A new insurance law is being proposed for Cambodia where there currently is no required vehicle insurance. The photo above suggests why insurance might be advisable. An average of four to six people a day are killed in Cambodian traffic.
Under the new law–which probably will not be passed and implemented for at least five years–motorcycles would pay a premium of $17 per year, small cars $70, and large cars $80. If there is an accident with injuries, there will be a payout of $580. If there is a death, $3,000. That’s about all that has been proposed so far and leaves many questions, for example, what if there is an accident with no injuries? No payout?
Every culture has its traditions and rituals and so does Cambodia. Cambodia’s morning rituals may be a little more obvious, though, because so much of Cambodian life is lived on the streets, not inside houses or behind closed doors. Click here to see some early morning activities as the sun rises.
Sometimes backwards is best. When you’re carrying something really bulky on the back of a motorcycle sometimes the only way is for the rider to ride backwards with the load in her or his lap. I had to do that once when I was carrying a new monitor in a big box to one of our offices.
Siobhan Miles died unexpectedly a year ago and today there was a simple ceremony dedicating a library in an NGO in Phnom Penh in her honor. She and her husband Glenn and their daughters Zoe, Hannah, and Sarah used to come to our Maryknoll Wednesday liturgy and dinner until they moved back to Wales. While here, Siobhan worked with the NGO Chab Dai which seeks to strengthen protections for children at risk.
The LaValla School in Takhmau is run by the Marist Brothers from Australia. Located about ten miles south of Phnom Penh, it offers an education of grades one to six for children with significant physical disabilities. It is a really wonderful school, providing an opportunity for learning that would probably be denied if the school did not exist.
The goal of LaValla School is to take children with moderate to severe physical disabilities and bring them up to their age-grade level so that they can enter government schools for the secondary level back in their home provinces.
Marist Brother Terry Heinrich started the LaValla School more than fifteen years ago and has been a good friend and surrogate father to hundreds of young people who have passed through the school. Here he prepares for the procession of graduates into the hall.
The graduation ceremony opened with a traditional blessing dance. Every girl in Cambodia dreams of being one of these apsara dancers–like teenage girls in the US all dream of being a cheerleader–but only in a school like this would girls with a disability have a chance at achieving their dream.
A government official from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs presided at the ceremony and gave out the certificates. Unfortunately, probably for most of these graduating boys and girls, this is the high point of their lives. Once they leave LaValla and return to their home villages, they will probably again encounter discrimination and find themselves without much opportunity.
Pets are not really common in Cambodia, at least not in the city, although many Westerners here seem to like cats–probably because expats may be alone here and want some kind of company and cats are relatively easy to keep. At least the cats can generally be left at home all day by themselves and won’t frighten the lady who comes to clean the house.
There are a few shops, though, that sell fish for home aquariums. Probably some of the same reasons apply for keeping fish–they are easy to keep and don’t frighten anyone–but they are also especially valued in Chinese culture and many, many people in Cambodia have Chinese heritage.
There are many mysteries in the Kingdom of Wonder. One of them for me is what kind of street food this guy is selling. You see all sorts of things sold on the street, many of them foods that would not be street food in the U.S., like corn on the cob, but I’m not sure what this man is vending. I can tell there is some shredded lettuce or similar vegetable and some other yellowish vegetable, but is that the main ingredient or just a garnish for something else? And what is the mortar and pestle for? He’s ladling some juice into the mortar but the end product is an unknown for me.
There isn’t a lot left in Cambodia to reflect the long colonization by the French. French bread–baguettes–is surprisingly plentiful and popular on the streets, and all the doctors write prescriptions in French–which basically people don’t understand, but, hey, this is Cambodia, why should a patient understand what she is taking and why. Around Phnom Penh there are still some beautiful remnants of French colonial architecture but many of them are disappearing fast. This is one old French-era building that has been preserved as a reminder of bygone days.
A shirt with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the back? That’s not a common occurrence in Phnom Penh and it’s not likely that its owner is a Catholic–or even knows who Our Lady of Guadalupe is. Phnom Penh is a T-shirt printing hub and there are all kinds of shirts with all kinds of slogans on them displayed here–some of the slogans just gibberish, some with extremely obscene language, some with political sentiments probably not held by the wearer, etc. Many Phnom Penhers can’t read English so the shirts are chosen because they’re cheap and someone likes the design or the colors.