The Art of Listening – une œuvre abstraite


When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new. – Dalai Lama

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I love the traditional Chinese character for listening. If you break it down, you will see elements of ears, eyes, undivided attention, and heart.

I have listened to countless stories of families decimated by the Khmer Rouge during the years of 1975-1979. I have heard innumerable slurs, degrading remarks, and generalised judgments about certain ethnic groups residing in Cambodia. I have seen vitriol commentary hurled back and forth aimed at both sides of the political spectrum that wields its power in Phnom Penh. I have participated in many meetings expressing the voices of indigenous communities torn off their land and forced to survive on nothing in Cambodia’s northeast. I have sat with garment workers whose colleagues were shot in front of them for protesting for a small pay raise. Listening is so overwhelming.

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My Cambodian family

familyIt’s wonderful to go to a new place and find yourself with an adopted family. Long-time expats and global wanderers will understand how a local family deciding to take you on as one of their own can do wonders for adaptation, understanding, and overall happiness.

I can say that apart from my biological family in Canada, I also have adopted Mexican, Ecuadorian, and Japanese families. I consider them my first go-to people and those that allowed me to join them and feel like I’m at home. After over two years in Cambodia, I now have a Cambodian family. Continue reading

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Home in photos


April 22 – May 15. Back home after two years away. Reconnections, family and friendship, encounters with nature, nostalgic revisits, and lots of updates. Thank you for the memories.

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Detox fasting in Thailand

kohI have arrived on the island of Koh Phangan in southern Thailand for the opposite reason that most people come. No full moon party for me, I’ve come to cleanse my body and fast on a detox programme.

I have wanted to do this for over a year but wasn’t able to find the time until now. I feel it’s the perfect time to purge myself of the old and prepare for the new. So I’ve decided to share my daily journal just in case anyone is considering to do the same. I’ll share this journey with you which is certain to be challenging, but hopefully rewarding. Continue reading

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Living the dream

It has been a considerable gap since I’ve blogged. I did in fact suspect I’d take a while before posting something. My senses have been awoken by new experiences almost on a daily level over the last four months. Moving to a new city, starting a new job, beginning a whole new journey in this trip since I arrived in Cambodia.

AWLast August I got into a van with all my belonging and headed north from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, the home of the infamous Angkor Wat – centre of the Khmer Empire. It’s a real privilege to live at the base of an empire that was one of the world’s most powerful. Angkor Wat is literally a bike ride away from my house and is at the core of nearly everything that revolves around Siem Reap. I quickly settled down – or better stated, geared up – into my new job at a peace and conflict centre working regionally from Siem Reap. Continue reading

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Two parallel journeys – winding down and ramping up!

On the road again. Moving my furniture and myself from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap on a somewhat new journey.

On the road again. Moving my furniture and myself from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap on a shifting new journey.

And so ends the final week of my volunteer placement. After a bit over 14 months, I’m finishing up the final details of a year that has whizzed by. A year that has drastically altered my life and taken me in a new direction.

I’m in a van with all my belongings en route to Siem Reap, the land of Angkor Wat and the heart of the Kingdom of Wonder. I have about 5 more hours on a bumpy road that I think will be the end of my wine glasses.

Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say ‘We have done this ourselves’.
– Lao Tzu Continue reading

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Eating my way through Malaysia

Eating banana leaf curry with my boss has always been a highlight of living and visiting Malaysia!

Eating banana leaf curry with my boss has always been a highlight of living and visiting Malaysia!

*WARNING – this blog posting contains images that may produce severe hunger on an empty stomach…

A bit over six years ago I moved to Malaysia for a three month internship. Lucky to have a boss who was an avid foodie, I got to experience the culinary delights of a country that often falls under the food radar. It’s a real wonder why Malaysian food doesn’t compete up there with Thai or Vietnamese in the Western world. Last week I went on a one week trip to Malaysia with a theme – food. Perhaps for me, Malaysia is my Italy of Eat, Pray, Love. I certainly could feel the trousers get tighter and see my face get fuller over such a short timespan. But every bite was full of pleasure and discovery as I ate my way through Malaysia once again. Continue reading

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My coconut man – self taught and speaking out

coconutmanI want to share with you a short snippet of the life of a man that I visit weekly in search of the best coconuts Phnom Penh has to offer. For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call him Mr. Nara. Mr. Nara has a small coconut stand in front of his house on a street that is known as the coconut go-to of the city. Competing with probably more than 50 other coconut vendors, Mr. Nara spends his days from sunrise to long after sunset cutting open coconuts and selling them to thirsty passer-bys. He has a wife and a two year-old daughter who also take shifts to manage the stand – his wife has recently started making coconut jelly to sell as well. Continue reading

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Ode to the granny bike

grannyDutch blood runs through my veins. My legs are genetically supposed to begin making cycling movements before I even start to walk…

In my volunteer programme, we are generally expected to ride bicycles if our workplaces are within 5km or so from our homes. Living in Phnom Penh, most of us reside close to work. When I arrived and had a look at the chaotic city traffic and chronically potholed roads, I thought there was no way I was getting on a bicycle. Not even to mention the fact I had arrived in Cambodia under that stifling heat at the beginning of the rainy season and daily flooding. Other volunteers encouraged me to get on a bicycle and give it a try – which I did once – and subsequently made a decision to never try again. Alternatively, I decided to focus my Dutch genes on spinning classes at the gym with machine bikes, cute instructors, and pounding dance music! Continue reading

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Taking back land and a whole new perspective on life – A community in Cambodia

landgrabLand-grabbing is such a tragic activity in developing countries. A land grab is essentially a large-scale acquisition of property, either buying or leasing, by a company, government, or person. We are talking the big boy elite here. Step back and imagine you are living off the land. Maybe land-ownership isn’t a clear concept to you, or maybe you just assume the land is yours. Your family might have been there for generations. You might have your house, your farm, your animals. But one day some agents for the big boys come and tell you it’s time to go. A foreign company is setting up a serious cash crop enterprise or a big tourist resort that doesn’t need you or your chickens. Or a well-financed project is about to come and take all the timber that lays between vast parcels that your house happens to sit on. Maybe you receive some compensation for your loss, but you quickly find out you aren’t going to go far on that once you’re homeless and have no land to cultivate. Continue reading

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