Wednesday, January 25, 2012


 We talked to a taxi driver the night before. He was supposed to come at 5:30am. So we woke up at 5:00am. He showed up at 5:05am. We rushed around with him waiting in our courtyard and managed to be dressed and relatively put together within 15 minutes, to drive to Poipet at the Thai border. We understood that this would be a 3 hour journey so we wanted to get started early before the lines at the border (mostly tourists travelling from Siem Reap back to Thailand became busy). The driver woke us up just after 7:00am. We were there. The border wasn't open yet.

found an internet connection
in Aran
 It didn't take long after the border opened around 8:00am for us to cross into Thailand into the town called Aranyaprathet. In between the Thai and Cambodian borders you have to walk through a no mans land that is a gamblers haven. It is full of massive casino's and even so early in the morning was pretty hustling. Once we were in the border town we had to figure out how to get to Bangkok. We knew we wanted a bus, preferably a public one (usually cheaper and more reliable than the private tour companies). We finally hooked up some google on the iPhone and found a lady tuk-tuk driver to take us 10 minutes to the bus station for 80baht ($2.50).

We found the bus no problem but got slayed by the only money changer that was open before 10:00am, who happened to work at the bus depot. The trip was enjoyable. We started and finished a novel called "Make Lemonade" written all in verse. We arrived at the Northern Bus Station in Bangkok in the afternoon and did not know what to do next. Thai people look a lot like Cambodians but are culturally very different. The large tourist population in Thailand has created a very aggressive local culture, and made us wary of many of the people who were trying to offer us rides without a meter. We finally found the government taxi line up and got a very sweet driver to take us into the city to our guesthouse.

great sign, abandoned shop

 Unfortunately traffic was ridiculous and he kept missing the turn offs which resulted in him leaving us on the street a few blocks away from our hotel with our bags. He felt really bad (he did not want to charge us for the trip!) but we all decided it was better than being stuck in traffic jams for another hour to go 4 blocks. We paid him most of the fare and he was very grateful. And then he left and we were really lost. We dragged our suitcases up and down stairs and through crowded side walks and back alleys. We were just about to give up when I stopped to take the above photo of Ash. After I took the photo, I looked over from the stairs I had climbed up and caught a glimpse of the street signs and there was Chatburi Rd. that we were in search of!
this is how we found our towels in our
guest house

The guesthouse was great. Just opened a few months earlier and was suggested by friends that live just one block away. We indulged in some western food delights that we can not find in Cambodia, and being in the commercial shopping district we just spent the evening wandering around (sans bags finally!) and reveling at the affluence and materialism of it all! It was like jumping into a completely different universe from our sleepy, dusty Battambang town.
in case you were looking- it is in Bangkok, and it is a shopping

drinking fresh pomegranate
juice in the Arab district

shopping, shopping, shopping

Most of our time in the city was spent shopping. It was unfortunate but I was ill equipped for the upcoming cold Israeli weather. I had no shoes to wear (all that I own is flip flops) and not many clothes that suit weather below 20degrees. On the upside there is a LOT of shopping to be done in Bangkok, especially near our hotel. On the down side no one in Thailand carries shoes in my size. On the upside I eventually found a pair from some very kind sales people. On the down side they gave me blisters and were painful to walk up and down all of the stairs and hills in Haifa. On the upside I also had my sandals to wear. In between all of the searching for shoes and clothes we met up with Ryan Duly and his family. He and his wife also lived in Battambang early in their marriage doing similar work to us, then upgraded to Phnom Penh and a child, and are now living the life in Bangkok with two children. It was cool to see who we will be in a few more years :) They took us out for Arab food (to wet our appetites for Israel) right near their house. There is an amazing Arab section of the city, mostly developed around a hospital that caters to medical tourists from the Middle East.

We flew out on New Years Eve. Before flying we had a chance to stop in at our friends just down the street from our hotel and have a quick dinner with some more friends who were there for the evenings festivities. The door opened while I was helping to cut pineapple and there was one of my friends from highschool who I haven't see in 5 years! She was more surprised that I was and so we had a great couple of hours just catching up and sharing stories and memories.

it was an all night flight

We arrived early in the morning in Tel Aviv but could not arrive in Haifa until after sunset. Because security at the airport went so smooth we had many hours to kill in the city with no plans and two large bags. We found a cafe in a residential district (after taking the train from the airport to a random stop that we thought sounded interesting). The cafe was sweet and we had some great pastries and capuccinos, then I got my hair cut next door and then we wandered. For hours. With large bags on cobble stone streets and a chilly January wind.

Ashraf expounding on the great art of ancient paper map usage,
it is so much easier to follow the little blue dot on google maps.

we coordinate when we travel
 We managed to eat lots of amazing food, and visit the old city of Jaffa (pronounced Yaffo) before making our way back to the train. The best was our dinner (pictured on the right) at Big Itzik. Our taxi driver took us there and was really excited. We didn't know what was going on at all. We ordered salad and a lamb kebab and they kept bringing us food....

