Follow the way of the tribes.

Today, I had another assessment. For this, I prepared a short devotion in Khmer. I was going to record it and maybe upload it, but I kept making mistakes. (I’m probably just too tired to do it right now.) So I have the Khmer here and the English below.

(I will add some bits for clarity in English. They will be in italics. As I had to keep it within a certain time length, I didn’t want to expand on those points too much. I also will rephrase sections just so it makes more sense and has a bit more nuance in the English.)

យ៉ូស្វេ 1:12-18 គខប

“បន្ទាប់​មក លោក​យ៉ូស្វេ​មាន​ប្រសាសន៍​ទៅ​កាន់​កុល‌សម្ព័ន្ធ*​រូបេន កុល‌សម្ព័ន្ធ​កាដ និង​កុល‌សម្ព័ន្ធ​ម៉ាណា‌សេ​ចំនួន​ពាក់​កណ្ដាល ដូច​ត​ទៅ៖ «ចូរ​ចង​ចាំ​នូវ​ពាក្យ​ដែល​លោក​ម៉ូសេ ជា​អ្នក​បម្រើ​របស់​ព្រះ‌អម្ចាស់បង្គាប់​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា​ថា “ ព្រះ‌អម្ចាស់ ជា​ព្រះ​របស់​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា ប្រទាន​ឲ្យ​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា​បាន​សម្រាក គឺ​ព្រះអង្គ​ប្រទាន​ស្រុក​នេះ​ឲ្យ​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា​ហើយ”។ ប្រពន្ធ កូន ព្រម​ទាំង​ហ្វូង​សត្វ​របស់​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា​នឹង​ស្ថិត​នៅ​ក្នុង​ស្រុក ដែល​លោក​ម៉ូសេ​បាន​ប្រគល់​ឲ្យ​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា នៅ​ត្រើយ​ខាង​កើត​ទន្លេ​យ័រដាន់។ រីឯ​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា ដែល​សុទ្ធ​តែ​ជា​ទាហាន​ដ៏​អង់‌អាច​វិញ ត្រូវ​ប្រដាប់​អាវុធ ដើរ​ខាង​មុខ​បងប្អូន​របស់​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា ដើម្បី​ជួយ​គេ រហូត​ដល់​ ព្រះ‌អម្ចាស់​ប្រទាន​ឲ្យ​បងប្អូន​របស់​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា​បាន​សម្រាក​ដូច​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា​ដែរ ហើយ​ឲ្យ​ពួក​គេ​កាន់​កាប់​ស្រុក​ដែល​ព្រះ‌អម្ចាស់ ជា​ព្រះ​របស់​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នាប្រទាន​ឲ្យ​ពួក​គេ។ បន្ទាប់​មក អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា​នឹង​ត្រឡប់​មក​កាន់​កាប់​ស្រុក ដែល​ជា​កម្មសិទ្ធិ​របស់​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា​វិញ គឺ​ស្រុក​ដែល​លោក​ម៉ូសេ ជា​អ្នក​បម្រើ​របស់​ ព្រះ‌អម្ចាស់ បាន​ចែក​ឲ្យ​អ្នក​រាល់​គ្នា នៅ​ត្រើយ​ខាង​កើត​ទន្លេ​យ័រដាន់»។

ពួក​គេ​ឆ្លើយ​ទៅ​លោក​យ៉ូស្វេ​ថា៖ «អ្វីៗ​ទាំង​ប៉ុន្មាន​ ដែល​លោក​បង្គាប់​មក​យើង​ខ្ញុំ យើង​ខ្ញុំ​នឹង​គោរព​ធ្វើ​តាម​ទាំង​អស់។ លោក​ចាត់​យើង​ខ្ញុំ​ឲ្យ​ទៅ​ទី​ណា យើង​ខ្ញុំ​នឹង​ទៅ​ទី​នោះ។ យើង​ខ្ញុំ​ធ្លាប់​ស្ដាប់​បង្គាប់ ​លោក​ម៉ូសេ​សព្វ​គ្រប់​យ៉ាង​ណា យើង​ក៏​ស្ដាប់​បង្គាប់​លោក​យ៉ាង​នោះដែរ។ សូម​ ព្រះ‌អម្ចាស់ ​ជា​ព្រះ​របស់​លោក​គង់​នៅ​ជា​មួយ​លោក ដូច​ព្រះអង្គ​បាន​គង់​នៅ​ជា​មួយ​លោក​ម៉ូសេ​ដែរ។ ប្រសិន​បើ​អ្នក​ណា​ម្នាក់ ​ប្រឆាំង​នឹង​បញ្ជា​របស់​លោក ហើយ​មិន​ព្រម​ធ្វើ​តាម​បញ្ជា​របស់​លោក​ទេ អ្នក​នោះ​ត្រូវ​ទទួល​ទោស​ដល់​ស្លាប់។ រីឯ​លោក​វិញ សូម​មាន​កម្លាំង និង​ចិត្ត​ក្លា‌ហាន​ឡើង»។”

