Tangled Web: Photo Wednesday

Power lines, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

Sorry, as I am traveling, this is getting posted a bit late. It was taken in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Spring 2007.


Sometimes frustration is okay– sometimes it’s not

Sometimes I need to take a moment and breathe.  I need to take a second to have faith that everything will work out in the end. I have to reflect for a minute that the world is not actually against me—despite all evidence to the contrary.  

Yesterday was one of those days.  A friend of mine (Hi Jen!) said that I should think of it as having a Cambodia day.  And, admittedly, it was and yet it wasn’t.  It was a Cambodia day in that all my frustrations were pitted because of cultural imbalances and misunderstandings.  Language barriers certainly didn’t help either.  And if I were in another country I could blame it on them. Or if I were home, I could have blamed it on the company—well, really, if I were at home I could have asked to talked to the manager and demanded to have my situation fixed immediately.  Maybe this is really where the problem lies—I am used to being able to have things fixed NOW or at least be compensated if they aren’t.

This might make more sense if I tell you the story. 

I do not have a plane ticket home yet. I do, however, have tons of reservations.  I have settled on one leaving on the 11th with Eva Air.  I talked to the travel agent and clarified that it would be fine if I paid on Monday and got the ticket issued then. Monday morning I called to request the ticket and give directions to my office.  Travel Agent (TA) called back and said the price has gone up 45 USD.  Annoying.  I agree.  One hour later she calls back and says they cannot issue the ticket because I only have 1 hour and 45 minutes in LA airport and that I need 2 hours. This leads to the obvious question: well, why did you give me this booking then.

Hours pass. Multiple phone calls are made to Eva Air, TA, and a different travel agency (TA2). Nothing is resolved. 

I keep my cool. I tell them that I am “very dissatisfied”. Nothing happens.  I am told to give them time.  They never call back. Not once. My cool is lessened as I worry that I will be stranded here forever. I briefly consider a ticket that has me flying Phnom Penh, Taipei, LA, DC, St. Louis—until I find out that it will be 300 USD more expensive.

The day ends with no resolution.  I am flustered at best. 

Jen invites me over for dinner.  I stop by to pick up Indian on the way.  She orders from a deli as well. My moto tries to over charge me.  I needed good karma.  I still need good plane karma (if you have any, send it my way please!). I give him 2500 riel for what should have been a 2000 trip maximum.  He complains; wants a dollar (4000 riel). I can’t even argue I am so annoyed.  I walk away.

The deli delivers the food but forgets the drinks.  Jen lives up 4 flights of steps; the delivery man agrees to bring the drinks up the steps and Jen shows him with flight to use.  The deli, in its infinite wisdom, sends a different delivery person who never manages to find the steps.  I call several times. I shout down the stairwell in Khmer.  

Its just going to be one of those days.  Nothing goes right. Little makes sense. Much would have been simpler if it had just been done right the first time. I am left here. Lost in the chaos, wanting to scream, but knowing that culturally it would be completely inappropriate to do so.

Here is for hoping that tomorrow I get plane tickets…

2nd kiss-a-thon against discrimination

Gay y lesbianas protestan en Chile contra la discriminación en el Día de los Enamorados, originally uploaded by MUmS – Movimiento Unificado de Minorías Sexuales.

I didn’t grow up in the right generation in the United States: apathy does not suit me well. Not saying that all in my generation are apathetic, I mean, there are my friends. But, as general sweeping generalizations go, this one is not far enough off the mark. That and the fact that I think I would have been a good hippie.

I like protests. I especially like well planned ones. Original ones. Ones that make a statement. Ones that are non-violent. Ones that are provocative. The kiss-a-thon (in Spanish Besaton) last year in Chile is among my favorites.

What you are seeing in the picture is the Moneda, the presidential palace of Chile. It is located at the heart of downtown Santiago. The people in front are protesting for equal rights for all LGBT individuals, a law that grants these rights, and a law with a clause that punishes hate crimes as such.

I love the poetry involved in a kiss being a form of protest.

The second national Besaton will be held June 30th, 2007 at 4:00pm in front of la Moneda. If you are in Chile, sign up and attend.

Everyone has a sales pitch

Selling trinkets, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

There are a lot of things that people can say to get me to buy stuff. I admit it—I am a sucker for a sap story, cute face, or irresistible price. I like 2 for 1 sales, second hand stores, homemade and original things (especially art and jewelry). I know my weakness!

