Monday, December 31, 2007

Did you know...?

“If Cambodian cuisine could speak, it would be a polyglot hybrid of Vietnamese, Chinese, and Thai, with a smattering of French and a heavy Indian accent.”

(Paul Brisby, SE Globe, Dec 2007)

There are at least 10 words for ‘carry’ in Khmer language. Each word is for a different way of carrying. For example, one word is used when you carry something on your shoulder, another for when you carry something on your hip. There is a word for when you carry things that are hanging from a long stick that is resting on your shoulders, and another one for when more than one person carries something.

Only about half the primary schools in Cambodia have toilets. As well as all the other reasons I think this would contribute to less girls finishing school.

(Phnom Penh Post Dec 14, 2007)
The annual roll toll in Cambodia is going up…
“RTAVIS reported 2,140 casualties in October alone, of which 136 were fatalities. Another 616 were severely injured compared to September, during which 121 died and 537 were seriously injured out of a total reported 1,818 casualties.”

(RTAVIS=Handicap International Belgium’s Road Traffic Accident and Victim Information System)
(The Cambodian Weekly, Dec 23 2007)

Christmas goes for 2 months in Cambodia! As Dec 25 isn’t a public holiday each church will decide which Sunday to hold their Christmas service. It could be anywhere from late November to early January. And as some services are in the morning and some in the afternoons a person who wants to visit different churches can go to many services. One year KS went to 4 churches in the same day and ended up sleeping the night at the last one.
“72% of the 1,016 Cambodians interviewed said they paid a bribe to receive a service in the previous 12 months, according to Transparency International’s 2007 Global Corruption Barometer released December 6. Only Cameroon … had a higher corruption score.”

(PPPost Dec 14, 2007)
“Inflation rises to 6.5% in Sept”
“While the complaints about gas prices soaring to 4,450 riels per litre continue, another crescendo of worries is coming from consumers about the hikes in the cost of food and other commodities.”
A food seller was interviewed and said she had to put the cost of her meals up as inflation was eroding all her profit.
(PP Post, Dec 13, 2007)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Language Progress!

Mostly, my days are filled with trying to learn more Khmer. This means I’m mostly struggling with unknown words and sounds. I’m often in environments where I’m straining to understand even just a little of what is being said.

Recently though, I had some experiences which made me step back and see the progress I’ve made this year. Let me share them with you.

One Saturday morning, around 7am I was walking along a road carrying a silver plate of grapes. As a wedding guest I was part of the fruit procession, there were two long lines of us walking towards the function hall where the wedding was being held. It was all very festive and colourful, accompanied by music and clicking cameras.

Walking in the opposite direction was another fruit procession. I looked over at them and realised I recognised many of the faces. They were from the church I went to last year; I hadn’t seen most of them all year. Afterwards I caught up with a few groups of them. “Che khmai chrarnna!” (Lit: know Khmer language a lot). They were all surprised at how much Khmer I know now. It felt much easier to communicate with them than last year.

A recent Sunday morning at Khmer church we sang a song. It was one I had tried to learn at the start of the year. I remember painstakingly trying to read each word with my tutor. They were all so hard to pronounce. All I could understand was “God” and “I”.

But at this end of the year the song is not so much of a mystery. I found, while I still didn’t understand every word, I could sing along.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


KS often eats snails as a snack, pulling them out of their shells one by one and dipping then in sauce. But one day we made a snail dish, so we had to pull them all out at once.........

After buying a few kilos of snails at the market, the first thing that needed doing was what you see in this photo. Using a knife the shell of the snail is smashed on one side to make a hole.
After that they were put in a pot with some water over the fire. Here you see just after they have come out of the boiling water. You can also see the water vat. Many people in Cambodia use these to store their water in. We don’t need them in the city, as we have running water.

Some of you guessed the photo in a previous post- you were right! It was of us de- shelling snails. We used some small sticks to pull the cooked snail out of the shell. The holes made in the shells earlier made it easier.

- The de shelled snails have a shower.
- And now for the seasoning! This is actually a dish we make at home sometimes. We usually use beef rather than snails, it’s called “Char Gdar”.

On the left there is a bowl of something yellow. It’s a mixture of roots and herbs crushed together using the mortor and pestle you see in the middle. The mixture includes a yellowy-orangey root, a white root that looks a bit like ginger and lemongrass.
Lime juice, lime leaves, garlic and chilli are also used for flavour, along with salt, sugar, pepper and in this case prahok. But if you don’t have prahok you can use fish sauce. The green leaves in the top right hand corner are from a plant called “mreh-bro”. If you buy it in a bottle in Cabramatta, Sydney the label says “Holy Basil”.

