Monday, March 03, 2008


As well as learning Khmer language at the moment I’m also a student of other things such as…. Here is a photo of a tuktuk. The most common form of public transport is the mototaxi, but a tuk tuk is also an option. More expensive but good if you have lots of people or shopping. Last year I joined the board of a Christian project that trains disadvantaged youth to be tuk tuk drivers. I previously knew nothing about boards or projects so I’m trying to learn quickly! It’s a whole new world with its own language and everything.
At the moment I’m learning to drive a car. It’s an interesting experience. During one of my lessons my teacher instructed me to do a U turn around a sign that looked like a no U turn sign to me! It will give you an idea about the rest of society to know that even driving teachers during driving lessons don’t obey the road rules (aka “road suggestions”).

Another interesting part of the process is trying to work out what I’m meant to pay for lessons/exams. As a Caucasian/white person it is usual to be charged more than Khmer people- “skin tax”. As well as this Cambodia is very corrupt. Sometimes I’m not sure how to tell the difference between a legitment fee and a bribe. For example the other day my teacher gave me an old traffic law exam paper so I could study the road rules. As he was giving it to me he said “2000 Reil” (about 50 U.S.cents). I didn’t have the money on me so I tried to explain that I would bring it later. I don’t think he understood me, and he eventually dropped the fee. So I think that one was an unofficial fee, but I didn’t realise it at the time. I think in the process of exams and applying for a licence there will be lots of things like that.

The teacher gives me driving instructions in English, but it took me awhile to get used to his voice. “I see red” is what it sounds like to me when he says, “accelerate”. I learnt the words for brake; accelerate etc in preparation for this. I tried to get him to use the Khmer rather than English but he didn’t understand me, so now I’m learning his English rather than Khmer. However, sometimes while we are driving along he’ll talk to me in Khmer about other things. Like once he was talking about the crocodile man who died the other year. Simple intructions are easier to understand than general conversation. I could get the gist of what he was talking about; at that point I wished he would give instructions in English. But now I’m used to his English.

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