Monday, 20 October 2014


Our neighbourhood had a paved area, in the late afternoon many kids come out to play. We often share balls and trikes. Today there were some people playing a game where you had to jump over an elastic. There are a few hundred houses who share this space so we haven't gotten to know everyone, there are often people we play with who we haven't seen before. But there are also some families who we see many times each week, including a family opposite us who have a 3 yo and a girl the same age as our toddler.

It s so nice to have this space, in Phnom Penh its hard to find a place to hang out out side as most of the surfaces are covered in either buildings, ppl selling things or rubbish. Also its mostly too hot. Our neighbours mostly bring their kids out around 5-6pm. Most of the day this area is deserted but around that time its a colourful chaos of prams, roller blades, scooters, balls, pet dogs and even a monkey!

There are also a group of older women who do laps, walking around the outside doing exercise. I only recently realised our toddler put his hands together in a formal Khmer greeting (prayer hands) when he sees the "grandmas". They have been greeting him almost his whole life, and they all know his name.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

oops i guess we had a communication breakdown

When I invite other English speaking expats and their kids over to play in our wading pool, I know how to say it, they know what I mean. Recently I tried to invite some neighbours over, I thought they got what I meant, and the kids and been over to swim before so I didn't think it would be that complicated. But when they turned up, they didn't get in the pool with our toddler. I found out later they had just had a bath and were not allowed to get wet! Last time they swam at our place it was a holiday, and it was with their mum, but this time their mum was at work.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

I used to laugh...

Yesterday I got a lift home from playgroup in a friends car. She is also white, and also has a toddler. We both sat in the front with our toddlers on our laps. ( It was a really short distance.) I'm used to seeing Khmer families with lots of kids in the front, including on the drivers lap, I found it amusing that there were 2 of us , both white, doing it.

When I first came to Cambodia I was told that people don't go out to things if its raining. I thought that was kind of funny. I still turned up to teach my English class when it rained, but found no students there!

And the other week it rained in the morning. It was a Sunday, the time we were normally getting ready to go to church. We decided not to go as it was raining. When you are on a moto or even a tuk tuk a lightening storm with strong wind is scary! Also the roads around church flood, and its just so much work to drive through them, esp as you can't see the potholes under the water. I've come off my bike 2 times while riding over flooded pothole streets so I'm afraid of them now.

Some people in this part of the world stick a white menthol patch to their head when they have a headache. Looks really weird and funny to me. Last week I had a headache and neck ache. I got Soeun to stick some band aid looking things on my neck, it make it feel nice! Was able to get to sleep.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Sometimes the question doesn't mean the same thing to the askee/questioned as it does to the asker/questioner.

"What's your mum and dad doing for Pchum Ben?" I almost laughed when I heard my mother in law asked this.

In Cambodia its one of the major holidays, the religious stuff goes for about 2 weeks and the last 3 days are public holidays, many people travel to see relatives. So around this time everyone in Cambodia asks each other what they are doing for the holiday. Its totally relevant to ask within Cambodia but totally irrelevant to ask of people who live in Australia and are not Cambodia.

It reminded me of 2 other questions:

What are you doing for Christmas? (when I'm asked by a fellow Aussie, or other white person)
What are you doing for the summer? (when I'm asked by a fellow expat white person , usually from North American)

Friday, 26 September 2014

yays and yucks of my week as an aussie expat

*I saw some Australian friends!

*I found out Canadians say the final letter of the alphabet "correctly"

* Knowing that today my government is planning on signing the refugee deal with Cambodia, happening now

* Knowing the budget cuts kick in and this is the last week of the Aussie channel, hardly compares to the yuckiness of the refugee deal, or the other budget cuts but it has been nice to watch Aussie TV, the baby watches Playschool and Giggle and Hoot, I watch Sunday night dramas and the news. If I want to hear and Aussie accent from nextweek I'll have to turn on the radio or internet.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Discovery- 3 things I only just found I can get at the local market

I usually get some food etc at the local market and some at the supermarket. For example most of our meat, veg, fruit etc we can get at the market but if I want to buy foreign things like oats or wholegrain pasta I need to go to a shop.

