9th list of 10: Things I need to do when home in States for 17 days

As I started my 101 entry, I thought I should do something fun. Inspired by Polly, I have decided to make 10 lists of 10; here is number 9.

  1. Travel to St. Louis, see friends, get dog and bring her home– this process is hampered by the fact that I no longer have a car and am jetlagged; however, it is doable thanks to my wonderful parents who are doing the driving. (Thanks mom and dad)
  2. Travel to Chicago and get work visa for Chile– aparently, this is something I have to do in person. Since I am in Chicago anyway we are going to see Wicked which I am uber-excited about.  (You can tell I am excited by the need to use the much under-utilized adjective “uber”).
  3. Travel to Duluth to see sister, brother in law, and their kids.  Yay! Also, see my sister’s house.
  4. Go to the dentist– this one is somehow less exciting then the last few.
  5. Have my friend Soda come visit– and thankfully drive with me up to Duluth.
  6. Bring Harley (the dog) to the vet so that she can fly to Chile with me.  Yay! My pup is moving to her third country in her 4.5 year life. 
  7. Go to locker that I am renting to store my stuff and renew contract.  While there put in anything left at parents’ condo and take out anything I want to bring to Chile with me.
  8. Visit Grandma multiple times.
  9. Talk to people in Chile and figure out 1- who is picking me up at airport; 2- where I am going; 3- how I am getting to Vina; 4- where I am living in Vina; 5- how to open a bank account there; and 6- contact organizations I am working with and remind them of my imminent arrival.
  10. Sleep.  If at all possible. It would be nice to arrive not completely overtired and/or sick. That said, point 10 is almost impossible.

8th list of 10: Facts about human trafficking

As I started my 101 entry, I thought I should do something fun. Inspired by Polly, I have decided to make 10 lists of 10; here is number 8.

  1. Human trafficking, also known as “modern day slavery,” is an umbrella term that encompasses several forms of exploitation including debt bondage, sex slavery, forced labor, and trade in human body parts.
  2. No one knows the extent, in terms of people or money, of human trafficking. Estimates globally range from 600,000 to 4 million people.
  3. Even within the U.S., numbers of traffic victims vary depending on your source from 17,000 to 50,000 individuals annually.
  4. After drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms trade as the second largest criminal industry in the world, and it is the fastest growing.
  5. Women and girls constitute 70-80% of the victims of human trafficking worldwide with 50% being minors. Men are trafficked too though.
  6. UNICEF reports that every year 1.2 million children are trafficked for a profit of an estimated 10 billion dollars.
  7. Age ranges and education levels vary. Personally, I have worked with or known traffic victims with graduate degrees and men nearing retirement age.
  8. Traffic victims have been identified all over the United States, including in small towns in middle America.
  9. Most agencies have endorsed a multidisciplinary approach to working with victims of human trafficking; however, a truly integrative programming is extremely expensive. Ideally, programs would address legal, medical, addiction, material, economic, and psychological needs.
  10. One researcher explains that a staggering percentage of prostitutes in many western countries are illegal immigrants; more than 50% in Germany and as much as 80% of Dutch prostitutes are foreign born. He surmises that most of these illegal immigrants were trafficked into brothels. Moreover, he argues that all other prostitution could be understood as domestic trafficking due to the violence, the women’s lack of control, and their inability to leave

7th post of 10: Reasons I am excited to be going to Chile

As I started my 101 entry, I thought I should do something fun. Inspired by Polly, I have decided to make 10 lists of 10; here is number 7.

