At preschool age, how do you explain when crime touches close to home?

Welcome to the May 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Ages and Stages This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about their children’s most rewarding and most challenging developmental periods. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. *** Recently a child who attended our son's playgroup was the victim of a terrible crime. It shook the expatriate community for its brutality. Cambodia’s charms draw us all in, and we foreigners choose to be hopeful about the inherent good in people. We forget that it remains a country where impunity reigns, violence lurks beneath the … [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...]

stocked fish ponds for a day’s getaway

More photos of Soun Soben at Keith Kelly's Flickr After a simmering hot week cranking out some CFCs in the office, it’s time to shift that carbon footprint to another activity. Why not take the family out of the city for a picnic and some fishing? About 20 minutes outside Phnom Penh (along National Road #1 in Kien Svay district, Kandal) is a stretch of fully stocked ponds, with huts situated along the banks for “picnicking” while you fish. Soun Soben Fishing Lakes is one of these, and it is a popular getaway for Khmers and their families. This 70 hectar property boasts three stocked ponds with 90 fishing huts, several picnic huts and a restaurant. Roaming the grounds freely are peacocks, sambars (a well-fed Sambor deer looking for … [Read more...]

food as a cultural experience for preschoolers

Welcome to the April 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Pastimes This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about family pastimes. Our preschooler tried a bite of vindaloo. He’s trying to like it, but his face blanched and he tried to wipe the heat off his tongue with a napkin. I slid a glass of mango lassi his way. Eating out remains a treat we indulge in, and we regularly bring the kids. It entails lots of advance notice and build-up (reward system). Our older one loves the novelty of a restaurant meal so we use that. Our agreement? He can join us on these special nights out if he will … [Read more...]

Street stall dining in Battambang

Battambang is a culinary destination. There are varieties of fruits and vegetables native to this region that don't grow as well anywhere else. And the local preparation of many condiments and foods have a distinct character to them. Every night on the riverside, food vendors set up shop. On the far end of (further from the market than the tokalok, or fruit shake, stalls) is a routine stop whenever my colleagues and I are in town. I think two or three vendors cook the same thing but my colleagues prefer the family at the end; the woman in the picture below is the main cook and everyone else helps with other parts of the operation.  Grilled in banana leaves and eaten with rice, sangvaec* is a processed fish product made over the course of … [Read more...]

Silent courage of mothers in rural Cambodia

Welcome to the March 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Everyday Superheroes This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about the remarkable people and characteristics that have touched their lives. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants... Nothing against workdays at the office. There’s something to be said for air-conditioned comfort when the blistering sun and uneven roads await activities that donors have pledged tax dollars for. Besides, all the preparatory, follow-up and administrative work is necessary. But fieldwork is where the action is - where meaningful … [Read more...]

Persistent myths about foreign aid

No, we do not spend 28% of the budget on aid. The actual figure is less than 0.7% (eg less than 1%). There's no shortage of polls that demonstrate just how uninformed people are on a range of everyday topics. I certainly might bump the stats against Americans myself if interviewed. But a curious myth that just won't die is how much of the budget Americans think goes to foreign aid. With so many clarifications across news and edutainment sources, why do people hold on to the belief that foreign aid is bankrupting the country?? No, foreign aid is not all about altruism. There must be hundreds of (google-able) essays on the objectives of foreign aid, and it isn't about helping the poor. Perhaps people on the ground, like me for … [Read more...]

Dessert ingredient: Taro

We mark our 10th anniversary this year (wow). It was a small wedding; we chartered a yacht and a live jazz trio for a brunch cruise around New York Harbor with just our closest friends and family. Great memory. Our wedding cake (first photo above) got rave reviews. And now I want to recreate it, but I'll have to experiment a bit because I lost our records. I wasn't a cake fan. We considered doing without one but we found a pastry chef who, back then, was still practicing and perfecting her craft, so she was open to ideas. The typical western cake flavors weren't very inspiring. I wanted tropical mixes - using real fruits and roots, not powdered versions or syrup flavoring or extracts. She was quite accommodating, and agreed to experiment … [Read more...]