When the weather doesn’t change throughout the year and there are no sports seasons and the trees don’t shed leaves, one of the few indicators of time are the seasonal fruits. And now it’s mango time! Hooray! IMHO, this is one of the best parts of Cambodia. I was never really exposed to mangoes before I came to Asia but they have become a much-appreciated new part of my diet when they’re available.
Jim McLaughlin, former Maryknoll Lay Missioner in Cambodia and a frequent visitor here as he continues his microbiology work in the kingdom, spotted this suspicious vehicle on Phnom Penh streets. What kind of nefarious V Ice is going on in the back of this truck? It must be hot stuff since it’s a refrigerated truck but there could be many different kinds of mobile v ice.
North Americans on the road tend to dash in for hamburgers or ice cream or large sugary drinks. In Cambodia the traveling clientele opt for different kinds of fruit or bags of snacks like dried bananas or other crunchy things.
There are many signs that Cambodia is moving into the 21st century—paving sidewalks, jamming the streets with cars, erecting tall buildings–but there are also indicators that Cambodia still hasn’t made the jump from a simple village life style to a modern city environment.
When I first came, I don’t remember one shop on the main street that had an enclosed front. Each store had a pull-down metal shutter that, when opened, revealed the whole interior of the ground floor. Then slowly one shop after another started to have a glass front, a normal doorway, and it was no longer possible to drive motorcycle or car into the store at night.
As the shops were enclosed, they needed air conditioning and it’s spreading, but it’s still at its earliest stages. New modern buildings often have individual stand-alone AC units sticking out like warts all over the exterior. This KFC at least has put all the units in one place, but central air conditioning’s time has not yet arrived.
The Democratic Republic of North Korea is a mess. That is no secret. The regime there has to scramble to keep their elite well fed and produce nuclear weapons. One of the strategies is setting up North Korean restaurants around the world, in sympathetic countries. This is one of them in Siem Reap. The restaurants all follow the same model: a bevy of young, pretty North Korean women who take the orders and serve the food, and then come back near the end of the meal to perform a medley of songs. And then all the hard cash goes back to Pyongyang.
First, sorry for not being able to post yesterday. We had to get fingerprinted in the morning and the plan was afterwards to update this website before heading to Siem Reap for a deaf youth camp. But it turned out the whole morning was spent with the fingerprints so that I had no time to do anything before heading north to the camp.
A recent directive from the Ministry of Social Affairs said that all the Maryknoll project directors need to get a criminal record check. Probably that is the result of international NGOs pushing against the trafficking and abuse of children here.
I thought it would take maybe 15-30 minutes for the seven of us to be printed but it took 2 1/2 hours. We had to fill out a form for the Cambodian police at the Ministry of the Interior and that took a while because they wanted all our heights in centimeters, etc., and then eventually we each were fingerprinted twice.
The original plan was that we would get fingerprinted and then we would send the copies of the print and our payment to the FBI in Washington, DC., they would do a criminal check, and then send us a record of their findings which we could submit to MOSVY. But it turns out that the police here have some sort of working arrangement with the FBI and the US Embassy so the time spent on all the paperwork was to send that to Washington for us. We had to pay $30 each for that, plus $2.50 for new photos, but if we understood correctly what they were telling us, we don’t have to do anything more.
Some people say there’s no global warming, no climate change but it’s hard to accept that here. When I first came to Cambodia, I was told that the rainy season ended in late September. Then the last few years it seemed to finish in November or December. This year it was raining into mid January. Finally last week we had a full week with no rain and I thought “It’s finally over!” But then today we had a sprinkle in the morning and then a real light rain this afternoon! When will it stop?
Recently there has been a flurry of street paving in our part of town. It’s getting close to local elections and the ruling party wants to show its best side. Before the pavers got to Street 105, though, two really deep holes had developed on two successive street corners. Apparently water underneath the pavement had washed away whatever foundation there was and a hole developed, straight down, at least eighteen inches deep and ten inches wide and extending who knows how far under the pavement. When they first appeared, the populace did what they usually do, stick a tree branch into the hole to make it more visible.
But then the street pavers came along. Now their job is to pave the street, not repair it, so they just paved around the hole.