Daily Life in Cambodia  2009

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20 December 2009

Combined Christmas Service Click here to read about the combined Christmas service sponsored by the four large English-speaking international Christian communities in Phnom Penh.

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18 December 2009

Standard transmissionAutomatic transmission
By far, motorbikes are the largest majority of vehicles in Cambodia. When I first arrived ten years ago, the simple 90cc Hondas were the main motorbike model on the road, and there are still thousands of them left, the workhorses of the country. As some people get more money, though, new bikes with flashier colors and styles and names are all the rage.

Another change is from the standard transmissions, where gears are shifted by the toe and heel of the left foot, to automatic transmissions which don't require any shifting. The red bike above is the old standard transmission, showing just the chain and the chainguard on the left side of the vehicle. The yellow motorbike has one of the new automatic transmissions, in the silver housing at the left front of the rear wheel. Notice that it eliminates the gear shift for the left foot and allows the driver to put both feet on a platform as for a motor scooter, a more comfortable arrangement, I'm guessing, for high heels.

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16 December 2009

Signs welcoming a Vietnamese official




Cambodia has a love-hate relationship with Vietnam. The Vietnamese people in Cambodia get blamed for everything, from crime to poverty to swaying elections. But the present prime minister came to power with the aid of the Vietnamese army and government when Vietnam defeated the Khmer Rouge. Currently the general secetary of the Vietnamese Communist Party (left photo above) is visiting Cambodia and is getting a full official welcome.



Street decorations for Vietnamese official




It is interesting that the photos on the street and the decorations link the visiting Vietnamese dignitary to the king, head of state, rather than to the prime minister, head of government. There are probably several political angles at play in that.




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13 December 2009

Buying breakfast buns




The early morning temperature is in the mid 70ºs but for Cambodian people that is COLD, so these young girls are checking out steamed buns with pork inside, a Chinese staple.




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12 December 2009

Loading lots of T-shirts on a motorbike

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #126



There are about a gazillion T-shirts in all those bundles, but somehow he'll get them all on his motorcycle!




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11 December 2009

Wagon load of rattan bookcases

Motorcycle Load


This motorcycle is pulling a load of rattan bookcases. They don't weigh much but in bulk the load is about the size of a Winnebago. The rattanware is made in various villages and hauling it like this is the cheapest way to get it to market in Phnom Penh.



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6 December 2009

Woman outside Chinese Embassy



A lone elderly woman sitting against the wall of the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh.  I wonder what her story is?



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5 December 2009

Selling papayas

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #125



A motorcycle fitted out for selling papayas.




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30 October 2009

A colorful load of bolsters

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #124



You want color?  I got color!




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21 October 2009



A woman collecting trash for recycling.  Every day large numbers of these men and women--often with their children riding on top of the trash--scour the city for anything of metal or plastic that is recyclable.  Previously they had a plaintive cry of "Ai-jai," often pronounced "H-I" by foreigners, to alert residents to their passing by.  Today, though, more and more of them carry a plastic detergent bottle fitted with a whistle which squeeks when the bottle is squeezed.




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20 October 2009

Charlie Dittmeier getting a haircut

After my old barber disappeared, I had to find a new one, and about that time this young man set up shop about two blocks from where the previous guy had had a chair on the street along the wall of a high school.  Today was my second haircut from this man.  The first time he attacked my beard, thinking it should look like a burr haircut on your chin.  Today I told him not to touch my beard, but it wasn't until I got home that I found he whacked off my sideburns.  I thought he was just trimming them. I know he has never before cut the hair of anyone with a beard, and he just doesn't know that the beard and sideburns should flow into each other.  Oh well, next time, next lesson.... The cost for the haircut was 4000 riel (96¢).


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17 October 2009




When you don't have a lot, you make do with what you have.  Two boys on the street playing chess or checkers with a homemade board and stones for game pieces.





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16 October 2009




Click here to see scenes of early morning Phnom Penh.