Peanuts are also used to flavour this dish. But first they need crushing. This type of flat woven basket is also used for sorting rice, drying fish and probably a million other things.

Time to cook! The yellow mixture and garlic goes in first.

I think the snails were added next and the other seasonings, and finally the holy basil. Almost ready to eat.

The finished product. Can you guess which dish is the snail char gdar? I love the smell and flavour of char gdar so I was looking forward to eating this dish. Although I must say I’d prefer beef to snail, but the dish as a whole is so “chngoi” (good smelling food) that I wasn’t too concerned about what meat was in there. However when I tried it it was too spicy for me! I forgot that when we make it at home I control the amount of chilli that goes in. So I filled up on the other dishes, I might tell you about them in another blog post in the future.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

These days...

The other weekend we went out of town with a group from college. I don't go out of the city much, and whenever I do I see lots of things I've never seen before. Can you guess what we’re doing in this photo?
To get to where we were going we had to cross the river on a ferry. The photo below I ook when we were on it. Our moto was right at the front, I felt like we were about to drive into the river!

Our church building has been flooded the last 5 Sundays, so we have been meeting peoples houses. Last week we had to walk along a rickety narrow bridge to get there- it was a bit scary!

I’m about half way through Level 3 Khmer language classes. I’m finding I have much more writing homework than before. I used to try to hang around outside in the late afternoon for speaking practice. At that time of day people on campus are playing sport, or sitting on the grass talking, so it’s a good time for chatting. But these days writing homework is taking up my time.

As I have already got to know people a bit, spending time speaking with them is a bit more natural now anyway.

Also, I just started going to an evangelistic Bible study. So far its been exciting for me because I’m starting to understand more words, and I’m enjoying trying to talk to people after the meeting.

At the end people share prayer requests. Its quite overwhelming, many people have sick family members, and/or are out of work

Thursday, November 08, 2007


“Phnom” means “hill”. Ironically Phnom Penh is quite flat.

There is one hill which now has a “wat” (temple) built on it. Wat Phnom as it is called was apparently built in 1373 when an old lady called Penh found some Buddha statues near the river. From there a city formed around Wat Phnom of Penh.

Today its used as a temple, and is also a popular place to visit for fun.

Last year, when I first got to Cambodia I found I really missed beign able to go for a walk. The weather, traffic and roads are really good for strolling around. I lived near Wat Phnom though, so it was a nice place to walk, lots of greeness and shade as you can see from the photos.

Although, there are lots of monkeys jumping around everywhere. On the ground, in the trees etc, so it doesn't make for a very restful stroll.

Most of these photos I took around the bottom of the huge round-about like thing. But you can also walk up the hill and see the temple at the top. But I was more interested in the greeness!

There are many people sellings all kinds of things.

At the front there is a huge clock in the grass. You can kind of see it in these photos.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Water, water, still everywhere!

I’m enjoying bike riding these days as the weather is nice and cool. It makes it so much easier! The down side to rainy season though, is that my feet get so muddy everyday. Here is some advice for riding a bike in rainy season:

1. If the road is covered in water ride slowly – there might be unseen potholes lurking in the murkiness.

2.If the people on the moto next to you drive into a pothole and fall off, don’t try to watch them, keep looking out for your own potholes.

3. Don’t wear backless shoes. If you come off your bike and you end up in the water they might float away under a moving car.

4. Don’t assume that the road won’t get potholes when it rains even if it was just paved last year.

5.If you find it too stressful riding in busy traffic, in muddy water worrying about the potholes that you can’t see, anticipating that at any moment your front wheel might take a sharp downward movement, try walking your bike instead. You’ll end up with wet jeans up to your knees, but less heart palpitations.

6. Wash your feet/shoes/jeans well when you get home. You don’t know what’s in that water.

7. Avoid cows (they don’t know the traffic laws).

I read that a cow was taken into police custody recently. They said it had caused 2 fatal traffic accidents this year. Altogether 4 people died and 3 were injured. (From “South Eastern Globe”, Nov 2007 quoting “The Cambodian Daily” October 12th)

Friday, October 19, 2007

After some rain

We are lucky- our house doesn't flood. For others Wednesday morning meant they could go for a swim in the comfort of their home.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

October newsletter photo

Feeding the Dead


When I’m in the traffic these days I see so many people dressed up in nice clothes carrying cylindrical containers. The women are all wearing lacy white tops and colourful silk skirts like they wear to weddings. What is happening?


