Archive for January, 2013

Absolutely BEAUTIFUL day today!! Everyone in London seems to be…

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Absolutely BEAUTIFUL day today!! Everyone in London seems to be outside and Trafalgar Square is a definite hang out spot 

Went to Singing in the Rain for my London Theatre in Performance…

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Went to Singing in the Rain for my London Theatre in Performance class last night! 🙂

Pics from the Saatchi Gallery

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Pics from the Saatchi Gallery

Saturday in Chelsea

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Manda and I spent Saturday down in Chelsea which is right by the Sloane Square tube stop. Its a really cute area with lots of little shops (main stream and unique). And I am always so surprised by how friendly everybody is! We were in Lush and the british girl that worked there started asking us about where we were from in America and telling us that she wanted to visit really bad, it was so sweet! And she continued on to tell us where all the best markets are and when they happen. Nothing better than inside scoop from the locals!

Our main goal of the day was to go into the  Saatchi Museum which is edgy modern art and it’s free to get in so perfect for students..haha. It was really cool and we happened to stumble upon a market that happens there every Saturday which is amazing. The markets here are ALL amazing! You can get baked good and a grilled lunch for cheap! I go a brownie, a cookie and a burger! You really can not resist when you’re walking around one everything is so good and everyone is giving out samplessss..mmm

Mr. Mot

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

With its rolling hills and chilly nighttime air, Mondulkiri province is a world away from lowland Cambodia. It is quite a contrast both climatically and culturally as we were jokingly told, “Sen Monorom [the provincial capital] was a one-horse town, but the horse died.” The nightlife is pretty tame, unless of course you happen to be at the

A laid back atmosphere at the Phat Gecko

A laid back atmosphere at the Phat Gecko

Phat Gecko Bar, just a stone’s throw off the main two-lane road. There you will meet, quite possibly, the most interesting man in the world: Moth Morn. Move over Dos Equis guy, Mot can out-trek, out-swear, out-joke, out-sing, and definitely out-drink you, sir! Mot and his girlfriend Virginie, or Vivi for short, own the Phat Gecko bar and run a tour company catering to adventurous international travelers.

 

Between the two of them, Mot and Vivi speak Khmer, English, French, and Phnong.)

Between the two of them, Mot and Vivi speak Khmer, English, French, and Phnong.

Quick with a joke that can be “a little bit disgusting, you know” or a light of your smoke, Mot has a genuine smile that is contagious. He is a lover of The Doors, Bob Marley, and Johnny Cash, regularly humming the tunes and often improvising the lyrics.

 

 

"Hey bro! Wanna brew?"

“Hey bro! Wanna brew?”

 

Mot was born shortly after the Vietnamese liberation of Cambodia. Unlike most Cambodian families, both of Mot’s parents survived the Khmer Rouge’s “agrarian revolution” and gruesome genocide. When I asked him how his mother survived the brutal conditions, Mot proceeded to tell the story of how he got his name. “Near the end, my mother had a dream. A man held up three plates and asked my mother to choose. The first had food, but even though she was starving she told the man, ‘No, I will still be hungry tomorrow if I eat your food today.’ The second plate had a bowl of water on top of it. My mother didn’t want this either because she will still be thirsty the next day. The third one had a knife on it. This one my mother took because she could hold it and it will last. She could cook, hunt, and protect herself, you know. When I was born my mother named me Moth which means knife in Khmer. I was the something she could hold on to. I was the something that would last. I think I helped pull her through.” Mot reverently told this story. It was a shock to see this dirty jokester become so reserved. Mot revealed the same demure countenance when trekking through the jungle. His respect for nature became most obvious when, during lunch, Mot silently set aside a portion of his meal as an offering to the forest.

Whenever a classic rock song comes on the radio, I am reminded of the fun-loving tour guide I spent a few days with in Mondulkiri. I think back to my first impression of him: an oddball who tells one awkward joke too many. That initial judgement has been replaced by thoughts of what a dynamic individual he is, and who we all are underneath our black trucker hats.

