“Luv(sic) pt.2” by Nujabes with Shing02 // {Cambodia version}

13 February 2011 § Leave a comment

Love the opening. Beautiful new video, shot in Cambodia :D:

Once again, now where do I start, dear love
Dumb struck with the pure luck to find you here
Every morn’ I awake from a cavernous night,
Sometimes still pondering the previous plight,
Seems life done changed long time no speak,
Nowadays I often forget the day of the week
Taking it by stride if you know what I mean,
No harm done, no offense taken by me
So let’s rap, we’ll catch up to par, what’s the haps?

It’s so neat to have lived there. I miss my Cambodian friends! I definitely knew some people who suffered from landmines and/or working at Handicap International Cambodia as national staff—some of the kindest people in my village.

C’est la vie, as they say L.O.V.E evidently, see every song has a sequel
Never same, everything but the name, all fresh just like back then, how we do everyday
C’est la vie, as they say L.O.V.E eloquently, see dream has a part two
Never same, you got to keep it tight, all fresh just like back then, now hear me out…

The original, shot in Japan:

🙂 Rest in peace, Nujabes. Love his music – first heard it walking in a shop in Sawtelle (little Tokyo, Los Angeles). Really love that the producer of the video, Sou Otsuki, brought his music to my Peace Corps country. 🙂

Explore the nature of happiness, smile, enjoy what you have, we’re on earth for such a short time.

Let me mention what I’ve been thinking
How to save the children, when the ship is sinking
So I’m singing, no lip syncing to slogans,
Political hooligans with tanks, missiles and guns!
Everything is relative when it’s all in the family of man,
Understand the time has finally come to realize the great power of 1,
All formulas equalize under the Sun, Amen!

The rhymes will heal ’cause I believe in music,
In times of need I won’t be leaving you sick
The beat plus the melody’s the recipe,
Your vibe surely brings out the best in me!
The rhymes will heal ’cause I believe in music,
In times of need I won’t be leaving you sick
The beat plus the melody’s the recipe,
All good souls lost may they rest in peace!
Hiphop worldwide we got to live in peace, like that!


Proverbial Doors After Peace Corps

11 February 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s always an interesting journey from cover letter to phone interview. Discussing your past accomplishments and challenges, and the skills and experiences that shaped you. 🙂

It’s thrilling to recall those experiences of personal growth. Having tough skin. Being consistent with who you are. Finding ways to diffuse stressful situations.

I really appreciate the diverse experiences around the Peace Corps. Toughest job you’ll ever love, they say–but it sets you up for going for even more challenging things in your life, with the patience and grace to learn and live through it.

And in this economy, (California in ultra-debt), I’m glad I have a high level of adaptability to new things such as possibly relocating.  A fellow Peace Corps Volunteer friend even encouraged it because it would open new opportunities to work say in New York, New York instead 🙂

DESTINY is ours to create,
it is a living masterpiece designed by the heart. – Unknown (to me)


Boiled Eggs, 3-layered Pork & Brown Sweet Sauce

24 January 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s a dish you can find in a traditional Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Lao house–among many I’m sure.

I wanted to learn how to make it for a while so since coming back to America, I waited for my Mum to make it. Last night we had this: “ka thohm kim” – translates to something like boiled/salty, albeit it’s more sweet than salty; a part of the process to make it requires frying/liquidating sugar.

We were sharing stories and I told my Mum how in Cambodia, whenever I had this dish it mostly was sold with bones, a shred of meat, and one egg. It was mostly sauce and one egg. My Mum said that’s how it is; meat is expensive. Even if you purchase just the special 3-layered pork (a large layer of skin and fat, and then meat), it adds up with a big family.


That’s why my family has it rarely… it’s fatty, has lots of sugar, and lots of meat. But it’s interesting to be southeast Asian, and a returned PCV from southeast Asia, because we have so many similar dishes. But I came back seeing quite a difference in the same dish I’ve had growing up.

When I had dinner with family, I made sure I had lots of vegetables – because that changed upon coming back. I like vegetables a whole lot more and meat a whole lot less after working abroad.

Want to try it? In Cambodia, one could find this dish at every bus rest stop, restaurant with metal pots in the front (fast food), and most dine-in’s. It’s called “kaw” I think in Khmer.

Upon Arrival: First Surprises

23 January 2011 § Leave a comment

After COS, I was on a plane eventually, and things surprised me: some people call it “reverse culture shock.”

