Monday, 2 May 2016


Our 2nd KNY in SR. So different from April anywhere. Stars decorate the town and there is heaps of stuff on, although I still have not been to anything (its hot, don't really have transport). We usually just get together with family. My mother in law couldn't make it this year because of the drought.
My bil came tho, and I was surprised when he was listening to our neighbours.  It was the first time he'd seen the ceremony where you splash water on your old people. It was my first time to hear it last year, but its familiar to Soeun.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

hot season so far...

Can you see the man in the tree? Our landlords hire a guy to climb up and harvest the big bunches of coconuts from this tree in our front yard. The last harvest day happily coincided with our friends visit. The kids enjoyed watching the man climb up the long palm trunk and lower down the bunches.

Mostly the last month and a half has been hot and hard, most of the time at least one of us has been sick (at one point we ALL had the flu at the same time) and its a constant battle to try to keep good sleep and eating habits. Mostly it feels like we get nothing done in a day, except surviving.

Sunday, 28 February 2016


The cool season has said goodbye and soon it will be the hottest time of the year! 

Talking about how we might change our habits and move furniture to cope with it. I realised I don't need to stop taking the kids for walks, we just need to get out earlier. It normally takes me about 4 hours to get ready to go out, but for a quick  prebreakfast walk I've started just strapping the baby on and finding shoes for the toddler and I.  Its so nice to be out in the cool air with the sunshine and trees, hopefully we can make this a habit throughout the hottest weeks, as most of the day we'll be inside.

A breakfast of pork and rice out on our corner only cost about 75 cents, so we'll probably do that often over the next few months.

The toy fire truck came on our walk this morning. And the toddler carried his breakfast home, he wasn't really into eating when there was so much to look at.

Grilled pork with rice- and egg and pickled veg and soup and iced tea

They say the more papers under the table the better the food at the rice eating place.

And after hot season we will be saying goodbye to friends.  The expat community is like that, lots of goodbyes esp at the end of the school year (which is around June). There are at least 2 families who we've been meeting for playdates leaving Cambodia in May. Then a few others will leave in June/July. Some leaving Cambodia, some just away for summer holiday or to have a baby.

Even though we don't teach or go to school my week is with others who do, so in June there will be lots of changes to our normal activities.

Monday, 22 February 2016

one year in this tourist town

In some ways living in Siem Reap isn't pretty similar to living in Phnom Penh, in other ways there are some really unique things.

I've been enjoying getting to know the expat community here, its seems smaller and more connected than in PP. Or maybe its because of Facebook, or maybe because I started off knowing a few people from when they lived in PP, or maybe its because I have kids now. Or maybe because I shop at supermarkets more now.

Within a few months I was running into people I knew everywhere; the doctor, the travel agent, the supermarket etc etc. The other day I was buying eggs and the toddler started pointing and saying the name of one of the other toddlers he plays with. It turned out our friends were just a few metres away talking to our waiting tuk tuk driver who also happened to be their old friend.

The temples bring millions of tourist here so many people work in tourism. Church members are tuk tuk drivers, work in guesthouses and restaurants.

Some things have 3 different prices. I'm used to one price for Khmer and a higher price for foreigners, but in SR we have a 3rd price. An even higher one for tourists. (Or more generally good and services tourist are more likely to use are priced much higher than I would expect.) In some ways the tourist industry seems like one big scam.

front door

there's good and bad things about our new front door

the main bad thing is that even though its a nice fancy new door which cost our landlords a lot, they installed it the opposite way to the double screen door which means i can only just fit through the gap if i'm holding the baby (unless i bend down and up to unbolt both sides which is a hassle to do if you are just quickly coming or going)

on the plus side
-people can't see in
-i can open and close it with one hand, which is really handy when you have a baby and tiles on the floor, i used to need two hand to do the lock and then all my body weight to push open the rusty metal grill thingy
-i think rats and scorpions will find it hard to get in
-i can lock it and go to bed, then soeun can come home and unlock it from the outside (instead of a padlock we put on either the outside or the inside depending on if we were in or out)
-people can't tell if we are in or out by looking at the door
-we have heaps more space inside because we don't need to have the clothes horses in front of the door for privacy and protection , so it feels more spacious and safer (the clothes horse almost fell on the baby once)
-also safer as we can get out faster in case of fire, it used to be that we had to move the clothes horse, then find the key, then open the screen door, then unlock the padlock, then struggle with the heavy metal grill thing, its easier now that im not pregnant but still hard as you need both arms

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Cool season walks, More friend time, some odd cold snaps, some church outing

With one strapped to my front and the other in the stroller I ve been trying to entertain the kids and make the most of cool season at the same time. Walking is  not really a thing here but we ve managed to enjoy it over the last few months. Today there was some crying coming from the stroller because of the heat, so the days are numbered.

In recent weeks we've been excited to start meeting more often with toddler friends. In particular Ive been getting to know two other "barang" mums with Khmer partners who also have young kids. 
During the tail end of cool season we had 2 really odd cold snaps. Temps went down really fast and a long way for a few days. It was sometimes 15 C at breakfast time! (it didn't actually snow but it was such a dramatic weird event this 12 year old photo reappeared)

It seems the toddler needs more and more social interactions with other kids, but our old playgroup now meets in the afternoons and we struggle to get out regularly at that time.  The Khmer kids who he was playing with a lot when we just got back from Aus are back at school now. So its been great to find some friends who can come to our place or meet us in the morning. We also started the toddler at a day care centre type place, hopefully he'll be able to enjoy playing there too. And baby ballet class! 

