CAMBODIAN INSIGHTS

CAMBODIA is located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. The “Kingdom of Cambodia” is the official English name of the country. The English “Cambodia” is an anglicised version of the French “Cambodge” which, in turn, is the French transliteration of the Khmer Kampuchea. The name “Cambodia” is used most often in the Western world, while Kampuchea is more widely used in the East.

The flag of Cambodia consists of three horizontal stripes, top and bottom stripes being blue symbolising the country’s royalty. The white emblem on the centre red stripe represents the towers of Angkor Wat.

The current population of Cambodia is over 16 million. Phnom Penh, the Capital, is the cultural, commercial and political centre of the country and is home to 1.5 million. It is located in the south-central region of the country at the confluence of the Tonle Sap, Mekong and Bassac Rivers.  The official religion is Buddhism which is practised by approximately 95% of the population. Cambodia has one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. The country faces numerous challenges including widespread poverty, low human development and a high rate of hunger.

The official currency is the CambodianRiel (KHR) but the US Dollar (USD) is also legal tender. KHR is used for small transactions but the USD is used for most purchases.

Phnom Penh is slowly gaining high-rise buildings, traffic lights and Western style shopping malls, but overall remains one of the most undeveloped capitals in Asia.

Quoting a review of the WEATHER – “Weather is pleasant during the ‘cold season’ from November to January, highs are around 30 degrees C. Starting February the temperature begins to rise, and by March the daily highs are 35-38 degrees C, making it hardly bearable. This is followed by the rainy season, which is more humid than rainy, as on most days it just rains briefly in the afternoon. Arguably, the humid heat of rainy season is even worse than the extreme heat of hot season. Occasionally, there are massive downpours that cause major flooding, making parts of the city inaccessible.”

PHOTOS FROM 2005 VISIT

SHOPPING IN PHNOM PENH

LIVING LIFE AS AN EXPAT

So, moving to a new country brings a number of challenges and food shopping is just one of them.

No longer is it ‘pop down’ to Foodland for some missing ingredients or visiting my regular stores at the Market. There is a small supermarket about 15 minutes’ walk away and, while quite well stocked, it comes at a price. A couple of examples, remembering prices are US Dollars:  kidney beans $2.50, 240 gms Muesli $5.50, 450 gms tuna $6.90. Yesterday the Director and his wife took us on a ‘Supermarkets in PP Tour, visiting 4 that are on this side of town…. but still 20 minutes plus drive away. Between the options we can get most things that we would buy at home, but we probably won’t ….. given price relative to income.

We are fortunate that there is a large local market also close, again maybe 15 minutes’ walk. There we can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and fish (but probably not, as there is no refrigeration ….. although no doubt about freshness of some, as there are a number of live options). There are also homeware, clothing (not really our style or size) and electronics stores;  David was pleased with his Bluetooth speaker for $22. We did buy 2 large mangoes and coriander to go with the curry we made the other night – 75c in total!

Not surprisingly, David has already connected with our local “hardware” man. From his roadside stall he sells all sorts of Treasures…. so pictures are hung, a table is being sanded, the TV has been mounted…. and, as I write, David is heading out for the stain for our kitchen table.

We are fortunate to be renting a furnished home which means the basics are here: fridge, washing machine, microwave (ovens are a rarity here) a lounge, bed, air conditioning in the bedroom, hot water in one bathroom and a kitchen table and stools. So, one of our first jobs has been to try to source some extras to add to the comfort, and try to make the place feel more like ‘our home’. We bought both a TV (for those interested in price, it’s a Samsung 40” smart TV for $360) and a mattress topper and got them home in our Tuk Tuk.

Mattress Topper above, TV in front and bags of shopping all in Tuk Tuk

Our choice was in the middle

Local roadside businesses were the source of our bedside tables and a couple of laminate ‘cube’ storage shelf units, the Japan Store was a source of dining chairs and my current ‘favourite’ store is ‘Design” which sells western style more modern furniture (at a price, of course). We bought a coffee table, shelf unit and what is listed in the receipt as a ‘love stool’ and some pictures to reduce the starkness of the walls! Another bonus is the $1.90 Korean Shops.