So, when traveling, especially in foreign countries and markets—where I am more apt to be haggled, bargained with, followed, extorted—I have come up with a few key strategies. First, I pretend not to hear. Second, I pretend not to understand; often this is coupled with babbling in a foreign language. Third, pretend I am in a hurry. And, finally, under no circumstance do I stop and look at merchandise or the person selling. This theory has some flaws—the story I am about to tell does not illustrate one of them.

While traveling in India, I was often followed by people shouting out sale pitches. Some of these were good. Some were incomprehensible. Some worked. This was the worst! Here is the number 1 sales pitch in the world that will not work on me:

[Shouted by a man who sold marble candle covers that were carved so that the shape of elephants could be seen on the side. He followed me for quite a ways.]

“Madam! Stop. Buy my candle. Good quality! Look at this work. Very hard. Very tiny. You need tiny hands to do this. We have children who have learned. They are the only ones that can do such tiny work. You buy and I can bring you to the factory and see all the children do this work! Madam. You buy!”



Child labor is not a good selling point for me.

Trafficking in Canada aka the ramblings of a foreign intern

Guest writer for this post is K, a good friend and colleague. She and I were the two in our cohort who focused specifically on human trafficking. She is currently in a practicum in Canada. The following are some of her initial impression.

Also, dear readers of an MSW in Cambodia, please take time to leave a little note for K so that she knows how much her contribution is being appreciated– even if you don’t have answers or comments on her post. It’s kinda fun having a guest over here. I want to encourage it!


Things here are going well. I’m learning a lot about the Canadian system and how they view human trafficking. I’ve had some thoughts and would love your feedback.

First some context:

Canada is basically a Tier Two country. This means that the US gave them a warning that they need to improve or the US will cut off any aid. This has huge implications if your a developing country. If you don’t really care about aid (such as Canada) its a black eye on your reputation. (Some countries like Russia and China don’t really care about either). To get a Tier Two ranking you have to really be doing very little to combat trafficking. In other words, little to no victim rights, poor legislation, little awareness, etc.

Where Canada is at now:

1) Canada has two definitions of trafficking. Yes, two. This creates a problem when you want to charge a criminal and the defense attorney says, “but he didn’t meet definition number 2 and definition number 1 is just plain unconstitutional”. It also makes it difficult to do…well…anything as a policy advocate (aka me).

2) In both of Canada’s definitions you have to have movement to have trafficking. I know this means little to you all, but I’m sure Clare is gasping with horror as she reads this 😉 This basically means that domestic slavery (the enslavement of your own citizens) is exceptionally difficult to prove because it is not unusual, at least in urban areas, for traffickers to not leave the city. For example, a runaway from Toronto is captured by traffickers in Montreal. The traffickers force the girl (who they found in Montreal) into a brothel in Montreal. By their definition, this is not trafficking. It would be anywhere else (well, in most other places). The implications of this is fewer victims rights and less penalty for the perps.

5) the federal age of consent to have sex is 14 years old. This makes sex trafficking of minors (anyone under 18 years of age) difficult if not impossible to prove. Notice how the laws don’t match up (i.e. 14 then 18…think of the two definitions). Also complicating the matter is that prostitution is legal.

Where this leaves me:

I’ve started work on the Alternative Report to the UN. The report is on how Canada is implementing the UN Optional Protocol on the Sale of the Child, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography. This is our opportunity to really call the Canadian gov out while also encourage some progress it has made. (for instance acknowledging that holding a child victim of sexual exploitation in police detention with adults is not a good thing). Right now it involves me doing a lot of calling, but its a good opportunity to see the process from beginning to almost end (it will be submitted early Oct I leave end of August so I’ll miss about a month.) I also get to start my calls with “I’m writing a report for the UN” which just makes me feel cool 🙂

Because we’re starting with almost nothing, I’m learning a lot about program development, which I didn’t learn about in school. This is a good thing. Also, we have a huge meeting on Thursday and we’re working our butt off to get everything done. A lot of government officials are coming to the meeting to talk about the rights of child victims. Many seem enthusiastic and are relatively high level. I get to practice my lobbying skills. This will be made even more interesting by the fact that the meeting will be entirely in French and I only speak a word (bonjour everyone, by the way) 🙂

I’m also learning a lot about border control (which is not such an issue in the Midwest). For example, if a guy shows up at the border with 3 kids and just says he’s their uncle (no actual proof of this) the Canadian border control won’t even ask a question. The Canadian government has recently acknowledged this is probably not a good thing (this acknowledgment came about after a report which indicated tons of kids from the US were being trafficked into Canada for sexual purposes). Still, they have indicated a willingness to change which is the beginning. I will hopefully be researching best practices concerning border control and helping write a suggested protocol for investigating suspicious situations. This will be great learning opportunity.

