2008-12-07 – Language Learning
After staying at a guesthouse in Kampong Chhnang I was thanking the owner with the usual ‘aw kun cheran’ (thank you very much). He wanted to teach me ‘oh kun cheran som long’. He said the ‘som long’ part was for best friends who you know hang out eat together party together 2 men in one bed. things like that.
2008-12-14 – Where’s my Bike?
We had finished playing ultimate at Northbridge only to find that Amie’s bike had been stolen. We went to the guard store beside the parking area and thought one of the 6 guards might know something. They told us to wait. Sure enough here comes another guard who apparently needed to ‘borrow’ Amie’s bike for a while.
2008-12-20 – Facemask
The Lady running the internet cafe was wearing a dust mask. I asked why she was wearing it indoors. She said “I have problem with my face”.
2009-05-30 – Electrician
We’re riding down the road when we see a guy hanging in the mess of electrical wires over the street. On second glance he had actually shimmied his way to the middle and was fixing something.
2009-06-12 – Road Rule Enforcement
Most traffic fines are about $1. Some just a warning – like this bicycle who tried to dart ahead through the crowd across an intersection during a red light. A police officer jumped in front of him grabbed onto the front handle bars and pushed him all the way back behind the line. Another time a motorbike (with 2 passengers) made a ridiculous turn weaving through oncoming traffic in an intersection. A police officer again jumped in front of him reached around turned off the motorbike and removed the key before returning to the side of the road with his other police buddies. The motorbikers (3 riders) could do nothing but dismount walk the bike over to the policemen and listen to their rebuke.
2009-07-20 – Calling in Sick
I have accident touch to my eyes once I pulled my extended internet cable for my lap top at home. after Doctor checked he asked me try to keep close my eyes for 3 days. So regarding meeting in Wednesday morning I’m afraid that I could not be able to join with you. but the 2 of my people are OK. I will keeping you updated if I can join you on that day..
Thanks and regards, Sarit
2009-08-15 – Fatty Wishes
I got a very funny text from a Khmer friend the other day. He wrote “I hope to see you fatter healthier and more beautiful.”
Yet another moment when cultural differences never fail to amaze me. \r
2009-08-26 – Cambodian House Warming Parties
The other day a colleague of mine (Amie) writes to invite us and several other colleagues to a European House Warming party. Read the following interchange:
Cambodian colleague responds:
Hi what a great plan! I would love to join I wanna see if the European House Warming same with Cambodia house warming! Do you need a cat? For Cambodia way we will walk 3 times round the house with the owner of the house hold the cat. But you know in PP things are change the house is too close to each other and there is no space to walk around. \
Another expat colleague responds:
It is a new information for me to hear about a cat’s participation in house warming. We have 2 cats.
2009-12-02 – Gassing Up
You know how fun it is to fill up gasoline and get it to an even dollar amount? The fillers in Cambodia (there is no self serve) are absolutely obsessed with this. I pulled my moto up today to get filled and I could see the gas level almost overflowing and the price was only $2.37. My petrol attendant called over one of his buddies to help. First the moto is taken off the kick stand and stood upright – that got about 30 more cents in. Then the guy starts bouncing the moto like the fuel hadn’t seeped into every crack yet. Then there is some tapping of the fuel tank and some more bouncing and shaking by both attendants. And voila! $3.00 even no small change required.
2010-03-18 – Foot Remedy
Our language teacher informed us about a common sore foot remedy back in the war. Get a bunch of friends to fill a pot with urine add a pinch of salt and a tamarind leaf and take turns soaking.
2010-06-08 – Marijuana
We learned the word for marijuana tonight in Khmer… it is surprise surprise ganja. And also we were informed that it grows everywhere. In back yards at the side of the road beside the rice field. We must be blind. Have you had noodle soup in the morning? Well then you ate a little bit too.
2010-07-15 – Eat my glass!