I recently saw this cinnamon packet in a shop and asked Soeun about the khmer name for cinnamon. I hadn't heard of it used in Khmer cooking so I was surprised to see this was made in Cambodia. Soeun said when he was little he heard people talking about "sweet wood" used in medicine. THen i remebered when i was in CHina i used to buy cinnamon from the chemist.

For some reason I alwyas thought I had to buy cooking foil at the market, I guess I haven't seen khmer use it much, but recently I got some at the market after ages trying to explain what it was- like paper but made of metal.. "oh you want to cook fish"" no i ddon't want to cook fish but i said yes anyway and the seller handed me the foil!

And the other thing is cheese cloth, well thats what I call it. PPl use it cover dishes and food, and wipe dishes and maybe strain food too.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

hey, don't push in! and why are you standing so close to me?

Choosing foreign food from the shelves as I walked up and down the straight aisles. The smooth floor, air con, fixed prices, food in packets, the lack of chaos and heat and noise lulled me into a false sense of security. I was surprised to find myself getting annoyed when I went to pay.

The process of choosing what I want to buy had been so much like it would be in Aust and in the big supermarkets like Thai Hout and Lucky, I had unconsciously expected that when I went to pay I would be part of a line of people. However it turned out to be claustrophobic huddle like at the market.

I don't think it bothers me at the market, I know its going to be like that, having that expectation  is the difference between just going with the flow or getting irritable.

Sunday, 22 June 2014


Recently spent a few days visiting and learning about another town in Cambodia. This involved:

- eating a hamburger with a Khmer couple,
-some Cambodian curry with a Dutch/Aussie  family,
-cottage pie with a UK/Aussie (Chinese Malaysian) family
-as well as lots of coffee and bread with the Danish couple we stayed with. That was great for me but poor Soeun was starving so they brought in some white rice for him (they don't have any in their house).

Also had a visit from some of the extended family. As an Aussie I find the relationship titles on the Khmer side so amusing. For example with met a 3 year old boy who is our baby's "nephew" and our "grandchild".

Our baby enjoyed the company/ entertainment of the 4 half Aussie kids we spent time with, as well as his Cambodian nephew.

Our trip there was an adventure, one good thing was the TV was broken.

 When we got there we found that all the expats pretty much only go on the expensive safe bus which costs almost 3 times as much. I didn't realise there was such a difference, but we were happy to go back on a bus with brakes that worked, had 2 drivers on board, had leg room (no need to squash in sideways), suspension (bumps become kind of fun rather than painful), and it was really clean and they gave a water and a snack!! And the places they stopped had toilets with hand washing facilities and toilet paper which was a nice surprise, although the food was more expensive, some meals were $4.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

A funeral

We were having breakfast just over a week ago and Soeun told me that one of our neighbours had either just died or was about too. He knew because he could hear the monks beginning to chant. He didn't know who or why but the whole neighbourhood knows when there is a death.

I find it weird that even though we may not know the family we know straight away that this is happening. Whereas Soeun finds it weird that we know nothing else about people who live less than 100 metres from us.

Later that day a huge tent was set up in the street with tables, and another tent outside our house for the kitchen. The noise of music, monks and cooking continued for a few days, often starting around 4 or 5am.

Soeun heard that it was a grandma who had died, and he heard the announcment about when they were taking the body to the place where they burn them. It just sounded like noise to me, constant clanging and babbling. Soeun spent his pre-school years with his grandpa who was a religious leader, he often went to death beds to chant, and Soeun went with him.

It was a relief to me when I saw a vehicle like this the one in the photo coming down our street. It was to take the body away and the 2 tents packed up on the same day. No more noise!
Photo thanks
Well.... no more noise until they set it all up again for the 7 day ceremony. The kitchen was right under our window, so we had fishy smells in our room, as well as early more putting-up- and - taking- down tent noise.

Similar things happen for weddings and one year old parties around here.

Saturday, 7 June 2014


I breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday.

7 of the previous 11 days we had workmen in our house, plus Soeun had been sick. It meant that some days we had to stay home when we had planned to go out, and some days go out when we had planned to stay home.  Most of our regular weekly activities went out the window, along with some one-off special things we were looking forward.