We still have a number of things ‘on the list’ so will continue to explore. To date, toilet roll holders are not to be found!

It’s challenging but exciting and all part of the experience of learning to live in Cambodia.

 

BACK TO BLOGGING

CAMBODIA

After Posting many Blog entries during my eight weeks in the United Kingdom and Europe earlier this year, I have taken time out to settle back into day-to-day living in my home in South Australia.

Whilst away I received an email from my eldest daughter in which she shared the fact that she had applied for a two year Contract as Principal of Hope International School in Phnom Penh and her husband had applied to head the Maintenance Team at the School. After discussion with family, referees and those who could give helpful advice they determined that it is an appropriate time in their lives to take this step. They certainly have a heart for Cambodia and the Cambodian people.

Well, the day has now arrived and this morning they departed Adelaide on Malaysian Airlines, flying to Phnom Penh to take up the above-mentioned positions at Hope International School.

A Quote from the School website –  “HOPE International School was established in 2002 to support world mission by providing quality, Christ-centred education for children of international Christian workers in Cambodia. An International core curriculum that is compatible with systems from many countries is followed at HOPE, with all disciplines taught from a biblical world view. Teachers at HOPE each profess HOPE’S Statement of Christian Faith and hold professional teaching qualifications in their home country. HOPE teachers actively encourage students to develop a personal biblical worldview as they seek to learn about, and make sense of, the world around them.”

They will certainly be missed by family and friends at home but it is great to know that others will gain much during the time they work and live in Phnom Penh.

I visited Cambodia with my brother in 2005 and have great memories of my time there and of the happy people we met. I now have a very real reason to plan a trip to revisit this country so I will see what the future brings. In the meantime I will share with you (in future Posts) some points of interest from that trip in 2005 along with information gained from local people and from books read over the years since that trip.

SWISS TIME

MONDAINE WATCH

In 1944, Hans Hilfiker, a Swiss Engineer and Designer and employee of the Federal Swiss Railways, created a clock which has become known as the “Official Swiss Railways Clock”. For design buffs and railway enthusiasts alike, this clock remains a simple and ever-present pleasure of every Swiss rail journey.

In 1986 the Montaigne Watch Company, with official license from the Federal Swiss Railways, turned it into a watch collection. It has become a true Swiss icon. The simple design, the unmistakable easy-to-read face, distinctive hands and the famous red seconds hand have made the Mondaine collection successful the world over. Ingenuity and simplicity are the elements which often distinguish an attractive piece of design from a truly iconic design classic. With strong black markings instead of numerals, each five minute increment given further emphasis and a sweeping second hand in red it is so visually simple that a train guard can read it easily from the far end of a train.

If you look closely you see that the solid red circle at the end of the second hand not only resembles a pendulum but is also a replica of the signalling paddle once used by station guards.

I knew nothing of this history until walking the streets of Zurich where, as we looked at the display in a jewellery shop window, Erika told me the story of the watch design.  It was not the time to make a purchase but it certainly gave me food for thought.

I am now enjoying wearing a Mondaine watch and am delighted with its clarity. The background story and the memories from my visit to Switzerland are renewed each day.

ALL ABOUT SWITZERLAND ……… or almost. (Part 2)

Health – You couldn’t find a better place to fall ill than in Switzerland, with 572 modern hospitals filled with state-of-the-art equipment and exceedingly well-trained doctors and nurses. Everyone residing in the country has to have health insurance. As they’re all private and not state-run providers, they need to be quite pricey. In any other country one can go to a supermarket and buy an Aspirin or any other over-the-counter medications. But not in Switzerland. Good and healthy food, lots of sport and outdoor activity (62,416 km maintained hiking trails), as well as a high quality of life, the Swiss are a pretty fit, trim and contented lot. This is reflected in the life spans: men can expect to live until 81 and women until 85.2 years of age – second only to Japan.

