Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mi Familia

My crazy, hilarious family, who, within an hour or so of sitting at the dinner table together, usually has me laughing so hard that tears cloud my vision; who stuffs me with more rice, meat and/or sugar than any healthy human should consume; who sends me dried apples from our backyard, lip stains and cast-off vintage sandals in care packages secured in medical tape; who fly to wherever I am in the world to help me pack/unpack, celebrate, cry -- on days like this, I miss you too much.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010



This is Boeung Kak Lake. I've written about it before, both when I first visited it, and when communities living around the lake were denied their right to peaceful freedom of assembly. The lake continues to be filled with sand by the developer, and so continues the displacement of its communities, many of whom have had valid legal possession rights to the land around the lake, established over the course of decades after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, under the auspices of local government authorities. The forced evictions arising from this World Bank-funded development will result in the largest aggregate exodus in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia.


If I didn't live in this dusty city, if I didn't work with these communities, if I didn't (haphazardly) witness firsthand the lax, if at all present, rule of law in this country, then all I would see is this lake, slowly filling with sand. But that isn't the case.

When I see these maps, all I see are faces.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Another angle

via Witness

I've mentioned Witness (Brooklyn) before. I had never heard of them, prior to sharing a bus ride and a crazy few days in Siem Reap. Prior to moving here, I had never heard of many, many things. In fact, the term "forced eviction" wasn't even in my lexicon. And now . . .

If you are so inclined, Witness just published a short video of their work in Cambodia and the forced eviction issue. With what little knowledge I have about them, it's my understanding that Witness approaches human right issues around the world from a media/information dissemination perspective. I spoke to Ryan (the guy in the video) a bit about how he ended up in this work, how he ended up marrying his creative proclivities with law and international human rights work. Interesting stuff.

I sound like a broken record: people amaze me.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Spanish Tortillas

A few weeks ago, Cristina invited us over for a night of spanish tortillas. I had two, maybe three, helpings, drowning the hot golden potatoes with a few glasses of wine. Delicious. And really simple -- at least, for Cristina it was.

5-6 potatoes, diced
2 onions, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
7 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or regular salt
olive oil

In a bowl, mix potatoes, onions and salt.

Heat oil in pan. Fry potatoes, onions and garlic on low heat and cover with lid for 5-6 minutes, until soft. Turn up the heat for another 5 minutes. Remove potatoes, onions and garlic from pan and drain excess oil.

Break and whisk eggs in a bowl. Add milk and salt. Whisk a lot. Add potatoes, onions and garlic to the mix.

Clean the frying pan. Return pan to stove.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in pan, and pour in mixture. You may have to move it around to help the tortilla rise. Fry until golden brown. Then, turn down the heat to let the inside cook. After a few minutes, turn up the heat in order to brown the tortilla.

When it is cooked, place a plate over the frying pan and flip the tortilla onto it. Fry the other side until it is golden brown.

P.S. Somehow, somewhy, during dinner with colleagues at Mark's place a few weeks back, I invited people to my home for Thanksgiving Day dinner. Why??? I don't cook. I'll have to fix that very soon.


Next week, CK and Spence are visiting me in Phnom Penh! I cannot wait. Their visit coincides with a national holiday, one which empties the streets of the city for nearly a week, while families travel to the countryside, to wats (temples), to honor the deceased. Perhaps I'm exaggerating -- I'm sure the city will still teem with life that week.

What will they think of this crazy, dusty, fascinating country? Is it even that crazy? Mami, not too long ago, asked me if I had lost perspective, grown a bit numb. "I don't know," I wrote back. Maybe I have.

Last month, Rachel's brother visited from London. One night, a group of us sat on the second floor of Corner 33 Bar, looking through the glass windows at the gilded Royal Palace and National Museum across, then adorned with tiny triangular flags flapping in the wind. He had just arrived in the city, and, that evening, for a short while anyway, I followed his eyes. I followed their gaze to the hawking moto drivers below, to the women pushing their carts full of eggs and bread, to the rain drumming the windows, to the flooding streets, to the saffron-robed monks seeking alms, to the children begging, to the disorder and chaos, the continuous movement below. He noted, aptly, that encased in that air-conditioned bar, suspended above it all, removed, you could have mistaken this bar for one in London.

Although, as Mami pointed out, I have probably grown a bit numb to the everyday details, there are, a few things I will never grow accustomed to, sights and customs that still make me pause. Today, I can only think of two:

1. Babies sitting on moto bikes: Quite often, on the streets of this city, you see entire families encroached on one motorbike, including a baby wedged in between parents, or, far more difficult to see, wedged between a parent driver and the moto dashboard.

2. Playing chicken with opposing traffic: If you have ever hopped onto a moto bike to brave the streets of this city, you have likely found yourself riding straight into opposing traffic, weaving in and out of cars, motos, bikes, and people.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Of Note

David Eggers via Electric Works

My random weekend musings, in no particular order:

My favorite pictures of Phnom Penh so far: here. (And further support for the proposition that I should invest in a shiny DSLR.)

The beginnings of Cambodia's first architecture magazine? Love it.

Refinery29 reports on Jane Mayle's latest collaboration with Sigerson Morrison: here. (My heart aches just a little.)

Somewhere in the world it is fall . . .

Fine. I heart you.

