The Hospital that Didn’t Exist

I had breakfast with a French guy who runs an NGO. He’s a Captain in the French Army Reserve. He was telling me how he once arranged a shipping container of medical equipment to go to a supposedly needy hospital in rural Cambodia. Later he tried to visit the hospital. It didn’t exist. So where did the stuff go? Well, I’m not stupid enough to write the most likely answer in this blog while I’m still in the country.  But Transparency International just relaeased its Index of Corruption for 2010. Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore tied for first place a non-corrupt. Cambodia came in at 154 out of 178 countries.

If you want to know more, click on the link below. There’s the actual list and scores and a color-coded map of the world. It will make you think about giving money to some charities and some countries. It’s sad but…

The French Army Captain now insists on accompanying the deliveries himself with his own interpreter.

Another odd thing about teaching in Cambodia

Another odd thing about teaching in Cambodia:

To appreciate this it helps to know that

  1. Cambodians refer to themselves as “Khmer” and their language as “Khmai”, so Cambodian internet sites end with “.kh”
  2. Cambodians tend to accent the last syllables of words. They abbreviate their names to the last syllables not the first.  If Jonathan were Cambodian he’d be Than, not John.
  3. They have many vowel sounds which are so short I generally can’t hear them, and involve little jaw and lip movement, and therefore:
  4.  When teaching some English words you have to drag out the vowel to triple its normal length and physically show them how to round their lips by pinching your own mouth on the sides with your finger and thumb to emphasise that the lips need to be rounded to get the “ooh” sound. Or put your finger under your chin and make them watch how your finger drops when you say “cup” etc.  Attempts to get the students to imitate this are met with embarrassed laughter and sometimes outright refusal. They find my pronunciation antics highly amusing.
  5. Google exists in Cambodia: the site is  I’ve seen the hotel staff using it. I’ve seen people on it in internet cafes. I know that people know about it. Google defaults to this site unless you put “” , “” or “” into the name to force it to the British, New Zealand  or Australian sites. If you look for the American Google site it goes to the .kh site. Even if you Google Google itself, and click the link to the American Google, you end up back on the Cambodian one.
  6. In China, where the internet is censored and sites are blocked, you can’t get Wikipedia, Facebook or Twitter. But you can get them on Cambodia’s version of Google.


I’m talking about something in the classroom to a bunch of 16-25 year olds  and I suggest if they want to know more about whatever it was they should look it up on Google.


Google, on the internet: how many of you can get to an internet?

 Lots of hands go up.

Well you know Google then? On the internet?

Eyebrows are screwed up, heads are tilted, “what teacher?”

I draw a big rectangle on the board, draw an address bar and write

Howls of laughter.

“No teacher, you say it wrong. It  G’GOL. G’GOL

I do the round lip thing: “Well in English you say Gooooogle.  Try that Goooogle”.

Hysterical laughter. Faces are hidden in books and behind pencil case. Some of them try and the rest collapse laughing.

Tonight they did the end of semester exam. It’s my last day in this university. They had to write sentences with comparative adjectives and the “as adjective as” pattern.

One student has written: “Richard is funnier than my old teacher. He is as funny as a joker.”

Monkey Business

They want what you've got.
Lying in wait for tourists with bags

On the weekend I went to a seaside town called Kep. There are lots of monkeys there. they have  yellowy-brown fur with white chests and stomachs, and  they follow tourists around wanting food and trying to snatch bags. One of them, about two foot tall, went straight in front of me opened its mouth and bared its teeth. Fortunately, if you splash some water at them they run away.  I was a bit concerned ‘cos I don’t know if they have diseases that can be transmitted to humans, but

They want your food, or whatever is in that plastic bag.

But all’s well that ends well. I retreated to the safety of a tuk tuk to take some more photos. It seems that the more tourists feed them the more they expect to be fed. The town of kep itself is an odd mixture of things. There are still burnt-out buildings form the 1970s, when the Khmer Rouge hated the town and burnt lot of it down. It had been a playground of the wealthy, and the Khmer being Moaist communists, well… The strange thing is thatnew buildings are being put up while the old ones are left intact as empty shells. I’m having a spare set of glasses made here. The cost is $160. In Australia the same thing might cost me $500 (frames plus lenses.) Here’s to living in a cheap country.

The Trash Mountain at Street 122

Tonight is Thursday.

On Tuesday the reidents of Street 122 had moved their trash mountain out into one of the lanes of Jawaharlal Nerhru Boulevard (Street 215).  I’m teaching at a place in street 112, and I bicycle south slong nehru and pass street 122 as I go. The even street numbers get bigger as you go south. (See previous posts about trash mountains). It was occupying one of the three  south-bound  lanes of  Nehru .  When I went to school on Thursday night the mound had disappeared. Obvously the municiple garbage people had decided to collect it. On Thursday night as I came back, they were putting out another pile, also going into Nehru Avenue. We’ll see if this one is removed as promptly. I wonder of it was a delbiberate tactic.

At the moment i cant find the device for inserting my camera’s memory stick into the computer, so I can’t show any photos.