Saturday, August 13, 2011

Shopping and Entertaining Khmer Style

One of the joys of moving to a new country is trying to figure out where every thing is. Thankfully God in His infinite wisdom has surrounded me with wonderful shoppers and tour guides who happen to be international workers here. So today, my 'chauffeur and chef' Catherine from OMF took me to buy a few items. While Canada has shopping malls or outlets to find all that you need, here in Cambodia, you have to go to different parts of the city and to different areas to find what you are looking for. There are a few malls that have recently popped up in these past few years but the average Cambodian does not shop there because the prices are just too high. So to shop like a Cambodian means that you go to the local stores and markets.

My friend has given me the OMF orientation manual for new workers which is basically several pages highlighting prices of items one would need when they are setting up a house here. It is a great guideline to give you an idea of what you should be paying for certain items so that you don't get ripped off and where to go to buy them. I am hoping to enhance this list and develop one for Ratanak so its a great to have a base to work from.
Rattan shops

So this morning I was on the hunt for a few household items. One of them was a rattan laundry basket. Rattan furniture is quite cheap over here and with the hot temperatures it is the perfect type of furniture to decorate one's home so we were off to Mao Tse Tung boulevard as there are several rattan shops to choose from. Unfortunately my 'white skin' does not help in the bargaining process....despite looking Asian, I still pay a premium although not as much a premium as a 'real caucasian.' :-) My friend Catherine is of Filipino background and so she blends in well, looking like a local so we have a strategy that she goes into the stores first and talks Khmer to them. Today, I was successful in securing a Rattan laundry basket all for the price of US$7.00.

Next up we headed to Orussey market---this is where the locals shop. This is the 'Walmart' of Cambodian markets as the prices here are much cheaper than the other two big markets where the tourists hang out.
Orussey Market

Here you can find anything you want, but what I fail to realize is that they bargain in the local currency known as Riel (4000 riel to one US dollar). As a result, I almost ended up paying more than 4 times the asking price for a broom I was trying to buy,  but thankfully the shopkeeper did not hear me and only heard my friend's price. Some things get lost in translation and this was one of those moments that you have to laugh at yourself.

As I was having some Khmer friends over for a late afternoon visit, I asked my friend what it is that they would eat. It seems fruits and local delicacies would be the most appropriate items to get for my 'tea' time event and so in Orussey market, we hit the 'food section' and discovered that there was a Chinese religious festival going on and as such there were all these special foods in display. Below is a range of eateries including cakes and pastries.

I have to say I was tempted to buy them all but self control kicked in and I managed to stick to the plan of purchasing some sticky rice packets and local fruits such as Custard apples, Dragon fruit and Mien (not sure what the English name is for that but its a form of lychee).
 Cambodian delicacies including sticky rice packets in the green bamboo leaves

 Custard Apples

One of the interesting discoveries of this Chinese religious festival is that the families burn all sorts of items as part of their rituals of paying respect to their dead relatives. Here you will find 'fake' American dollars in addition to an assortment of paper made shirts and items.

 Fake US dollars being sold

By the time I got home, it was time to clean up the apartment in anticipation of my Khmer guests. Over this past year I have had the privilege of speaking to three of the teachers at the Newsong centre via skype. Yesterday they had phoned asking if they could come and visit me at my new 'home' and this afternoon at 5pm they arrived. It has been a real privilege getting to know these sisters in Christ and hearing their journeys of faith.

 Newsong Teachers from left to right: Vichny, Thida and Channa. Vichny's husband Yetho( left works for World Vision)

As the Lord would bring them to mind, do pray for them. They work hard at Newsong encouraging and affirming the girls in their studies. There job is not a typical 9 to 5 teaching job but it also involves working on some Saturdays, going on a variety of outings with the kids. In many ways, they along with the house mums, social workers and counselors represent the hands, feet and voice of Christ to each girl who lives at Newsong. They have such a deep love for the girls and the girls experience God's love through them. This is evident by the fact that the younger girls love hanging around their office even during break time.

Tonight before they left, we formed a circle and spent time praying for the personal needs of each other. They were praying in Khmer while I prayed in English. I look forward one day to having the privilege of praying in Khmer along side them but for now, this prayer time serves to remind me that in Christ we are all one!  4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all (Ephesians 4:4-5). It is such a special blessing to experience this oneness in Christ regardless of culture, ethnic background and life experiences. As a favorite Cambodian phrase says: 'we are same same but different'----we share commonality in Christ and yet celebrate our differences appreciating the uniqueness in which God has wired us through the cultural lenses that we have experienced.

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