សប្តាហ៍មុន​ ខ្ញុបានអានកណ្ឌគម្ពីរយ៉ូស្វេ ជំពូក ១។ ជំពូកនេះប្រាប់យើងអំពី ព្រះ និងមនុស្សផ្សេងៗ ដូចជា លោកម៉ូសេ លោកយ៉ូស្វេ ប្រជាជន អ៊ីស្រាអែល និងមនុស្សនៅកុលសម្ព័ន្ធរ៉ូបេន កុលសម្ព័ន្ធកាដ និងកុលសម្ព័ន្ធម៉ាណាសេ ។  ពេលខ្ញុំអានជំពូកនេះ ខ្ញុំគិតថា៖ ខ្ញុំដូចអ្នកណា? ខ្ញុំដឹងថា ខ្ញុំមិនអាចដូចព្រះអង្គបានទេ ពីព្រោះខ្ញុំជាមនុស្ស ។ ខ្ញុំសង្ឃឹមថា ខ្ញុំក៏មិនមែនដូចលោកម៉ូសេដែរ ពីព្រោះ នៅក្នុងកណ្ឌគម្ពីរយ៉ូស្វេ លោកម៉ូសេបានស្លាប់ហើយ។ ពេលយើងអានកណ្ឌគម្ពីរយ៉ូស្វេ យើងចង់គិតថាយើងដូចលោកយ៉ូស្វេ គាត់ជាអ្នកដឹកនាំដ៏ល្បី គាត់សំខាន់ ហើយនិងក្លាហាន។ ប៉ុន្តែ ខ្ញុំគិតថាបេសក្ខជនដូចមនុស្សនៅកុលសម្ព័ន្ធរ៉ូបេន កាដ និងម៉ាណាសេ។

នៅក្នុងខនេះ ព្រះអង្គបានប្រទានសេចក្តីសន្យាឲ្យលោកយ៉ូស្វេ និងប្រជាជនអ៊ីស្រាអែល ។ មុនស្សនៅកុលសម្ព័ន្ធជួយលោកយ៉ូស្វេឲ្យទទួលបានសេចក្តីសន្យានេះ ។ ខ្ញុំមកប្រទេសកម្ពុជាដើម្បីឲ្យជនជាតិខ្មែរទទួលបានសេចក្តីសន្យារបស់ព្រះអង្គដែរ។ ពេលខ្ញុំអានកណ្ឌគម្ពីរយ៉ូស្វេជំពូក១ ខ្ញុំចាប់អារម្មណ៍។ ខ១២ ដល់ ១៨ បានបង្រៀនខ្ញុំឲ្យចេះជួយជនជាតិខ្មែរទទួលបានសេចក្តីសន្យារបស់ព្រះអង្គ។ ខនេះមាន៥ចំណុច ។

ទី១ ព្រះគម្ពីរប្រាប់ខ្ញុំថា ទាល់តែខ្ញុំធ្វើកិច្ចការនេះហើយ ទើបខ្ញុំអាចសម្រាកបាន។ មនុស្សនៅកុលសម្ព័ន្ធត្រូវឆ្លងទន្លេយ័រដាន់ និងទទួលបានស្រុកថ្មី។ បន្ទាប់មកទើបពួកគាត់អាចសម្រាកបាន។ ខ្ញុំត្រូវជួយជនជាតិខ្មែរទទួលបានសេចក្តីសន្យារបស់ព្រះអង្គ។ បន្ទាប់មក ទើបខ្ញុំអាចសម្រាកបានដែរ។

ទី២ ខ្ញុំត្រូវប្រយុទ្ធ ។ កណ្ឌគម្ពីរធិម៉ូថេ ទី២ ជំពូក ៤ ខ ៧ និយាយថា «ខ្ញុំបានពុះពារតយុទ្ធល្អប្រសើរ ខ្ញុំបានរត់ដល់ទីដៅ ហើយខ្ញុំនៅតែកាន់ជំនឿជាប់ដដែល» ។ យើងត្រូវតែពុះពារតយុទ្ធល្អដែរ។ មនុស្សនៅកុលសម្ព័ន្ធត្រូវប្រដាប់អាវុធដើម្បីប្រយុទ្ធជាមួយលោកយ៉ូស្វេ ។ ដូច្នេះ យើងត្រូវប្រដាប់អាវុធដែរ។

កណ្ឌគម្ពីរកូរិនថូសទី២ ជំពូក ១០ ខ ៤ បានប្រាប់យើងថា «ដ្បិត​គ្រឿង​សស្ត្រា‌វុធ​ដែល​យើង​ប្រើ មិន​មែន​ជា​អាវុធ​ខាង​លោកីយ៍​ទេ គឺ​ជា​អាវុធ​ដ៏​មាន​ឫទ្ធា‌នុភាព​មក​ពី​ព្រះ‌ជាម្ចាស់ ដែល​អាច​រំលំ​កំពែង​បន្ទាយ​នានា ។ យើង​រំលំ​ការ​រិះគិត» និង កណ្ឌគម្ពីរអេភេសូ ជំពូក ៦ ខ ១១ ប្រាប់យើងថា «ចូរបងប្អូនប្រដាប់ខ្លួនដោយគ្រឿងសស្ត្រាវុធទាំងប៉ុន្មាន របស់ព្រះជាម្ចាស់់ ដើម្បីអាចតតាំងនឹងកលល្បិចរបស់មារ» នេះមានន័យថា ខ្ញុំត្រូវតែអានព្រះគម្ពីរ និងស្គាល់ព្រះគម្ពីរឲ្យបានច្បាស់ ពីព្រោះព្រះគម្ពីរជាគ្រឿងសស្ត្រាវុធរបស់ព្រះជាម្ចាស់ដ៏សំខាន់។

