Cables, not the networking kind

Cables, not the networking kind

Moving right along to a new technique, the CK knitters have mastered cables.  Cables are one of the easiest knitting decorations to learn, but they look complicated and so pretty.  Again, this is for a our future bracelet line. In other news, the accountant called in sick this morning and I was worried about him because he lives alone and has no one to take care of him.  Somehow he made it to the office, weak with fever and a massive headache.  Why did he come to the office you ask?  Well, the knitters spent 30 minutes ‘coining’ him.’  This means rubbing Tiger Balm into the skin as hard as you can with the lid of the Tiger Balm (there are no coins in Cambodian currency)  until it turns red.  Children of immigrant parents in Canada and the US are sometimes accused of abusing their children when they appear at school with the red marks.  Now he is lying in a pathetic heap in the stock room, covered in red marks and Tiger Balm.  The knitters will take care of him for the rest of the day.  This is one of those times when the Western manager needs to recognize culture differences and go with the flow. I’m just glad he has someone to look after him and that the staff are kind enough to help him...
Long Term Impact of Cambodia Weddings

Long Term Impact of Cambodia Weddings

Cambodian weddings are usually annoying.  This might sound culturally insensitive, but truth is that even many Cambodians agree with this statement and so do certainly the majority of expats.  How, you might ask, could a wedding, a joyous occasion be annoying?  Let me explain. The most common wedding takes place on the street in front of the bride’s house.  Yes, the street.  Tents are erected and often block off the entire road as the space is turned into an outdoor dining and cooking area.  The wedding ceremony begins between 4am and 5am.  This is not an exaggeration, this is a fact.  If you’re thinking along the lines of Western weddings, you might think, so what?  People can get married at home at 4am.   However, Khmer weddings, unlike those you might be familiar with are LOUD.  Part of set-up is a wall of speakers (the more the better, quality is irrelevant) which are turned to full volume from the wee hours of morning to the point they can be heard several blocks away.  If you are living in the nearby blocks, forget sleep. I’ve asked many people over the years why weddings here have to be SO LOUD and the answers have varied from:  “we want everyone to know we are happy” (yeah, but your neighbours aren’t) to “it shows we have money to rent lots of speakers” (next time can you spend a little extra to get ones that aren’t so lacking in sound quality?).  My favourite is, “in the countryside, the loud music reminded everyone there was a wedding on and to come.” All that aside, why...

The Good, The Bad and the Funny

A slightly un-knitty post today but a look into life in Cambodia.  I give you: The Good Yesterday was the Royal Ploughing ceremony, my favourite of all Cambodian celebrations!  This is more than good, it’s fantastic:  the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony.  Each year, the royal oxen are paraded around in front of the king, dignitaries, spectators as they ‘plough’ a small circuit of sand.  They are led by elaborately dressed handlers, surrounded by beautiful girls in glamous costume, accompanied by the full spectrum of traditional instruments and the whole event is televised around the nation.  The ceremony marks the beginning of the rice planting season, but is also watched by farmers attentively for a clue on how the upcoming season is expected to unfold.  During the ceremony, the royal oxen pair are led to 7 plates containing 7 different items like rice, beans, corn and water.  Depending on what they choose to eat, and how much, the royal astrologers predict which crops will fare well in the upcoming year. This year, expect a lot of corn to be planted around the Kingdom. The Bad Last week, the electricity in our office started acting up.  It would switch itself off in a dramatic pop leaving us in sweltering darkness.  I called the landlord, the landlord called the electrician.  The electrician came and said there was a problem and left.  I called the landlord again.  He called the electrician.  He came back and fiddled around.  The electricity came back.  The electrician left.  And then it went off again.  Called the electrician again.  He came and spent two hours going through all...

A look back…

So, sales have not been good at all, almost completely because of the poor advertising of the fair, bringing in next to no tourists to the site. There are several things I could complain about, but won’t right now. It was not only us who suffered these past five days, but just about every other organization that shelled out the high rates for the booths. I think most of us will be lucky to break even and many booths have already closed up. More on that later. For now, a picture that is an amazing ‘fail’. All around Cambodia (and must of Asia) personal vanity is looked upon favourably. All youngsters who can afford it, get dressed up in their funkiest, coolest gear, get all made up, go wild with their hair and subject themselves to hours in front of a camera at the local photo studio to get hot, funky photos of themselves. They pose. They posture. They make love to the camera. The poses are stereotypical. The make-up is extreme. The hair is just fabulous. After the photo shoot, the best pictures are chosen and photo-shopped for hours. Bodies are cut out and backdrops range from fashion week at Milan to Hello Kitty parlour scenes. To make the photos even cooler, sometimes random phrases in English are added. Unfortunately, no one checks that these make any sense or contain any obscenities. It doesn’t matter. Cool doesn’t need spell-grammar check. Samples of the photos are usually hung around the photo shop to entice new customers. The results are often amusing for those in the know of the English...

