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 http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=460640&id=505430715&l=9c9f18007b). 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-cafĂ©, 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… (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Leuvmyly7xk) 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 away...so, 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 future..it’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…