Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My First Super Magic Ultimate Toilet

The Day Has Finally Come...

As I stepped into our company restroom today, a newcomer greeted me within my stall:

[Dun…Dun…Dun… …. DUNT DUH!!!]

For years I’ve heard about them, and today was my day to get to experience it “firsthand”.

I remember my friend Ben Keane telling a joke in 5th or 6th grade about a guy who snuck into the girls room in Japan and the toilet seat with 3 buttons and it automatically washed and dried your backside.

Well this one’s got 15 buttons!!! Check this bad boy out:

  1. STOP. Very important
  2. WASH. Key feature. Going nowhere without this one.
  3. BIDET. The only button I didn’t have the courage to try.
  4. DRY. Delivers as promised.
  5. NOZZLE CLEAN. I guess the nozzle gets dirty from time to time. This extends the nozzle without turning any water on.
  6. ECONOMY. I think this turns off all heating functions. Only for cheapskates. If you can’t afford to have your magic toilet use warm air and water, what’s the point?
  7. WATER TEMP. Lets you adjust the temperature of the water.
  8. AIR. Lets you adjust the air temperature. I recommend “M”
  9. SEAT. This lets you pre-warm the toilet seat itself. These things are popular in Japan, and I’ve heard they have several cold-toilet-seat related deaths each year.
  10. MASSAGE ON/OFF. I’ll admit this was the first button I pressed. Maybe it shakes the seat to keep you comfortable while you sit? No such luck. It pulsates the water if you prefer. Just a gimmick if you ask me.
  11. MOVE ON/OFF. Didn’t figure this one out yet. Does it move the nozzle head to improve your massage? This may require further investigation.
  12. PRESSURE – HI. Adjusts water and air pressure. Honestly, highest water pressure was a little disappointing.
  13. PRESSURE – LOW. See above
  14. NOZZLE – FORWARD. Moves nozzle forward to help get that perfect trajectory.
  15. NOZZLE – BACKWARD. In case you overshot the perfect trajectory while pressing #14 lets you re-adjust backwards.

Nozzle extended in "Nozzle Clean" mode.

In all, I think we’re going to have a wonderful relationship, Mr. Super Toilet! But, please don’t electrocute me…

I don't think I've seen a single grounded plug in Cambodia.

The Best Smoothie In the World

The Pineapple Passion Smoothie from The Shop
(note: The glass has an orange colored band. The Smoothie itself does not have an orange layer)

This is a picture of what is without question, absolutely the best smoothie money can buy. The $2 Pineapple passion fruit smoothie from The Shop on Street 240, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

It’s made from fresh pineapples, fresh passion fruit, bananas, and voodoo! Your first sip will be forever remembered much like a first kiss or the first glimpse of the Grand Canyon. An unforgettable awakening of your senses and your spirit.

Naomi and I shared the smoothie above over 3 hours ago and thinking about it still quickens my pulse and makes my mouth water. The tart pineapple and passion fruit flavors wonderfully mix to make your breath stop short, and the fresh Cambodian bananas provide a wonderful sweetness and creaminess. Finally the crunchy passion seeds provide a wonderful texture and improve the presentation. SO GOOD!

Click image to enlarge

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Phone Numbers in Cambodia

The Cambodian phone system can be a little confusing, so here's a quick lesson. For the following, P will represent the prefix, and N the 6 or 7 digit phone number:
  1. The country code for Cambodia is 855.
  2. Phone numbers take the following form from INSIDE Cambodia: 0 PP NNN NNN(N). Ex: 012 999 999.
  3. Phone numbers take the form of +855 PP NNN NNN(N) when you dial from OUTSIDE of Cambodia. Ex: +855 12 999 999. Note that you REMOVE the "0" before the prefix.
  4. Now, regarding prefixes, there are a many of them. I have put together the following list for your information. This is helpful, because there are a lot of prefixes and sometimes you don't know where you are calling. The nice thing is, you always know if you are calling a landline or a mobile phone, depending on the prefix.
Mobile Phones
Mobitel (Cellcard) 012
Hello (Telekom Malaysia) 015
Hello (Telekom Malaysia) 016
Mobitel (Cellcard) 017
Mobitel (Cellcard) 083
Mobitel (Cellcard) 089
Mobitel (Cellcard) 092
Viettel 097
Star Cell 098