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15 October 2009


On the way to work this morning, when I shifted gears on my six-speed bike, there was a pop and the shifter stopped working.  The head of the cable that runs to the derailleur on the rear wheel had popped off.  The bike was still in gear and I could ride; I just couldn't shift.  I was dreading taking the time to ride about two miles to the area where all the bike shops are located and leaving my bike there to have the whole gear cable assembly replaced and then going back to pick it up, so I decided this afternoon, on the way back from a meeting at Handicap International--France, to ask the guy (standing) at the little "garage" on the corner of the deaf office street if he could do anything.

He said he could and started taking the handlebar piece off and trying to take it apart.  He had a couple of real tools but used the point on a large pair of scissors to remove two small phillips screws holding the case together.  He put those in the dirt and debris of the street and I figured he'd never find them eventually and if he did he'd never get the assembly back together since I'm sure this is the first bike gear system he has worked on.  They're not common among the locals.

Soon the older man came back.  He may be the owner and he started cutting up a new cable to make it fit while the younger guy put air in tires, cleaned a spark plug, and did jobs for other customers.  Finally after 50 minutes of working, they spun the wheel and twisted the shifter and the chain moved on the derailleur!  They grinned and I grinned and I asked how much and the young man said "one dollar."  I had thought each of the two cables he used might have cost $2 apiece.  I happily gave them a dollar and was starting to ride away when I remembered my front friction light had stopped working.  He took a look at it, found a wire sticking out the bottom, got down on his knees and stripped the wire off with his teeth, and reattached it.  They didn't expect anything for that but I gave them another 1000 riel (25 cents).  Then I was off and on my way home.  That is the Cambodia I love!

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9 October 2009

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #123



For those of you who have been wondering how to carry 50 or 60 bottles of fish sauce on your motorcycle. (There are more in front.)




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6 October 2009

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #122



These pigs get no respect.




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5 October 2009

Click here for photos of a rainy Cambodia

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2 October 2009

Selling mangoes on the street




I thought mango season was over and gone.  They seemed to have disappeared about a month ago, replaced by other fruits for sale on the street, but all of a sudden for a day or two this week, the bicycle vendors had a load of ripe mangoes to offer.  Maybe a container load came in from someplace?




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30 September 2009

Preparing for Mid-Autumn Festival




Next weekend is the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival.  There are a lot of Chinese people and people of Chinese ancestry in Cambodia, and in Phnom Penh various shops are starting to offer mooncakes and other essentials for the celebration.  Here a generator shop has set up a mooncake booth outside their shop.




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28 September 2009

Bicycle loaded with vegetables

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #121



It's not only the motorcycles that get loaded down.  This bicycle has a fairly hefty load of vegetables.  Notice that rear tire.




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26 September 2009

Getting high on vegetables

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #120



A woman getting high on vegetables. (Even the locals seem to think her perch is a bit much!)




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25 September 2009

Sidewalk goldfish vendor

The ingenuity and determination of the Cambodian people is a source of constant amazement.  If there is money to be made, they are ready to accept any sacrifice for even the smallest return.  Many little food stalls and barber chairs and cobblers and keymakers are set up every day at convenient places on the sidewalks--and dutifully taken down at 5:00 PM and carted home, to be set up again the next day.  A new vendor that has appeared on the sidewalk outside a high school near Charlie's house is this young woman selling live tropical fish and fish supplies!  Can you imagine hauling tables and an aquarium and ALL THAT WATER to this location every day! To the left of the aquarium is a barber chair and to the left of that (under the awning) is a little food stall.  A full-service sidewalk.

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15 September 2009

Racks of clothing in a market

"Off the rack" has a slightly different meaning in a market in Cambodia.  Cambodia is an inexpensive place to buy clothing.  We encourage visitors not to bring too much clothing because they can easily purchase it here.

