SHIFT Happens

Variations of this has been making the email rounds and YouTube for two years now. It's an oldie but goodie, and still a relevant topic. Three short years in SE Asia has been eye-opening as far as the impact of technology on a society's development, including its effect on poverty. Worth a watch... … [Read more...]

View outside my office window: demolition

No need for big machinery eh. Here's a team of five Khmer (in flip-flops) pounding away at the building with just a sledgehammer each. It took them about two weeks to take this building down and haul away the debris. … [Read more...]

Olympics 2008

Such a spectacular display of the greatest advances across industries! And I'm glad to see the Bird's Nest architecturally reflect an Asian context. Photo courtesy of Official Beijing 2008 site Asian culture, its arts and legacy, is beautiful, that it's disappointing to see the westernisation of Asia-- particularly in Bangkok and other major cities. Phnom Penh itself is exemplifying rapid westernisation and eradication of its heritage. Local officials in ill-fitting western suits and ties often arrive at meetings, and villagers trade in their more useful kromas (all-purpose scarves) in favor of mass-produced generic garbs branded by company logos. And then there's Hong Kong with its otherwise pretty harbour … [Read more...]

What do you listen to when you’re on the road?

I see a fair bit of the road, which makes an mp3 player such a trusty companion. Since I have a lot of down time anyway, I like to take along podcasts. They're available via online audio/videostreams but my connection speed here is just too slow. It's amazing to me how, given the political will, the connectivity infrastructure can be easily put in place. The technology is cheap and getting cheaper. What donor would not provide the funding to connect Cambodia's population to the world, if requested? But I guess information is power, and so for now Khmers will have to settle for poor internet access. The 'democratically elected' government isn't ready for an educated populace. Having said that, a major factor for Cambodia's stability is … [Read more...]

A common sight

Photos courtesy of H. Prytherch This is a common sight along the roads of Cambodia-- a patient riding on the back of a moto on the way home, hooked up to an IV. There's large demand for IVs and injections in the country, and people seek it out whether or not it is medically necessary. The problem of overuse of drugs/IVs is more prevalent in rural areas where educational levels are much lower. We asked some people in the communities when they typically get IVs, and we were told it's good for making the body strong again after many days out fishing or working in the fields. We're told they can be bought at any pharmacy or clinic, and the colored IVs are better because the medicine in it makes it more potent. (Unknown to them, oftentimes … [Read more...]

How to vote in Cambodia’s national elections

Tomorrow the country holds its 4th national elections since the 1991 Paris Peace Accords were signed, ending decades of civil war and foreign occupation. In the runup to this weekend our counterparts in the Ministry of Health and all health professionals were required to partake in campaigning for their parties. (This meant that all activities agreed upon were essentially put on hold for two months).I asked one of them, a hospital director, what it is he does when he goes out to the villages and communities to campaign. "I teach people how to vote", was the response. Really? How do you teach them how to vote? "I show them which box on the ballot to check". Do you like to do that? [[He hesitates, then...]] "It doesn't seem right... But it's … [Read more...]

Book Review: Never Give Up: How I Turned My Biggest Challenges into Success

I'm fortunate for my background where good enough is simply not enough, and to constantly aim high. Working in foreign aid and development has opened my eyes to poverty and the reasons behind it, perpetuating it, situations that unintentionally(?) encourage it. When most peoples' realities means that the basic aim of survival is aiming high, it's difficult to keep occasional bouts of disillusionment and apathy at bay. To keep upbeat, I seek out the occasional motivational book from the meager selections of used bookstores in Phnom Penh.While the motivational messages (e.g. productivity, financing/ investing, self-help) tend to be regurgitated and re-packaged by points of view in different books, the nuggets of advice are useful reading for … [Read more...]

5 Ways to Eat a Mango!

Typically existing in two races, the mango finds its roots in Burma and South India, and in Southeast Asia particularly the Philippines.Mango season is one of my favorite things about living in Asia! All the charm and sensuous sweetness that is the essence of the tropics-- in one fruit. Mangoes signal a reprieve from the hot season, heralding the summer monsoons. It kicks off the festive Khmer New Year and launches the summer fruit bounty: rambutan, lychee, mangosteen and durian. Long bamboo sticks with a cage-like trap at the end ensure reach into the highest cluster (these evergreen trees grow to 60 feet tall). Street vendors now walk their bicycle-loads of mangoes, and market sellers pile them on mats and in baskets. National roads are … [Read more...]