 

Silk: A tale from worm to worn

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Silk, like many fabrics, began in nature. Sericulture, or silkmaking, began about 5,000 years ago in China.  It spread not only to other pats of Asia, but to Europe and the Americans thanks to the Silk Road.  Though still the world’s leading producer of silk, China is not the only country receiving praise for it’s once secret craft.  Cambodia is beginning to earn praise for the beautiful silk scarves, tapestries, and clothes that they produce both by hand and commercially.  On our first day in Cambodia we go the chance to visit a silk farm on an island in the Mekong River.  We took a river boat from Phnom Penh to the island wear a family showed us the humble beginnings of a fabric worn by the high class and highly divine.

Once found in nature, most silk worms have been domesticated.  Bombyx mori is the most IMG_1080commonly used species.  Silk worms are fed a healthy diet of Mulberry leaves. Once the worms have completed a four stage molting phase, they create a cocoon of raw silk around themselves.  These cocoons are then often boiled, killing the worm inside.  The worms are not usually allowed to mature fully, because their bodies produce enzymes that create holes in the cocoon to allow them to escape.  These enzymes damage the silk and significantly lessen the quality and amount of silk produced by each cocoon.   The strands of the cocoon are then picked at until they form a strand that can be unwound.  A single cocoon can produce over 600 meters of silk.

IMG_1082The cocoon are then boiled in water for a brief time before being turned into strands that will be eventually be woven into beautiful pieces.  The family whose farm we visited showed us that all of their silks are dyed using natural elements. IMG_1083aOnce the silk strands have been pulled and dyed they are spun into a finer form of silk thread.  Everyone in the family works to create the beautiful silk pieces that they then sell.  Both the men and the women learn to weave.

Sericulture is truly an art.  From the growing of the silk worm to dying and spinning the raw silk into smooth thread, this family is its own artist colony.  The amount of detail they are able to include in their silk products is absolutely incredible.  One of the most amazing parts is the speed at which they are able to complete an average tapestry.  One large tapestry can take up to three days.  That’s it.  IMG_1076

People, like Kikuo Morimoto, have finally begun to take notice of the incredible cloth treasures produced by Cambodians.  Many are dedicating their lives to help this struggling industry take root in a country that almost lost all of its skilled artisans to a communist revolution.  Thanks to the efforts of Morimoto, and other like him, Cambodia’s silk industry is gaining strength.  Hopefully, in the years to come, it will come to be a main export of the country and help the Cambodian people by providing a reliable and sustainable job source.

IMG_1077

Two Weeks Down, Only Eighteen Left

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
My first week in Edinburgh was indiscriminately chaotic.

My sister's-in-law sister, also attending post-graduate courses at the University of Edinburgh for the whole year, kindly picked me up at the airport and helped me find and get into my accommodations.  This entailed a bus ride from the airport to the city, then another bus ride to the accommodation center to pick up my keys, then a twenty minute walk down the street to my accommodation.  This, naturally, was all accompanied by my two suitcases and my panicky method of flouncing about the city.  It was an intense introduction to the public bus system, traumatizing me enough to avoid riding the public buses for fear that I would end up on the other end of the city with no change to buy me another bus ride and no way to call anyone for help.  Once settled into my accommodation, I spent the next few days acquiring an international cell phone, purchasing a few basic food stuffs to get me through the week, and exploring my new city.

Classes started on Monday, and I was swept up into the lecture and tutorial style of teaching with little preparation.  All three of my classes were on Monday, giving me a good look at how the teaching system works and a good introduction to what I would be learning during my semester.  My first day of classes, while only slightly less chaotic than my first day in Edinburgh, was much more informative and had an air of familiarity that I could cling to.  I am a good student, and I understand going to lecture and taking notes, and with map in hand I could easily find my way around the university.  This, I could handle.  I attended my first tutorial on Tuesday, which for all my American friends back home is the discussion part of the course.  You go to lecture and learn about the reading, and then you go to your tutorial (some once a week, others once every two weeks) and go more in depth about the reading and have a chance to discuss your own thoughts and questions about it.  It was basically just splitting my normal classes at home into two each, which actually makes more sense to me.  It is much easier to participate in a class discussion when there are only six or seven other students in the class, as opposed to somewhere between twenty and thirty.

