Monday, March 27, 2017

Ukuleles and Fat Babies

Since Ben learned piano from an early age, and he's just smart in general, picking up new instruments isn't very hard for him. Hauling a piano, even a keyboard, around the world is hardly practical. Something small like a ukulele or a guitar is perfect, though. Ben says that learning on something so small will help make a guitar feel spacious, since the fingering is always challenging with his big hands.
Elias is proud of himself for learning the one string to push down to make a C chord.

There are several sizes of ukulele, at least three. We have the smallest. This one and one a size up have the same fingering but the baritone ukulele is played like a guitar (with four strings.)

The kids love singing along with Ben or trying to play too. Since it is a really cheap instrument, it's a little easier to let them try a few chords. Zoe even likes the music.

Can you tell how big she's getting at two months compared to Talia's doll?
Here it is almost a symbol of affluence and pride to have a fat baby. Cambodians often come up to Zoe and pat her leg or cheek approvingly because she's a chubby baby. Sometimes this cultural desire can have less appealing affects. Some babies here who are formula fed are over-fed on purpose to appease the family's desire for a fat baby.(Being able to afford formula instead of breastfeeding is also a sign of wealth, sadly.) I have seen sumo-wrestler-looking babies that were grotesquely overweight and unable to walk until a later age carried everywhere by a mother. I think a chubby baby looks healthier than a skinny one, but I've never seen it taken to extremes like that before. 

I'm thankful for a healthy baby and music in our home!


Friday, March 17, 2017

Cambodian Sickness and Industries

Though I've been sick the past week, I've been following the stories of Soth Rey and leprous indigenous people from the countrysides of Cambodia. Most people I grew up with didn't think that leprosy still existed, (and it doesn't have to,) so seeing the pictures and stories of these heartbreaking diseases leaves you with quite a bit of perspective. (If you haven't heard of Soth Rey's story, or how she is doing now, you can find it clicking the links. If you want to help, go here, but beware the graphic before/after photos.)

This is a definite side of Cambodia: heartbreak. Amidst the smiling faces and generous people there are so many issues left in a country still recovering from a bloody past and struggling to build a middle class. The two largest industries here are textiles and tourism. While the economy has been growing since 1995 when the government changed from a planned economy to  a market-driven economy, any political unrest slows that down. As there are to be elections soon, we will see how it goes this time.

Here's an online photo from the textile section of the Russian Market: One of the famous textiles is the silk Ikat. They remind me of the Guatemalan traditional woven textiles.

Speaking of industries, did you know (according to Google) over 30,000-60,000 tons of cashews a year are grown in Cambodia? The majority are shipped to India and Viet Nam for processing, though. In 2015 (at least) there was a push for support of local farming AND processing to create jobs locally and there's a cashew peeling factory in the Kampong Thom province. Hopefully the job market will continue to grow.


Cashew trees show a completely different part of Cambodia than the city. While we've avoided the country until the baby was born, since people usually get sick from mosquitoes there, perhaps we will get to see more of it soon. (And take a good mosquito repellent.)