Wednesday, March 28, 2012

the gecko tale

Here in Cambodia we have geckos everywhere. You see them running in the office, at home or while walking in the street. Especially by night where there is a light, a night bulb or a lamp. They eat mosquitos and insects and so it's a quite good natural method to fight against bites. :) They can climb the walls and even walk upside down thanks to their glued feet that adhere to any surface.
They are special. The cool thing is that it is in fact the only animal i can think of, that we humans name by the sound they make. In english they are called geckos, and in khmer, tokkai. The amazing thing is when you listen to a gecko singing they are in fact saying: tokkai, tokkai, tokkai!
Same as if we called a cow, mooooo; the cok, kikirikikiii; or pigs, oink oink. I love this thought of onomatopoeic naming. Imagine talking that way!

"the tolon tolon woke me up today"
"going out for glup glup with some friends. Chin chin!!"
"mmm! ñam ñam ñam was mmm!!"
Here is a photo of my new flatmate (click to see bigger size)...he loves to watch tv. well, at least the back of it.
Normally we don´t see these huge size geckos around, but I found this little buddy the other day in my bathroom...and i was a little scared, have to admit, but he was definitely more than I was...
Reality is they are very very cute animals.

Can you think of any other animal that is named after the sound they make? tic tac tic tac...

lots of love for you all!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

friday night in Phnom Penh

Shadow Theater in Cambodia is one of the most traditional formats for storytelling. The performance involves the projection of light or fire on a white screen, on which performers use puppets to produce shadows.

During Angkor times, carpets of the Royal household were made of large pieces of tanned buffalo skins. One day, a housekeeper, seeing that they were getting old, decided to replace them. As he pulled out one of them and haphazardly put it against light, he realized that having been trodden thousands of times here and there pierced by the stone floor, the holes were making some sort of a relief pattern looking like figures. The housekeeper got the idea to use this discovery. He cut figures out of the skins. The shadow theatre was born.

The Cambodian art of Shadow Theater utilizes puppets made of leather, called Sbaek in Khmer language. The leather puppets are pieces of art in themselves. The design of the panel, made out of an entire cow’s tanned skin, refers to an ancient tradition, and requires drawing skills, chiseling ability, and the capacity to balance light and shadow within the panel, in order to let the figures emerge from the panel.

Shadow puppetry, found throughout South-East Asia, is powerful and mysterious in its immateriality, capturing the imagination of people for thousands of years. Even within the structured storylines every performance leaves room for improvisation. This allows the art form to remain a relevant, living part of the culture of the time, able to respond to the contemporary needs of the population.



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

back from 2555...

...what was the mystery of travelling the time, huh?

And keeping up with the sweat. This hot could be mortal, plus the air-con everywhere doesn´t help my health anyways...
Back to real life after 10 days of sun and relaxing in Thailand´s paradise beaches, been disconnected from technology but connected to nature. Now back to technology, cars and timetables... this is the world we live in!
Soon more adventures, promised, mamma ;)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

the other day... and my other barang friend were having a coffee after lunch by the river and suddenly a group of old Cambodians that were walking around spotted us. They were from the provinces, all dressed in their traditional clothes (photo). They had never seen a white person so near, I guess. They stared at us, laughing at our clothing and haircuts, touching our arms and faces, took pictures of us, all this with a big smile and between laughter and astonishment from both parts.
I don't think it's easy to escape from the global world nowadays, so this situation is pretty uncommon. The white men have arrived everywhere. Probably these people had seen a white person before, maybe some NGO worker in their province that visited their village for any purpose, or at least other people in the capital during that day of tourism in the city. But their faces actually transmitted everything, all feelings of novelty and surprise. This time it wasn't me who was taking the pictures, it was them who now have our faces recorded in their cameras. Changing roles and stereotypes is always interesting :)

I talk a lot with my landlady's family, they live downstairs, so I see them everyday. Well, talking a lot is maybe not the best way to describe it cause in fact they don't speak any English, and i hardly can say some Khmer words...but we manage to communicate (or i just sit with them cause they invite me, and we smile to ourselves during half an hour and share some food, while we feel the warmth beyond language barriers). The other day they were telling me that they had been to Preah Vihear, the last temple and piece of land that Thailand and Cambodia are still fighting for in the northern border (still surrounded with armed troops from both sides and canons ready to shoot). I asked and they told me they had also been to Angkor Wat temples. In fact, they are lucky, this is not very common among Khmer people. Most of them can't even go and visit the magnanimity of their own past, that hoards of tourist come to see every year. This family can afford the trip cause they own a house that they rent to expats, and we pay them a high rent for Khmer living standards, but most of Cambodia's citizens have never been there. It's a real shame out of globalization's inequality, and when they as me if i have been there, and in only three months in the country my answer is "yes, it's a marvelous treasure that transports you back to another period in time", i feel a little bit ...hmm...uncomfortable to say the least...and...guilty? this being just a personal and sincere feeling.

Friday, February 24, 2012

bea and the city

when you arrive, the mood of Phnom Penh overwhelms your soul. All the crazy traffic (similar to any other asialand), the sounds, the pollution clouds coming out of the tubes of the thousand old bikes and new huge Lexus cars, massive wiring systems hanging of a slim poor night light... Looking around when walking the city you can find some beautiful details such as Buddhist temples, the royal palace with its colored walls and roofs, hammocks in the streets, and all the hidden smiles of the people that release themselves when the eye contact is warm enough so as to let it go... Street vendors are everywhere. You can get noodles, fried chicken and duck (baby ducks too...which is pretty disgusting for our culture...), rice and soups in any street corner and when the sun comes down the vendors bring the most succulent bites for an after work snack: all types of crickets, cockroaches, tarantulas, and snakes deep fried in old oil, that sincerely i haven't had the courage to try yet... (waiting for any of you curious travelers!). When you spend some time in the city, you realize that Cambodians actually profit a lot from the parks of the city. Before and after work, when the sun in not so strong that you can melt under it, crowds of people go for walks and exercise in the public space. I like that feeling of sharing these spaces for healthy purposes, the community values that might come out of that. When I bike home every after noon, i see groups of people doing aerobics open air too. It is pretty funny to see a bunch of Cambodian exercising to some kind of techno music in the middle of the park. Indeed, there are always monks wandering in the streets, with their orange togas and their bold heads, sometimes bare foot, some times with flip flops, and most of the times they stop by your house, standing still, waiting for your 'disinterested' contribution ;) . Even from time to time you get to see an elephant in the middle of the traffic, who looks at you with magic while walking's definitely a city of contrasts, a city with a darkened past, the 'charming city' as they call it here, and the pearl of Asia to be...let's see