ចំណុចទី៣ ខ្ញុំត្រូវស្តាប់បង្គាប់តាមអ្នកដឹកនាំនិងគ្រូគង្វាលនៅកម្ពុជា។ ពេលខ្លះ ជនជាតិបរទេសគិតថា ពួកគេដឹង និងស្គាល់ព្រះគម្ពីរច្បាស់ជាងជនជាតិខ្មែរ បុ៉ន្តែ ព្រះអង្គប្រទាន សេចក្តីសន្យាសម្រាប់ជនជាតិខ្មែរ មិនមែនសម្រាប់ខ្ញុំទេ។ ខ្ញុំត្រូវបន្ទាបខ្លួនធ្វើតាមគ្រូគង្វាលជនជាតិខ្មែរ។

ទី៤ ខ្ញុំត្រូវអធិស្ឋានសូមឲ្យព្រះអម្ចាស់ប្រទានពរសម្រាប់ជនជាតិខ្មែរ ។ មនុស្សកុលសម្ព័នអធិស្ឋានសូមឲ្យព្រះអម្ចាស់ជាព្រះរបស់លោកគង់នៅជាមួយលោក ។ ខ្ញុំត្រូវធ្វើដូចគ្នាសម្រាប់គ្រូគង្វាលខ្មែរ។

ចុងក្រោយ ខ្ញុំត្រូវលើកទឹកចិត្តគ្រូគង្វាលជនជាតិខ្មែរ។ ដូចមនុស្សនៅកុលសម្ព័ន្ធលើទឹកចិត្តលោកយូ៉ស្វេ និងប្រាប់គាត់ សូមមានកម្លាំង និងចិត្តក្លាហានឡើង។ ខ្ញុំនិងប្រាប់គ្រូគង្វាលខ្មែរ សូមមានកម្លាំង និងចិត្តក្លាហានឡើង ដូចលោកយ៉ូស្វេ។

ដូច្នេះហើយបានជាខ្ញុំសង្ឃឹមថា ខ្ញុំឃើញជនជាតិខ្មែរភាគច្រើនទទួលបានសេចក្តីសន្យារបស់ព្រះអង្គ។

សូមអធិស្ឋានជាមួយខ្ញុំ៖

ឱព្រះអង្គអើយ ! សូមប្រទានពរដល់កម្ពុជា និងជនជាតិខ្មែរ ។ អរព្រះគុណសម្រាប់សេចក្តីសន្យាដ៏ល្អនៅក្នុងព្រះគម្ពីរ ។ សូមប្រទានអោយកូនរបស់ទ្រង់មានប្រជ្ញា ដើម្បីទទួលបានសេចន្តីសន្យារបស់ទ្រង់ ។ សូមលើកទឹកចិត្តគ្រូគង្វាលនៅកម្ពុជា និងប្រទានឲ្យពួកគេមានអំណាចនៅក្នុងនាមព្រះយេស៊ូ ដើម្បីប្រយុទ្ធនិងឈ្នះសម្រាប់នគរព្រះ ។

នៅក្នុងព្រះនាមព្រះយេស៊ូ

អាមែន

Joshua 1:12-18

But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said,13 “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them 15 until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”

16 Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you.Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. 18 Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!”

Last week, I was reading Joshua chapter 1. Here, it tells us about various characters: God, Moses, Joshua, the Israelites, and those from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Menassah. Whilst reading it, I thought, “Which of them am I like?” I know I’m not like God as I’m only human. I hope that I’m not like Moses, because in the Book of Joshua, he’s already dead. When we read Joshua, we often want to think we’re him. He’s a famous leader, he’s important, he’s brave. But I think that missionaries are most like the Reubenites, Gadites and Menassehites.

In these verses, we learnt that God has given promises to Joshua and the other Israelites. The Reubenites, Gadites and Menassehites help Joshua to receive these promises. Those tribes had already received their portion. I came to Cambodia to help the Cambodians receive the promises of God, most importantly the promise of salvation for I have already received this. When I read the first chapter of Joshua, I was really interested in what it had to say.

Verses 12-18 can teach me how I can effectively help the Cambodians receive the promises of God. There are five lessons.

First, this passage tells us that only once I have finished my task, I can rest. The tribes had to cross the Jordan River and claim their new country. Only afterwards, could they rest. I have to help the Cambodians receive the promises of God. Only afterwards, can I rest also.

Second, I have to fight. 2 Timothy 4:7 says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” We have to fight the good fight also. The tribes people had to be armed and equipped to fight with Joshua. We have to be armed too.

2 Corinthians 10:4 says, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” Ephesians 6:11 tells us to “Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” This means that I have to read the Bible and know it well because the Bible is the most important armour and weapon God gives us.

