Thursday, May 27, 2010

I've never been to the USA part 2

“Do you have any tomato sauce?” was the beginning of another confusing conversation.

My friend had moved into the same building as me. As she hadn’t unpacked and been shopping yet she and her husband had bought meat pies for lunch.

“What kind of tomato sauce?” I was puzzled

“The normal kind,” she answered, probably also puzzled as to why I was puzzled.

But there are so many different ways to make tomato sauce, it depends what kind of herbs you use etc etc…. did she want me to go and buy some tomatoes and make her a sauce?

After awhile I realized she was asking for what an Aussie would always ask for when they have a meat pie. It’s just that I forgot we call it tomato sauce, if she’d said ketchup I would have known straight away.

“Like other aspects of language and culture, you can learn a certain amount about the rules for conversational interaction by careful observation. However, again as with other aspects of language and culture, you will acquire a large amount subconsciously through massive exposure to people who are conducting conversational interactions.”
Greg Thompson
Language Learning in the real world for non-beginners 1993, Section 6 page 34

Monday, May 24, 2010

I've never been to the USA part 1

There were many surprises when I moved from China back to Australia. As I started interacting with Australians again I realized I’d taken on some foreign habits without being aware.

“You’ve been to America,” my uncle exclaimed while we were eating a roast dinner.
I have never been to America and I had no idea why he suddenly made that comment during dinner, seemingly out of nowhere.

He explained that I was using my knife and fork like an American, rather than eating the Australian way. I hadn’t even known that there was an Australian vs American way. (He lived in America for a year.)

I guess I developed this habit while I was in China. There was a small group of expats in my town, mostly American. On Tuesday night I would usually eat at one of their places.

“American way” cut food up with knife in left hand and fork in right. When finished cutting up put the knife down and hold fork in right hand, use it to get the food to your mouth. Australian way – cut and eat as you go, keeping knife and fork in their original hands.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Red Cambodian

Last Sunday Kimsoeun came home red! He was at the beach helping with a baptism and got sunburnt. He spent a year in the sun on a fishing boat in the Gulf of Thai and never got sunburnt, but now just one day in the sun results in a peeling nose the next day.

Over the last 3 months Soeun has spent many weekends out of Phnom Penh; helping with student's church's events such as a funeral, a wedding, a baptism, an evangelistic event, a church conflict and also just spending more time with these churches getting to know them. I've tagged along on some of the trips, we've both learnt a lot and its been very interesting. But its a relief that this busy traveling period seems to be over for now.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What does MSG taste like in English?

Salt tastes salty.
Sugar tastes sweet.
Chili tastes hot/spicy.
MSG tastes.........?

English students asked me this question when we were making papaya salad. In Khmer there is a word for the taste of MSG, but I told them I didn't know a word in English, maybe we don't have one. They found it strange I didn't know the word. To help me remember it they got me to eat MSG straight out of the packet. Perhaps if I tasted it the word would come to me. No word came! They still kept asking me though.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

EPIC arts cafe brunch

Brunch at

As well as cafe food they also sell Kampot pepper, cards made by disabled people, Epic arts t-shirts and more. We bought a book about Cambodian sign language.

who is epic arts?
Epic Arts is an arts charity established in 2001. We organise and run visual art, drama, dance and music projects for people with disabilities in the UK, Cambodia and other international locations. Our projects celebrate the creative potential of those with whom we work, by offering new skills and giving each participant an outlet for their creative expression. Epic Arts works with the philosophy that Every Person Counts (EPiC).

Around Kampot

Kampot is known for its old french buildings, you can see some here. YOu might also notice that the streets are line with Cambodian flags to celebrate the king's birthday public holiday.

Fishing boats on their way out for the night.

Relaxing in Kampot

As I may have mentioned this hot season is extra hot and extra long. So we have been feeling tired and stressed etc. In an attempt to feel better we spent 2 nights in Kampot town.

I wouldn't recommend the guest house we stayed at, but we had a nice day on Friday. We went out for brunch, then later on linner. In between we sat out on the balcony and enjoyed the view. Living in Phnom Penh we don't see hills and trees much so it was nice.

Our view and food for linner at


I heard about Kampot being famous for producing pepper, but it wasn't until we visited I learnt it is also known for the big spiky fruit which stinks.

