Friday, August 11, 2017

Things I Have Learned From My Neighbors; the Essential Khmer Words

I'm very thankful that a neighbor moved in that is bilingual. It has opened up a completely new world. In hindsight, it would have been better to take a few courses in Khmer, even if we are here for only two years, and life was so overwhelming, and we were trying to pay for the baby... so I'm not sure how well it would have gone. It's a proven fact that the brain does not retain knowledge like it should when you are in "survival" mode, and I was definitely in survival mode when we arrived. However, I would recommend taking language courses if you can! 

Our neighbor has taught me several things about Khmer culture lately. I thought I'd share a few with you.

-When a woman gives birth, they take the leaves from the turmeric plant and make something like a tea with it. Then, it is rubbed all over the woman's skin to restore health and vitality.

-Cradle cap in Khmer is translated "water buffalo poop." She laughingly explained it comes from the old times when people would jokingly say that the mom had left the baby unattended and a water buffalo had pooped on his head. She also said doctors don't recommend scrubbing cradle cap off of a baby's head because it is so delicate.

-Turmeric leaves are really big! The ones she showed me looked like the banana leaves you would use to wrap a Khmer version of a tamale. These leaves are chopped very fine and used to season... frog! This was the example she gave me, but I'm sure there are other dishes, too.

As Talia is homeschooling this year, she offered to teach her a simple Khmer lesson in the afternoons. Talia writes down the transliterated words next to the English and then comes home and teaches me. It's amazing how many words you can pick up from daily life but once you've gotten used to that and are in the frame of mind to learn, it is also amazing how helpful it is to learn more words to integrate with daily life from a bilingual person.

(The boys have started back to school too. Elias takes Khmer at school this year.)

Some must-know words in my opinion are these:

ah-nee-man: how much?
sadam: right (for giving directions in a tuk tuk)
schvey: left
soo-sah-day- good day

Then the numbers to 10 which you will notice are worded on a base 5 pattern:
muy- 1
pee- 2
buy- 3
buon- 4
pram- 5
pram muy- (5+1) 6
pram pee- (5+2) 7
pram buy-(5+3) 8
pram buon-(5+4) 9

-One of the first things I like to know about someone is their name. The neighbor explained that here, it's different: people often call others as "mother of -----" using the child's name as an indicator. This reminds me of Abu Dhabi where Ben's students called him "Abu Ilyas" or "father of Elias." She said sometimes people don't learn the names of their neighbors until there's a big wedding and they go door to door finding out names for the invitations!

Who knows what we'll learn next!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Tom Yum Soup: Cambodian Recipe

When my friend told me she would teach me to make Tom Yum soup, I had this mental image of making a fabulous from-scratch dish... It started out OK: We chopped onions, tomatoes and got some of these small, white mushrooms.
Then came the disappointing part, ANYTHING CAN BE TOM YUM IF YOU ADD THE MAGIC CUBE!!!
...also known as an MSG-laden bouillon cube conveniently containing the flavors that I can't read in Khmer.
As I'm accustomed to making stock from vegetables or bone broth as the base of a soup, this was different. Still, I'm thankful she showed me how it's done. This part is easy enough to modify.

We added some bok choy and the coconut milk made a delicious broth. Next, I would love to learn the delicious noodle soup they served at Nature Lodge in Modulkiri and around the country, or at least I think I would...