Daily Life in Cambodia  2016


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15 July 2016

New mother in hospital
[Part 1] Giving birth in Cambodia is different from delivering a baby in some other countries. Here 60% of babies are not born in medical facilities but at home in the village, with a traditional birth attendant, if the mother is lucky. This young woman, one of our staff, has just delivered her second son in a government clinic.

She brings her own sheet and her own clothes; the hospital provides the blue rubber sheet to sleep on. The toboggan cap is a MUST in Cambodia: all new mothers--and their babies--must wear them. The IV stand in the background serves as a clothes rack.

Hospital room

[Part 2] The hospital room has no closet or drawers or cupboards so the mother's clothes and other possession are in the black plastic bags. There is no hospital food service so her family comes to stay with her and either brings or cooks food there in the room.

Baby on floor

[Part 3] There is no special bed or crib for the newborn baby. This little boy is sleeping on the floor of the hospital room, at least as much as much as his mother's co-workers will allow him to sleep. All the baby's clothes and other supplies are kept under one of the extra, empty beds in the room.

Baby on floor

[Part 4] By Cambodian standards, this baby is practically naked--he only has eight layers of blanket over his body, in addition to his clothes, and he's not wearing his little cap (off to the side). Mind you, the room temperature is in the mid 90ºs. Cambodian new-born practice, however, requires that babies be REALLY wrapped no matter what the heat. It's no wonder the adults wear heavy coats and hats when the temperature here gets into the 70ºs.

10 July 2016

Burger King restaurant



Last month I showed a photograph of a Burger King outlet with the name spelled "BurgerKing." A few days ago I went passed another Burger King outlet and the builders did a little better with the spacing between the words on this one. It's not perfect, mind you, but there's more of a space between words than at the other BK outlet.


2 July 2016

Strange showroom front

This is the ground floor entrance way of a creatively designed new building in Phnom Penh. The building is quite distinctive, supposedly representing a dragon. But the ground floor sales area of the supposedly anchor tenant of the retail section looks like it is boarded up. I didn't even realize the ground floor was open because it WAS boarded up for a long time. Supposedly now it's open for business but it's hard to know that. Cambodia doesn't have the hang of marketing according to western standards.

1 July 2016

Preparing vegetables on the sidewalk





These are the vegetables you will eat in your restaurant tonight.





30 June 2016

Sent by bundle



A lot of the world's goods travel by container. Cambodia has some container traffic but a lot of the goods within the country--and even internationally--are shipped in big bundles like this. This man is outside a bus company that runs between Vietnam and Phnom Penh, and he's unloading some Vietnamese goods that have arrived for sale here.



29 June 2016

School kids riding in rain


It's the rainy season now in Cambodia, rain basically every day, and it's just a part of life. For example, here are three primary school kids riding bicycles home at the end of the day in a pouring rain. They're soaking wet--and don't use rain ponchos, probably because they can't afford the 50¢--and this will happen every day because the end of the school day is about the time the rains come. They just get wet and then they dry out as they continue riding.


27 June 2016

Spam-type meat from China





For the World War II vets who learned to love Spam, the Chinese version may have a different packaging--it's in a round, not a rectangular can--but I bet inside it looks and smells much the same!




26 June 2016

Krispy Kreme in Phnom Penh




Woo woo! We have arrived! Krispy Kreme has opened in Phnom Penh! With Burger King already here, can McDonald's be too far behind?




25 June 2016

Different kind of basket on a motorcycle




Among the millions of motorcycles in Cambodia one can find almost every different style and permutation. Some are not even legal, with no lights, etc. Others have extensive pinstriping and detailing. This one is notable for the different kind of basket mounted in front.




20 June 2016

Misspelled Burger King sign



Burger King was the third US franchise to come to Cambodia (after Dairy Queen and KFC) and it has been opening new locations. I don't know how the King feels, though, about this new site with the company brand name spelled without a space. That's not an unusual mistake in Cambodia because the Khmer language commonly does not use spaces between words.



18 June 2016

Huge load of rice on a motorcycle




Motorcycle Loads #220

"This ought to be enough rice to hold us for a day or two...."





14 June 2016

Putting on a helmet at the wat



This woman is a good Buddhist. When in a temple or on the temple grounds, Buddhists remove any hats or head coverings as a sign of respect, much like many Christians do. This woman was at the wat and as she leaves, she puts on her motorcycle helmet and buckles it up before pulling out into the street.