We drove some students to their houses in Kampot, dropped them off on the way to Kampot town. I heard the students ask Soeun if he would eat durian while he enjoyed a long weekend away in Kampot. They seemed to feel sorry for him when he said that he wouldn't be eating any as his wife doesn't like it. Poor Teacher Soeun!

Home via Kep

On the way home from Kampot

On the way home we suddenly started hearing a funny noise. We pulled over and found out why. See photo.

Neither of us has ever changed a tyre, but Soeun managed to take off this one and put on the spare one in the boot. We went back to the nearest town and got a new tyre after that.

While we waited for them to work out the old one couldn't be fixed, and to put the new one on I amused myself by watching the traffic. It was really hot and dusty, but it was interesting to see a two men and a bike riding a bike, and to count how many people on each moto.
Or try to guess how many people in and on each van, and marvel at the amazingly big loads hanging off the back. See photo!

As it was the kings birthday Cambodian flags lined the streets as you might be able to see here. A common sight is that huge sign with the Prime Minister and two other important people, can you see it?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Too messy to worship

The other night we were talking idols and images of gods. I brought up the "classic Jesus" picture as an example of a picture of the God of Western Christianity. You know the guy with the long hair and dress?

Kimsoeun said from his non- Western point of view it seemed funny that people would have someone so messy looking for their god. He doesn't even shave his beard.

He contrasted the Jesus images to a picture of some kind of divine man in Buddhism. This man is worthy of worship- he is clean, spotless, blemish free.

Although interestingly Soeun first started going to church after seeing the Jesus movie.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010



That was the first thing one of the students said to me when they got to school the other morning, I didn't even get a "hello, how are you?".

The day before a group of us had been making and eating papaya salad in English Fellowship group (we had been learning food words, and cooking together was a chance to put it into practice).

This particular student ate heaps of salad, and they told me that this always causes them to get diarrhea. I was laughing as they said this. Why were they eating so much if they knew they were going to get sick?

Making papaya salad in class is one of the few high points of the last little while. Mostly I have been feeling really hot and tired. This hot season is unusually hot and unusually long.

It has been hard to go to bed at night knowing it will probably be a sleepless one.
It has been hard to get up in the morning, yet another sleepy hot day.

Last night we slept on the living room floor, night before with wet sheets around us. Lots of power cuts- which means the fan doesn't work!

Usually the heat starts in late March and I think its usually cooler by now. This year it started to get hot in late Feb.

Katherine wants to know if others in Cambodia think this hot season has been longer and hotter than usual, cos i reckon it has, and i've talked to others who say the same but not sure if we say that every year when we are hot and grumpy and then forget what it was like? it started in late feb, instead of march this year, and at school they can now use a/c in AM, used to only use in in PM

Some replies to that were:

YES YES YES YES ... here in Siem Reap it has not gone below 33 on my digital thermometer ... and that's even at 1am ... I can't ever remember it being this hot for this long ...

38 in our lounge and really bad electrical surges mean the air con's not working properly. Both the girls have woken up during this evening drenched with sweat and crying cos they're too hot.

Woke up 6 or 7 times the night before last drenched in sweat and ended up keeping the fan on for the rest of the night, which I've rarely done in the past. Had to tecah Sunday School yesterday with sweat dripping off my nose and down my legs and that's when we put the fans on, which we never need to do normally.

8.17 pm, its 34.8 celcius in my livingroom right now. Hot hot hot

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Some more photos of the long colourful day.

At 7am I was sweating already,and it turned out to be such a long hot day. This is me in the fruit procession, that's the first big thing that happens. My mother in law gave me the fabric for that top, its the sort of thing that people wear to weddings here.

I think Khmer wedding cakes are more for looking at than eating! Note the cans of silly string all lined up ready for use. I've been told cake cutting in a fairly new thing in Khmer weddings.

Guess what we did on the weekend?

Huge temporary outdoor kitchen...

As well as coconuts, can you see what else is in the tree?

...huge speakers and colourful tent set up near the house...

Kimsoeun borrowed a friend's camera so he could take photos at this wedding in Kandal province. We stayed over on Friday night so we could be there at 6.30am for the start. We got back to Phnom Penh around 10pm- it was a very long day!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Introducing Surprise!

I'm beginning an occasional series on this blog called "Surprise!". Actually the first one is back here:

(links aren't working today??? anyone know how to fix this?)

How Rude! is about the time I offended my mother in law by saying "Come to our room". I had no idea that she thought that was rude.