This open-air section of the market operates only in the morning.  About noon all these clothes are folded and stored in large bags or metal boxes, the racks are disassembled, and everything is carted away.  Then the next morning it is all brought back and set up again.

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14 September 2009

A wet night in the city




A group of young guys just hanging out on a Phnom Penh street, just like young guys might do in any city of the world.




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31 August 2009

Tire repair shop




Our crew of specialists is waiting to serve you!





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30 August 2009

Papayas for sale on the street




Last month it was the mangoes for sale on the street, but now they're gone.   :(   Papayas are in season now. They are a big fruit as can be seen from these samples for sale along Sisowath Quay along the river.




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26 August 2009

Lightning at night

2009 has seen a strong upsurge in the number of people killed by lightning in Cambodia.  Fatalities caused by lightning are relatively rare in most countries but so far this year 116 people in the kingdom have died after being struck by lightning.  That total has already surpassed the 93 people killed in all of 2008.  People in Cambodia are especially susceptible to lightning strikes first of all just because of their lifestyle.  Cambodia is 90% rural and most people live outside of and around their houses and are in their flat open rice fields from dawn to dusk.  The four people killed last weekend all died while walking with their cows or buffaloes or while crossing rice fields.  One local official also suspects that climate change may play a part in the increased deaths.

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25 August 2009

A really BIG load of vegetables

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #119



There's a motorcycle under there somewhere....




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23 August 2009

Girl with a really small helmet




I didn't know they made helmets this small.  I'm pleased the family invested in it since the little girl won't be able to wear it long before she outgrows it.  Now if they would only buckle it!




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18 August 2009

Junked bicycle parts

With a good agent, someone could claim this is modern art, an intentional sculpture with a depth of meaning. But actually it's a view through a hole in a gate.  I was curious what was on the other side of a gate and looked through and saw this, so I stuck my camera through the hole and captured this art forever.

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16 August 2009

Cart selling Coca-Cola




Most of the commerce in Cambodia is done from little shops people open in their homes or in front of their houses. Everything must be moved out onto the street in the morning and back into the house at night. Coca-Cola makes it easy to sell their product with this little cart complete with an ice cooler on top, storage underneath, and an attached umbrella over all.  They are everywhere now in Phnom Penh.




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25 June 2009

Carrying 15' of tubing on a motorcycle

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #118



At least he put a warning flag on the end....




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19 June 2009

Pig carcasses on a motorcycle

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #117



Well, look at the bright side. Driving fast keeps the flies off, doesn't it?





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16 June 2009

Click here for photos of Cambodians hiding from the sun.

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14 June 2009  /  Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #116

Loaded motorcycles

The pickup trucks of Cambodia

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28 May 2009

Shoes in a doorway



If you ever left your shoes in the middle of a doorway in an American house when you were growing up, your mother would have yelled "What are you doing? Trying to kill somebody?!" and told you to put them out of the way where no one would trip over them.  Not so in Cambodia.  Shoes are SUPPOSED to be left right in the middle of the doorway or on the stairway. Wherever you are when you stop and take them off, leave your shoes there.



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26 May 2009

Carrying plasterboard on a motorcycle

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #115



"I'm SURE I can do this!!!"




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25 May 2009

Street vendor in the morning

Every Monday morning when I take a motorcycle taxi across town to mass at the Carmelite convent, I pass this little food cart selling some kind of breakfast to people on the street. It is ALWAYS surrounded by a crowd of people, usually young guys like these. The food must really be good or really cheap--or maybe there's a really cute girl operating the cart!


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24 May 2009


Most Cambodian people do not eat at home in the morning but pick up various types of food on the streets.  These three women have staked out a place on the side of rough road in Phnom Penh with various offerings.  The woman on the left has some kind of food served in bowls.  (She has the kind of coolie pole carrier mentioned on 22 May.)   The middle woman has sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves.  The third woman has baguettes and other kinds of bread for the passersby.



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22 May 2009

Breakfast food vendor



The breakfast diner is open. Immediate seating available!