Defence and Safety  Air bases and arms depots inside mountains, secret tunnels everywhere – Switzerland resembles an explosive Swiss cheese. Add fortifications and hidden gun emplacements. The Swiss population can find refuge in underground shelters big and small – car parks, hospitals or private homes. In peacetime, private shelters are used to store ski equipment and wine. The Swiss Army Knife has been developed in the 1880’s and is still issued to every soldier. With annual sales of 26 million knives it’s also a global success story largely thanks to American soldiers returning home with them after World War ll. Originally they were only handed out to officers, which probably explains the thoughtful inclusion of a corkscrew. Not only Swiss men have a knife, but me too ………

Food and drink – Switzerland is anything but a culinary wasteland. The traditional cuisine may betray its rustic peasant origins – cheese, bread, potatoes – but it has been refined to a high standard. The Swiss love eating out.

Muesli, the world’s favourite breakfast dish started life as a dinner option, often in jails. In 1990, medical doctor Maximilian Oskar Bircher soaked oatmeal in water, then added lemon juice, condensed milk, grated apples and nuts. Today exists many varieties of Muesli.

Rosti, the roast potatoes are golden, warm and nourishing. Crunchy outside and soft within, the secret lies in the right potatoes..

Bread, the Swiss love their bread in any of the more than 200 traditional forms. “Zopf” is the traditional must-have for Sunday’s breakfast.

Switzerland boasts more than 20 natural springs. Not only tap water is drinkable, but so too is water from many rivers and lakes. Whey is the unpalatable part of milk, which is why the Swiss turned it into a soda called “RIVELLA”,  first concocted in 1950.

Chocolate  For a long time after its introduction in Europe chocolate was an acquired taste.The Swiss changed everything. They were the first to add sugar, milk and hazelnuts. Chocolate’s inadvertant genius was Rudolph Lindt. One Friday evening he forgot to turn off a mixer. The unexpected 78 hours of stirring created chocolate as we know it: soft, sweet and melting in the mouth.

Cheese – There are 246 different kinds of cheese. The typical Swiss cheese comes from cow’s milk. However, there are odd cheeses like those made from Buffalo milk, sheep and goats. It takes up to 13 litres of milk to make 1 kg of cheese.

Economy  – Switzerland is bare of any natural resources. Trade was hampered domestically by mountains, internationally by the absence of coastlines and harbours.If they wanted to make money, the Swiss had to use their prime resources: their wit, their business sense, their inventiveness and their thrift.

Transport  The network of trains, cable cars, buses and boats crisscross the country with precision. A remarkable feat, considering that in transportational terms, Switzerland is a bit of a contradiction. On the one hand largely inaccessible due to its mountains topography, on the other hand a major European thoroughfare due to its geographical centrality. Some Swiss get mad when their train is just two minutes late. Swiss rail claims to be on time 97% of the time – meaning, not more than three minutes late.

 Science – Swiss scientists have changed our lives considerably. They invented Nescafé, Swiss Army Knife, electric guitar,Velcro (two-sided fastener) pre-fab concrete,LSD, cellophane, stock cube, zipper, computer mouse, micro scooter, Robidog, toilet cistern, Stewi clothes dryer, ………

LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING YOU IN SWITZERLAND!!

ERIKA

 

 

 

 

ALL ABOUT SWITZERLAND – or almost ……

Shirley asked if I could write something for her blog. Since I’m Swiss I like to give you some information about that beautiful country and their inhabitants you might not have heard of:

History  One man representing each of the cantons, Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, meet on a summer’s day in 1291 in a clearing over Lake Lucerne called “Rutli”. They swear an oath to defend the other cantons against the Hapsburg oppressors. Since then, the Swiss have had neither lord nor king nor emperor. Their peasants and burghers ruled themselves generally in a successful way. Since 1515, the Swiss have not participated in European wars. Poverty overpopulation and the promise of adventure enticed the peasant boys to take up arms for foreign rulers. They were highly sought after as Swiss fighters had a reputation for courage. More and more cantons joined. From 1815, there were 25 cantons, increasing to 26 after the secession of the canton of Jura from Bern in 1979.

