Still a Problem

Cambodia is seeking $406 million to accomplish the demining projects it has planned through 2025.  The last mines were laid in the 1980s but we still average a casualty every five or six days from the estimated four to five million landmines thought to be still in the ground and from other ERW (Explosive Remnants of War) that is part of the landscape of much of the country.  Between 1992 and 2017, 1,000,000 anti-personnel mines were recovered along with 25,000 anti-tank mines, and more than 2,700,000 pieces of ERW.   There is still a lot of work to do.

A Mixture of Cultures

Cambodia is a mix of cultures in some ways.  Look at this street sign.  First of all, the modern-type of highway sign for controlled access roads contrasts mightily with the chaos of Phnom Penh streets with their thousands of motorbikes, cars, food carts, bicycles, and pedestrians, each going his own way and doing his own thing.  Then there is a mixture of languages on the sign: Khmer script and English language script.  And beyond the Charles de Gaulle Blvd name, there is the French spelling of “Tchecoslovaquie” for Czechoslovakia.   And then there is the KFC culture imposed over everything else.  The Kingdom of Wonder….

Every little bit helps

Buddhist holidays can mean a bit of money if you’re in the right place with the right product.  On the last special day for Buddhists, this young girl was pulling a cart full of coconuts, decorated with incense sticks and lotus blossoms, to be sold as offerings to place in the wat (temple).  She probably wouldn’t make a lot of money but the dollar or two she probably earned would be a big help to her family.

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?