  1. I have lived there in the past (8/96-8/97 and 12/99-12/00) and always said I would move back.
  2. I will be living on the beach as opposed to the capital city.
  3. Harley, my dog, is coming with me and these past six months I have missed her like crazy! (Although, my friends Meghan and Kheli did an amazing job taking care of her).
  4. Unlike in Cambodia and Moldova, the counter-trafficking movement is relatively new and therefore not set in bad habits yet. 
  5. I actually found someone to pay me to sit on street corners and talk to the children who live and work there.
  6. Dancing is a favorite pastime of mine; one which was not completely satisfied in Cambodia, Moldova, or St. Louis.
  7. Looking forward to seeing my old host family and friends down there.
  8. The 18th of September, only 6 weeks after I arrive, is Chile’s Independence Day Celebration and is a ton of fun. (Incidentally, it is also my friend Amy’s birthday.
  9. It is in the same time zone as my family in the states.  I really liked living in Cambodia, but the time difference was hard because it made it nearly impossible to talk to my parents on the phone or find my family and friends online.
  10. Pastel de Choclo—it is a typically Chilean food that is not vegetarian friendly, but is very tasty.  It has beef, chicken, and corn as the main ingredients.  Someday I will post the recipe.


For my last night out on the town, a group of friends and I decided to try out the pre-opening party of a new café bistro, Simply Blue, in Phnom Penh.  The place actually has potential, good location, nice atmosphere—the opening however was over crowded with people, many of whom would not be coming back once there was no free food or drinks.  Also, the place was overcrowded with children—many of the children were there with parents; since it was like a bar opening I can’t say I was trilled with this.  However, it was the kids who made it there on my own that got me, hoards of 8-14 year old boys who wandered in searching for alcohol.

A group of the kids came up to where my friend Steph and I were sitting. She was smoking a cigarette and they asked for one.  She said no and told them that they were still just babies and that it was a bad habit—for the record it is a bad habit.  The boys started to talk to us. One boy, who looked about 8 but said he was 11, was holding a beer he had picked up. I asked to see it and then refused to give it back.  I told him he was too small to be drinking and offered to get a soda or juice. He pouted but did not put up much of a fight. 

My friend Christina found it very funny that I would just take alcohol away from a child. I would say underage child, but there appears to be no rule about drinking here. She called me the beer buster and in general gave me a hard time about it.  Later on, as we were leaving, the boy grabbed his beer back off the table where I had put it.  This time it was Christina that took the beer and dumped it on the ground.  Having lost their beers, but found foreigners who spoke Khmer to them, the boys came to talk to us.  Here is the gist of the conversation we had:

Boy 1- Why did you take my friend’s beer? 

Clare- How old are you?

Boy 1- 14. 

Clare- How old are you really?

Boy 1- 13.  Why did you take my friend’s beer? 

Clare- Because its bad for him.  You are probably growing a lot right now.

Boy 1- Yep. 

Boy 2- Me too. I am 10. He is 11 (points at boy 3).

Clare- Well, if you want to grow up tall and handsome you should try not to drink beer.  It makes you not grow (technically it stunts your growth, but I can’t say that in Khmer). 

Boy 2- I wanna be tall.

Boy 1- Tall and get all the girls. 

Clare- Really?  What kind of guys do girls like?

Boy 1- Hot girls. 

Clare- What kind of guys do hot girls like?

Boy 1- Tall guys. 


Boy 1- You are hot.  So is she (points at Megan). 

Clare- What kind of guys do you think we like?

Boy 1 and 2- Tall guys. Handsome guys. 

Clare- See? So now you get it.

Boy 3- How old are you? 

Clare- How old do you think I am?

Boy 1- 34. 

Boy 2- 16.

Clare- Yep, somewhere in there.

Hyphen usage

I am finishing up a manual that is going to print before I leave Cambodia (no I did not author it, but I have worked a lot on it).  So, it went to a graphic designer to fix the final odds and ends (for example, because the text is justified, at some places the spacing got weird).  Today I got back the sample from the designer… and it is driving me batty!  To fix the spacing problem, he just threw in a hyphen haphazardly so that the text would wrap.  Here are some examples of why my head is spinning:

  • gro-wing
  • ch-ildren
  •  chil-d’s
  • ano-ther
  • howev-er
  • assig-ned

*** This is definitely one of those posts where I wish I was embellishing to make the post more interesting.  But these are actual examples found over the course of the first 2 chapters (and not all the mistakes and there are 10 chapters plus appendices).

