expat in the organization, (here I make a paranthesis to tell u that Khmers wake up VERY early and go to bed VERY early; so they planned to leave at 7 already!!!)

And there I went to Sihanoukville with 70 Khmers…. I was extremely tired, and they were extremely LOUD!!!

And now begins the nice part of my stories: everyone was smiling to me, and waving and talking, saying things in Khmer. They thought I understood, until I told them I didn’t have a clue. I cannot tell you how that trip of 5 hours was!!! It was funny but in the same time I wanted to KILL someone :-) you know when you’re trying to sleep but there’s a FULL bus giggling and speaking and singing soooo loud :-) well, I guess I made my point. Oh, and the girl in charge of our bus had a microphone too :-))) that made it even ‘funnier’ and who knows me better, knows how I can be in the mornings :-)) anyways, first stop was at 9 for a pee, second stop was at 10 for LUNCH…they were asking me lunch, you hungry? I was like people it’s 10!!! Well, Khmers, you know those tiny tiny slim people EAT more than any other race I have met so far at 12 we stopped at the market in Sihanoukville for another refill, no not gas, but FOOD – we were having dinner…the market, well the market was huge and HOT and full of everything you can think of but mostly SMELLY food…I only bought some bananas, bananas here are tiny and they come in a bundle… cause that’s all I could eat with all those smells and at that hour. We got to the hotel and we rested for 1 hour before going to the beach (the hotel looked very good from the outside but it was sooo dirty that half of the team got down with bad bad bad stomach the following day, including me of course!!! I was soooo sick… :-( )

On the beach (see pics) guess what we did the first thing when we got there? I was expecting people to get undressed and run in the see…but guess what they did…well, you can figure out from the pics. We sat down and they started eating. There are plenty of food sellers on the beach and they come and cook in front of you, if you have the courage to eat. I only tried the squids and shrimps, but they had everything including the famous egg –( wiki link) BLEACHS!!! This is something I will NEVER try, not even if you pay me big money

After that they all went to swim. I was a bit surprised when we left from the hotel to see that people didn’t seem to have any bathing suits but just regular summer clothes, and no bags to have changes or anything like that… I thought hmmm maybe they’re not gonna bathe after all..but I forgot that the guide said that Khmer people bathe in their clothes!! Yes, they do not wear swimming suits- bikini- women, I mean… they’re to shy!!! and they were asking me hey come to swim with us, I was like hmmm I forgot my bathing suit (had it in my bag, but could not go ‘naked’ like that with all the dressed people no?? :-)

And after the bath there were THE GAMES- Khmers love to play games!!! And they have sooo many games, and of course they asked me to join them so I joined, we played this game we were 5 in a team and each one of us held a spoon in his/her teeth and with the spoon we carried an egg and had to transfer the egg to the next person in line, on the spoon, without hands. The team who got the most eggs transferred won. My team did not win :-( but we were not last either, and I didn’t drop the spoon or the egg :-D well done they told me hahah. And then there was dancing on Khmer music. This is very funny they dance in a circle, one behind the other :-) with a kind of hula hula moves. And their music is well, all songs seem very similar to me, but the funniest part was when Pitbull's "I know you want me" started, but in Khmer. Khmers copy EU/US music and translate it. Oooor they take a US hip hop video and over it they record their own music, so you can see Timbaland but hear Khmer music hahahah funny

Where I come from, a party usually is accompanied by …yes, of course ALCOHOL!!! Especially in my alcoholic group of friends…But here no one drinks :-) (it’s the opposite of Brussels :-) except the older men, so only maybe 4 men drank Angkor beer. And they asked me to join at one point. I was longing for a beer, but realized that I was the only one drinking with them. The others didn’t drink. They like juices a lot, but alcohol is not very common with them :-) I felt a bit like an alcoholic, but the beer was good so I didn’t care :-D

After a full day we returned to the hotel at 9, sleeping time :-) oh yes, here the sun sets at 18:30 during summer, this is the longest day. In winter it sets at 5… I was shocked to hear that!!

The next day we woke up, (well they did cause I slept until 10), at 7 to start our workshop…how do you think the workshop started?? Yes you guessed with a GAME :-) (see pic)

Otherwise the workshop was all in Khmer…they translated to me as far as they could, the ones speaking English, but oh well…it’s not their strongest point ..and their accent makes it even harder, they do not finish words ..for instance they can tell you something like “ha you me my wi?” ( to be translated “have you met my wife?”) or “ I want to cha” ( I want to change) or are you from Fra..(France) so yes it can be tricky…but once you get it..u get used to it. The problem is I really hope I will not destroy my English here, because they do not understand my accent, they understand English with French accent, and so I have to adapt my accent to the localc conditions..and also my vocabulary :-)) funny…

But the people are the warmest people I have ever met, and friendly and their SMILE is amazing :-)

PS pics are in next post...i'm new to blogging...