Monday, December 26, 2011


Before moving to Cambodia we were advised by many individuals who have lived the world around that we should eat lots of onions, garlic, and plain yogurt to ward of foreign stomach invaders.  However, it turns out that refrigeration is a fairly recent thing in Battambang and there is no plain yogurt to be found! Over the past few months we have had a few breakfast splurges where we purchase the ridiculously priced ridiculously sugared bright pink strawberry yogurt from the foreign import shop.  It left us dissatisfied, so after some easy to follow instructions from a visiting friend (thanks Elaine Losey!!) we tried our hands at yogurt making! Turns out that we may not be Dutch, but we can still work wonders with milk. The result was a perfectly thick and tangy natural yogurt. 

We were so amazed by the results that we shared with an online group mostly frequented by foreigners living in Battambang and got an immediate response. We are in business. A week later we have made 1/2 a dozen batches which we have sold to individuals, businesses and ate some our self :) It has been a fun experience, learning a very small amount about small businesses and a lot about dairy! We have even made our first experimental batch of cream cheese, which is also delicious. Next we will be looking for our own cows...
our first batch!
10 seconds. no more, no less.

adding the starter

it has be wrapped just so...

fail proof hoody incubator

for the culture to grow
success! thick and tangy 18 hours later

*serving suggestion: on pancake with honey and
a black kick ass kicking horse coffee
packaged for the buyer
(written by Emily)

Friday, December 2, 2011


Cambodia has bugs.
Emily gets HUGE welts from bug bites.
Our house doesn't keep the bugs out.
We're not fans of spraying chemicals in the house a lot.

All of these combine to lead to terribly trying time for my poor wifeh. Somehow, my combo irish-arab hairiness wards off most insects/acts as an early warning system so that I shoo them off. Which I think is exasperating for Emily, since, as she is being et alive, I am straight chillin' like a villain I've spent a few hours in the past weeks hunting mosquitoes. #thingsididntimagineinmarriage

We put lime juice on Emily's feet as a last resort to warding off bug-bites. Does that even work? We'll find out.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


A site for many people to join in systematizing the process of trying to emulate Abdu'l-Baha:

Writing this from Kampong Thom, where myself and a colleague are spending a few days working with some of CORDE's teachers to strengthen their classes!

Heppy times!

Friday, November 25, 2011


No time to post for the last two weeks!

I've got my iPhone unlocked, so if you can see the twitter feed to the left - that's where I'll put some updates until I get a breather!

Much love,


Monday, November 14, 2011

Turn up the heat!

We learn to cook the Khmer foods

There's a restaurant here called Smokin' Pot. It's been here for about 11 years. There's another restaurant here called One More Smokin' Pot. It's been here for about a year or so. They offer cooking classes. We took one last Friday:

We'd invited Ridvan and Wody, and some new friends, Zack and Eve, to come join us in the cooking class. This might be the first real like "couples activity" we've done. Wow. I just realized what I wrote. Means I'm seriously married right? When you start doing "couples activities"?! Either way was tres fun. We met up at about 9am, and sorted out what dishes we were going to cook. We settled on the classics, Fish Amok, Beef Lok-Lak, and Cha Krueng. Ok, that last one doesn't seem like a classic, but, as we discovered, its a pretty stock dish, and the name just means "fried spice". After deciding on some dishes, we headed straight to the market.
The first stop in the market was to buy some fish for the fish amok. This was actually a really cool part of the class, because we got a chance to find out which vendors our chef buys his food from, how he chooses it, what questions he asks, and how much he pays. For the two tourists that tagged on to our group, this was a fun experience, but for the six of us that live here, this information is like solid gold! For example, we may want to eat fish amok in the future. Rather than buy the whole fish, and have to gut it ourselves, we can simply say "filet", and the fish-sellers'll hook you up with some filet-o-fish

(Side note: these fish are intense. It was a bit unnerving to come here to shop for the fresh fish because they were still jumping. you can see the netting in the photo that covers the bucket-o-fish. This was not enough to stop them, as they actually hopped up and down, forcing the netting open, and then, when the seller was distracted, hopped right out of the bucket and onto the sidewalk! It didn't stop there, I swear that two of them seemed like they were making a "run" for the river.
Part of me really wanted to see them make it back to the water. We tried to get the seller's attention, but she was in the zone with that filleting, so Wody took it upon himself to pick up the fish and return them to the bucket.)