I just want to list some things that I found strange between Cambodia and Los Angeles, but knew in my heart it’d been normal to me for 22 years, right?:

  • Everyone at Seoul’s Airport looked like movie stars…
  • I could wear glasses again without thinking it lowered my haggling power (because it was a sign of wealth in Cambodia)
  • McDonald’s had the saddest looking breakfast meals: not enough food, and too much packaging. AND it was my first McDonald’s in 2 years
  • Passport Control guy figured out I was with Peace Corps after asking how long I was abroad. 2 years gives it away. Welcomed me back.
  • I was amazed by how less crowded the 405 freeway seemed on Monday compared to a weekday in Bangkok. Bangkok (>public transportation)…
  • Later, I had Korean pizza (awesome new fusion) and every portion was enormous. Even our coke bottle looked like a 4 liter bottle instead of 2

^^^ABOVE, my desktop.

During my first week back:

  • Much much later, I was studying at a cafe and the waiter asked if I wanted him to warm up my cookie. SO, he did and came by with it on a SILVER PLATTER. I was in complete shock: “America puts cookies, warmed, on a silver platter and it just costs $1.50.”
  • When I drove in my car again – after getting insurance and whatnot – I kept forgetting to lock my door. Because in Cambodia, I never had to. I was always in a public bus or in a taxi.
  • SO NICE to wear sweaters. California was especially cold this year.
  • SUPER amazing to see UCLA on my TV!!! Basketball, of course.
  • Fell in love with Costco pizza again, with the crushed chili powder (still surprised by American portions but not minding for that pizza). Wonder why I didn’t dry chilies in the hot weather of Cambodia and made chili powder for a condiment
  • Weird drinking water from a tap. So much caution about it for 2 years in Cambodia
  • In Cambodia, similarly to “how are you?” or “what’s up?” you say “Where are you going?” A LOT. So I still have that habit, asking everyone where they are going as a greeting sometimes

I Like Veggies More

22 January 2011 § Leave a comment

Chicken in my village was not the most satisfying entree. Not fun to eat. I’d gnaw at a bone and wonder why I attempted to have chicken as part of my meal because it was so scrawny. Sometimes I’d end up realizing, hey, eating veggies, rice and soup is delicious. The basics.

^^^ABOVE, Wedding Food: An opportunity to eat yellow flowers! Yum! The only time in my life…

Over time, I think I began to eat less meat. If I did, I avoided red meat for health reasons. And would go for pork to make things like bulgogi or fish (fried simple). But mostly I stir fried veggies and had that for dinner/lunch. I’d also make sandwiches and eat raw tomatoes, chopped garlic, bell peppers, green onion, and smear some raspberry jam (from a western grocer) on and call it a day. Sprinkle some pepper and salt if I wasn’t lazy about flavoring the tomatoes. But one of the weird things was I left Cambodia realizing for two years I had very small portions, not lots of meat for meals, and had so much fresh veggies. Sure, I have no idea what pesticides and whatnot might have came with the food. But luckily I didn’t get sick in the stomach very often or get worms. I also washed my veggies as thoroughly as possible.

Tip: scrub vegetables to wash out the pesticides probably on it, versus just tossing in and out of water

It’s kind of nice to have this craving for veggies most of the time after being back as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. I was a bit lazy about salads pre-Peace Corps because of things like a long snack aisle, where in Asia western snacks are costly (being imported) and limited.

Also as an afterthought, some chubby volunteers lost a lot of weight during the Peace Corps. Kind of interesting what the Cambodian diet can help others on. I ended up fluctuating around holidays as usual, but biking anywhere within 2 miles and standing for work often helped with exercise.

^^^ABOVE, banh mi – a Vietnamese dish available in Siem Reap city. There’s some meat, but mostly noodles and lettuce. YUM!!! The rare times I liked meat in Cambodia because it had the eggroll wrap. Very rare to see eggrolls made in Cambodia in the villages. The wrap is hard to buy

During orientation for Peace Corps in San Francisco, we were told the ladies would normally gain weight and the men would lose. True. For me though I came back around the same weight – with a revived love for veggies.

Village Market: Final Stroll Before COS

21 January 2011 § Leave a comment

The entrance of the market I daily walked through for vegetables to stir-fry. The rice lady was right at the front so perhaps once a month I’d go by to purchase a few cans of rice. I didn’t eat a lot of rice, but was happy to occasionally treat myself with sticky rice. Close friends knowing that I’m also Lao make fun of me for loving sticky rice. It’s not really made into filler food for Cambodians; more of a snack or dessert is how sticky rice is used.