Phnom Penh 023
Takhmau 023
Kandal 024
Kampong Speu 025
Kampong Chhnang 026
Takeo 032
Kampot 033
Sihanoukville 034
Koh Kong 035
Kep 036
Kampong Cham 042
Prey Veng 043
Svay Rieng 044
Pursat 052
Battambang 053
Banteay Meanchey 054
Pailin 055
Kampong Thom 062
Siem Reap 063
Preah Vihear 064
Udar Meanchey 065
Kratie 072
Mondul Kiri 073
Stung Treng 074
Ratanakiri 075

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

This may take the cake...


Oeng Ny, 25, gave birth to a baby girl on a moto taxi outside a hospital in Veal Vong commune, Prampi Makara district on August 11. Oeng Ny lived with her husband, 28, and their two children. Oeng Ny's husband said that he put Oeng Ny on a moto taxi to take her to the hospital after she told him that she had a stomach ache.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Quick Pronunciation Guide

Please, under no circumstances, should you refer to the Capital of Cambodia as "Nom Penh" or "Fnom Penh". Please. This drives me crazy. I would let it rest, but we went to watch a documentary the other night where the narrator Sam Waterston (who should know better) mispronounced the city's name about 15 times (You too, Arrrgh!

Here's a little help for how it should be said:

  1. This is the first consonant - "Pho" - an aspirated "P" sound like "papa"
  2. This consonant "Naw" - makes a "N" sound, and the since it's written as a subscript you combine it with the preceding consonant. In this case it's "Puh-naw"
  3. The vowel "Om". Makes an "Om" sound. (Word 1 complete: Phnom)
  4. The vowel "Ae". It actually comes after #5 (right to left doesn't always apply for Khmer script). In this case, it makes an "ee" sound.
  5. The consonant "Po", it makes a sound like a b and a p put together
  6. The final consonant "ño", it sounds just like the spanish "enyay".

So ultimately, we have "Puh-nom-peñ" (or "pə-näm-peñ"), but if that final enyay is a problem, don't sweat it. Just don't get caught saying "Nom Penh" or I may have dump a bucket of prahoc in your bed!

If any of you have any further insight on this issue, please comment away. I'd love to be set straight. But no mater what crazy colonist decided that it was at one point OK to bastardize this city's name and amputate it's first syllable, it's time to start pronouncing it the way it's written.

Friday Breakfast

So there's this great little cafe on the northwest corner of Street 294 and Sotheros, right on my way to work. They have all kinds of traditional Khmer breakfasts, but this one has to be my favorite: Vietnamese (Khmer?) style coffee - extra strong with sweetened condensed milk, chaway (fried bread), and noodle soup (Khmer Pho') with beef and peppered meatballs. MMMM! Total cost? 5,000 Riel ($1.25). Notice the rain. It rains a lot!

Minor Accident Prone

So it started on Friday night, as Naomi, Sarah, and I were cruising the city looking for a place to eat. We went to the Gym Bar to watch the Olympics, but the place was packed out worse than Superbowl Monday-morning so we decided to head over to Cantina (O man, their tacos are definitely my favorite in PP). Of course, that drain on 178 STILL isn't finished, and the street is blocked off between Bright Lotus and FCC, but that's never stopped me from using the sidewalks to get there. This time, however, Naomi suggests the path is a little too rough for 3 people on a motorbike, but I assure her "everything's under control", and promptly jack my ankle all up on the curb about 3 seconds later. Ouch!

Ok, fast forward to Sunday, we're running the hash like we should be, I've got the bugle in hand and there's about 30 newbies with us. About 500 meters in I get caught looking too long at an extra-creative hare mark, and miss the rough spot in the path... and roll my ankle. It hurts, but not too bad and I was able to run the rest of the 10 K with few problems... it's a little swollen today, but I think Gary Hilliard is right - when you roll it and can run through, you'll be better off with less swelling.