We also picked up some fresh veggies (learning the Khmer names for them along the way), and some things like dried chili(!), and roasted peanut. He also told us where to get the best cuts of beef, and whom to get them from, but when we went, the lady was all sold out. So we discovered who the second-best is as well. (Again, side note: Emily and I don't really cook meat. Not that we're intense about being vegetarian, or even that we're put-off the rawness of the market, just that it doesn't seems to happen.) We took our goodies back to the restaurant, and then had 15 minutes to hang out while our Chef's assistants did all the washing!

And we COOKED:


Beef Lok-Lak

Emily tests out her plate decoration skills

Cha Krueng Saek Moun (sp?)

We were all incredibly stuffed by the end, since we ate the fruits of our labour as soon as they were cooked. Em and Eve couldn't finish the last one, so they packed it up to go. We got cookbooks when we finished, so if you want a Cambodian meal, feel free to come visit, and we'll make sure you get a delicious Fish Amok, or Beef Lok-Lak when you do! 

I can't remember much of the rest of that day, but I know we were invited to GEMS for dinner, and we got a second class (for free!) in how to best prep Vietnamese coffees. Thanks Prema!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

calcul renal

Kidney Stones...

...make me cry

around four am last friday i was half awoken from a vivid dream and stumbled to the bathroom with what i thought was a full bladder. i came back to bed, assuming i would sleep. i found however that my bladder seemed full again. only beginning to really wake up now i headed back to the bathroom. however, my bladder was indeed empty, but i did indeed still have the very urgent sensation of needing to pee. i was now fully awake and a little bit disturbed at not being able to find any relief.

the sensation persisted and empty bladdered i visited the bathroom countless times, until something new happened. this something was a little ache in my back. it was noticeably on the left and became painful enough quickly enough to distract me from the intense lack of urination irritation. it was probably almost five am at this point and ash had been searching our medical coverage online to find out if they could hook us up with a clinic. he was having no success and i was on the floor crying so he made the decision despite the early hour to call our afore mentioned friend prema.

from my position on the floor i vetoed the ambulance that was being spoken of. unfortunately that just left us with bikes. prema headed our way on her bike and we began a very very slow shuffle down our stone, mud, potholed alley. prema got to us quickly and brought a tuk tuk with her (the above picture was taken during the tuk tuk ride to the clinic). prema has been here for a number of years and had a few sick friends during that time so was able to take us straight to a 24hour clinic and is fluent in khmer so was a great help with the doctor and other health peoples. the doctor met us outside and brought us into a room immediately- no registration, no intake, no administration, just a person in pain who needs to be taken care of. he asked me a few brief questions, starting with anglais ou francais? we told him english. the next couple of questions were about the pain, he felt my stomach, felt my back, turned on a machine and did an ultrasound on my stomach and back. while doing this he asked my name and age and typed it into the machine. that was all of the personal information that was ever asked for. 

he showed us the kidney stones in the picture, said that i have a few on the go, to drink lots of water and jump up and down. then he left and another guy came in and gave me two shots in the butt cheek. 

at this point the pain was pretty unbearable and i was being pretty dramatic. it really was beyond my control though. in the 10 minutes between the shot and the painkillers kicking in the ridiculousness of the pain peeked. and then suddenly it was gone and life was great. life was amazing. i have no idea what the drugs were but i liked them. 

we got my prescriptions filled right there in the clinic by an ancient woman who was slowly opening the pharmacy now that it was after seven am. i walked out with four brightly coloured sets of pills and no idea what any of them did or directions on how to take them. im not a big pill user on the average day so i was a little bit wary of the collection i now had in my possession. i wanted to call my mom and give her the drug names and then call our good friend mari (the pharmacist, and overall health care supervisor since i was an infant) to confirm the usefulness of the pills. my mom however answered neither her cell phone nor her home phone so i decided to go straight to the source myself. i found the phone number for the vernon london drugs pharmacy online and called them on skype. at this point some cosmic force had decided that i had endured my sufferings and without even asking for her directly i was talking to mari with three minutes. she confirmed the meds, some easily and some after some research. i had been given an antibiotic, a pain killer, a something for acute spasm pain, and a diuretic. apparently all standard for kidney stone treatment. she told me which ones to take with food, which ones to take with lots of water, and i finally felt not only the physical but also the emotional relief that had been eluding me since four am. 

i took the day off of work, luckily i have coworkers who are cambodian and are built to handle anything so they just absorbed my classes into theirs. i spent the day sleeping, drinking water, taking pills and peeing. nothing seemed to change but the pain didn't reappear until about four-thirty the next morning. ash woke up with me and i think fearing that i would slip in to the world of extreme pain again turned the music on loud and got a few bottles of water and we had an early morning dance party in the living room to jump out the stones. and it worked! 

a couple of hours later, after talking to my mom on skype and getting to compare stories (she also had kidney stones a few years ago) i "passed" my first kidney stone! that one i just let be, but the next one, on my mom's advice i kept as a souvenir :)