Lesson three is that I need to listen to the leaders and pastors in Cambodia. Sometimes, foreigners in Cambodia thing they know more and understand the Bible more clearly than the Cambodians. But I’m here to see the Cambodians receive the promises of God, and not for myself. Therefore, I must humble myself and follow the leaders of the Cambodian church.

Lesson four, I need to pray that God blesses the Cambodian. The Reubenites, Gadites and Menassehites speak a blessing over Joshua. I need to do the same for the Cambodian church leaders.

Finally, I need to encourage the church leaders in Cambodia. As the Reubenites, Gadites and Menassehites encourage Joshua by telling him to be strong and courageous, I will tell the Khmer pastors to be strong and courageous like Joshua.

Therefore, I hope that I see many Cambodians receive the promises of God.

Let’s pray this prayer:

Lord God, Bless Cambodia and the Cambodian people. Thank you for you good promises in the Bible. Give the leaders of the Khmer church wisdom so they may receive your promises. Uplift and strengthen them in the power of Jesus’ name so they may fight and win for your Kingdom.

In the name of Jesus,

Amen.

Cambodia: the basics

Last year, when the world was a simpler, less diseased place, I wrote a post called a million questions. It basically goes through 260 questions that give a rough overview of a country and its population. Some of the questions can be answered with a single figure, some of them in a whole book. However, as I’m soon starting an MA and currently reading up on basics of anthropology, I thought I would my “fieldworker” hat on and write what I have currently observed.

Today, I’ll only be noting down some of the basic facts about the country.

1. The basics

What is the name of the country?

English: The Kingdom of Cambodia Khmer: ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា IPA: preah riəciənaːcaʔ kampuciə Romanisation: preah reacheanachak kampuchea

The flag of Cambodia

What is Cambodia’s motto and national anthem?

The country’s motto is Nation, Religion, King and it’s national anthem is “Nokor Reach” or “Majestic Kingdom”.

Who leads the country?

King Norodom Sihamoni is the head of state; Hun Sen in the prime minister and head of government.

What type of government is it?

  • It is a constitutional monarchy – so there is a monarch that exercises their powers within the limits of a constitution. In Cambodia, the monarch is decided by the Royal Council of the Throne, rather than through a line of succession. (Think of how the next Pope is decided.)
  • The Prime Minister is the head of government.
  • It is a parliamentary representative democracy and is a unitary state.
  • The parliament consists of two chambers. The upper house is the Senate and the lower house is the National Assembly.
  • Hun Sen has been prime minister 1985.

Hun Sen is the longest-serving non-royal head of government in South East Asia, and one of the longest in the world.

  • The dominant party of Cambodia is the Cambodian People’s Party, which has ruled since 1979.

Who are Cambodia’s nearest neighbours?

Cambodia borders Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. It is also a part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which consists of Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. There is also the ASEAN plus three group, which adds China, South Korea and Japan to the list.

What are its major languages?

Khmer (IPA: kʰmae; English rhymes Khmer with pear, but in Khmer it nearly rhymes with pie) is the official language of Cambodia. There are around 19 minority languages spoken. Various forms of Chinese and Vietnamese is commonly heard in Phnom Penh, and a lot of market workers or traders are of Chinese descent. English and French are widely taught in schools, and many Cambodia families in Phnom Penh choose to speak English among themselves as well.

Welcome back bingo

In a few months, I will be in England. This is a temporary stop-over. (Just a side note: I will be very, very busy. This isn’t a holiday. So, I won’t be able to meet up with as many people as I would like. Oh, and social distancing.)

Of course, there is much to look forward to when returning to your passport country. But, it’s not all sun and roses. There are some really hard, complex and baffling emotions going on that can make it really daunting.

I created this “Welcome Back! Bingo” card, which will hopefully give a chuckle to those who have been in my position as well as shed a bit of a light on some of the pit falls that those welcoming us back can fall into. (I think I’ve experienced all but one of them.)

First, don’t assume where home is. The expat or missionary has probably been working really hard to settle into their new country, putting loads of effort into building relationships, understanding the culture, creating routines, familiarising yourself with your surroundings. This emotional investment, and the fact that a large portion of their life has been spent in a different place, might mean that their new home feels like home. Hopefully, they feel welcome in their passport country and their new host country. But it can be a bit of a confusing rollercoaster as you try to find your roots. (Of course, my parents’ home feels like home. So, I’m looking forward to that!)

Second, reverse culture shock is a thing. Here’s a video from someone else’s perspective.

For example, I went away for a year. When I came back, suddenly there were some unexplainable crazes, namely pineapples and unicorns. They were everywhere. Why, people? What is so amazing about pineapples?

Third, now this is where I try to avoid humble bragging. Our experiences as the same as yours. Markets in the UK are not like markets in Cambodia. And the differences are often unexpected: mall bathrooms are way cleaner in Cambodia than the UK. (Petrol station bathrooms seem to be universally grim, though.) Service is generally quicker in Cambodia (mainly because supermarkets and restaurants tend to have so many staff). It just means conversation can be a bit difficult as you navigate the common ground. Take an interest and ask stupid questions.

