Thursday, December 4, 2014

Just finished writing 80 captions.  It is an odd thing to do: write captions.  I asked my trusted editor for advice, and she said to write in complete sentences, about 10 to 35 characters per caption.  And, she added, a little humor is okay.
Humor?  Did she say "humor"?
So I launched in.  I've written a lot of captions, but I can't remember ever writing a humorous caption.    The temptation was to write 80 humorous captions (which I didn't do), but the feeling was liberating.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Chicken in the Mango Tree: Food and Life in a Thai-Khmer Village

It has been a long haul, but thanks to Harbour Publishing in Vancouver, the new Douglas McIntyre, I think the book is at last going to be a book.  The editors at Harbour have been great, and if all goes well, there will be a book in the Spring next year.  We are at the stage of final edits, page layout, photo selection and captions, and index.  I bought my first Mac, so doing this on a new computer has been challenging.  But good.
Otherwise life moves along here in Surin Province.  Most of the harvest is already in, the rain almost non-existent now.  Temperatures are dropping by the day, making the Thai style bath (a bucket of water) something better left for afternoon.  A few months of "cold", and then hot season.  Maybe I can miss a bit of hot season - my least favorite - with a trip to Canada to promote the book!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

windows and shutters


northern Khmer



I’ve finally started to learn to speak Khmer, or more exactly Northern Khmer.  It’s not like I haven’t been learning these last three years, but not rigorously.  When I first arrived here in Surin Province I was frustrated because all the time I had spent learning Thai was of very little use here.  It was really nice to be here, but language-wise frustrating.  Part of me believed that if I started to seriously learn Khmer, then I would lose my Thai (I am not the world’s best language person….).  I persisted in studying Thai, while hearing around me almost 100 percent Khmer.
I have known for quite a while that it’s time to make a switch, but I haven’t known quite how.  Do I study Khmer from Cambodia, for which there’s a written language? Or do I study the Khmer from here in Suring (which people in Cambodia call “northern Khmer”)?  The two languages are very different, even to the point of linguists calling northern Khmer a language, not a dialect.  The problem is even more complicated in that northern Khmer doesn’t have a written language, having been assimilated into Thai culture for generations.  If you see Thai-Khmer music (kantrum) vcds, the karaoke part is written in Thai.

Finally I realized that there’s really no question:  the Khmer that I will learn is northern Khmer, the Khmer that I hear every day, the Khmer from where I live.

So I embarked, and there have been several good discoveries.  First is that a lot of northern Khmer words are already planted in my brain, having been listening for three years.  I’ve known the sounds even though I haven’t known the meaning.  Second is that there are lots of “free” words (unlike in learning Thai).  The free words are because I already know the words in Thai, thinking that they there were Thai in origin instead of the other way around.  While the two languages are not at all related (Khmer is part of the Mon-Khmer language family, and Thai the Tai-Kadai), the Angkor Empire long ago included a large part of what is now Thailand.  Thai borrowed Khmer words!

Will I be able to use my northern Khmer when I travel two hours south to Angkor Wat?  I figure it doesn’t matter, because whatever Khmer I have will be so simple that anything is better than nothing.

“Dtoh talat tey?”
“Mun dtoh tey.”
(do you want to go to the market?  No, not go.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Kwahn in the middle and Auntie Ahn on the left


the emerg

Last night the phone rang and Pea's nephew, Dteuy, was on his way to the emerg.  He'd been coming home after dark to the village from working in the fields on his motorbike (it's harvest time), and there was a tractor parked on the road with no lights to signal its existence.  He hit the tractor and crashed.  He injured his head and his leg.  By the time we got to the emerg he was just being lifted from the ambulance, a bloody mess and in great pain.  The emerg staff worked quickly.  His mother, Porn, was already there and very shaken up.  Porn is Pea's sister number four, Pea being number five (they look so much alike they could be twins, but Porn is now very skinny).

In another thirty minutes a truck arrived from the village with Pea's mother, brother, sister, and about ten children, all first cousins of Dteuy.  The door of the emerg was open, so we could all watch from outside.  At some point they wheeled his stretcher to another room for xrays.  He was still in horrible pain.

After about an hour they put Dteuy back into an ambulance and drove him with his mother to Surin (a nearby city).  He had multiple fractures from his hip down the length of his leg.

A bad accident with a child is always sad and horrible, but this was even worse.   His sister, Kwahn, a year older than Dteuy, came from the village to the hospital about three months ago.  At birth she had an infection in one eye and lost sight in that eye.  Now sixteen years old (and a wonderful wonderful kid) she came with her mother to the hospital having an infection her other eye.  She stayed in the hospital, and in the course of staying there doctors discovered that she has ovarian cancer.

Dteuy and Kwahm's family is very poor.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

with rain pouring down tonight, we ate grilled catfish (raised by Pea, and now more than a pound in weight), fried scorpions, and cucumbers from the garden (and of course, chile sauce).   the catfish live in a small pond in front of the house, and right now they are mating ("boom boom in the water").  they are noisy.   and we now have 500 new baby frogs.