12 June 2016

Huge sewer pipes


  Here are some huge storm sewer pipes, more than 4 feet in diameter, in position along a road where they will be installed. This is exactly what Phnom Penh needs. Unfortunately these pipes will not be in service during this year's rainy season which is just starting. And what I hope is that they don't have to tear up the road to put the sewer in place. The road was just repaved two or three months ago.


10 June 2016

Construction site home



One of the advantages of the construction boom going on in Phnom Penh is that lots of workers have a place to live. Many rural poor migrate to the city because of drought in the provinces, poor crop yields, and a need for money. They have no skills other than farming and end up as laborers on the construction sites--where they are allowed to live free of charge. Whole families occupy the buildings as they rise floor by floor. Some children have never had any other home. Here a row of scrap lumber beds are visible on a floor open to the now frequent rains.



8 June 2016

Clothes hangers

One of the small irritations of life in Cambodia is the variety of styles and efficiencies for clothes hangers. Of course there are differences in every country but usually any of the different varieties will work OK. Not so here. Many of them here are made with very thin wire so not much can actually be hung on them. Quite a few have a hook on top that is so small in diameter that it won't fit over a clothes rod. Part of that latter problem is because most Cambodian houses do not have closets and consequently no clothes rods but instead have a series of nails stuck into the wall. The small-hook hangers are fine for that.

7 June 2016

Wideload on a motorcycle



Motorcycle Loads #219

At least he's driving in the curb lane....




27 May 2016

One of the characteristics of Khmer culture that drives North Americans and Europeans crazy is always getting invitations and announcements at the last minute. Note this invitation we received yesterday for an event taking place today. Westerners who plan meetings, workshops, programs months and years in advance wonder how anyone could be expected to show up on one day's notice.

My take on this phenomenon is that we're dealing with an uneducated rural culture where last-minute notices are not a problem. Everyone you want to see or talk to lives in the same village or commune (group of villages). Everyone does the same thing and everyone knows what everyone else is doing. If you want to talk, you just wander over to the other person's rice field and talk. There's nothing to disturb or to interrupt unless you come at nap time after lunch. Now these people have moved to the city but they're still operating on a village schedule and following a village lifestyle.


25 May 2016

Selling motorcycle helmetsThis is a little shop along a busy street near the Maryknoll office. What's to notice about the picture? The car parked on the sidewalk is normal here. Likewise the shop extending out to the street and blocking any use of the sidewalk is routine. But notice the price of the motorcycle helmets on sale on the table. They are advertised at 10,000 riel each. 10,000 riel. That's US$2.50. Can you imagine what quality of helmet you are buying for $2.50? Maybe there is some protection, at least partially, when your head takes its first bounce on the pavement but after that the helmet has disintegrated and you're on your own after that.


13 May 2016

Flags for the king;s birthday




Today is the first day of a three-day holiday for King Sihomani's birthday. Schools and banks were closed, and some shops, but a lot of businesses were still open. Early this morning this young man, a municipal worker, was carrying a load of Cambodian flags to place along the street for the holiday.



8 May 2016

Man sitting in the street



There are so many things--every day--that I think I will never understand about Cambodia. Now in most places, the sidewalks are completely taken over by businesses, parking, street vendors, etc., so that they are unusable by ordinary people. Here this man has a large sidewalk, chained off to keep it empty--and he sits in a lawn chair out in the street. What??!!



6 May 2016

Telephone lineman on a pole




Pity the poor electricity and telephone linemen in Phnom Penh. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of wires on most poles, in one big mess. That mass above this lineman's head is almost solid wires with a few branches growing through it just to complicate things. How does the worker ever know what he's dealing with? I suspect half the lines are inoperative but no one ever takes them down.




18 April 2016

Bicylist with Buddha picture






Is this the Buddhist equivalent of a St. Christopher medal?





17 April 2016

Trusses added to an old bridge

To deal with the burgeoning population of cars, Phnom Penh built a second bridge parallel to what is known as the "Japanese Bridge" to move traffic better across the Tonle Sap River. You can see the new bridge to the right. What makes me uneasy are the steel supports they added to the old bridge at the same time. What's wrong with the bridge that it needs shoring up? And the girders they added don't portray a very professional "fix."


14 April 2016

Phnom Penh street sign


A recent apparition around Phnom Penh are street signs like this one. They have been noticeably absent for the last half century—maybe longer, much to the consternation of the foreigners trying to go some place. It was not a problem for the Cambodians, though. Many of them literally do not even know the name of the street they live on, much less the names of other streets. They always navigate and describe locations by landmarks, not by names.