Lastly, we are not special. Although our experiences are different, they are the experiences of the millions of people in your host country. There will be some experiences that are universal to the most of the continent (e.g. eating loads of rice in Asia), so that means it’s normal for potentially billions of the world’s population. Therefore, the things we do are normal for a lot of people, just not those back at home. This means that we aren’t in anyway superheroes or extraordinary. We just have a different ordinary. (Which I can assure you, is often dull or sweaty.) Also, the process of moving to a different country is really similar to getting on a plane for a holiday. Just the gap between the inbound flight and the outbound flight tends to be a lot longer.

But making mistakes is okay. But being genuinely interested, intentionally welcoming and seeking to bless can make a world of difference.

July

Well, this month is almost done. It’s mostly been taken up with language learning. I’ve been doing about 22 hours per week. I’m not going to lie, that’s quite full on. Of course, it’s not without it’s funny moments- mixing up the word Samdech (which would roughly translate as “the right honourable”) and sandaech (bean).

At the beginning of the month, Kristi went back to the US for six months. So a lot of the week running up to that was me accompanying her to goodbye meals. I ate very well that week.

I’ve also been enjoying venturing around Phnom Penh and even revived my instagram account.

I also had an adventure with a bird flying into my house. Fortunately, birds fell down the chimney back in the UK on a regular basis so I’m rather skillful with the old tea towel.

It was rather cute.

Have a look at some of my arty posts.

Finally, follow me! Here are the places you can do that.

Addressing issues

My goodness, my brain has just melted. I have just had a culture lesson as a part of my language course on terms of address within the family. I knew Khmer terms of address was complicated, but I knew nothing.

So terms of address are what we call each other (Mr, Miss, buddy, sweetheart…) etc., with various levels of formality. In British culture we do change the terms of address in relation to the context. These terms of address can also refer to the person you are addressing or yourself. For example

Your humble servant asks your majesty to close the window.

The “Your humble servant” part refers to you as the speaker, and “your majesty” is the person you are addressing, in this case, the queen.

One of the most noticeable contexts we switch from terms of address is within a school. Students also refer to a teacher by their surname and a title (Mr, Mrs, Miss) or by Sir/Miss when not using their name. Teachers refer to other staff by their first name, unless when talking to or in front of the students.

  • Whilst in the classroom: “Mrs Smith, can I borrow your red whiteboard pen?”
  • “Jimmy, can you return this to Mrs Smith?”
  • In the staffroom: “Debbie, thanks for lending me the pen earlier.”

Parents and usually visitors will also use the polite form of the name when addressing or referring to a teacher. (This might not be so much the case in America and I have had visitors refer to me by my first name to a student, much to the student’s horror.)

We also do it within the family:

  • Sweetie, can you find mommy the sticky tape?
  • Come give granny a big cuddle and a kiss!

However, in Khmer, these terms are generally used instead of other personal pronouns. So you don’t use អ្នក (neak) which means you that often or even ខ្ញុំ (knhom / kʰɲom), for I, that often.

So you would say for a word-by-word translation:

  • “Big Brother well and healthy?”
  • “Mum go where?”
  • “Grandmother [I] will give Granddad [you] 20 dollars for the market.”
  • “What is wife cooking?”

These all come with varying levels of formality. Furthermore there are other specific examples, for example a grandfather can call his oldest child father (as long as he is actually now a father), to show his status within the family:

  • “How much did Father Suon [you- Suon is a name] pay for that motorbike?

I’m not sure if Suon would respond with dad or granddad at this point.

And this is just within the family. You’ve got to change the Is and yous to different words when addressing teachers, staff, managers, very close friends, monks, strangers, those of a higher status than you, kings and gods. You also might have to change the verbs you use as well.

I’ve started creating a table for this and will sit down with Vitou and make him help me fill it out. I expect it to be rather tear-stained before it’s finished. But I’m going to persevere!

Khmer superheroes

Okay, so you’re going to need to hear me out on this. I think Khmer people descend from a race of superheroes. Even if it’s not true, it’d make for a brilliant comic book series. (Copyright ThomasinCambodia.com 2020 – because we all know that’s how copyright works). I did read somewhere (I’m not entirely sure where) that there are legends about how during the Khmer Empire, its soldiers had superhuman strength. This was something to do with magic strings around the arm or herbal tea poured over stone phalluses (you think I’m joking – I will probably take the magic string option in my comic book). Then somehow, during the Cambodian dark ages, these superpowers disappeared. Perhaps the powers were like some sort of natural resource, that was over used? Like the mystery of why the great Empire itself fell, why did the superpowers disappear?

But, today there are still signs of these once incredible superpowers. Like today, I was being driven by another tuk tuk friend. (I have a cold and I don’t fancy getting caught in a rainstorm.) Near my local market, a child lost control of his skateboard, he jumped off and the skateboard shot out into the road. My tuk tuk driver friend expertly weaved his tuk tuk so the skateboard glided between all three wheels. This happened in a split second. See, superpowers.

Any foreigner living in Cambodia will have their own examples of Cambodian superpowers.

