building communication skills to help with the Terrible Twos

At 15 months, we're getting a premature taste of the infamous Terrible Two stage. Our little boy's personality seems to be developing along what the books call "spirited" or "strong-willed", even "high-need" (although this last term is politically incorrect anymore). His Khmer nanny is bewildered and amused at the range, intensity and volatility of emotion he exhibits. He can be blissfully happy one second and thrashing about in a full rage for the next two hours. It sets him off when we don't understand what he wants. With redirecting a bit more difficult now we've had to be creative. Thankfully he's developed some decent communication skills early on. The fact that signing and verbalizing are still novel to him at this stage, and that … [Read more...]

offerings to the small lost souls..

This post is about Merenang Kang Veal, the memorials and offerings to those who've passed into the next life while still very young (from the aborted to the stillborn to those who died at a very young age). The relationship with nature and all living things whether still on earth or physically gone is still very tangible and real in Asia and the Khmer's Buddhist tradition. These shrines and offerings are an effort by those still alive to pay respects and appease the wandering and lost spirits. Notice the toys and miniature clothes, food and water given as offerings. We're doing some research into these to find out more about them. Stay tuned! … [Read more...]

Where is Khmer culture going?

Terminalnomad Photography With such rapid pace of progress, Cambodia eagerly embraces a bright future. That's the upside. What's disheartening is that it's a future that chases inspiration externally-- specifically from the West, while rejecting its own rich legacy and heritage. Silence about the Khmer Rouge period With the KR trials commencing, spotlight is on the reaction of the Khmer population. But collective suppression of this period in history is the prevailing practice. Even the international community avoids the issue: aid funding for mental health has been nil, despite numerous requests and rampant indication of need. What little dialogue is had about tribunal activities is mostly aimed at foreigners and international … [Read more...]

Faces

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Khmer Proverbs

Another activity for our team retreat aimed at cross-cultural issues is to come up with the most-recalled proverbs from growing up. Though many sayings cross boundaries, the ones best remembered by each group curiously was very telling of their cultural norms and tendencies. The Germans came up with a list of sayings that depicted a society which valued order, regulation, and punctuality. The Filipino sayings depicted a god-fearing, eternally positive, and family-oriented people. Growing up in the US, adages and mottos which had most to do with taking advantage of opportunity and making money came easily to mind. Here are some Khmer proverbs, which explain very many things which those of us from the West often frustratingly misunderstand. … [Read more...]

Cambodia: How to do the Poipet Border Crossing

Border crossing from Arranyaprathet, Thailand, into Poipet, Cambodia, is more stressful than the other way around. The casinos are right on the border, with sellers and market stalls outside. $40 rooms are had here if the onwards journey is postponed and a night's stay is necessary. Otherwise, the main street just straight out from the border is lined with guesthouses of various price ranges. My $3 room was clean with a solid lock on a rickety door. The bus station was off this main road to the left, if walking away from the border, for my early morning bus ride. If you purchased a trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) or Bangkok-Phnom Penh, there is the possibility of a scam in Poipet. This can go along the lines of the bus breaking … [Read more...]

The Stink of Durian for Newbies, and Adjusting to Cambodia

A royal decree was issued in the night. Everyone in Cambodia who has shoes is to take them off, and they are to do it inside my room. Groan. Below my hotel window (wide open cuz the one AC unit in the entire town was not allocated to this hut) is a fruit stall enterprise specializing in durian, a treat to wake up to at 6am. It is that time of year when foreigners are subjected to Fear Factor challenges involving this foul mishap of creation. It is the season, they are everywhere, and the Khmers must share. There is particular affinity for this fruit, drawing national pride, cherished reverently, like there is a little god inside the paranormal-looking blob. When foreigners are offered a piece of it Khmer radars within a mile radius zero in … [Read more...]

Cambodia: Poipet Border Crossing

First impression via point of entry is a curious introduction to a country. Express arrival through sterile gateways is had at the airport, with greeting that is composed and targeted. Would you like a Starbucks au lait, a shuttle to our white beach resorts, wine and dine at our five star establishments. How modern we are, let us show you (can you tell what parts of the world my travels take me to). The overland route goes through back doors, where a country is less prepared to receive guests, exposing social ills and systemic inadequacies, or perhaps better displaying an old world charm and raw beauty. Given time and energy, I attempt this passage. And then there was Poipet. The train ride from Bangkok to the border town of Aranyaprathet … [Read more...]