In Cambodia right now, people are having a major religious festival, called Pjum Ben, when people go to Wat (Buddhist temple) to offer food for their dead ancestors, whom they believe to become hungry souls (called Pret), kept and tortured in hell, and allowed to come to earth only 15 days a year, that is, these last 2 weeks.

The hungry souls will go around to 7 Wats to eat food offered by their living relatives. If they find food they will bless their family, if not they will curse. This is very important festival. People are making sure that they take food to a Wat at least once.

Please pray for Cambodian Christians that we would stand firm and remain faithful to God, and not being tempted to do otherwise.

Pray for those who are being forced to offer food to Wat or insulted by their family or relatives, that they too will have wisdom to do what is right before God.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Man creating gods

Thanks to those of you who tried to guess the photo a few posts ago. Here are some of the answers:
A Cambodian coffee cart.

I guess the picture is a filter trap for a prawn farm, surrounded by slabs of rock to hold the filter mesh, and with a wacker-packer used for smoothing the hole lying on its side in the middle.

hmm tricky....

there is a steel bar in the background along with some green safety netting. On the right looks like it might be a big power tool. In the foreground are two big lumps of concrete, although the one on the left looks roughly chiseled, so maybe its rock. Perhaps the big powertool is for cutting the rock.

I guess that only leaves one conclusion.... Katherine's making pancakes again!!

No wait... it a building site! :-P

And here is the picture in full, along with some others- I'll let them explain the real answer!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Beginning and Endings

This month the “ summer holidays” end and new school year starts for college, under this heading there are lots of endings and beginnings. Some notable ones for us are:

A 3rd year student has been my language tutor this year. She stayed on campus over summer so we have spent lots of time together. This month she has moved out to start work. Her job is with kids who have been rescued (from being trafficked). She was very sad to leave campus after living here for 3 years!

A girl from Denmark has just arrived and will be teaching English at college. We met up so I could tell her about the course and college. She seemed quite comfortable and happy here already!

And of course the campus will fill up with students again and KS will start teaching “Jeremiah” and “How to Study the Bible”

Another ending for me this month is finishing Level 2 of language (July-Sept). We have a two weeks off, I’m planning to spend more time doing listening and speaking. During term time I spend a lot of time writing and reading just to keep up in class, so I think I’m in need of some conversation practise. (Ask me how it’s going.)

Unrelated to academic things, but still keeping with the theme of endings and beginnings is that I have started going to a different church.

KS is committed to helping his church. He preaches at least once a month, involved with music and youth as well as working with the elders to build up leadership of members (there is no pastor).

I’ve found the moto ride there each week very un-fun, and so it’s been hard to get to know people. Its hard enough to try to speak Khmer, but adding in a sore back and general traffic exhaustion makes its even harder. Along with the fact we only see the people once a week (no one lives near us) means I’m always feeling like I want to be more involved.

So I have started going to a church that is close enough to ride my bike to, and I already know many of the people there. I would prefer if KS and I could be part of the same church, but after 7 months of trying, it wasn’t working. I hope I can get involved in my new church.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What is this?????????

What is in the photo????
You tell us! Please send an email with your answer (or you could leave a comment on the blog but then everyone can read it- so only do that it you think you’re wrong). Winners might get a postcard from Cambodia. Answer/s will be revealed in the future. Feel free to share with you Bible study group etc.

Cow goes up the hill

Here is a picture of a meal we had at our house with KS’s small group. It’s similar to Chinese meals – Hot Pot/Steam Boat. All the food comes to the table raw (or in this case the floor) and you cook as you go in pot in the middle. Instead of a pot of boiling soup this is a small coal stove that is shaped like a hill. And most of the meat we cooked on it was beef- hence the name!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

International Visit # 2 and traffic photo

An Aussie family we know who financially support the work of the college recently came to visit Cambodia. It was great to introduce them to the student they support, show them around and have some meals together. We were excited that as well as sending money to support work in Cambodia they could come and see and experience a bit.

It was also fun for me because we got to ride in tuk tuks (rather than moto taxi or bike) and we got to feed them fun/interesting Cambodian fruit.