This woman carries two panniers of goods on a coolie pole on her shoulder. One end has a charcoal brazier, the chair, and bowls for the food, and the basket on the other end has the type of food this woman is selling, maybe noodles or eggs or some fruit or vegetable.



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21 May 2009

Load of clothes on a motorcycle

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #114



A load of what looks like used clothing. For sheer volume of a load, you don't see too many larger than this one.




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20 May 2009

Traffic at an intersection


This morning when I was bicycling to work, this chaotic traffic scene presented itself at an intersection I go through and I stopped to take a couple pictures.  99% of the intersections in Cambodia are not controlled so it's "first come, first served" at all intersections.  And there are no rules for staying in lanes, giving right away, etc., so traffic scenes like this are daily occurrences.  I maintain that the best metaphor for the governing of Cambodia is the traffic system.  To add insult to injury, the traffic police are standing on the corner behind the white bus on the right.


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16 May 2009

Calendar May 2009

Tomorrow we start the first week in May in which Cambodia does not celebrate a public holiday. There are 23 or 24 public holidays in the kingdom (two more were added this year) and they are a real nuisance. Only the government and the banks can afford to take them. The poor people work most holidays just as they do on non-holidays. The situation really gets to be a nuisance for anyone trying to run an organization in a month like May, 2009. In the first three weeks of May, there was at least one holiday each week for a total of six days off in the first fifteen days. It really gets bizarre. When the old king—who had a three-day birthday holiday—resigned, his son became king and was awarded a three-day birthday holiday, too. It's not enough to have one day off. The kings need three apiece! The holidays are especially disruptive because many government officials start their holidays early and come back late, so that nothing happens in the government ministries they run.

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12 May 2009

A load of car tires

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #113



"It's OK as long as I don't take the corners too fast. Then they kinda slide...."




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2 May 2009

Small rural house



This house in rural Kampong Cham is really small but it's a sign of hope. First, it's made of wood and not thatch and is enclosed and can be locked. That's a sign of middle class leanings and people who know how to save. Second, it's set on the side of the lot so a bigger addition can be built later. That's a sign of people with dreams, and that's what Cambodia needs!



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1 May 2009

Bike repair shop

One of the real advantages of life in a country like Cambodia is the ease with which things can be repaired. My bicycle (on right) had a front inner tube with a British-style core and valve. They might be OK in a country where all the air hoses are equipped to deal with them, but in a country like Cambodia where air hoses have the US-style valves, it's almost impossible to get a tire inflated. When my front tire went flat again--because of the valve, not because of a puncture--I decided just to replace the tube. This little shop is near my house. My bike was at the deaf office so I threw it in a tuk-tuk and got it over here where the guy replaced the tube with a new one for $5. That's overcharging a bit but it was worth it to get it taken care of quickly. The bike repairman is on the far right. He sleeps on the wooden work platform behind them at night, stringing up a mosquito net against the pests.

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27 April 2009

Little girl on back of a bicycle




Child-safety advocates in the West would probably not approve, but little children ride with their parents, however the parent is traveling.  Many of the options are not that safe for the parents either, but people do what they have to do.






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26 April 2009

Fruit stalls

Fruit is a big part of the diet and lifestyle of Cambodia. Much fruit is grown in people's yards and around their houses. Even within the city, mangoes, papayas, jackfruit, and bananas are quite common. And in the markets, the fruit stalls always have a prominent space. Part of the visibility of fruit in the culture here is due to the fact there are always some fruits in season.

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24 April 2009

Today we had a long heavy downpour in mid afternoon and it produced the heaviest flooding in our neighborhood that I have ever seen. Even Monivong Boulevard, the major thoroughfare in the area, was flooded, a first, as far as I can remember.