Our language teacher informed us tonight that he knows a guy near Phnom Penh (Kandal province) who when he gets real drunk eats his beer glass. Yes you heard that right the glass glass not the plastic glass or the paper cup.
2010-08-12 – Being Fat
In Cambodia it seems everything is compared on a fatness scale. My colleagues at work have no reservations in frankly discussing who is fatter than who and asking me out right out questions that would be deemed completely off-limits in Canada. Here’s our latest conversations in my office:
“Amie the visitor who is coming. How big is she?”
I couldn’t help it. I laughed out loud].
Amie: “I don’t know how big she is. Why does it matter?”
Colleague: Because I want to know if we can fit three on a motorbike or if she must ride a tuk tuk.
Amie: Hey guys there is one particular employee that I want our guest to meet next week. The one at the restaurant – you know who I’m talking about?
Colleague 1 to Colleague 2 [in khmer]: Who is it? I don’t know who it is.
Colleague 2 [in Khmer]: Oh I know. It’s that girl. The fat one. She runs the cash register.
2010-08-21 – Hanging Water Bags
I have finally solved the mystery surrounding homes and restaurants hanging small bags of water everywhere. They are to scare away flies. When flies enter the premises they see their huge reflection in the bag and are scared away!
2010-09-02 – Delivery Problem
Sorry for this confusion. It is our false. Please accept my apology. I will take care of this problem. Besides this issue how do you like our products? Please let me know when you would like to place an order.
Thank you for being our customer.
2010-09-12 – Address Problem
Tonight we ordered in Indian food. I told him our address was st. 310 # 27A and I was surprised when I got a call the the delivery guy couldn’t find the place. I came out onto the street and waved him down. He asked my why I gave poor directions. I asked him what the problem was as I pointed to the 310#27A address plaque on our house. But then I gasped as we were no longer #27A! There was a new plaque reading #57!! Luckily mail doesn’t work in this country so it won’t cause too much trouble.
2011-01-26 – Kerosene vs. Solar
Customer feedback: my solar lantern is less of a fire hazard compared to kerosene lighting for example when the cat jumps over the light.
2011-09-05 – Chipped nail remedy
Walk into a coffee shop today and one of the waitresses had her finger dug into a lemon. It took her a long time to write out my bill but that’s what it takes to get over nasty chipped nails.
2011-10-14 – Computer skills
‘Here’s a section from a CV I was recently looking through (see office machines section):
Microsoft Office: Ms Word” Ms Excel Ms PowerPoint Ms FrontPage ” Ms Publisher
Accounting : Peachtree Premium Accounting
Internet : Searching” E-mail ” Charting
Other Software Programs : Possible
Office Machines : Computer, Copier Telephone Fax Scanner, Shredder
Camera : DSLR digital camera.
2011-11-27 – White Babies
Many people in Cambodia have only seen white babies on TV. When one restaurant waitress happened to get a peek at Aya she exclaimed ‘oh she just like cartoon!’
2013-03-17 – English translation
I was helping a minister edit a speech for English mistakes. After the first revision I was told the following:
As discussed I would like you to revise again particularly I would like you to do as Khmer style such as all adjective has to before noune etc.
What exactly does this mean?
2013-05-18 – Clown Balloon
I was sitting on a parked moto downstairs from my house (a popular Cambodian pastime) when a kid who lives downstairs holding one of those long clown balloons told me to move over. I did so a bit confused and the kid proceeded to unscrew the valve on the moto’s tire. He then put the balloon over the valve and inflated it. Genius!
2013-08-19 – 10Q
It’s not only just the first time I received an email closing with ’10Q very much’ it’s both that it was a professional email and from an Asian. \r\n\r\nThis could be the first Engrish slang I’ve ever heard as it perfectly avoids using the ‘th’ sound.