However, maybe in a comic book series, these superpowers will start emerging, maybe in a group of young university students. They will have to navigate life in Phnom Penh, study, the discovery of their sudden abilities and fighting a band of evil witchdoctors… Then Hollywood will buy the rights to the story, and having learnt the lessons of its past, cast all Asian (preferably Cambodian) actors and film it all in Asia, thus boosting the COVID-19 stricken tourist industry of the region. (Well, in that case, maybe this comic book story will have its own superpower.)

There’s a season for everything

I’ve nearly completed my third year in Cambodia. One thing about doing it for a second time, is that the rhythms and seasons of life become more normal. The rains come, the rains go; the mosquitoes come, the mosquitoes go; the hot days come, the hot days go; the weddings come, the weddings go; the power cuts come, the power cuts go.

Now, we have nearly reached the wet season.

We have also reached the goodbye season. The cycles of the academic year bring people to the school and the country, and as the academic year ends, so people also leave. For the local staff at HOPE and for those who stay longer, goodbyes are hard. They don’t get easier and as a result first hellos can be also difficult.

In 2018, I began my job at HOPE school. That was for a season. That season is coming to the end now.

It makes me aware that Cambodia is probably only for a season. So far, it’s been three years. I’m not sure how long it’ll be, so I should make the most of enjoying it. One day, I might be saying goodbye to Cambodia for the last time. There is a time for that, as there is a time for everything.

There is a time for everything,

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
     a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
     a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

Who knows what this next season will bring?

Going public

One of the interesting aspects of living in a foreign country, especially doing the job I do, is that you often become very image conscious. This affects your life in a number of ways: the way you dress, your social media and even how you relate to those around you. You’re very aware of how you conduct yourself in public and what message you’re trying to put across.

So, for example, I would probably wear trousers (and maybe even a shirt) when going to the mall or someone else’s house. It also means you have to be conscious of what photos you are posed in on Facebook, etc. As I work in a Cambodian setting, I have to be aware of what behaviours would suggest in Cambodian culture. Furthermore, Cambodians are very social and very curious. This means that the Cambodians in your neighbourhood know everything about you.

I went to a Bible study for those who lived in my area of Phnom Penh. One lady who went lived a few streets down from me. Obviously, it would make sense if we travelled back together. However, because of what her neighbours would say if she was seen in a tuk tuk with a man, we would often travel separately. She had a tuk tuk driver she trusted and she knew he was safe, so she would often ask him to pick her up and she would go back alone. If he was busy, though, we would travel together, but she would be dropped off on the corner so none of her neighbours would see I was also in the tuk tuk.

Another occasion, I had to pick something up from the house of one of branch leaders when I lived in Siem Reap. The two branch leaders are a couple, and only the wife was home. We chatted for a bit, and the conversation ended with, “Anyway, my neighbours are watching, so I will see you later.” This is quite common, especially as Cambodians do a lot more outside than we would (prepare food, cook, wash up, for instance). So, you are far more visible than you would be in the UK.

In my previous apartment, I don’t think I was ever alone with a female for more than 5 minutes. That was usually only because we were waiting for someone else to arrive. One of the reasons I moved in with Vitou and his wife is so that I could invite people more freely as I’d always have a “chaperone”, so to speak.

In social occasions, too, you don’t hang out with those of the same gender. At a Khmer party, the women all usually sit together and the men sit together, sometimes on separate tables. The order of deciding who sits where goes in order of Khmer/foreigner (i.e. the Khmer sit with Khmer, the foreigners with the foreigners), then split again by gender. The children do their own thing entirely. If you’re a foreign couple with a group of Khmer people you often act as the bridge between the male/female split. You’d sit together, and the female Khmer would sit next to the woman and the male Khmer would sit next to the man.

This can be seen in my social media posts. If you’re my friend on facebook, you can look through my photos and see how often I’ll be photographed with a group of guys or a group of females. Also, if there are both genders present, look how they are arranged. It’s more likely that the men are all sat together. There are some wedding photos where there is a large group. The Khmer will be together; the foreigners will be together. There is very little mention of anyone, other than my mother, on Facebook who is not a guy and there will be very few photos of me alone with a female (even if we happen to be dating). Furthermore, any couple photos in Cambodia are basically announcements of intentions to be married. Even the words “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” are more akin to “fiancé”, but just at the stage when you haven’t set a date.

All this does mean that I am very careful. I want to have a good reputation here in Cambodia. Therefore, if you were to suddenly discover I had been dating someone for nine months and hadn’t announced it, this would be why.

You know you’ve lived in Cambodia when…

My girlfriend and I were listing things that show you’ve lived in Cambodia. We reached 110 different aspects of Cambodian life. If you’ve lived in Cambodia, check to see how many you have scored or if we have missed anything. If you don’t live in Cambodia, it might give you a humorous insight into daily life here.