Why men suck– a response

A while back I read a piece called “Why men suck (and the women who have to)” in The F Word, Contemporary UK Feminism. The article was written by a woman who had come to Cambodia to teach English and has slowly realized that sex tourists and foreigners supporting the sex industry were not just gross old men, but “in reality, almost all of my male work colleagues were part of ‘the scene’. These men could have been any one of my male friends from England: they were young, intelligent, and, how can I say it? Well, normal. Scary as it sounds, it is a statement that has stuck with me because of the truth I see in it. I have very few male friends here. Let me rephrase. I have two: one of them is 9 and thinks girls have cooties, the other is the only decent guy I have met here (and yes, I am making a blatant judgment about how I feel about western, self proclaimed liberal men, who use the sex trade here). That said, maybe I am being unfair. There must be other men who come here and do not partake; I just don’t know where they are.

On a related note, I find it disturbing how many of the people who work in counter-trafficking and women’s empowerment programs (local and international), visit brothels and take home taxi girls. How do they not see a discrepancy between their work and their own behavior? How do you stop a system, break it down, when you also fund it?

Back to the main thread. There is one other piece/ analogy from the article that has stuck with me:

I soon learnt that the virgin/whore dichotomy is quite literal in Cambodia, with girls staying ‘pure’ until they are married and boys paying for sex from a relatively young age (16 is a rough guess). The fact that men pay for sex is totally accepted and, surprise surprise, it’s not the men who suffer for their actions but the prostitutes, or taxi girls, as they are known. As one friend put it, “sex is like going to the toilet, it’s not pleasant but it’s necessary”: The taxi girls (who come from very poor families and whose pay often contributes to the communal family income) have the unenviable status of a social toilet.

It’s the last part of this—the necessity of sex that strikes me. It’s something that I have heard repeated by male, liberal, western men as an excuse. As if it somehow justifies using another person. And the girls, they ones who take on all the blame, who are humiliated, tortured, tormented, hurt, subjected to disease—in so many ways are the proverbial toilet seat. It makes me sick to think about. It makes me sad.

What are your thoughts?

Some facts about prostitution in Cambodia (citations here):

  • Researchers found 87% of young men were having sex with their girlfriends or prostitutes; 10% were having sex with other males
  • There are 10,000 to 20,000 women and children in prostitution in Phnom Penh, a city of 1 million. Massage parlors and karaoke bars are frequently fronts for prostitution rings.
  • 35% of prostitutes in Cambodia are under the age of 18.
  • Many young prostituted boys live on the streets and at night wait for the male buyers who will pay $2 to $5 for sex.
  • Children as young as four have been sold into the sex industry in Cambodia.
  • Minors, some as young as seven, constitute more than 25% of the prostitutes in Cambodia’s sex industry,
  • The local industry for sexually exploited children is exploding for two reasons: Many Khmer — and other Asian men — believe sex with a virgin will renew their vigor and youth, and the fear of contracting HIV is fuelling a demand for younger and younger virgins.
  • A study of more than 6,000 prostituted girls found that one-third of prostitutes in Phnom Penh and Battanbang were between the age of 12 and 17.
  • 40-50% the prostitutes in Cambodian are HIV positive.
  • 60% of the young prostitutes interviewed in Cambodia were infected with everything from sores and warts to gonorrhea.


When I grow up, I wanna be a spy

Sometimes I can be very impulsive– I am stirred easily by things I see or read. It is not uncommon for me to see a movie on doctors and want to be one or read a book about space travel and consider NASA. Coupled with a self esteem and belief that I can do anything, thanks mom and dad, it is amazing that I have not actually chased after all these dreams at once.

In light of this, and the fact that I have watched the first two seasons of Alias in the past month, its is not surprising that I found myself drawn to the organization APLE.  APLE, which stands for Action Pour Les Enfants, is a human rights organization that combats sexual exploitation of children.  While they have many programs, such as pro-bono legal aid and social rehabilitation, it was an article on their field investigators that caught my attention.

Like Sydney Bristow, these social workers are out to catch the “bad guys” (read western pedophiles) by following them and covertly collecting evidence.  “Part sleuth, part spy, these social workers are the street presence in the battle against child sexual abuse.” They work, often in the nights between 5pm and midnight, in many of the hangouts where western men lure and buy children. APLE’s network also includes many others who help collect evidence including locals, expats, and even children themselves.