2014-01-19 – Dish Clean
I was sitting at a popular (for it’s food and prices not service) Phnom Penh restaurant a standard go-to lunch place. The waitress brings me and some friends plates and mine clearly hasn’t been washed very well. There were some dried pieces of something on there so I pointed this out and handed it back to the waitress. By waitress I mean casually dressed 18 year old. She gave me a strange look which signalled that I was being more difficult than the regular customer. She then proceeded to pick at the crud a bit with her nail and then handed the plate back to me.
2014-03-07 – Finally some service
I guess it’s no surprise that after living in Cambodia for almost 6 years it is only in the last week where I am given some unexpected good service. First I was in a restaurant and after finishing was brought the bill without me asking – I love when that happens (I know strange enjoyment). Then I lost the back cover for my phone and after inquiring the price at a phone shop I was given one for free! This never happens in Cambodia. Then just to make it a hat-trick our land-lord said we don’t have to pay our final week of rent. Seriously? Why now?
Wisdom Through Failure:
2008-09-27 – Finding a Rental Place
Watch out for local people who are all to eager to help you find a place to rent. It is a common custom that whoever finds the renter gets the first month’s rent. Not that this is a bad thing you might just get forced into a place that isn’t ideal. I speak from first hand experience.
2008-10-05 – SIM Card Rumors
Everywhere I go foreigners and locals tell me that only Cambodian locals can buy SIM cards for their mobile phones. My work even told me this! They say that you just get a friend to go do it. Ok so we got a friend to do it and he showed us the receipt – $40 bucks! This was Starcell by the way. None of this phased me until Amie went to the Starcell office and was able to get a SIM card just by showing her passport – with no local help at all! Oh and the real kicker – the sim card was $2. Ack! Scammed!!! And by my loyal friend!!! Then people said ahhh that is just for Starcell. So I went to the largest and longest mobile company in Cambodia (Mobitel) and guess what no local help needed either! But Mobitel was a little more difficult. I had to show a work contract or a rental agreement – both of which could have been easily forged but I had real ones anyway.
2008-10-13 – Air Conditioners
If you are cheap then don’t use air conditioning in Phnom Penh. Paying 20 to 25 cents US per kWh means an 8 hour per night A/C user will get a huge electricity bill $40-$50 of which is from A/C. Opt for a couple fans each costing $3 electricity per month for 10 hour per day use. Fridges are bad too ($15-20/month) but even cheap people need ice cream.
2008-11-02 – Motorbike Accident
Car comes out of nowhere and cuts me off and another guy and we have a motorcycle 5km/h head on collision. Not a big deal except my clutch is broken and his front wheel cover is smashed. Then of course 100 people materialize and gather round. Luckily one villager spoke some English and acted as translator for the rest of the episode. We talk a while about who’s fault it is and we are not sure but the guy (let’s call him Surit) wants me to pay him $50. I said I didn’t have 50 dollars. I did actually but Surit didn’t need to know that nor was I willing to part with it.
He had good reasons why it was my fault and I had good reasons why it was his fault. We wasted about half an hour standing around and mulling over the situation. Surit was getting impatient – he asked if I wanted to call the police to sort it out. Now what I didn’t know before is that no one really wants to call the police because they always take a cut for sorting the mess out. I said I would rather not because it was clearly no one’s fault. The translator said it was no one’s fault but I should still pay some to Surit. I later found out that no matter what happens white man usually pays. I decided that I would rather just get out of the situation and not be too rude so I offered to give Surit $10. He said no less than $30 because it was his father in law’s bike and he was in big trouble and poor. Or he said we could call the police. We hummed and hawed like this for a while and I finally offered $20 bucks saying it was all I had. This wasn’t good enough either.
Eventually Surit got late for work and had to leave – he agreed to the $20 and angrily stormed off. I was relieved at paying $20 to get out of the situation and get away from the crowd which apparently had nothing better to do then watch us all day. To this day I still wonder what would have happened if I agreed to let the police come. Would he have gone along with it? Would the police have been fair (100 locals vs white man)? Or would Surit have backed down and left not wanting the police either?
