how to enjoy phnom penh

today is our working week in phnom penh. ed has already chaired two meetings and on his third day. for those who dont know the work on chairing, it means listening to all kinds of agenda from various stakeholders, participants and friends, then setting a formal and informal venue to get voices heard and then decisions made. when ed sits with various nationalities, which he is doing now with the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), he has  to use listening and synthesizing skills so that the agenda gets to be discussed and everyone gets satisfied. international meetings can be really tough. in my women’s movement days during the early mid-80s,chairing international meetings were real negotiations and conflict-management work. i always had to prepare adequately the agenda and see to it that all the silent women get to speak during the meetings. 25 years after that, i have seen many women navigate global conferences quite well. but this is not the point of the blog. while ed is working, am bodytalking my way to enjoy cambodia and making friends.
first, if you want to go around phnom penh, befriend a tuktuk driver and haggle your tour with him. the city can be really confusing because traffic rules are not traffic rules, in the pinoy mind, these are traffic ideas. same case with khmer drivers.

if you are a museum lover or art gallery advocate, visit the museum but have the tuktuk driver go around scenic places on your way. because for  ed and me, the living museums are the people and their houses, almost palatial houses with gilded fences and bas relief enriched walls. the architecture of the city is a combination of french, khmer and buddhist elements. when you see the posh places where pinoy expats live, you will think, what a rich place for pinoys to rise socially!  according to pinoy friends,there are 5000 pinoys already in cambodia and many are in development work. but they told us the tall fences are really to protect everyone from robbery and violence. well, i havent seen anything violent yet and hope that never comes. what i see are beautiful dancers whose dances are so intricate .

last night while dining along the mekong river, a khmer friend explained the hand and finger gestures of the khmer dancers. he said they are trained in the art of a traditional dance that uses the 2000 meanings of their culture. the sculptures in relief you see all over cambodian wall and roof temples have these dancers enshrined. i observed the hands and feet of the dancers. ed and i tried to imitate the gestures and movements of the fingers but we couldnt. the khmer friend said the dancers are trained when they are very young so they can move their fingers like lotus petals and move like buds about to blossom. even their feet are like leaves and petals. i also saw their toes curl up gracefully when they rotate. for me, their dance is really almost mesmerizing, so different from the ballet and samba of other nations.

if you want to really enjoy the food, make friends with all the expats, pinoys, australians, germans, indians and europeans. then you can be invited to their regular gatherings and have free meals and drinks. that is really a big savings of one’s tourist budget.every night, ed and i are invited for pinoy get together and is really entertaining. we get to eat both pinoy and khmer food. we also get invited by the khmer friends who are in intl devt work but since we have so little time, we chose to be with pinoys in the evenings.

the other item to plan is the volume of shopping you can carry. today, we thought of a few items to buy but when we haggled our way in the russian market, we found loads of silk and cotton cloth and bags to buy. it was pretty cheap and for the price of $100, our two luggages were already difficult to zip up.

friends, food and funds – they are the three items on my agenda for enjoying the first part of my 60th yearlong birthday celebration.arent you happy to be a 60 year old woman? i am and thanks to my working husband . am a woman of laklak….according to our khmer tuktuk driver, it means good luck.

so friends, good luck when you fly to phnom penh. on wednesday, we fly to siam reap  to enjoy what angelina jolie had when she went there as the movie icon lara croft. a sunrise and a sunset of magical qualities in the midst of temples.

Explore posts in the same categories: Babaylan, health and food, Lifelong learning, Love and marriage

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