I was supposed to lead a 5:30 PM liturgy for a group of lay missionaries, but as I was bicycling toward their house, I got a message saying the area was flooded and it might be difficult to get there so it was suggested to cancel. I was open to that because I had been stuck in traffic caused by the flooding which had jammed major thoroughfares and even side streets as people tried to turn off and escape from the non-moving big streets. Actually I had been lucky to be on a bicycle because at times I could pick it up and wade through water and get around stalled vehicles which even the motorcycles couldn't avoid.

The photos were taken near my house. This was the first time I saw water all the way across the street, block after block. There were a lot of people pushing motorcycles that had flooded out.

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23 April 2009

Money changer in the market




It's not on the same scale as Goldman-Sachs but this woman provides financial liquidity for her customers in the Boeung Trabek Market as she changes dollars and riel and probably Thai baht from one currency to the other.




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19 April 2009

Selling vegetables in a market

This is a scene from the vegetable section of a new market--just as crowded and chaotic as the old markets--that has recently been established near the Deaf Development Programme office.  Actually there doesn't seem to be much organization to a Cambodian market but most of the vegetables ended up close to each other in this one.  I don't do much shopping, but now I can run over here for vegetables and instant noodles.  I bought the tomatoes by the woman with her hand out getting change.

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16 April 2009

Playing in the rain




The rainy season doesn't start until May but we had a good heavy rain this afternoon. People in Cambodia live close to nature--their hometowns are in the forests and jungles--and rain and getting wet is natural to them and not something to be avoided. The little boy who lives next door was dancing and twirling in the rain and the big boys were only a little less exuberant!




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13 April 2009

Lexus car

Lexus SUV

Not much is subtle in Cambodia.  The good and the bad are quite obvious and there is little effort to cover up what is unseemly.  Policeman take bribes on the street corners, as if it were a normal part of daily life--which it is.  And the rich are quite happy for "the others" to know that they have money.

One way this is seen is in the luxury cars that so many of the wealthy drive.  Lexus cars are everywhere and just to make sure you know what it is, the owners put the name Lexus in five-inch letters on each side.  "If you've got it, flaunt it" is the operative principle.

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2 April 2009

Passenger wagon pulled by motorcycle

On the outskirts of most towns, passengers are hauled in large wagons pulled by motorcycles. These remarques, as they are called, are just long empty two-wheeled wagons with 2x4s strapped across the bed of the wagon for people to sit upon. Neither comfortable nor safe, they are an essential part of the transportation system, taking people farther outside the city than the motorcycle taxi drivers want to go.

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31 March 2009

Filipino choir at Sunday mass

In October we started a new mass in English each weekend, the first time we have had one on Sunday itself. Up till then, our English liturgies were only on Saturday evening. We started the 10:00 AM Sunday mass as a test at the Cambodian parish in Phnom Penh, not knowing who would come or how many. We also didn't have any ministers, but very quickly a group of Filipino musicians and singers got together to grace us with their music each week.

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29 March 2009


There are thousands of street-side gasoline vendors all over Cambodia selling gasoline in soft drink bottles, especially for motorcycles.  It's a bit risky to use because many people complain that it is watered down.  This young masked young woman is also selling bottled water, but I can't figure out what the three large cans of plants are on the ground in front of the bottles of gas.  What kind of plant would be sold at a gas station?  It wouldn't be that evil weed, mary-joo-juana, would it?


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28 March 2009

New stop signs
Two weeks ago, I noted that road crews were painting new lane lines on some streets in our neighborhood and wondered why, since no one observes lanes here.  To my even greater amazement, a week after they put down the lines, the workmen came back and erected stop signs!  There have been ten or twelve stop signs in Cambodia since I arrived and they are totally ignored.  Probably no one in living memory has ever stopped at a stop sign in Cambodia.  I seriously doubt if people here even know what they are for.  But now we are getting NEW ones!  Whatever for?!  Does this presage some road safety campaign?  It all boggles the mind....