6 April 2016

The Building



This is a section of The Building, a famous architectural landmark in Phnom Penh. A very prominent architect--who also created the Olympic Stadium and other notable buildings in Phnom Penh—designed this as a housing complex decades ago. It has some really innovative design features but it has been left to deteriorate and is now in a terrible state.



2 April 2016

Four people with helmets on one motorcycle!



This is a rather amazing photograph, catching four people with helmets on one motorcycle. A law requiring helmets for motorcycle drivers went into effect six or seven years ago. A recent article noted that compliance with the law was about 20%. Then in January, 2016 helmets became mandatory for all people on a motorcycle. Compliance with that is certainly nowhere near 20% so seeing four people on a motorcycle, all using helmets is quite unusual.



1 April 2016

Grand opening banner
Some things in culture don't make a lot of sense. But it's the way things are done--and everybody does it. In Cambodian culture, to open a new store or business or shop, you MUST have a red banner covering the name of the new establishment. In some settings, where it is a really formal opening and some dignitary will pull a cord and the banner will dramatically fall away and reveal the new logo, it makes sense. But here everyone has to have a red banner for the smallest enterprise.


31 March 2016

Selling from a bicycle




Sometimes I can mark the change of seasons by the different fruits that are sold by the bicycle vendors, but I'm not sure what this load is--a fruit or a vegetable. There are so many fruits and vegetables here I have never seen or heard of that I usually have to ask what it is to be sure.





30 March 2016

French bread on the street

You want bread? We got bread....

18 March 2016

Sunset at the royal palace





Sunset over the Royal Palace at the Phnom Penh waterfront along the Tonle Bassac River.




14 March 2016

Pest control motorcycle






Who ya gonna call?





5 March 2016

Women chatting on the street


This picture is rather unusual in that it is uncommon to see a group of women sitting around in a tea shop or similar place and just talking. Usually it's only the men who sit and talk--especially government officials who go to the office and sign in and then go to coffee shops for the rest of the morning.



2 March 2016

Carrying window frames on a moto





Motorcycle Loads #218

"I'm just glad we're not installing double doors!"





1 March 2016

Open sewer in Phnom Penh





Phnom Penh used to have canals and running streams going through the city. Now the canals are filled in and sold to developers and the streams are open sewers like this one in the Teuk Thla area.



27 February 2016

Living in rubbish



I've mentioned before that a large part of Phnom Penh's work force is focused on trash. But because those workers will never get rich from trash--never even get a living wage--many of them also live in the trash they collect.



26 February 2016

Women selling clothes on the street


There is a general rule in driving in Cambodia that if someone isn't using the other lane or any given spot on a road, you might as well, even if it's across the yellow lines, on a curve, or whatever. The same holds true on city streets. Any spot that someone isn't using might as well be used by you. These two women have brought bags of probably used clothes and spread them out for sale on a quiet street.



22 February 2016

Riding dangerously on a moto



Motorcycle Loads #217

Living dangerously:

• When you're young and think you're immortal and indestructible,


• when you're so poor you'll do anything to get money for today.



18 February 2016

Concrete art for sale



Cambodians are artists in concrete. There are concrete figures everywhere. Some of it is just a cultural bas-relief that people with a bit of money will put on the walls of their homes. Other big statues like these are the objective of people with more money (and maybe not much taste).



15 February 2016

Man sitting on the street



This is one of Phnom Penh's elderly poor, sitting on a street. He most certainly has a history and a story but today they are unknown and he sits on a street with his possessions. Is he waiting for something? For someone? Why did he leave wherever and whatever was home? Will tomorrow be any better? Or worse?



14 February 2016

Click here for photos of Valentine's Day in Phnom Penh.

12 February 2016

Moto loaded with vegetables





Motorcycle Loads #216

This is Phnom Penh's answer to an unmarked police car--a motorcycle disguised as a vegetable salad.




11 February 2016

Man collecting recyclable trash



An awful lot of Phnom Penh's population make their living from trash. They scavenge the streets on foot, on bicycles, with carts and wagons, every possible way, to find the bits and pieces of society's trash that they can sell to be recycled. They can't make more than a dollar or two a day. How do they possibly survive?



9 February 2016

Woman lighting incense





Today was the second day of the Lunar New Year of the Monkey. It was another quieter day around town. Traditionally children of all ages go to visit their parents on this day. This woman was lighting incense and candles in a small shrine at her home.




8 February 2016

Family burning offerings


Today is the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Monkey. It was a quiet day around town because although it is not an official holiday probably 75% of the population take these three days--or the whole week--off, claiming some Chinese heritage. As part of the preparations for the new year celebrations, this family on New Year's Eve was burning paper offerings to placate the spirits of their deceased relatives.



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