Philosophical Implications:

1) Political navigation – I, as a foreigner, will be researching controversial Canadian issues and writing position papers. How do you incorporate what others believe about power, a victim centered/feminist view point, your own belief system about power, while being sensitive to the fact that the context has changed?

2) Trying to understand people’s confusion on things you think are self explanatory: See the two definitions issues and not asking questions about separated children (A separated child is a kid who is with an adult that is not their legal guardian. See the border example above). How do tell people they are being stupid in a nice, politically savy way? haha 🙂

3) Not making assumptions about welfare policy: I have officially found out that having universal health care and a “liberal” government does not mean diddly squat when it comes to victims rights!

4) The two definitions and requiring movement have really profound implications when it comes to policies and interventions. I’m sure only my social work friends would be interested in this, so I won’t go into it here. BUT, I can see how this would impact all the social workers on this email so drop me a line and we’ll talk shop :-).

Don’t let my points give you the wrong impression. I love my internship. The fact that I have so much to talk about is proof enough.

Photo Wednesday: Synergy

Synergy, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

Today I am starting a new tradition on my blog: Photo Wednesday. Photo Wednesday will consist of every Wednesday me sharing a picture I have taken or that has been taken of me that I feel should be shared. It might be shared because it makes a statement. It might be shared because I find it beautiful. It might be shared for a million reasons, but in general, those reasons will not be written with it. At most a line or two. The idea is that the photo is central. Today I kick it off with this photo which I call Synergy.

Per request photos will now include a little info including who is in them and when where they were take.  Synergy: take in Jaipur, India. Subject: Asia.

India trip in photos

Horse drawn carriage to the Taj Majal, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

Pics are up from the India trip. Click HERE! There are less than 100, which is hard, because i had 560 to choose from. So if anyone is interested in more…..

Road Rules Part I: Blow Horn India

Truck, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

Although I have not actually driven a car in India, I have spent sometime over the past week observing the rules of the road. After careful consideration, I have come up with the following guidelines for correct horn usage a la India style.

  • Beep if you see a horse.
  • Beep if you see a cow.
  • Beep if you see a camel.
  • Beep if you see an elephant.
  • Beep if you see a pig.
  • Beep if you see another car.
  • Beep if you see a truck.
  • Beep if you see a motorcycle.
  • Beep if you see a toy car (technically these are known as autos—they are green and small and have three wheels, use CNG, and are everywhere).
  • Beep if you are about the merge.
  • Beep if you are illegally going through a red light.
  • Beep if you are not going to stop at the stop sign.
  • Beep if you are changing lanes.
  • Beep if you don’t believe in lanes.
  • Beep if you are about to get hit.
  • Beep if you think you are about to get hit.
  • Beep if you think the guy next to you is thinking of hitting you.
  • Beep if you are about to hit someone.
  • Beep if you are thinking about doing something that would hit someone.
  • Beep if you are about to hit something.
  • Beep if you are about thinking about doing something that would hit something.
  • Beep if you see an accident.
  • Beep if a car is stopped in front of you (in this case continue beeping until the person moves regardless of if they can do anything about it).
  • Beep if you haven’t hit your horn at any point in the past 30 seconds.
  • A single beep cannot count towards two of the above at once. For example if you see both another car that is about to hit you and a cow, you should beep three full times (once for the car, once for the cow, once for almost being hit)

Please keep in mind that while these general mandates are not followed by everyone and are not legally binding—they are the norm (and only slightly exaggerated- perhaps).

As Kelso would say: “BURN”

A play in one act. 


C- A well traveled American woman

S- A well traveled Indian woman

Kelso- character from “That 70’s Show”




Inside a car, traveling somewhere in Rajistan.  Scenery filled with dry brush, rolling hills. In the background several monkeys play and a single dog watches the traffic.

Queue monkeys. 

C- Oooo. Monkeys.

S- (glancing to the side) That’s a dog. 


C- I may be American, but I do know the difference between a monkey and a dog!

Kelso (voice from off stage)- BURN!



Where in the world is Clare?

Clare at the Taj, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

Ahh the eternal question? Where am I off to now?

The current answer, obviously from the photo, is India! And besides June NOT being the time one should travel to India (116 F/ 47 C when I landed) the trip is amazing. I promise to regail you all with stories upon my return to Phnom Penh.

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