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27 March 2009

Overloaded car



It isn't only the motorcycles that get overloaded. Anything that moves is liable to be loaded with as much as can be strapped to the vehicle or until the vehicle just can't move any more. Here is an overloaded car in Kampot Province. Granted it's a light load--empty plastic containers--but still it's a bit much!



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25 March 2009

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #112



At first glance, it looks there is just this one man on the motorcycle, trying to drive and balance his load at the same time. But if you look closely, you can see a third ankle inside the curve of his left leg. He's really riding pillion and holding the load while his partner drives.




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21 March 2009


Click here to learn about Cambodia's street telephones


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20 March 2009

This is how you go to a wedding in Cambodia.  It's six o'clock in the morning on a Monday(!) and you line up along the street a block from the bride's house.  You have brought along some offering (a roast pig, incense, a six-pack of beer, basket of fruit, bottle of wine, or some such) or else someone will have given you something to carry in procession to the ceremony.  Upon arriving at the house, some family members accept the gifts and take them inside, and all these guests sit down for a meal in a big tent set up in (and blocking) the street.  Already by this time, deafening music has been blasting the neighborhood for an hour and will continue until 10:30 PM.

Maybe five or six of these people will actually go into the house for the ceremony performed by one or several Buddhist monks who chant and sprinkle holy water.  The rest of this group will sit in the street being blasted by the music which makes conversation impossible.  I find it a strange way to do things, especially the noise.

This is an extraordinarily long procession.  One or both of the families has a lot of money!  That is bad news for the neighborhood because that means that probably these celebrations will go on for two, three, or four days with the music blasting away.

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14 March 2009

Lines in street

This week crews have been working on the streets in the neighborhood where Charlie Dittmeier lives, putting down lines marking lanes and intersections.  One really wonders what it is all for.  NO ONE pays attention to lanes in Cambodia.  People drive both directions on both sides of the streets and the general rule most heeded is "Never stop."  Painting traffic lane lines now seems especially unhelpful where there is no sense of traffic law, no traffic enforcement, and so many other things that really need money.

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9 March 2009

Loading up a motorcycle

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #111



"How many of these things do you think we can put on this bike?"

"Oh...no more than three or four...."



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2 March 2009

Toddler riding pillion





"I hope my shoes don't fall off.... I hope *I* don't fall off!"





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28 February 2009


At the school I visit every Friday morning, these electrical wires were lying on the pavement in a passageway leading into the school.  No proper extension cord was available--because the school doesn't have any, not because it was being used elsewhere--so whatever wires were available were put into service. The connection made by wrapping bare wires together must have struck someone as a bit dangerous, especially in a school with lots of kids running around, so broken pieces of flower pot were placed over it.



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25 February 2009

Carrying a lottery board on a motorcycle

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #110



He may not have had any physics courses in school but this young man is certainly learning about aerodynamics and wind resistance!




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16 February 2009

Two women on a motorcycle

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #109



Just a quick trip to the corner to pick up a few things....




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14 February 2009
Selling flowers St. Valentine's Day is one of the western cultural celebrations that has been carried over into Cambodian culture, especially among the young. Flowers to be given to girl friends and boy friends were sold on every street today.
Selling flowers Like Christmas, the holiday has none of its original meaning here. It could probably be argued that even in the United States and Europe, St. Valentine's Day has lost any connection to the real St. Valentine and his actions, but here people don't even know what a saint is. And the name "St. Valentine's Day" often doesn't carry over into the Khmer language which refers to this day as "flower day" or "sex day."
Selling flowers In a culture where many (most?) of the traditional values of the society were lost in the Khmer Rouge era and never regained, and where the young have never been taught the meaning of love and relationships, St. Valentine's Day has become a day for unabashed sexual activity. One of Maryknoll's projects, Karol and Setha, was set up to help young people in Cambodia regain some of the former value system and to appreciate genuine male-female relationships.

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13 February 2009

Truck loaded with cardboard




"Hey, somebody has to lift the power lines when we go under them!" (Actually, it's the guy on the front of the load who does that, not this guy taking it easy in back.)






