am I a gentrifier?

I somehow always seem to end up in the best places. In the need to have accommodation booked in advance to apply for my visa to Portugal, I booked a short term rental on Airbnb, with plans to take a month to search for a location suitable to myself. I arrived in Martim Moniz, a small area named after the famous noble knight of Portugal, and immediately saw the contrast between a large renovated square with fountains and lounge chairs and somewhat pricey restaurants to the many ethnic wholesale shops and multiple ethnic-owned convenience shops/mini-markets/”Bangladesheries” dotted amongst the residences.

I soon learned from talking to anyone in Portugal that this area – the neighbouring bairro called Intendente more particularly was once a main hub for drug dealing and prostitution and despite recent municipal and local development interventions to requalify the urban space, many Lisboners still hold on to its reputation as an unsafe area. Continue reading “am I a gentrifier?”

Advertisements

itineraries, or not? (travelling northwest Cambodia)

My travel philosophy is that the choices we make unexpectedly  will lead us to the best, most memorable adventures. Combined with the interest of being slightly off the beaten track, this plan can really suck, especially when you are by yourself. But, with determination and openness, the unexpected never fails to bring us wonders that go beyond our imagination; and it rarely leaves behind regret.

*****

Warning! The length of this post may feel like an essay, but I hope I’ve kept it intriguing enough to read it through to the end, or at least in parts. I’ve tried my best to keep it short without sacrificing descriptive accounts of only some of the wonderful things I saw and felt. The writing still doesn’t do it justice.

Continue reading “itineraries, or not? (travelling northwest Cambodia)”

fields of green

As a traveler, and as an expat, it’s very difficult to actually know what is going on around you. I believe I’ve come to know Cambodia as much as I probably ever will, but I recognize that there are entire dimensions of language, thought, reasoning and other cultural norms that I won’t be able to understand. It’s simply not possible to fathom the life of the farmer who walks his cows each day among deserted landscapes or growing up as a little kid playing hide-and-seek around the great temples of Angkor without actually experiencing it. This reality prevents me from fully understanding the people and their country.

But sometimes we know more than we think we do. Continue reading “fields of green”

off the coast of Kep

I still remember so vividly that boat trip back from Rabbit Island off the coast of Kep. In the early morning hue, the awakening sea that stretched itself to the horizon and the guzzling motor that drowned out all other sound, silenced us. I sat beside Emily, Joel behind us and the boat driver at the very back. We had only one other guest: an aged Khmer woman, loose pajamas and a traditional krama wrapped around her head. Everything about her was typical, except for an aura that made me as attentive to her as to the lazy beauty of the sea.

She perched on the tip of the boat, facing towards me, but not acknowledging my presence. Her eyes allured me, for they held wisdom that only comes from experience and a sort of rationality that I had not noticed in most Khmer people.  Continue reading “off the coast of Kep”

Malaysia: beauty and hypocrisies

With dirty feet and dry heat, I’m back home in Phnom Penh. I missed it here. Everything that is so familiar, yet so distinct from where I’ve been in the past month, has reinforced what I understand Cambodia to be. Poverty, corruption and lack of social services sits in large contrast with Singapore and Malaysia. (I never made it to Indonesia, after the conscious decision to further explore Borneo island).

From the bus ride past the Malaysian border into Melacca to the final few days in culturally-rich Miri, I was constantly reminded of Canada. Continue reading “Malaysia: beauty and hypocrisies”

one international internship: check.

Three months have passed and a lot of work has been done, however, I’m left with both a feeling of accomplishment and of unfinished business. I was fortunate to be able to work in a developing country and see the result of change within three months. By bringing more opportunities to students, such as an English speaking club, a language lab, and increasing the accountability of their teachers, I’ve changed (if not improved) what the university can provide to students. I may have introduced the initial phases of these projects but I continue to think of what more there is to do. I contemplate the larger context and think of how, perhaps, nothing had really changed at all. Although I did my best, managing this negative thoughts is a challenge.

Continue reading “one international internship: check.”

the concept of being rich

This concept has been a struggle to deal with while in Cambodia, but I didn’t really realize just how present the dilemma is until somebody else brought it up.  I’m quoting a statement Emily provided on the Virtual Campus forum in her contemplations  about these Cambodian-Canadian relationships.

It started when I went to get my Visa extended and it cost 72$, I commented on how expensive it was. My co – worker replied with, “it doesn’t matter though because you are rich, everyone who comes to Cambodia from countries like Canada, US and France are rich”.

Continue reading “the concept of being rich”