Some days we had to stay home and let in the workmen, who sometimes turned up on the day they said they would. Some days we had to go out as there was no where safe for the baby to play or because we felt it was wise to go to the doctor, with Soeun's headache getting worse each day. And mostly we didn't know ahead of time- the workmen would come unexpectedly or not turn up when we thought they would, and with Soeun health we kept thinking he might be getting better so no need to go to the doctor.

They fixed heaps of stuff that we had been waiting for ages to fix eg plumbing issues we noticed 6 months ago that would have been there the whole time. We are the first people to live in the house, its new, so its not like these leaks happened with the wear and tear of time, the shower drains were just never hooked together and sealed, so the shower water was seeping into walls and ceilings. Fixing that only took a day, but then they had to deal with the 18 months of water damage that had caused - sanding and painting.

Also the upstairs electricity has always had issues. It keeps turning itself off , I think thats a safety feature. We have had people into look at it before but the issues are ongoing, and these guys also couldn't find anything wrong with it. But then, because they were here for so long they got to see what happens when its on (I think one of them got an electric shock).

They also fixed a leaky toilet, that only took a few minutes, but the leaky roof ended up taking a few days.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

"Why are you wearing socks?"
"Its hot"

Its been so hot and sticky lately, well I  guess it mostly is that way here. I pretty much wear the same all year round:  t-shirts and open shoes (usually thongs, or flip flops as most English speakers call them, or slippers if you are from Singapore etc). So different to when I was growing up, winter clothes, summer clothes etc.

unexpected eventful day

I thought I was going to be home with just the baby today. Saturdays and Thursdays are days of the week I can be home all day and no else comes over. On Saturdays Soeun is often out all day until after dark. But today.....

...his headache got heaps stronger, he's had it since Thursday. And last night he had some funny episode where he suddenly felt really weird, a bit like after he got bitten by a scorpion. So this morning when his pain was increasing, it scared us and reminded us of the 2 years we were in Aust recently. We actually talked about going to see the doctor, and Soeun is really sick of going to hospitals, so must be pretty serious  He had been taking parra, but then this morning I went and got something stronger and that seemed to help for today. Still pain, but not so intense.

So because of that we asked 2 younger sisters/aunties to come over to help out. They had breakfast at our place, they arrived while I was out going from chemist to chemist looking for painkillers.

And then 3 tradesman turned up. They came last Saturday, and then for 10 hours last Sunday and a few hours on Monday. I had thought it was all done so we were surprised to see them. I thought they were just checking their work. But they ended up staying all day, needed to do more stuff on the roof and also sanding and painting inside. So it was noisy and dusty! (still need to come back again)

Quite a contrast to how I thought the day would go.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Endless summer.....

So it feels a bit like its almost summer now (May) as the Americans around me, (esp ones with school kids, or who work at schools ) are getting ready for the long school holidays ("The Summer" as they seem to call it), many of them going  to visit  Nth America for June/July where it is actually summer.

And the last few months (March- April) are the hottest in Cambodia, and where I come from we call the hottest time of year summer.

And before that was Feb, and I went to visit my parents and siblings, which is something I would usually only ever do in summer.

And before that was Dec/Jan when it is summer in Aust, and while not very hot here, still warm. Also, that's when Christmas is so that made it feel summery.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Which goes with which?

1. gecko poo, cockroach, pumpkin

2. alcohol, building materials, hygiene products

3. Khmer, Nth American, Korean

4. roof, plumbing, electricity

a) common things advertised on TV
b) things that need to be fixed in our house
c) things the baby has eaten recently
d) people we see in a normal month

Friday, 25 April 2014

Triple surprise!

This afternoon our friends (an expat mum and baby) from down the road walked through our gate, when Baby saw them he made a noise and face like he was happily surprised. He seemed like he recognised them! The other baby did similar.
I was so surprised, I have never seen/heard him do that before, and I didn't know he would recognise them.
Just then Soeun noticed some orange flowers near our gate. He was surprised to see the blooms as there was no soil in the pot He had chucked a whole heap of bulbs in there ages ago after digging them up to use the soil for herbs.