Tents for rich people

Our neighbor at the Maryknoll office is a four-star general near the top at the Ministry of Immigration. He just finished a two-month expansion and renovation of his house, and this weekend I found out that was so his daughter could get married there.

This is a view down the street from the Maryknoll office. Normally there is only a solid blank wall at the house but for the wedding this elaborate entrance way was created to their inner yard.

The tent companies are extremely resourceful and here they created an air conditioned room in the courtyard of the house. Here the workers are finishing the last preparations.

Weddings in a neighborhood are generally quite a nuisance, especially for the foreigners, but this general was quite considerate. He did not block the entire street with a tent and he did not put the usual loudspeakers out on the street to saturate the neighborhood with the chanting of the monks. [The Maryknoll office is the leftmost of the three shophouses behind the huge generator.]
The general’s family went to quite an expense for this wedding. These are portable toilets on the street for the dozens of cooks, cleaners, guards, drivers, and police assisting with the wedding. And the toilets are full size ceramic fixtures in air-conditioned stalls!

A telltale clue

Motorcycles are the number one mode of transportation in Cambodia, with millions of them on the roads. Often, riding behind cyclists, it is difficult to know if they are men or women–unless the women are wearing dresses–because even in this normal 85º to 100º weather, Cambodians wear heavy jackets and scarves. And gloves. But the gloves are generally restricted to the women drivers who are wearing the gloves to protect their hands not from wear and tear but from the sun. As little skin as possible is to be exposed to the sun lest it be tanned or darkened.

The students suffer

[From the Khmer Times}

Education is Cambodia in normal times is generally uneven and inadequate, and Covid made the situation worse. The schools were closed a year and a half and an attempt at online learning was not effective. A good number of students don’t have electricity much less a computer or smartphone or wi-fi connection.

The current school year began late, in January, 2023, and it was anticipated that the new year would start in January, 2024. Schools were preparing for that schedule. Suddenly the government announces this school year will end three weeks into November and the new school year starts December 1st.

This throws the planning of NGOs and groups supporting education really out of whack. Maryknoll has a month-long program to help older students catch up and adjust to the curriculum after missing so much school but now that has to be dropped. The kids suffer….


When I first came to Phnom Penh, one of the institutions of the capital city was Sambo the elephant who spent the day at Wat Phnom giving rides for tourists. That was his life until he was retired in 2014 to an elephant refuge in the mountains where he spent the last nine years of his life in peace until he died this past week.

Sambo would daily trek along the busy streets from the park where he stayed to the wat.
One Sunday I was at Wat Phnom for some event and Sambo came by. I was talking with the Australian Ambassador and some colleague offered her a ride on Sambo. I don’t like the idea of using animals that way but she needed someone to accompany her so I had my only elephant ride that day.

It’s different…

One of the quirky things about Cambodia is the placement of wall plugs. Probably the majority of wall plugs are located at eye level as part of the light switch beside the doorway. This fan plug is located above desktop level (maybe so a desk computer could be connected to it?). Most people, though, I think would prefer to have their wires under the desk rather than hanging from the wall in front of them. But Cambodia thinking is different in many ways.

Too much water…

For these two kids wading through water that was up their knees further back was fun. This was after a twenty-minute rain. That’s Boeung Tum Pun….
For this man, the water starting to submerge his engine block was too much, and he started turning around to back toward the white truck. I had been planning to bicycle through the water until I saw him turning around and realized how deep it was.