Still here in Cambodia…

Styrofoam is not much used for packaging food in North America and Europe but it’s alive and well here in Cambodia. There is a beginning awareness of the need to phase out practices harmful to the environment, but getting rid of styrofoam is difficult in a culture where so many people eat on the street going to and from work and school.

Fr. John Barth

Wednesday is our regular weekly meeting day for Maryknoll Cambodia and today the liturgy after the meeting was made special by our celebrating the 40th anniversary of ordination for Fr. Kevin Conroy (L) and the visit of Fr. John Barth (C) who worked in Cambodia before being elected to the Maryknoll Society’s General Council in New York.

Many cities and towns have strict rules how garbage is to be set out for collection. In some places householders must use special containers or separate different kinds of trash or put the garbage in a special place for pickup. In Phnom Penh there are basically no rules and the garbage truck crews go around with pitchforks to pick up piles of trash on the street corners and throw it in the back of the truck. They are dedicated workers! Garbage crews in other parts of the world would not put up with people just throwing garbage anywhere.

In this area of Phnom Penh, this small street has no sidewalk or area to set garbage on the side of the road so all the residents hang it in plastic bags. It lacks aesthetic beauty but the garbage crews must love it because they don’t have to bend over and shovel but just pick plastic bags from the fence and throw them into the truck.

Battling the rats

There are always things to learn about a new house, and when we moved to a “new” Maryknoll office on St. 420, one of the things we learned is that it has its share of rats.

We had asked the landlord to put screens on the downstairs windows, and he did, but the second night we were there rats chewed through the plastic screening. That was in the dining room through the door in the picture on the right.

Here in the kitchen the rats found they almost had a red carpet invitation. The kitchen is basically a semi-room built onto the back of the house, probably because the builders were cooking on charcoal braziers (like most Cambodians) and the smoke would not get into the house. A solid wall extends up about five feet and above that was sheet metal and chainlink fencing–an open invitation to the rats.

We finally had enough of the intruders and installed a metal screening in the areas where the metal sheeting was penetrable. In this picture, the new screening is silver colored and above the refrigerator.


There is a door leading to the outside in the kitchen and it would stop a human being but not much else. There was just a grillwork in the door, chainlink fencing above the door, and a 3-inch gap below the door. Very convenient for rat traffic.

We put glass in the door, an extension on the bottom of the door, and more of the silver screening above the door. All of this happened just three days ago. We haven’t seen any rats in the kitchen since the modifications but we’ll have to wait and see if we are successful or not in keeping the rats out.