Food and diet

  1. You think the most appropriate knife for any job is the biggest meat cleaver you own.
  2. Dinner for breakfast isn’t weird.
  3. You’ve knowingly eaten/drank bugs because you can’t be bothered to fish it out.
  4. You’ve knowingly eaten bugs because they were meant to be in your food.
  5. You’ve eaten soup from a bag.
  6. You’ve eaten the ear and rear of a pig and everything in between.
  7. You’ve had a dessert ruined by durian contamination.
  8. You’ve got something in your fridge people at home would never dream of keeping there.
  9. You’ve had to explain that you’re full even though you haven’t eaten rice today.
  10. You’ve eaten a chicken/duck that was alive when you arrived.
  11. The variety of food available amazes you.
  12. You only know the names of some fruits, vegetables or herbs in Khmer because you don’t have them where you live.
  13. You’ve eaten organs of animals you didn’t even know they had.
  14. Your order at a restaurant has been based on how many days you have available to recover if things go wrong.
  15. You’ve judged someone for not ordering ice in their drinks.

Transport

  1. You’ve had to drive through a herd of cows, past a truck and round children on bicycles at the same time.
  2. You’ve seen a whole house being driven down the road.
  3. You’ve driven through a field because it has less potholes than the road.
  4. You don’t even blink when someone is driving directly towards you the wrong way on the sidewalk anymore.
  5. You’ve thought, “dang it, I should’ve taken the sidewalk” when driving.
  6. You don’t even blink when you’re down the wrong side of the road anyone.
  7. You treat traffic lights like helpful advice.
  8. You’ve wondered what the road markings are actually for.
  9. You’ve driven through a tent.
  10. You’ve had your motorbike/car blocked in by a tent.
  11. You have been in a tuk tuk with more than 8 people.
  12. You have been on a motorbike with more than two people.
  13. You have carried something enormous or unwieldy on a motorbike, whilst driving.
  14. You have fallen asleep in a tuk tuk.
  15. A tuk tuk driver took you back to your house without you telling him where you live because he remembers you.
  16. You don’t think it’s weird to park your car or motorbike in your living room.
  17. You’ve transported furniture on the roof of a tuk tuk.
  18. You’ve had someone else push your motorbike by riding theirs and putting their foot on the back footrest.
  19. You know how difficult it is to push a motorbike with a flat.
  20. You know how to kickstart a motorbike.

Health, hygiene and safety

  1. You’ve woken yourself up with your own B.O.
  2. Your tolerance of getting dust in your eye has risen 1000%.
  3. You have stuck to multiple surfaces because of sweat or had multiple things stick to you.
  4. You worried more about eating that salad than the piece of food you dropped on the floor.
  5. You freak out when people drink from the taps in movies.
  6. You’ve sprayed yourself in the mouth/eyes with DEET on at least 10 occasions (one of which was just to get rid of the taste of durian).
  7. You’ve washed your raw chicken because you’re worried it’s been sprayed with insect repellent.
  8. On a really hot day, you’ve gone into a shower wetter than when you came out.
  9. You prefer cold showers over hot showers.
  10. You’ve pulled a wet money note or receipt out of your pocket and it’s not because you’ve been near water.
  11. You take Imodium before travelling just in case.
  12. You wondered “is that pee or water??” while using a squatty potty.
  13. You have slipped up on wet tiles.
  14. You have burnt your leg on a hot exhaust at least once.
  15. You’ve fallen off your motorbike while it stationary.

Wildlife and nature

  1. A herd of goats or cows are outside your house and you think nothing of it.
  2. Used a cockroach like a hockey puck.
  3. You saw a rat in a restaurant, said “hey there’s a rat in the restaurant” and kept eating.
  4. You have killed a rat.
  5. You appreciate the phrase “look like a drowned rat” even more after the rainy season.
  6. You’ve had to decide which to stand closest to: the fighting dogs or the rat in the bin.
  7. The main reason something goes in the fridge is to keep the ants away.
  8. You’ve frozen a bag of rice or cereal before.
  9. You killed more than 40 mosquitoes in 10 minutes.
  10. You had an ant/mosquito in your motorbike helmet whilst driving.
  11. You had some animal fall on you/run over your foot/hide in your shoe.
  12. You stepped over an escaping animal (fish/crab) in a market.
  13. You realised it’s better to be able to see a cockroach that to have seen a cockroach than not be able to see that cockroach.
  14. You’ve accidentally smuggled a dead animal back to your passport country in your luggage.
  15. You’ve been chased by a dog.

Daily life

  1. You regularly think “I nearly died”.
  2. You’ve slept on the floor during a power cut because it’s cooler than your bed.
  3. You’ve had to wear xxl clothes because you’re in Asia
  4. You’ve put your washing in and closed all the windows when the wind picked up.
  5. The water ran out while you still had shampoo in your hair.
  6. You had to change/shower again within an hour of changing/showering because you moved away from a fan.
  7. You get up really early to do something while it is cool and realise it is already too late.
  8. The sound of a fan turning off gives you the heebie-jeebies.
  9. You’ve handed over too much or too little money because working out something in two currencies is too hard.
  10. You find it strange that it’s easier to sleep in the day when it’s hot than at night when it’s hot.
  11. You take a jumper to the mall/cafe/cinema.
  12. You don’t want to go back to your passport country because the internet / mobile data is more expensive and not as reliable.
  13. You got a tan / sunburnt because you stepped outside for two minutes.
  14. You have realised that making a plan for today was the first mistake in your plan.
  15. The tasks that take 5 minutes in your passport country take 2 hours here, but the tasks that take 2 hours in your passport country take 5 minutes here.

