Neck problems in Cambodia? You may have HSS

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Some time ago, I sat with my good friend, Dareth Ly, comparing notes on our perceptions of the Cambodian way of life. We laughed, shook our heads, and probably should have cried at some of the things we’ve seen here.

I want to focus on the fact that we spent some time shaking our heads. Actually, we spent a great deal of time shaking our heads. In fact, I sensed that Dareth was in pain each time he DID shake his head. As a result, I have come to the unscientific conclusion that my friend exhibits the signs of (what I am hereby declaring to be) HSS – Head Shaking Syndrome.

I’ve noticed it before in other expats who live here, and some who have gone from here. Yet, in those cases, the extent of the HSS was not nearly as pronounced as in Dareth’s case. It wasn’t until I noticed his extreme cranial twitching that I was able to make the association. The world of psychology, chiropractics and related quackery should take note of what I am suggesting. I am boldly making the assertion that overexposure to life in Cambodia will result in a major pain in the neck, which is a direct result of shaking your head too much.

In my clinical study of Mr. Ly, I have noted that he has been here far longer than most other expats. He arrived in the mid-nineties, and has seen every cultural oddity that exists. Others, who merely suffer mildly from HSS, have simply not had sufficient exposure to warrant the diagnosis of full-blown HSS.

To be fair, I have heard from others who oppose my theory (I’ll just call it a fact), by saying there are other causes which lead to the neck pain I’ve referred to. They would argue that years of going back and forth over primitive roads here on motos or land cruisers has jarred their necks to the point of having chronic neck pain. Of course, these notions are unsubstantiated and smack of envy over my astute scientific breakthrough. Let them say what they will.

Dareth has confirmed to me that he has spent YEARS shaking his head. Shaking his head at the site of overloaded trucks topped with piles of passengers; at unbelievable methods of taking care of medical problems; at the interesting ways that cars – or any OTHER mechanical devices are “repaired”, at . . . I could go on, but my neck hurts.

The Terrace: Why do I keep coming back?

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Everyone here knows it by it’s other name: The Fake Starbucks.

Shortly after our arrival in Phnom Penh last year, we were ecstatic to discover a sign that looked like Starbucks. We thought we had found our escape from eating dirty/ weird food, and a real coffee joint at last.

As with most everything else here that appears “western”, it didn’t take long to realize it was just another facade.

And yet, oddly enough, we continue to go back. Why?

There was the time I sat at a table eating, when something several tables down caught my eyes. It was a rat going from table to table jumping into the little plastic waste baskets for 5 seconds or so at a time.

Then there was the time one of the teacher assistants joining us had just gotten her stew delivered – only to find a fly had been cooked into the culinary delight.

Hairs in our food? Happens everywhere – this is a non-factor.

And then today. As we sat finishing off our meals, we heard a screech from behind us at the doorway. There, before my eyes, was a waitress jumping up and down like a frightened girl, while another was patting herself on the back for having just grabbed a mouse with a pair of salad tongs. I tried to get my wife to look and she told me to shut up – she still had a few bites left.

Tomorrow, the Terrance is opening a new store CLOSE TO SCHOOL!! We’re both very excited about that. I kid you not – we actually are. If anyone is able to explain the spell this place puts on an expat, please let me know. I may be able to find a counter-spell.