Wednesday, November 16, 2005



View of half floor from downstairs

There are very few actual office buildings in Phnom Penh. Most offices, apart from government departments and the like are in houses. Most expats here would live within a stones’ throw from an NGO – or five. My office is in a tall narrow Thai or Chinese style house – I can’t remember which. That knowledge was gained during our house-hunting, which despite the happy ending, was a frustrating and traumatic experience so it’s all been wiped from memory. Because NICFEC is a poor local NGO with hardly any money, to save on electricity, the stairwell is kept dark, there is no air conditioning and lights and fans are turned off as soon as we leave a room. Quite sensible really – except maybe the dark stairs. To make matters worse, the power goes out at least once a day for at least an hour. All the Khmer staff, even those with little English now know the word ‘blackout’. I think when we finally get a generator and the blackouts stop I will miss my coffee breaks reading the paper at the cafe down the road.

Each morning at 8am there is an office meeting which I sometimes attend. It is pretty much a waste of time for me because it’s in Khmer and from what I gather involves people taking turns to stand up and paraphrase news items from the morning paper. Sometimes when the director is there the meeting is about work. Everyone claps which signals the end of the meeting when the lights and fans can be turned off and the work day begins.

Other ‘quirky’ things about my office are: When it rains very hard, the floor floods because there is a half finished room at the back which is full of rubble and open to the elements. The accountant’s office is in a half floor - Being John Malcovich - style, with a miniature door. Lucky our accountant is not tall. We all sit at our computers on blue plastic outdoor furniture chairs. No OH&S ergonomic consultants here... Because offices are also houses, almost all office toilets will have a bath or shower often with toothbrushes too – haven’t figured out whose those are yet.

I have just recently been assigned some projects to work on. One being the Parliamentary Watch Project and another a women’s rights/domestic violence program so I think I will now be relatively busy at work. Which is great – but a shock for me after a year of mostly bumming around!

Our AYAD profiles are on the web finally. Just go to and click on Meet the AYADs then Intake 14 etc.

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