Rambo

Sorry for the lack of updates this past week, but things have been so busy I just haven’t had the time. Tomorrow is the annual Women’s International Group Christmas Bazaar at the Intercontinental Hotel and we’ve been frantically trying to prepare enough stock to sell. Two knitters from Toul Sambo, Vireak and Koun, joined us in the workshop for the week to help out. This was great not only because we needed the extra hands, but because it demonstrated to the trainers how far their students had come. I had been in contact with Hagar for a few weeks, trying to meet with them to and hire a couple of their students. Hagar is another local organization that uses the social enterprise approach to help women from difficult (often devastating) backgrounds get back on their feet. I met with two of their graduate students and hired them on the spot. They both have training in sewing and work experience in this area, but were keen to try working with knitted items instead. They won’t be doing any knitting, focusing on assembly instead. Finally, I have to write about the latest addition to what is a plethora of massage options in Phnom Penh. One of the greatest things about living here is the availability of cheap, amazing massage. The options are almost limitless. You can go to a fancy spa on the riverside and have a 25$ Swedish massage, go to an arty French-run spa for an Indian head massage for 10$ or, one of my favourites, pay only 5$ for an incredible, stress releasing accupressure massage at Seeing Hands...

5 days can equal 7 days if you want it to

A story of misunderstood logic, if you can call it that. So this morning, Bunda came to the house and gave us an envelope with an announcement of the 7 days ceremony for her aunt’s death. She had spent all of Thursday night last week taking care of her aunt, so I assumed that the aunt had then, unfortunately passed away on Friday, later in the day. Bunda had been really tired and fell into a deep sleep and we sent her home to get some rest. So when I saw the 7 day ceremony flyer, I assumed that the ceremony must be this coming Friday or later since, clearly, her aunt was still alive this time last week, until at least Friday. We were given the flyer as a way to ask for a contribution, which is normal and fine. I was just saying to Yeng that we should give Bunda Friday off and wondered how much cash we needed to give her. He then told me that the 7 day ceremony had been today. I scratched my head, confused. “But Bunda was taking care of her aunt on Thursday night…” I say.“Yes,” husband replies.“So she was alive 7 days ago?” I continue.“Yes. She died on Friday,” the reply“Um, so shouldn’t the 7 day ceremony be on Friday then,” say I, utterly dumbfounded. And then, “they can choose when to hold the 7 day ceremony.” It was one of those I-don’t-know-how-to-even-start-to-respond-to-that moments… Why call it a 7 day ceremony if it doesn’t actually have to be 7 days after. Why a 7 day ceremony if it canbe 4...

Still unrelated

So, there is still nothing new to report on the knitting front so I give you another photo: This is one of my favourite sites along the road from Phnom Penh to Ratanakiri. Usually, you see three or four motorcycles like this, traveling to the city together. I’ve been told the reason they do this is to save money on taxes. If all the beds were put onto a lorry and brought into PP that way, a tax would need to be paid. There is no tax for bringing in goods into the city on a moto. Thanks to this, you see dozens of ridiculously overloaded motos everyday. If you have any doubts about how difficult carrying a king sized bed on the back of a moto might be, stop now. The bed in the photo is not one of those light weight IKEA particle board numbers, but a full fledged wooden bed. We have one at home and it takes two people just to reposition it. To move it, it needs to be disassembled and then each component requires at least two people. These guys who do this everyday are nothing short of...

7 elephants

So since there is not much to report on the knitting front (we’re knitting, we’re waiting for plastic eyes; hearing that over and over again is sure to become dull), I’ve decided to post some random photos of interesting things in and around Phnom Penh. For those of you who live here (or have) this might not be so interesting, but for those of you who haven’t, this regular installment could be. So here are the first slices of life in PP: PP traffic police are well known for their ineptitude and incompetence. When a traffic light goes out and the traffic cops take over, you can expect it to take at least five times as long to get through an intersection. All this changes when a VIP is traveling through. When this happens, these dudes are so swift and professional at stopping all traffic, in every direction, putting hundreds, nay thousands of people to a standstill, its amazing to see them so mobile and active. Until the Big Man zips through at top speed and then they go back to usual sloth like behvaiour. 7 elephants. Don’t need to say much about this one except that is a brilliant rip off! Can you count 7 elephants in the logo which is otherwise exactly like a certain chain… This is just…hmmm. The Gentle Dental Clinic. Its quite new but already it has more clients than the Brutal Dental Clinic just up the...