If you judge by their driving habits, Cambodians are an undisciplined group. With many coming from remote areas with dirt roads where cars can’t even go, the idea of following driving laws is novel and not easily accepted. There are many other areas of life, too, where modern practices–and requirements–of city life don’t resonate with people who grew up in a small bamboo house next to a rice paddy.
One exception to the lack of discipline, though, is sweeping–sweeping your street, your property, your house, your school, whatever you have. Sweeping is a MUST. Basically every business and household has someone sweeping in front of their building every morning. It’s just something Cambodians do….
One of the landmarks of Phnom Penh is Central Market (arrow), an art deco structure that is quite distinctive. You really note its design when you can see the outside, especially from above, although once you are inside it looks much like any other crowded city market.
Sometimes things that surprise me the most about life in Cambodia are simple domestic scenarios. For instance…we have a lady who cleans our office and washes clothes a couple times a week. We needed a new iron so we told her to pick out one that she was comfortable with.
The clunker she bought weights 5.5 lbs.!!! I’m guessing the thinking of the manufacturer is that weight is more important for pressing out wrinkles than heat. And notice it’s NOT a steam iron. God forbid! Asians generally have an extreme sensitivity to “bad” air…and the steam from an iron is in that category. The woman ironing for us, even before Covid, would always wear a face mask when ironing to block breathing the steamy air because she had to dampen the shirts and pants at least a little before ironing them.
“Do not so quickly condemn the man who no longer believes in God: for …perhaps your own coldness and avarice and mediocrity and materialism and selfishness … chilled his faith.Thomas Merton
This is the Cambodian version of a triplex, three shophouse residences side-by-side in one building. The Maryknoll office, where Fr. Kevin and I also live, is the leftmost unit with the open front gate.
Standing in the open gate on the street and looking toward the house, this is our front “yard.” Again you see how a shophouse is one room wide and goes up three or four floors. The fold-up bed on the right is for our 24-hour guards who sleep next to the front doors during the night.
Standing at the front door of the house (above), this is a view toward the street. The Maryknoll sign is for when we have visitors. We don’t keep it up outside all the time because then the city says we’re a business and charges us more for everything.
On the left side of the yard, we keep our motorcycles and bicycles. And the guards make their kitchen and bedroom and work area. The situation of guards in Cambodia is a crime. At least now they have their smartphones to look at with our wi-fi but prior to the phones, they would sit and stare into space all day waiting for a door to open or something to happen.