Though they collect evidence and have secret identities and hidden cameras, they never directly confront the perpetrators.  There main goal is to collect enough evidence to bring it to the police. Some perpetrators are trailed for only two hours before enough evidence is collected– others take months.  Regardless, the information gathered is priceless. According to a police chief of the juvenile protection unit most cases presented by APLE are taken.

The Alias watching part of my mind sees the glamor in all this; even the satisfaction in knowing that pedophiles are being taken off the street.  The other part of my mind though wonders if I could do it.  How do you look at depravity every night and then go home to your children (I don’t have children yet– but let’s imagine) and kiss them, put them in bed, and believe that the world is a good place for them?  How do you compartmentalize your emotions enough to interact with the men and not let the repugnance shine through? In the end, I simply find myself in awe of the work they do– and although I am saddened that it must be done, I am glad someone is doing it.

Working on a Sunday

It’s a Sunday afternoon and I am working.  I was working from home, as opposed to spending yet another day in the office, but I decided to come to my friendly local art gallery/ Asian fusion restaurant owned by a very sweet Taiwanese man and his partner.  If you are ever in Phnom Penh, Two Fish is a great place to see new art and have a tasty, if slightly unconventional meal. The artwork being displayed changed last night, which is disappointing because I loved the abstract oil pieces of the last show.

My favorite part of the menu and the reason I came today, however, is the juices.  Some of my favorites include

· Melon (watermelon, lime juice, and fresh mint leaves—no sugar),

· Immune power vegetable (garlic, ginger, coriander, carrot & apple),

· Pineapple ginger ale (ginger root and pineapple),

· Spiced apple (apple juice, root ginger, cinnamon & a banana), and

· Lychee with mint.

Today I start with the Lychee with mint and move on to a new juice (well, new for me), Beet It Liver Cleanser (beetroot, celery, cucumber, and ginger). Although presumably healthy, it tastes a bit too much of celery and a bit to little of ginger for my taste buds. 

The sky was perfectly sunny with amazing fluffy white clouds as I walked over—still hot, although less so, but humid. The rainy season is on it way and I am waiting with barely contained anticipation. I had been sitting here working on my computer for about 20 minutes when I heard the “WOOSH” of the sky opening and the deafening “CLANG” of a dozen tin roofs being tap danced upon.  It does not simply rain here in Cambodia when water is falling from the sky.  In my Midwestern definition of rain, the rain drops must be distinguishable one from another.  Here it is a wall of water that assaults those in its path.  Truly a remarkable sight—and sound. Staccato, lightning displays and low rumbling thunder enter the picture and leave as if they were a small glitch in the mind. Oddly, it is the sound of the rain that I love most—this constant pitch, hum-drum, of rain walls on tin roofs that has almost drowned out the Corinne Bailey record playing in the background. This hum-drum that is somehow peaceful, soothing, lulling.

Great News

This is probably just interesting to those of you who know me in real life, but for me its huge.  Pending medical and research clearance, my Fulbright application has been accepted!  I am moving back to Chile at the end of the summer and working on my dream job: researching the risk of street children to be trafficked.

Por los de uds. que no me conocen, a lo mejor esto no sera interesante.  Pero para mi– esto es increíble.  La Programa de Fulbright haya aceptado mi propuesta y, si es que paso el chequeo medico y consigo permisión a hacer investigaciones, en agosto estaré devuelta a Chile y tendré el trabajo de mis sueños: investigando el riesgo que corren niños de la calle a ser traficados.


Convictions, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

Over the past couple weeks, there has been a huge trial here in Cambodia on human trafficking (see press release below). The defendants were two German men, one Vietnamese man, and two Vietnamese woman. I knew people who attended the trial and were appalled by the overwhelming evidence of child molestation, trafficking, etc. While I was very happy that the people were all sentenced, I can’t help but wonder if this was more a media show. What about all the others? What about when its not commercial sex tourism, but it is all locals involved. I mean, yes, prosecution needs to happen and I am glad when it does– but it needs to happen more! Here is a little bit of information on prosecutions and convictions for human trafficking around the world.

Press Release

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