Today’s character development took place in the form of killing a cockroach for the first time. If anyone can inform me of the purpose they serve in this world then I will gladly capture a cockroach and release it outside the next time I see one but otherwise, i’m going to keep killing them because they’re gross and terrifying
really kind people
i’ve been lucky enough to gain access to a bicycle thanks to my homestay – otherwise it would have sat and collected dust so she was pretty happy to hand it over to me.
unsurprisingly both tires were flat when i got my hands on it so i wandered the streets trying to get my bike fixed. i don’t know any relevant buzz words like “bike” “air” or “tire” so i started off by flagging down people on bikes and pointing at my tire. which didn’t work and i got confused/disgusted/offended faces in return
somehow i made my way over to a random autoshop and after making the same gestures, the staff were able to understand my problem. 3 guys came rushing and wielded a plethora of items: a black pipe, an air pump and a lighter.
they quickly got to work and i would never have guessed that filling a tire with air could have been so complicated! i don’t think they did either, in all honesty. i tried to document what they were doing for further maintenance of my own but they were moving so fast and it looked like they were making steps along the way. at one point they ran into a problem and one of the guys left the shop on his moto with the valve piece for my bike and came back 5 minutes later, holding it in hand. i have no idea what he did with it or where he went but by the end of the ordeal i had two pumped tires and 3 khmer guys patting themselves on the back for a job well done.
other cool people
there aren’t many places for locals and expats to come together in the city mainly due to the superiority/inferiority complex. khmers feel inferior to foreigners who come to visit their country and some foreigners are guilty of acting exclusively and refraining from interaction with locals.
one area where these groups do indeed overlap is in sport but i’ve also found a free khmer class that’s pretty cool – once a week, local volunteers teach eager foreigners street khmer and we all head for out for dinner afterwards.
it’s been really comforting to share the struggle of the language with other expats. the volunteers are ridiculously patient (even after repeating a word for the 10th time… and i repeat it back… only for them to say it sounds nothing alike lol) and dinner afterwards is always filled with good conversation.
i went to an edm night at a club the other night and it honestly reminded me that it doesn’t matter where i am in the world but i really can’t stand edm lmao
so in the meantime i’ve been listening to good music to compensate. i’ve been vibing with the soul revival in recent years
this is another playlist of songs that sounds good when you put them together. mainly r&b but also alternative indie
asian beauty standards
my homestay’s cousins own a beauty salon and they conveniently live next door to us; aside from the $2 mani-pedis i’m spoiled with, they offer plenty of other services you’d find in a salon in canada. so every morning the familiar scent of flat irons and shampoo wafts through our garage but one scent that was quite foreign to me was that of skin bleach (!??!)
it’s not like liquid bleach per se but there are many brands and it usually comes in the form of a cream that you apply all over your body. you have to sit and wait for it to do its magic and after a few applications you’re noticeably whiter than you were when you started.
in southeast asian countries, tanned skin implies that you spend your days doing long hours of manual labour under the unforgiving sun. fair skin implies that you’re privileged enough to spend your days indoors with air conditioning, without a need to step outside at all. unfortunately, this association of fair skin with wealth and dark skin with poverty dominates asian beauty standards.
the sight of long sleeves and pants in 35 degree weather isn’t surprising to me anymore, nor are the masses of skin bleaching creams put for sale at the market. arguably, the equivalent can be said in north america where tanning beds and bronzing products are just as commonly found.
to each their own, i guess- i’m all for women doing whatever they want to be content with themselves. but the dangers of unsafe and unregulated chemical bleaching processes are very real and it makes me sad to think that some women are willing to risk undergoing them to feel beautiful
but regardless here are some awesome women who don’t need to bleach their skin to feel pretty!!! (homestay + her friends & cousins)
being useful at work
expanding public health in a developing country is difficult. attempting to do so without inherent knowledge of the culture, tradition, and lifestyle of the regions being studied is even moreso challenging. but in the past few weeks i have found that my role can be useful to a local organization (!!)
Clear Cambodia originally began as a non-profit with the sole purpose of providing water filters to households in rural Cambodia. fast forward about 20 years later and the organization has grown to recognize that providing clean water is a complex issue that needs both software (like hygiene education for communities) and hardware (water filters, latrines, handwashing stations) to remain sustainable.
i’m lucky to have a combination of both theoretical and practical experiences at work. in the past few weeks i’ve spent most days in the office, developing the workshops staff will use to teach students about basic hygiene principles. i’ve also spent some days in the province, observing staff teach these workshops and understanding how effective they are in drilling down the knowledge.
i was really hungry so i didn’t realize my supervisor’s hand was in this photo until after i ate
some really really underdeveloped roads in Svay Rieng province. not all roads look like this but these regions are nearly impossible to drive through
a few things i’ve learned:
- the importance of evidence-based curriculum
students won’t care if there’s no evidence to back up the claims you might make. “why do we need clean water?? why can’t i just pee and poop in the middle of the field??” and as silly as these questions might seem, for students in rural Cambodia they are valid and quite common.
i’ve done a fair bit of research on the transmission of bacteria from feces -> food and the different types of e.coli lurking in our water. needless to say that all of this evidence is pretty gross and reading the facts alone is motivation enough to wash your hands and use the toilet properly.
when i used to teach climate change workshops in high school i took a similar approach: present the students with the facts first and then convey the implications of how it affects them personally. simply put, it triggers students into taking action so i’m hoping it’ll be effective when Clear Cambodia pilots the curriculum
- community-led total sanitation (CLTS)
formally, this is a process of changing the attitude of a community so that the initiative to live hygienically comes from themselves, rather than from the NGO. the concept still requires the NGO to introduce evidence surrounding the issue at hand but once the information is provided, the focus is on leadership that stems from the villagers themselves.
in Clear Cambodia’s case, the staff introduce water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) issues at a prominent location in the community, such as a local pagoda or village leader’s home. from there, the village leader is encouraged to continue to host open discussions where anyone can learn more about WASH and steps to take to combat these issues. if enough community members are interested, the village leader then takes the initiative to collaborate with Clear Cambodia on installing water filters, latrines, and education programs in their community.
posing in front of the water filter
learning about safe sources of drinking water
the problem with some NGO projects is that they fail to address this concept. as a result, community members don’t feel attached to the importance of the project and often abandon whatever assets they may have received. seeing this first-hand (abandoned water filters from other aid organizations, for example) has made me realize how important it is to emphasize community ownership. it’s not feasible to enter a community, drop off a water filter with some instructions and walk away. the community needs to feel a moral responsibility to the issue at hand: for example, if a community feels responsible for the water-borne sicknesses that their villagers may incur then they are more likely to invest in technology that will improve their health.
this doesn’t happen overnight and it’s a process that doesn’t consist of the same step-by-step approach every time. the basis is that as long as the community leads the motivation to access clean water and hygiene rather than hesitantly accepting an NGOs offer, the more successful it will be
i bought some sticky rice w/ lotus root wrapped in banana leaves (far right) and it was so good that i went back and took a picture of the vendor, sreyda. i promised her that i would share the photo with my friends so they too would buy from her (in broken khmer so here’s to hoping she understood) so if you’re ever in cambodia… she’s at the corner of st 218 and st 257 hahaha