Church goes to a village about once a month, and this time the toddler went overnight for the first time.  He had so much fun. And again when he tagged a long with church when they went to the lake.
On the Tonlesap Lake

Potato and lime printing at home

village church

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Garbage truck

Lime prints on a mostly cloudy day

 Yesterday was such lovely cool weather I di d some painting, it was meant to be fun for the toddler. His most exciting thing was using the dirty water to clean his beloved exavators.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Language learning

Sunday morning show pile!
"I'm beautiful!" the toddler sometimes yells out when he gets out of the bath. If he were speaking Khmer it would make more sense as the word for "clean" and "beautiful" are the same.

He is learning to speak both languages, and sometimes we see that he is learning the right context for each. Before the baby was born I remember he saw Soeun riding up on the moto. He turned to me and said "Daddy!" then turned to his Cambodian grandma and said "Ba!"

The other day he fell of his bike and started laughing, but then it turned into loud cries. THe day after Grandma was remembering this and talking about what happened (in Khmer of course). He then turned to me and told the story in English, and acted his crying/laughing out.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Christmas 2015

This was one of the most Christmassy Christmases that I've had in Cambodia. After growing up in Aus where its obvious Christmas is coming weeks before Dec 25, then living in places where its not celebrated it was fun to be at home in this tourist town this year. Millions come every year to see the temples so a whole big industry to cater for this exists. So in December we took a tuktuk up and down a big road in the evening to see the lights! 

Even though Dec 25 isn't a public holiday in Cambodia, Siem Reap has lots of tourists so the big hotels have lights!
Also, as we weren't in the middle of moving house and I wasnt sick, we had a Christmas tree!! Making it was an advent activity, along with gingerbread and some other things.

Also the Khmer church normally has a huge Christmas thing, but it can be on any Sunday sometime from November to Jan, but this year Christmas fell on a Friday and the church we 're in had their Christmas on the Sunday after. It felt much more Christmassy to me to have Christmas the day after Boxing day rather than on say Jan 8th, or November 15th.

And the expat church here actually had a gathering on December 25th that we went to together!
Our Christmas tree 2015

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Everyone is so rude!

About 14 years ago I was walking along the street and people kept bumping into me. It was so annoying. The others on the short term team and similar experiences if my memory serves me correctly. I felt like everyone in the whole country we were visiting was being rude.

A long termer nodded knowingly when we shared our frustration. They explained that as we were from Australia, where people drive on the other side of the road, we also subconsciously walk on the other side of the road too.  So all the people in our host country thought we were the ones being rude?!

I try to remember this experience when I'm feeling frustrated with things in Cambodia. Sometimes it seems people are being so rude, or various other negative things that make life hard. But I keep trying to tell myself maybe they see me as rude or lacking common sense/doing something weird/doing things the wrong way/wearing weird looking clothes/ liking ugly furniture/ thinking good things are bad/ putting value on  what I see as worthless etc etc.

Sundays this year

People often ask us what its like to be in a cross cultural marriage, and mostly its hard to come up with an answer. Its just our normal. The air we breath. But maybe church is one interesting thing of note. I wrote a newsletter on this a few months ago but not sent yet.

 Soeun is a Khmer church leader, so Sundays are a big day for him, and of course he should have his family being part of the church as well. So he is really involved, preaching, music etc while for me it mostly doesn't feel like a spiritual or even social thing, but a language and culture experience. And it means I have less time and energy to go to an English language church. And even if I do its not a family thing, its just for me.  So each new place we live we have to figure out how to do it. Some years in Phnom Penh it was working when I went to a Tuesday morning English womens group and we went to church on Sunday morning together, and I sometimes made it to an English language church in the afternoon. Over the years we've tried a few other combos that haven't worked as well.

So this year..

For a few months Soeun was sort of going to both the morning and afternoon service, earlier in the year when we had just moved here. I was going to the English language church in the afternoon, I visited the morning Khmer one a few times.

Once we got  back from the having-baby-in Aus trip Soeun had worked out that he would be mainly serving at the afternoon service, so now we all go there as a family. Ive started going to the English language womens Bible study during the week, sans toddler.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

chronic sickness management

I joined some facebook groups recently for people with vestibular disorders. Its been really helpful to find others with similar struggles- perhaps our time in Aus would have been easier if we had known others then (maybe not, we might only be ready for this now).

Most have had their lives changed dramatically- they can't work full time anymore, or sometimes at all, they can't look after their kids, they can't drive. Its only diagnosed after eliminating other things, and by the pattern of symptoms so it usually takes months to work out what you have before you can even think about how to manage it.  By that time its already taken a big toll on your mental health, social life, work life etc.

And from reading what other write it seems some people have worked out their triggers, but for many it seems so random. Sometimes cheese sets it off, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the attacks come out of no where, often the buzzing and ear pressure is just always there and you have to try to live with it.

The diagnoses from a sydney doc was "vestibular migraine", but if I use that term people often assume its a headache thing (and there is a headache involved actually, but its more an ear thing).

Members discuss things like whether its useful to go to the ER at hospital if things become acute. Theres not much they can do for most ppl , and it seems many doctors aren't really aware of these disorders anyway.

People often have trouble explaining it to their family and friends, its probably the same for any invisible chronic illness (or many others things). Family often think members are making it up, or get frustrated when sufferers keep not showing up to things. They get blamed for being unreliable and/ or lazy.

It seems like there are lots of different drugs people are trying.

Thankfully SOeun's symptoms are much less debilitating in Cambodia, so he can do many things here and live almost normally. It s hard when he is a bit sick though, it becomes a bigger problems than pre march 2011. Life is still frustrating but not as bad as when in Aus.

Just a short plane ride away is Bangkok, full of doctors and hospitals. Maybe we should start seeing a doctor there to help with management or maybe that would be a waste of time and money? Its hard to know.