2009-01-12 – Cambodian choking remedy
We were out with some friends when one started choking. Actually it was less of choking and more like something caught in the throat – some long stringy vegetable (or weed). He went to the bathroom and tried to cough it out with no success. Several foreigners tries to help with everything from the Heimlich to offers of cold water. This went on for at least half an hour when one local guy piped up and said that he has a solution. Roll up a small ball of rice and try to swallow it. At first it sounded absurd but when everything else wasn’t working it was worth a shot. It worked perfectly! The rice grabbed the lodged veggie on the way down and everything was back to normal!
2009-02-28 – Moto-riding drive-by thieves
We thought it was pretty rare that motorbike duos ride by and snatch things from vicitm bicycle/moto baskets. That is until today when it happened to us. Amie and I were riding along and one such motorcycle duo bag-snatched Amie’s purse from her bicycle basket in a most graceful and preplanned motion. Usually we tie things to the bikes or to ourselves but this short ride just happened to be the day when the purse was loose in the basket. Although less common these bag-snatchers have been known to grab things tied down or wrapped around the victim. Several people I talked to were yanked off their bike as the thief tried to rip it from their body. Bye bye camera bye bye mobile phone bye bye credit cards and money 🙁
2009-07-08 – Buying a Motorbike
‘Buying a motorbike should be relatively straight forward. Just take it for a test drive and try to look over every area of the motorbike. Well that’s all I did anyway. Little did I know that at my first repair when the front cover came off almost every single part was replaced with a cheap version. Apparently even at the ‘dealership’ there are already parts swapped. I figure most things are pillaged on the way off the ship.’)
2010-11-05 – Parking the car ‘My first day in Cambodia using a car. The company car to be specific. A learning curve to say the least. I parked the car on the street infront of my place overnight and in the morning it wouldn’t start! Then I noticed that the battery was gone and all the fuel was siphoned out.
2011-10-12 – Moto ticket stub
You know the drill: show up at a market park moto in designated stop half of the ticket stapled to moto the other half given to you. This day was the same as any except upon returning 1/2 hour later I couldn’t find my ticket stub anywhere. This isn’t the first time this has happened. Before they just see the foreign face shrug let it be and off you go. This time not so easy. \n\nI get told that I can’t take my moto (we’re at Russian market north parking stall btw). There are no threats no locking my moto nothing! Just you can’t take the moto until 6PM. Apparently this ensures that there is no one else to claim the moto and you can leave. That’s the rule… oh and of course you can also pay $5 and leave too. At this point most foreigners would either a) pay $5 and leave or b) just leave! I didn’t want to cause a scene any sort of violence any confrontation (being a Canadian pacifist of course) so I opted to sit on my moto until 6PM (it was just after 4PM after the infraction). This is so painful to even write because I am such a pansy! \n\nAnyway I sit and sit and finally at 5:30 they either feel sorry for me or have gained so much fame and face that they can’t overflow anymore and they let me go. Let me go that is just after making me pay $1
2013-03-31 – Traffic Violation
We were returning from the annual Mekong River Swim in a truck and were pulled over for not having shirts on. We explained that we didn\’t know of this law and didn\’t really even think it existed. The police said that may be the case but this is not done in Cambodia and therefore a violation of something.
2013-08-05 – Broken Elbow
There’s something about paying for health care that makes me want to avoid clinics entirely. So when I fell down slippery tile stairs I decided to see what happened with my throbbing elbow. After 6 months there was still something wrong so I decided to go get an x-ray.
I didn’t get a referral from a doctor. I just walked into a clinic asked for an x-ray and within 3 minutes was under the machine. I was seriously out of the place under 10 minutes and only short $20.
I would have known it was that easy maybe I would have done it before. It ended up that there was no fracture and now I have a really cool picture of my bones which I can hang on the wall and not keep in some doctor’s file.