P.S. I meant, somewhere it is fall, but not here: these are quite lovely perpetual summer clothes, the likes of which appeal to my inner granny (hello, tiny pleats and high-waists.). I do miss fallen leaves in Portland. And sometimes, I feel as if the perpetual summer that continues to brown my skin, providing with its warmth a non-stop offering of mosquito bites, is payback for all those years I complained about only having 3 months of Portland summer to don warm weather frocks.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Birds on the Wires

Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.

Again, people amaze me.

While reading a newpaper one morning, the composer/creator of this video glimpsed outside his window, at the birds sitting on the electric wire. He realized that their placement on the wire resembled notes on a music staff. He took a picture of the birds, and then composed a melody, using these "notes."

Bon Week-End

A few images from my week. People amaze me.

Tonight, in honor of the long weekend, in honor of my first Constitution Day in Le Cambodge, I am making leeks vinaigrette-- and also because lowly leeks need love too. Actually, I am rather fond of leeks: leeks with potatoes, especially in empanadas, in soup even. Except, this time, I'm using Chinese leeks because that's all I can find at the market. Is there a difference? A difference without a distinction? I'll soon find out.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


So many muesli concoctions in this city. This concoction has lemon zest, grated apple, toasted almonds, yogurt and berry compote. At Living Room Cafe.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An old favorite

via YouTube

Yesterday, I ignored requests to brave the rain outside. I sat on my couch, in my oh so quiet house, listening to the constant tapping on the windows and the howl of the wind outside, as it tossed the clothes hanging on my balcony's laundry line. I watched one of my favorite movies.

Each time I watch this, it only gets better, Bill Murray becomes funnier, Scarlett Johansson more charming. This time around, however, I related on an entirely different level--as a person swallowed up by a foreign culture that can be both alienating and alluring.

On another note, we now share our home with the resident gecko, Queenie.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Wall

These are a few images from last week, which was a bit tough for me. I realize I've come to this country with such Western entitlements, and while I also mean that in a general sense, I'm specifically thinking about rule of law and our entitlements to civil liberties, expectations which, to some extent, dissolve once you cross the International Date Line, as you move from West to East, from global North to South.

At one point last week, I was sitting poolside with a colleague, a Canadian lawyer, waiting for the rain to let up, munching on hot frites and listening to the Fleetwood Mac tunes on perpetual loop, when the discussion of torture and detention came up. This time, it wasn't an abstract, academic exercise; it wasn't a debate, but a looming reality for someone we both knew. And I watched her lips move, heard the words come out, and tried to digest them whole.

But I could not. Instead, for days after, I ran the scenario in my head, even tried to justify it with Western logic, all the while struggling with the wall before me.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


A few days ago, during lunch, I took a short moto ride to the central post office to pick up a care package. I've been pretty impressed with the Cambodian post system. This is the third care package I've received since my move. Each package has arrived within a week or so, each battered up and frayed, threatening to fall apart in the transport from the post office to my home. (Letters and postcards are an entirely different issue, however. They always disappear into postal oblivion.)

I love, love receiving care packages! The first one I received was from Mami, and it took some practice to balance the package on my lap, while I sat sidesaddle on the back of a moto bike. But I did it, and, once I was able open it up, I immediately laughed at the array of Jello, Pringles potato chips, Barilla pasta, and random Japanese candies my foodie friend sent me. The second package, from Adrian, contained nothing but Mexican spices to placate my need to consume tacos on a near-weekly basis.

This care package was different. Other than three, bubble-wrapped jars of sun-dried tomatoes and two bags of my dad's dried apples, there was hardly any food sent. Instead, my mum sent me two pairs of sandals, one of my Lover skirts (which I accidentally cut through with scissors, in my package-opening excitement), a few blouses, more 50+SPF sunscreen, and random beauty products, such as a bright lip stain. It was just what I needed, a lovely gesture from overseas to soften the blow of a demanding week. Thank you!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Cambodge, circa 1920s.


I received this announcement in my email box this morning. Becki also "told" me about it last week. A Mayle pop-up shop?! What? Not fair. Not fair at all.

But really, let's face it: I didn't bring any of those things to Phnom Penh for a reason. With the dust, dirt, and all the other parts of the city that slowly but surely stick to you, one piece at a time, like a second skin, this is not the place for treasured ivory silk dresses, or delicate carribea sandals.

I can dream.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I'm back from Siem Reap again. It was a tiring, intense 36 hours that included 2 bumpy bus rides set to karaoke music, interesting conversations with a Nepali colleague, who kept me constantly wide-eyed with her stories of work in the Bhutanese refugee camps, and a few laughs and ginger candies shared with visiting Irish human rights workers. There was so much life packed into this time. I am dizzy. And sunburned.

Although I want to post pictures of the day's events, I think, for now, I'd rather stare at images of flowers and random details at the lovely sanctuary where we sat waiting for the events to unfold.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Shabd + Mociun

via Shabd and Mociun

Shabd + Mociun, all that goodness rolled into one collection?

Killing. Me.

My City

'Tis architecture month in Phnom Penh, and I'm hoping to catch a few exhibits, particularly a very promising one on the railways in Cambodia. Tonight, if I get out early enough, I'm going to pop into Bophana to glimpse the offerings on opening night: photography capturing the architectural transformation of Phnom Penh.

Other excitement-producing news: One of my best friends just told me that she is knocked up! She and her husband will make fantastic parents. I'm so happy for them.
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