Shirley and Pat this time visited the Cantons Zurich (city of Zurich, Winterthur, Seeleger Moor), Freiburg (Murten), Nidwalden (Klewenalp-Stockhutte), Appenzell  (Hoher Kasten, city of Appenzell), St. Gallen (city of St.Gallen, Rapperswil), Aargau (LAUFENBURG), Thurgau (Romanshorn), Tessin (Isle of Brissago).

Diversity   The Swiss are not a single ethnic group but made up of various nationalities, shaped by their German, French and Italian neighbours. They’re only held together by their common will to be a nation.

Geography  Switzerland is all about mountains. They shape and define its geography and its mentality. But there’s much more: glittering lakes, ancient cities, lush meadows, broad and fertile valleys traversed by mighty rivers.

Fauna and Flora About 40,000 different species of animals inhabit Switzerland, most of them insects. Despite being densely settled, still more than half of the country’s territory is woodland or pristine nature. Switzerland has 3,000 different native plants, nearly a third of which are flowers. Pretty and pleasing to the eye. The Swiss have one of the world’s strictest environmental and nature protection laws – and not just recently: in 1914 they created their first national park.

Cows No other animal is so much associated with my country. They seem to be everywhere and they  assault all your senses: you see them, hear their bells, and their cowpats carry an unmistakable smell. Every summer, cows take a holiday in the mountains. Fresh air, fresh water, grass and herbs make for happy cattle and good milk. Farmers swear that cows look forward to their vacation…..The meadows containing up to 50 different tasty species of plants per 100 m2. In autumn, decorated with flowers and weighed down by big bells which are tuned differently, cows make their way back to their stables. Switzerland’s air rescue service has to bring cattle to safety that have strayed off into inaccessible parts of the mountains. Beset by low milk prices, more and more farmers resort to rent-a-cow schemes aimed at city dwellers. You may not take your cow home, though, just visit, pat or even milk her.

Education – The Swiss are among the world’s best educated people. A specialty is that Apprentices learn at a workshop and attend classes at a vocational college at the same time.

There is much more that I can tell you about my country so Part 2 will follow soon…….

 

 

HAMAD AIRPORT, DOHA, QATAR

WEDNESDAY, 28th June

HEADING HOME FROM VIENNA TO ADELAIDE (Transit stop in Doha).

Our day started with the alarm at 06:00 at the Hotel in Vienna. We had booked a taxi for 07:00 and it was waiting for us when we got to reception. There were three of us travelling to the airport as Erika was flying back to Zurich a little later in the morning. We were not sure whether she would be allowed through to the overseas International    Departure area so were pleased that, with a bit of sweet talking (in German, of course) she was able to join us for breakfast.  Time to say Goodbye – not easy when parting from a friend. The word “goodbye”originates as a parting prayer of blessing, “God be with Ye” (from the heart).

HAMAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – In its bid to become a tourist destination of the future, the oil-rich nation of Qatar has gone all-out to impress visitors. With eighty designer stores and shops selling gold, travellers can spend while they wait.There are works of art like the over-sized Lamp Bear by a Swiss artist. Extravagance has been taken to another level with gold-plated coffee kiosks.There are huge futuristic play areas for children.

We had 5 hours on the ground so had plenty of time to walk, explore, have a light meal and chat to other South Australians awaiting the direct flight to Adelaide, South Australia arriving at 17:35 on Thursday 29th June. Pat’s home is in Western Australia so she had a Domestic flight to Perth the next day. We certainly had a wonderful 8 weeks together and I am thankful to her and to all friends, both old and new, who made the time so memorable.

In future days I may add to this, my Diary, as I know that special times will come to mind as I revisit my photographs.