Top 10 (part II)

Here’s the other three Peace Corps Cambodia Top 10 lists, thanks to the genius of my fellow volunteers. (The first four are here.)

Top 10 Cambodian Pick Up Lines:
10. Oun soam leak turasap.
9. You makin’ my noem ansoam bust its banana wrap.
8. I can give your dad $10,000 cash
7. My horse broke into the mango patch this morning and now it’s all sticky; could you wash it for me?
6. You have a pretty nose. I want a baby. I want my baby to have a pretty nose.
5. Is that Angkor Wat in the background, or am I just so in love with you that the rich cultures of this country create an elaborate dream-scape around us when I see you?
4. I will give you a strawberry if you will be my girlfriend.
3. A new fried banana shop just open up… in my pants.
2. You do not look good in this picture- you have way too much makeup on and your hair looks bad. But you still look better than my wife. Why won’t you be my girlfriend?
1. *Grunt*
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For the new PCVs!

Today is officially one month until the staging for the K5 Peace Corps Volunteers. AHHHH!!! I know at this time last year I was seriously freaked out. K5s, if any of you are reading, here are a couple of my thoughts as you get ready to come join us.

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Top 10 (part I)

These are some of the Top 10 lists from our talent show a few weeks ago, for anybody who missed the show or for those of you who want to get a little insight into what Peace Corps life is really like/how living in rural Cambodia is messing with our heads. I think they are both pretty hilarious and also scarily accurate…

Top 10 Ways you know you’ve been in Cambodia too long:
10. Other Cambodians say “very hot” and you think it’s not so bad
9. You are attracted to anything with sequins
8. You secretly switch out your tanning lotion for whitening cream
7. You intuitively shovel your food into a spoon to eat while you’re having pasta in Phnom Penh
6. You participate in front porch aerobics with your host family to Lady Gaga blasted from a cell phone and your host family asks you to translate lyrics like “I want your lovin’ and I want your disease”
5. Plain oatmeal has become a luxurious breakfast
4. You feel uncomfortable when you see shoulders or knees exposed on a woman
3. When a tuk tuk driver yells “Fucking stingy person” and you think “Wow, he has an impressive vocabulary
2. You score 18,752 on Snake Xenia
1. You use the phrase “The same me” in everyday conversations with native English speakers

Top 10 Things never to tell your host family:
10. I can drink a lot of beer
9. This meat is delicious. What is it?
8. What you really did last weekend in Phnom Penh
7. That this anonymous friend of mine actually gets into the water tub for bathing, using it as a pool, sometimes drinking coke while floating in the cool heavenly water, and comparing it to being “resort like”
6. How many people you’ve kissed
5. This fish head soup was really good. Thank you!
4. Our teenage live-in servant let me do the dishes
3. Thailand is amazing
2. I saw Dad with a girl on his lap at the Karoake bar last night
1. I you will get $7,000 when I leave Cambodia
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Weinergate and the Rule of Law

It’s been a slow week. With classes being out, I’ve had plenty of time to drink iced coffee and surf the web. Consequently, I have not been able to escape the flurry of media surrounding a certain congressman’s scandal. Part of me is incredulous at that amount of attention…really? REALLY? But another part of me is glad for all the good stuff about America – you know, free press, political accountability. In Cambodia, well, it’d be possible to get away with a whole lot more.

Given my last post and my current schedule, I’ve been thinking about the limitations of development aid (e.g. Peace Corps Volunteers like me) and promoting positive growth in more powerful forces (e.g. the government or the free market). I went looking for more information about the economic impact of government corruption, and I came across some good IMF reports, including the paper Why Worry About Corruption?, which says “…Corruption discourages investment, limits economic growth, and alters the composition of government spending, often to the detriment of future economic growth.” In other words, corruption is making developing countries poor now and keeping them poor in the future.

When I used to teach health ed classes, there was one statistic that for every dollar of anti-smoking advertising, there was something like a thousand dollars spent on advertising by tobacco companies. In this case, aid workers might be the anti-smoking campaign and government corruption is Phillip Morris. I know I’m not supposed to get too political on this blog, but check out what the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index has to say about Cambodia:

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The Undercover Economist

I just finished Tim Harford’s “The Undercover Economist,” something I picked up on a whim but couldn’t put down. It’s essentially the highlights of an intro economics course in one short, very readable book. The last couple chapters focus on the developing world, with some insightful/depressing thoughts. (Especially depressing to a PCV was the idea that corrupt governments are probably responsible for the large majority of poverty in the developing world…have I mentioned Cambodia’s Transparency International ranking?)

Maybe especially relevant to Cambodia, here’s the Undercover Economist’s take on sweatshops:

…In developing countries, workers endure terrible working conditions. Hours are long. Wages are pitiful. But sweatshops are the symptom, not the cause, of shocking global poverty. Workers go there voluntarily, which means – hard as it is to believe – that whatever their alternatives are, they are worse.

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First Moto

My host father is a quiet guy. Even though we don’t talk often, he’s been incredibly good to me (e.g. fixing my bike himself without me asking when it was busted). I can tell he’s smart, even if he doesn’t talk much, and he seems to be very well respected in our town.

When the Khmer Rouge came into power in 1975, my host dad and his family were among the thousands forced to walk out of Phnom Penh into the countryside. After the Khmer Rouge regime was toppled, my host dad used to bike first 23 kilometers and then 70 kilometers to study at high school (since the school in my town was still only through grade 9). When he got a scholarship to study medicine, he spent eight years living in Phnom Penh and would ride his bike two days to come visit my host mom after they were married.

Last night after dinner, he told me about how he finally got a break. In 1993, the UNTAC helped Cambodia hold its first elections since the 1970s. My host dad, off school for the summer, oversaw the elections in our town. There were still Khmer Rouge rebel factions active in this area, and on the day of the vote, they stormed the polling station at our local wat and starting shooting, sending my host dad and others running for their lives. He smiled remembering it, though, because the money he earned that summer bought him his first moto.

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Video Blog 2 – School’s Out

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