Not what you think….

In my eighteen years here in Cambodia, I have never seen a fire truck fighting a fire.  In fact, I have only seen a fire truck on the street four or five times.  I read in the paper that they occasionally do go to fires but usually part of the story is that they don’t actually do anything until the firefighters  are paid on the spot.

Today I heard fire truck sirens four times and actually saw this one!  All this activity probably means the government is getting ready to use the fire trucks against demonstrators.  National elections are coming up in July and the trucks are probably part of the intimidation of free speech in the run up to the voting.

Notable Quotes



Since the 1970s, the U.S. has engaged unintentionally in an international experiment, relaxing gun laws as the rest of the world has tightened access. Gun advocates argued that more guns would make us safer, but instead the U.S. now has 25 times the gun murder rate of other advanced countries.

~ Nicholas Kristof, New York Times Opinion Columnist

Hey, It’s Cambodia….

Coming from US culture where anyone can be sued for anything with the least provocation or cause, it continually amazes me how it is standard procedure here to take off your shoes (required by Cambodian culture) and then just leaving them right in the middle of the doorway or on the steps themselves if there is a set of stairs.  It has never dawned on the culture here that stepping out of a doorway onto a mass of shoes, sometimes several layers deep, could be dangerous and might cause an accident.  This is the scene at the Maryknoll office on Saturday morning when the kids are inside for religious education.

Getting Wired

The Ministry of Mines and Energy announced that by the end of this year, 88% of villages and 75% of households nation-wide will have access to electricity.  The lack of available, cheap electricity has been a major drag on the country’s development and industrialization.  The ultimate goal is for 100% electrification by 2020, with the power coming from hydropower plants, coal-fired plants, and some biomass-fired plants and solar farms.  It’s an ambitious goal but a vitally important one.

A bit cramped….

A majority of the urban population live in what are called shophouses, buildings one room wide and three to five stories tall.  The ground floor is open to the street, closed just by a shutter or gate, and is alternatively a business, a living room, or a garage–or a combination of those.  Maybe only in Phnom Penh can you speak of a two-car living room.

Below is a shophouse that is the locus of the bicycle shop that I frequent.  I had to go over there today to get new brakes put on my bicycle.  (Cost me $3 for four brake pads on the front and back.)

While waiting I took some pictures of the ground floor.  I couldn’t see clearly the rear of the room; there may have been some living room furniture there but it was so jammed with bicycles and parts that I suspect the family actually lives upstairs.   Do notice the car parked way at the rear of the ground floor room.  Do you think they drive it much?

Eat your vegetables!

In many areas of Phnom Penh, shops selling the same kind of item (e.g., electrical tools, medical equipment, shoes) are grouped together.  It’s convenient for the shoppers.  Yesterday, though, I went through an intersection that had wagon loads of cabbage(?) in every direction I looked.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it–or so much cabbage in one place.  Maybe it’s a daily occurrence?

Unfavorable Conditions…

Yesterday I was returning from Bangkok to Phnom Penh and ended up on the last flight out of Bangkok.  I got in really late and then found my e-mail folder was corrupted.  The meetings were good but the rest of the day sure didn’t go my way.  Today, though, I’m back with a repeat of a too-sad posting.