As you enter the market for the first time, or the last time as it was me (until I visit again years down along the road), you encounter the fish row! Lots of fish, favorite meat of choice for most people: affordable, tasty fried or grilled, healthy. Although sometimes an acquired taste if you begin to account or freak out on the idea that it’s from a rice paddy field vs the sea.

There are always vendors from other villages selling fabric. Wedding fabric materials are cheap around $10, then you have to pay a tailor about the same amount or more if you’re fancy to design and sew it together.

At this stall/home you can purchase some common household goods and packaged junk food I think no one ever buys. I sometimes visit to buy soap or those strings of shampoo packets. They come in a variety of brands and colors.

This is the lane I like to call freshest herbs and most mini veggies I’ve ever seen in my life. I love to buy basil, shallots, small corn and watermelon the size of a baseball here.

At this area, one could purchase PJs (a popular way to dress to go grocery shopping), underwear, bras, and other street clothes. Lots of mud, BTW, but it’s the largest market after Puok Village, when you head west of Siem Reap (capital city of Siem Reap province).

A favorite haunt in my village!!!!! A mini bakery shop. You can find all sorts of tasty treats here, including dumplings, sweet bread sprinkled with shredded pork, and sponge cake. You can purchase these things from $.12 to $.50. Sometimes they close when school is not in session because it’s their main market group.

I was scared to eat breakfast by the fresh killed meat area. The proximity was a bit intimidating for germs, etc. However, after a year, I started eating around there anyways. I figured, if I’ve had a year of baked goods by the meat area, I guess I’m okay. I usually have the best fried noodles around there, along with fresh, cold soya bean milk. If you look far back, it’s the center of the market where meat (beef, pork) is sold. No fish here.

A close up of one’s baked goods options throughout the year. One of the best discoveries walking around the market.

Chinese dough nuts. Love it for pho/noodles chopped up and greasy no matter where you buy it.

It’s kind of funny walking aroudn with a wallet. The smaller it is, the less comments I get about. But sometimes just being a foreigner with a wallet out can get some friendly banter going on: “where are your dollar bills?” or “Wow, you have lots of money.” I usually answer politely and ask about their student – sons/daughters.

Cambodian Cultural Village

20 January 2011 § Leave a comment

Visit (http://www.cambodianculturalvillage.com/) for more information.

Before I left Cambodia, my friends really, really wanted me to check the Cambodian Cultural Village. Wikipedia does not give it great reviews, but I think many volunteer friends would agree that our Cambodian friends really found this place special.

It has little versions of famous buildings and heritage sites around the world. And there are shows all day from Cambodian dancing to strange reenactments of a broad variety of cultures, love stories, war stories, and other short plays.

I liked going for the company rather than the strange plays. However, their Cambodian plays were lovely!

So one drizzly weekend, we went!!

^^^ABOVE, apsaras in color: celestial beings in Cambodian Angkorian history

– One of the first paintings one can see upon entering the amusement park. I couldn’t find the year this painting was drawn or what era it represents.

But the children I were with were curious about the other artifacts in front of the paintings such as ancient tools of the era. And in the same room, there were stuffed/plastic animals (including an alligator and tiger!!).

– Very cool kroma (scarf) dance.

– I think those are 4 leaf clovers 😛

– Oh, us tourists on a dainty pond bridge.

-Many statues around. Interesting how the death of Buddha is always portrayed with that calm face. This is the second ‘death of Buddha’ sculpture this large I’ve seen in Cambodia.

– Curiously there was a segment where it showed guests traditional weddings. What happens, how they dress, what is said. Some guests were pulled into the play as the parents of the bride.

– You don’t really follow the map. You follow the crowd, and together we go from performance to performance and snack in between.

– You know it’s Buddha with those long ears.

– The Chinese Play. I was worried during most of the play as it had rained as usual in Cambodia, and they were doing acrobatic things on wet floor.

– Perhaps this play was the most funny. A guest volunteered to go up and be part of the play. As he mocked fight, his tight white pants ripped in the back – exposing his underwear. He was not aware and started lifting his victory sword around. I felt bad, but the show went on. Then suddenly, one of the gigantic cows of Cambodia (supposedly imported from India if of white color) strolled by!

– Got a bit tired. We migrated to stage to stage. The actors ran also to stage to stage to prepare, and it was funny to recognize the actors in traditional wedding skirts to hay skirts. In this scene, an animal sacrifice (symbolized through the buffalo skull) and fake fire was part of the performance.

– The day’s finale – a battle and victory.