Plus, none of my classes are earlier than 11 AM, which fits nicely with my tendency to stay up late.

On Sunday after my first week of classes, I joined a small group of other international students at the International Student office in a peer-led walk up Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh's own mini-mountain.  While the snow made it too slippery (or slippy, as the signs going up the mountain advised) to climb to the summit, I did manage to climb to the almost summit with most of the group.  Despite the wind blowing straight through my layers of sweaters and heavy pea coat and chilling my bones, the freezing temperature, the snow and mud layering the bottom of my jeans, and the inability to keep snot from constantly running out of my nose, I took a long look out over the city and fell in love with it.  The grey sky actually enhanced the view, and the light layer of snow over the city made it seem very peaceful and innocent.  I hope to return to the summit of Arthur's Seat when the view is clearer and the mountain less muddy, and to actually climb to the top to take better pictures of the city, but in the meantime we will have to make due with the pictures I have.
Edinburgh from one side of the mountain.

Me at the almost-summit

Edinburgh from the other side of Arthur's Seat

You can see the ocean past the city!

Unfortunately, however, I did not known that my accommodation was located a good thirty minute walk from my classes until I arrived in Edinburgh.  After my first week of classes, I decided that moving was likely my best option.  There is the public bus system, but that costs money, and I do not have much of that.  There is a free shuttle bus for only university students, but to get to that stop I had to walk ten minutes in the opposite direction I needed to go to the other campus, then wait for the bus to arrive, then enjoy the fifteen minute bus ride to the campus I needed to get to.  I found it difficult and tiresome, especially when I found myself walking thirty minutes in the rain and snow, so I emailed accommodations about transferring to a different location.  I got lucky, and ended up moving at the end of my second week to a place only ten minutes walk from my classes.  Much easier, less stressful, and generally a good idea to move so early in the semester.

Friday of this past weekend, I met another group of friends who took us up to Calton Hill, a less steep climb than Arthur's Seat, after dark to see the city by night.  Despite the cold and rain, the view was fantastic and wonderfully beautiful.  I do want to return during a clear day to take pictures again, as I can imagine the view during the daytime being similarly fantastic, however seeing the city light up all the way to the ocean and being able to see the next city over was unforgettable.

Edinburgh by night from Calton Hill.

I have yet to even begin to discover this city and the history that surrounds it, but I certainly plan on doing so during my five months here.  Culture-wise, I have learned a few things in my two weeks here: look right, not left, before you step into the road, otherwise you will narrowly avoid being hit by a car three times in one week; saying 'have a nice day' after an interaction with a stranger is not a common thing here, or at least it has not been in my interactions, which, as an American used to saying such a phrase constantly back home, is very strange to me; they have a two pound coin, which makes payments via change so much easier; laundry is really expensive; double-decker buses are awesome and allow a sweet view of the city; you don't have to wait for the crosswalk light to go green to walk, but it is recommended when you keep forgetting that people turning right will hit you if you don't think to look for them; it is impossible to understand people with a thick Scottish accent.

As I go into my third week (already!), and I start getting into my coursework and having deadlines approach at a rapid pace, I'm starting to feel a little bit more comfortable in this new home far, far away from home.




y’a du graffiti partout! je l’aime!

Monday, January 28th, 2013


y’a du graffiti partout! je l’aime!

The De/Sexualized Body

Monday, January 28th, 2013

In Cambodia, there seems to be a distinct difference between sexualized nudity and natural, perfectly acceptable nudity. This distinction is not nearly as clear in America, where everything seems to be sexual.  As an American traveling in Cambodia, sights such as naked children, uncovered breastfeeding, and casual public male urination were at first a  bit of a shock but were accepted by the Khmer culture as completely appropriate to see and participate in while in public.  Here, I will research more into why this is considered normal for the Khmer people.

Child Nudity

In Mondulkiri, our tour group visited a remote ethnic minority village in which the main supply of water for bathing came from a groundwater pump which happened to be right next to an area where the entire village had gathered to participate in a cultural show of sorts for foreign tourists.  Despite the central location, throughout the show, mothers and older siblings would take turns washing their naked children with the pump water; the children seemed about under the age of 7.  No Khmer people seemed to stare, or mind.  Even if they did, where else is a mother supposed to wash her child when this is the only supply of water available?

