#KidLit for encouraging girls’ education

The challenge of educating girls (worldwide) is a complex topic, involving the myriad responsibilities placed on them by their households and communities. High opportunity costs make this a volatile issue for many poor rural families. With firsthand exposure to this important issue, it's not a new conversation to our kids. This book makes it approachable. It's a particularly common problem in Cambodia. It's capital, Phnom Penh, adapted quickly to the fast-paced world around it soon after emerging from decades of conflict. But progress is slow to reach those less affluent and villages outside of the capital city and tourist towns like Siem Reap with Angkor Wat and Sihanoukville with its beaches. The gap between the educated and … [Read more...]

Easy indoor vermicomposting in NYC

My family and I just moved to NYC, and don't have the outdoor space we had while living in Asia. So at first we just took food scraps to drop off when we shopped at the Greenmarket - New York City's farmers' market network - which is where we met Pamela, our market compost coordinator. … [Read more...]

to homeschool or not in nyc?

Catching up on some long-overdue reading about homeschooling. Had no idea how big a movement it is, but I'm not surprised. From The Profound Ways that Schooling Harms Society, perfectly capturing why more parents are taking this route: ...interesting not only to look at what your children are required to learn in school, but at what they are not required to learn.  While your kids are very busy toiling over algebra and chemistry, international trade agreements are being forged and currencies are being manipulated by entities that most Americans don’t even know the names of, much less the inner workings of.  Kids are compelled to solve quadratic equations and write essays on Shakespeare, and they graduate without understanding how to … [Read more...]

Reading: Beliefs about the Mrenh Gongveal: Chasing the Elves of the Khmer

I've just had a chance to flip through this book. It's a photo essay on the Khmer tradition of providing a home to beings (elves) believed to provide them protection, guidance and advice. Look around Phnom Penh and it is such a common sight on the streets outside of residences, that it barely registers in your peripheral vision. … [Read more...]

Travel: Hauling a 2- and 4-year old through 6 countries in 8 weeks

As we were leaving the region to move back home, I did a consultancy that took me to several capital cities to review national health programs. It was a great opportunity for all of us to say goodbye to friends, colleagues and places we've frequented over the past decade. So we packed up the house and shipped, sold or gave away our belongings, and took the kids on a two month journey through Southeast Asia. … [Read more...]

Getting a dog on a flight out of Cambodia

Want to take your pet out of Cambodia with you? Airline rules are changing in Phnom Penh. Small pets (<5kg) can still be stowed in the cabin with you. Pets over 5kg must go in the cargo, but several carriers have recently announced that aircraft flying out of Phnom Penh are too small for them to safely transport live animals in the cargo. The expat community was incredibly helpful when I posted a query on several forums for any experience in getting pets out of Phnom Penh, and compiled here the options (as of 2015): . I. Go overland Phnom Penh to Bangkok. Bus companies like Virak-Buntham does trips Phnom Penh-to-Bangkok via Koh Kong, without making passengers transfer to another bus at the Thai side of the border. … [Read more...]

Khmer cuisine: Koh saek chrook k’nao (Pork stew with jackfruit)

Koh saek chrook is usually a plain beef stew (of garlic, onions, soy sauce, fish sauce and small amounts of tubers) when our nanny Sopheap makes it for us. This variation below is with jackfruit, which lends a sweetness so that there's no need to add sugar. (With growing affluence and its associated sweet tooth, sugar is increasingly added to Khmer dishes like this one.) Tender shreds of meat are what's left after the yellow fruit is taken out and the tougher rind and tendrils discarded. The seeds of jackfruit are edible when boiled. It has a hard shell that's easily cracked and removed. They can be tossed into the dish as well. Sopheap leaves this shell on, but if I were to cook it myself I'd take them off. First, garlic is … [Read more...]

Phở shops in Khan Chamkarmon district

Phở is the most famous of Vietnam's culinary repertoire. A lot of what goes in it depends on whether the cook is Hanoian or Saigonese, with the latter dominating in this area of Phnom Penh. Its base is a murky broth of beef and chicken bones, boilded with some dried squid, garlic, shallots and other things. Thin slivers of raw beef are added to the bowl of noodle while the broth is still piping hot, and the phở is accompanied by a plate of vegetables and herbs: bean sprouts, onions, cuts of lime, rice paddy herb (ma-om), sweet basil (chee korhom), and saw leaf herb (chee bonla). It's served with hoisin, soy, chili sauces, which can be mixed into the broth or into a small condiment dish for dipping the meat into. Everyone has their … [Read more...]