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8 February 2009

Motorcycle with 4x8 panels

Motorcycle Passengers and Cargo #108


It may not seem possible for one person to carry 4x8 sheets of veneer paneling on a motorcycle--but it is!  Here's the proof.  The shadow tells the full story.


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5 February 2009

Early mangoes for sale Mango Season

In the past week or so, the first mangoes of the season have started to appear, usually brought in from other provinces. This vendor has his early mango offerings for sale along with several varieties of bananas in a little stall set up next to the river in Phnom Penh.

Mango pickers If the mangoes have arrived, so have the mobile vendors with their mango-picking poles. These are long bamboo poles with the top end split to form a sort of basket with one side cut open. The pole is extended up into the tree, the mango maneuvered into the opening, and then the pole is pulled and the mango is caught in the little basket. Many homes have mangoes growing around the house so these poles are a common sight.

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23 January 2009
Cambodian locomotive

Cambodian boxcar

I have lived in Cambodia for nine years and have never seen a moving train here until today. This morning, as I was coming back to my home from mass with the Salesian Sisters in Tuol Kok about 7:20 AM, a railroad crossing gate started lowering and this locomotive pulling about 15 boxcars rumbled by. "Rumbled" might suggest too much action. It might be more correct to say something like "lumbered" by. The railway tracks were put down about 80 years ago and have never been maintained so the trains proceed slowly, at perhaps 15 MPH. And there are only two trains a week heading to the terminus in the northern part of the country.

The lack of a viable rail system is one of Cambodia's biggest failures. The railway lines are not only in terrible shape, they don't even run to the border with Thailand, Cambodia's main trading partner. Much of the imports must be brought in by truck along terrible roads with bridges that are frequently collapsed or washed out.

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5 January 2009

Here's the Monday morning traffic report for the drive between the Carmelite monastery in northwest Phnom Penh to my house in the southwest. Today we again ran into a total blockage of the main road caused by a radically different driving sense on the part of the Cambodian people and by a complete lack of any sense of order or discipline. Those are just not desirable values for Cambodian drivers.

The view behind me I am standing on the footpegs on the rear of my motorcycle taxi and twisting around to take this picture of the traffic backed up behind me.  We were stopped here for 45 minutes.

A motorcycle helmet law went into effect January 1st.  You can judge its effectiveness from these photos.  Note the position of the rearview mirrors of the guy holding his head. He has no intention of using them.

The view beside me I am at the far right side of the road looking across four lanes, two in each direction.  At least that is what the road is designed for.  As soon as the traffic stopped, the vehicles going in our direction (to the right) started moving into the lanes for traffic flow to the left, completely blocking them.  The silver car is in the inner lane, next to the double yellow lines.
The view in front of me This is the view looking in the direction I want to go.  At this point there are four lanes heading in this direction instead of two.  And a kilometer ahead, the lanes coming in our direction have done the same thing, spreading all the way across the road, creating one huge no-go zone.

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4 January 2009

Independence Monument




The Independence Monument in Phnom Penh, commemorating Cambodia's freedom from French colonialism in 1954.




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3 January 2009

Selling motorcycle helmets




Click here to read about Cambodia's new motorcycle helmet law which has brought out lots of vendors.




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2 January 2009

Staff kitchen at a Maryknoll project

This is a kitchen in one of the Maryknoll projects where the staff prepare their lunch every day. It's not much different from the kitchens in most homes except that it has more pots and lids than the average family would have.

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1 January 2009

Huge street sign

More and more huge signs are appearing all over Phnom Penh. In one sense it could be seen as a positive sign of an economy where businesses still have money to advertise. On the other hand, the size, the placement, and the sheer numbers of huge signs certainly detract from the aesthetics of a street or neighborhood. And extraordinarily large signs like this over a roadway are really uncalled for and distracting. I'd be willing to bet, though, that the sign company owner has links with the government and/or ruling party.

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