A Sign of the Times

Until very recently a sign like this one would have been unthinkable in Cambodia where credit cards are not very common.  Within the last five years or so, there were only one or two high-end hotels that would accept Visa and MasterCard and American Express.  And even as a few other establishments began to accept cards, they did so with a 3% to 5% surcharge for their graciousness in allowing you to use your plastic.  Today you will see more foreigners using credit cards, but for the most part they seem to be using them to make money withdrawals from their home bank accounts so they can then pay their bills here with cash.

A Touch of Class

Many eateries in Phnom Penh are little mom-and-pop operations right on the street with the barest of utensils, furniture, and hygiene.  And then there are a few places like this–it’s almost on the street; I’m sitting on the back of a motorcycle–that are part of the city decor but do it with a sense of style.

“Cold” Weather 2

This was the longest stretch of cool weather that I have experienced in seventeen years in Cambodia.  Each night for four days the temperature dropped another degree or two celsius.  Granted here in Phnom Penh it was only down to the low 70ºs F but for Cambodia that’s COLD!  And the locals felt it.  I felt it, too, taking a shower in the morning with no hot water.

This man tries on a hoodie sweatshirt at a streetside vendor, and in the background the lady in the red helmet is looking at a sweatshirt for herself, too.

Three motordupe drivers heavily dressed as they wait for rides.
More motordupe drivers and a security guard with a muffler and gloves–at 73º.

“Cold” Weather

                                            Staff at the Deaf Development Programme

The last two nights the temperature in Phnom Penh has gone down to the low 70ºs F and all the expats are rejoicing.  All the locals, however, are complaining that they are freezing.  Some are wearing fur-lined coats with hoods.   Considering that the normal temperature is in the low to mid 90ºs, they have experienced a considerable variation and they don’t have a closet full of winter clothes.  90% of the population don’t have a closet.

The prime minister offered advice(?) about the cooler conditions:

“Please, do sports activities in the morning for health.  For the soldiers stationed at the border, you need to take care of your health and wear coats to protect yourself in order to avoid infectious diseases.”

Education Conference

This is a conference on inclusive education for children with disabilities sponsored by the NGO Education Program.  It brought together this past week a lot of civil society and non-government organizations to look at the situation in Cambodia.

It looks like a normal organization meeting in any hotel in any major city anywhere, but this one had its Cambodian characteristics.  Cambodians thrive on noise–loud noise–and they always turn the PA systems up very high–and leave them at that setting.  Their technicians do not adjust the volume for each speaker as he or she comes to the podium.  The volume stays on high all the time.  And then speakers come up and yell into the microphones.  If we were in the United States, OSHA would require ear protection for everyone in the room.  Here the locals just consider it normal—and it is in this culture.  We foreigners consider it painful.