Culture

  1. You’ve not been sure how high to sompeah so it looks like you’re practicing a yoga move
  2. You’ve almost dropped everything trying to sompeah with your hands full.
  3. You’ve done the moonwalk of shame: you entered a house with shoes on and slowly walk backwards hoping no one has noticed.
  4. You’ve had to sit down outside a neighbours/stranger’s/friend-of-a-friend’s house because they invited you to take a seat.
  5. You got up to do something while at someone else’s house and they almost rugby tackle you back into your chair.
  6. You’ve just sat in a chair in the middle of a room while everyone stares/smiles at you.
  7. Been told you look like a white celebrity you most definitely do not look like.
  8. You’ve been told you’re fat, have a big nose and really pale in the same week (which are all compliments here).
  9. You’ve been to the wedding of a couple you’ve never met before.
  10. You’ve been to funeral of someone you’ve never met before.
  11. You’ve visited the mother and new born baby within hours of them giving birth
  12. You attempted something for two hours only for a Cambodian to do it in 2 minutes.
  13. You had a random Cambodian save you in your moment of need.
  14. You’ve had a Cambodian come and give you advice on keeping safe.
  15. You’ve had a Cambodian grab you by the shoulders and move you in the right direction/away from danger.
  16. Your Cambodia friend/house helper/colleague performs some miracle on a daily basis.
  17. You’ve had a Cambodian give you the sweetest and most heartfelt compliment you’ve ever received.
  18. Your tiny Cambodian friend performed a superhuman feat of strength without thinking anything of it.
  19. You’ve had a Cambodian “telling off”, which is, “oh please next time do [insert what you failed to do this time]” whilst smiling sweetly.
  20. You’ve been told to “look after yourself” at least once a day.
  21. You’ve offered a Cambodian a cup of coffee, only for them to suddenly make one for you.
  22. You scared a Cambodian when you’ve told them the current temperature in your passport country.
  23. You confused a Cambodian when you said that your passport country doesn’t have that food/fruit/tree/animal.
  24. You have been told to go have a nap at a stranger’s house and obliged.
  25. You’ve not known who the market seller/shop owner was and who’s just a friend/customer because they’re all helping you with your purchase.
  26. A stranger knew your name/where you live/where you work/where you’re from because they have a vague connection to someone you know.
  27. You’ve been given a surprise massage at the hairdressers or other places.
  28. You have had children wave and say “hey-lo” to you.
  29. These children suddenly became very shy when you replied in Khmer.
  30. A Khmer child has played a game with your flip-flops.

If you have lived in Cambodia, tally up your scores and add a comment.

  • Food and diet: __/15
  • Transport: __/20
  • Health, hygiene and safety: __/15
  • Wildlife and nature: __/15
  • Daily life: __/15
  • Culture: __/30
  • Total: __/110

If you haven’t lived in Cambodia, what statement surprised you the most?

Simple Khor Sach Chrouk (Cambodian caramelised pork)

Living with a Khmer family has it’s benefits, including trying some amazing, home cooked Cambodian food. I asked Sophy, the wife, to teach me a dish this week and I thought I would write it up.

Khor Sach Chrouk is a really hearty, comfort-food that can easily be customised to your taste. It’s simply caramelised pork belly and it’s really, really delicious but incredibly simple. It’s not spicy but if you do want to add some warmth, put in some ginger. It usually comes with boiled eggs too, but if can’t be bothered with that fuss, don’t worry. We’re only really here for the sticky, sweet, soft pork anyway. What’s also great about this version is that it uses things you probably have around anyway. No special trips to the Asian grocer store necessary!

Cambodians usually will serve more than one dish at a meal. So this is often accompanied by cucumbers, long beans, lettuce or other refreshing vegetables, just to balance out the rich sweetness of the sauce. Again, that’s optional.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6 people

  • 1 kg of pork belly, chopped into rough cubes
  • 4 tablespoons soft brown sugar (palm sugar is great, but just use what you have)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons of chicken stock powder (or probably 1 chicken stock cube and dissolve it in the water)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 500 ml water
  • 4 hard boiled eggs with their shells removed (optional)

Method

  1. Add about 3 tablespoons of the water to the pan and add the sugar. Bring to a vigorous simmer and stir until you have created a sticky syrup.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger (if using) to the syrup and cook until fragrant.
  3. Add the pork belly, the stock powder and the salt. Stir until the belly is a light golden brown.
  4. Add the water and bring to a simmer.
  5. Add the eggs, if using.
  6. Simmer until the sauce is reduced to a thick syrup.
  7. Serve with hot jasmine rice and sliced cucumbers.

Add your own twist

This doesn’t have to be done with pork belly, but the fatty part of the meat just adds that extra richness. You can use a leaner cut such as the shoulder, or even use chicken. You can also add additional spices in with the garlic or ginger including a stick of cinnamon or some star anise. Or if you want to add copious amounts of black pepper, go for it.

You can substitute the salt for a teaspoon of fish sauce. Some people also add bamboo shoots with the eggs.