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...