Ok this leads us to this morning. The left turn to get into my project site is a notorious pain in the neck, and for some reason it was extra gnarly this morning. So I went ahead and was using the sidewalks (notice a theme here?) to get around the stopped traffic. This was no problem, but after I merged back into traffic, as I was making the left a motorbike came speeding the other way and I had to hit the brakes. Some dingus in a Lexus RX400 rear ended me, breaking my taillight. 4 Days, 3 minor accidents. Not a bad weekend!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Cambodian Coke Can

In case you wanted to know, this is what a Coke can looks like here. Cost: 2000 Riel ($.50). Sweetener: Cane Sugar (O so much better than HFCS!-ick!)

Bonus: "Thumbs-Up Sauce" (Brown vinegar, mmmm...)
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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Please call of...

So text messaging plays a large role in the life of any Cambodian (who, by the way, text almost exclusively in English!).

I use predictive text input on my phone, it’s a great tool, it makes typing on a number pad much faster, but why oh why do the programmers make “of” come up before “me”!?!? What the hell? I’ve decided to put together a list of my biggest predictive text peeves. Given, I’m using a phone from 2005, so maybe the Nokia geniuses have this figured out… if so, how about a firmware upgrade, Nokia?

Top 10 predictive text peeves:

You Want

You Get































Cooler weather, family in town

It's been the rainy season since the beginning of July, but recently we've been getting this great new kind of rain – the all-day cool drizzle. We had been getting the super hot afternoon thundershowers for about a month and a half, but these past couple days it's been notably cooler. I think maybe even under 80 during the day!

To help us enjoy this cool weather, Naomi's sister Sanae and her mom Marcia came out to visit us. It's been really great getting to show them around town and around Cambodia. We're really growing to like it here - so it's really fun to get to show off our host country to some fellow Americans.

We took a trip to Kampot over the weekend and spent 3 lazy days by the river bicycling, hiking, and kayaking - just what the doctor ordered! And if any of you need a recommendation on a good PP-Kampot taxi driver, I have a great one.

Sanae took off this morning to fly back to the US, and Marcia took a flight up to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat. We're looking forward to a couple more days with her before she flies back and we're back to rattling around in our empty house once again. Like I've said before, we have a great guest room, so if you're interested, just let me know!

Call me Ishmael

So i just finished reading the classic American novel, Herman Mellville's 1851 Moby Dick (or The Whale).

Like many of the books I'm reading these days, I read this one in electronic format on my Nokia N800. The nice thing about ebooks is that you can get most of the classics for free, which is great because anyone who's spent time overseas can tell you that books can be an expat's best friend*, and they're not always so easy to find - so it's great to have thousands available whenever you'd like from the web.

The story of Moby Dick is pretty simple. Captain Ahab, who has only one leg from a previous encounter with Moby Dick - a gigantic white sperm whale - is hell bent on killing this whale no matter the cost. After sailing the whole globe, the whaling ship encounters Moby Dick and attacks him for three days in a row. After successively worse casualties, the story concludes when Moby Dick attacks the ship and sinks it. Everybody but the author Ishmael dies. The end.

There are two things you need to know:
  1. Sperm whales are awesome (also they are the largest toothed animal in the world)
  2. This book is great.
The author spends more than half the novel discussing details that have very little to do with the story, such as the way the rope that attaches to the harpoon is made, or how it's controlled, or the anatomy of the whale, or the way you extract the oil from the killed whale. You could skip every word from these chapters and not miss anything from the story. And this is probably why the critics hated this book so much when it was first released.

According to Wikipedia:
By the time of his death he had been almost completely forgotten, but his longest novel, Moby-Dick — largely considered a failure during his lifetime, and most responsible for Melville's fall from favor with the reading public — was recognized in the 20th century as one of the chief literary masterpieces of both American and world literature.
But, and I can't tell you why, it is these chapters that go on and on about the whale's head or the wonderful side stories - such as the cooking of Stubb's whale-steak - that make this such an incredible book. I'm not a literary critic, but if there ever was a book that made me want to join a book club... this would be it. Look at me, I'm incoherently blogging about it for heaven's sakes!

There's a couple really special passages in the book that I'll list here, and you can comment if you've got your own to share:
  1. Ishmael's "marriage" to Queequeg
  2. Chapter 26 - Knights and Squires
  3. Stubb making the cook preach to the sharks
  4. Tempering the harpoon in the pagan's blood
Ok that's enough. Get out there and read it.

(*As a side note, it seems like expats read more than your average American.)