Weekend at New Paltz, NY, and Mohonk Mountain House

New Paltz, NY, is a picturesque village in Ulster County (Hudson Valley region), just under an hour's drive from NYC. We spent the weekend at a farmhouse before moving on to the hotel where I was attending a work meeting for three days. This is the second year I attended a meeting held at Mohonk Mountain House, in the Mohonk Preserve that's set in the Shawangunk Mountains. It's the dead of winter, with very few activities and most of the trails closed due to ice. But it's such an isolated, idyllic environment that the winter solace makes it so peaceful, notwithstanding the creepy "institution" vibe the setting gives!   On the weekend before we went to Mohonk, we stayed nearby in … [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...]

Project: Educate a girl and you educate a family

My old Khmer language tutor, Mdm Soun Neang, has a generous heart. In her youth during Cambodia's darkest years under the Khmer Rouge regime, she taught languages secretly to children, at great personal risk. Today, she supports girls in her hometown in rural Kampong Thom go to school, where the opportunity costs of educating a girl is too high for poor families (who send their sons instead). This is despite significant evidence that educating a girl has a powerful impact on the future of her family. … [Read more...]

Where apsaras dance .. updated

The origins and symbolism of Khmer weddings, according to the Khmer Institute: Khmer weddings enact Cambodia's greatest legend. The first Khmer prince, Preah Thong, fell in love with the Naga Princess, Neang Neak, while exiled from his homeland. As a marriage gift to the couple, the father of the Naga Princess swallowed part of the ocean, and out of this was formed the land of Cambodia. … [Read more...]

Desperately seeking peace and quiet in Kampot

It was a long-overdue trip to escape the ambient noise of Phnom Penh rapidly industrializing. Check out this house! Our friends moved back to Kampot from the US and built this house. It's a modernized version of the traditional house, complete with the stilts and architectural elements that make this country so unique (even to the very closely related Thai constructions). … [Read more...]

Sunset on the Mekong

Lazy days are ahead.. Floating down the river in a converted old rice boat at sunset is one of the best things about these Mekong capitals. … [Read more...]

Tagalog book: Bahay Kubo (Nipa Hut)

This folk song is a catchy tune (in tagalog), and my son picked up the lyrics in a very short time. He was 2 years old then and spoke no Tagalog. It's a good introduction to the language and culture of the Philippines. Anak Books has a great description of the book, so I copy it below in its entirety from their website. Please visit them because it also features a lot of great books in both Tagalog and bilingual Tagalog/English. The classic Tagalog folktale 'Bahay Kubo' is lovingly told and beautifully illustrated through classic Filipino vignettes. This book includes lyrics and score. "Bahay Kubo" is perhaps the best-known and best-loved folk song in the Philipines. Its composer is unknown. Its Tagalog lyrics have been passed down … [Read more...]

Phnom Penh for kids and families

It seems like most cultures outside the West are kid-friendly. It's easy to go out or travel with kids in Asia. You won't be met with glares and attitude as soon as you enter an establishment with a toddler in tow, or signs banning kids from restaurants. When ours were babies, restaurant staff would even take and entertain them so we can enjoy our meal together, then give the baby back with the bill! Same with getting a massage, manicure or pedicure. So on top of other things that make Cambodia attractive for an expatriate post, in the past eight years the options for families with young kids have improved significantly. My favorite things to do where I can take the kids with me: For a great manicure/pedicure with a glass of wine, … [Read more...]