In Phnom Penh, local boys enjoy a swim in the river at dusk, appearing between the ages of 4 – 12; all of them swim nude.  Buying a swimsuit for their child is probably the last priority for many people who live below the poverty line.

As far as child nudity is concerned, Cambodia is a Lesser Developed Country.  When the GDP  per capita is in 188th place at ($2,200) in comparison to the world’s 228 countries (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2004rank.html?countryName=Cambodia&countryCode=cb®ionCode=eas&rank=188#cb), it is easy to see that buying an excessive amount of clothing for children who are quickly growing can be seen by the Khmer people as an unecessary use of their hard-earned money.  Therefore, it is not a big deal for anyone involved if a child runs around without clothing for awhile.

Of course, the thought that may cross many minds regarding public child nudity is, what about sexual predators?  Aren’t the Khmer people afraid that someone will look at their child in an indecent manner?  Well, it is my theory that Cambodians view child nudity, just like breastfeeding and urinating, as a type of nudity that is desexualized, and therefore appropriate. (Note: child molestation happens frequently by Americans and other westerners while visiting countries like Cambodia, where sex trafficking is rampant.  While there are a lot of advertisements educating the public about the horrors of molestation throughout Phnom Penh, these adverts were primarily focused on trafficking, not molestation on a local level.)

Breastfeeding

It is a commonplace sight to see a Khmer mother breastfeeding her child wherever they happen to be– standing outside their house, sitting around town, or (most commonly), while riding backseat on a moto.

And, for all practical purposes, why should these practices be discouraged?  The World Health organization (http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/) states that “Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.” Add that statistic to the fact that 43% of Cambodian children are breastfed until age 2 (http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/cambodia_statistics.html), it becomes clear why breastfeeding isn’t deemed too immodest for public display– if it were, mothers would be confined to their homes so much that nothing would ever get done!

Public Male Urination

In a country where public restrooms are often small, squatting toilets, with no air conditioning and oftentimes dirty, is it any wonder why men urinate outside?  It’s an easier, faster, and more convenient way to release your bladder than to go searching for a small, dark toilet.

Throughout these three examples, I hope I have emphasized that the Khmer people view these forms of nudity not as sexual, but as normal, everyday parts of life.  Therefore, desexualized nudity is appropriate for the public to see.  Conversely, in Cambodia, sexual identity and expression of that identity is a private matter.  Khmer people do not have public displays of affection, and they dress modestly.  

 

Week 3

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Last weekend started with snow on Friday and ended with more snow on Sunday.  While not accumulating to much, classes were cancelled early on Friday, the roads and sidewalks became a mess, and I did not go out much.  This week was the second week of classes and we got out of the basic introductions and into some of the regular stuff we can expect for the rest of the semester.  I now have a project for my Business of Sport class explaining the early and modern development of ice hockey, and another where my group has to come up with a new idea proposal for a business such as Dominoes or Rolles Royce in my Value Creations class.

Over this weekend, I did a lot of walking and got a chance to explore a lot more of the city.  On Thursday, I met up with some of my new friends where we walked around and explored the areas around Piccadilly and Oxford Circus.  These are very busy and popular areas of London full of shops, restaurants, pubs, museums, casinos, theaters, and almost anything else you can think of.  I really like how most of the buildings are only four or five stories high and are built in an old classic European (or at least English) style rarely seen in American cities full of steel skyscrapers.  We ate at Garfunkel’s, a popular English chain restaurant, also walked through Soho, London’s Chinatown, and eventually ended in a pub.  Last night, I walked around with some more of my friends in similar areas, also getting to see Leicester Square and Covent Garden.  Today I finally got to see Big Ben and the London Eye.  The Parliament building is spectacular and I got some great pictures as we walked across the Westminster Bridge.  The Eye also looks really cool and I look forward to coming back and actually going on it.  We eventually walked over to Trafalgar Square and saw hundreds of paintings inside the National Gallery.  It was really awesome finally getting a chance to see some of the classic areas and buildings of London and I’m looking forward to seeing more.

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