Thursday, September 22, 2016

My neighbor Sombath, his shop and his school project

You never know what people do until you get closer and talk with them. We already made some contacts here in the neighborhood, in particular with Sombath and his wife Sophol. They run a shop and restaurant just around the corner. Both speak English, but I try to improve my Khmer skills with them as well. In the past I bought some quite nice Num Pang (bread with grilled beef) and noodles with fish as well as Koh (Khmer stew) from them, and some beer.
A few days Sombath asked me if I can help him to set up a website, and I said yes of course. A few minutes later he got his own blogger account and his website.
And it turns out Sombath has some quite good understanding about content. Not only that we uploaded pictures and description about his shop, he went to his hometown yesterday to take some photos of his project there. They set up two classrooms under their home (about 35 km outside Siem Reap), and kids are coming for school every workday from 3-6pm. They learn how to read and write Khmer and English. The teacher gets 30 USD per month, and all school books, pen and other material is donated.

If you want to help Sombath and the school project, just go to his website and you will find all necessary information. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Why MSG is good for your food and not bad for you

Chicken dishes are so tasty with some MSG
Yesterday someone posted on Facebook a picture of a fish sauce and asked "Safe to eat? (No MSG?)". While I have no idea what was in the bottle, I am sure MSG might be the safest thing to consume when buying home made fish sauce.

There is still this myth that MSG is bad for you, that there are people allergic to MSG or that it will kill you. None of it is true. The MSG story is a hoax, and is based on a study that is retracted by the author since decades.

MSG is Monosodium glutamate. As Wikipedia says, the sodium salt of glutamic acid, one of the most abundant naturally occurring non-essential amino acids. Monosodium glutamate is found naturally in tomatoes, cheese and other foods.

Broccoli for example. So if think you are allergic to MSG but you can eat tomatoes or cheese, than your are NOT allergic to MSG.

Also, you can eat a lot before you die. The lethal dose is 5 and 18 g/kg body weight - in rats. No way your local chicken curry comes even close to it. (Actually, salt is way more dangerous and lethal in much small doses)

There is NOT study than ever proved a link between MSG and headaches. We humans actually use Glutamat and Salt for quite a while, about 5000 year or so. In the meantime we invented the internet, made it to the moon, but we didn't know that we all gonna die from MSG? Highly unlikely since population grows in particular in MSG-countries.

Actually, MSG has benefits. It makes food tastier, mainly chicken, but also other dishes. It is NOT something artificial that will give your unborn children 4 arms and a trunk. It will not alter your DNA, and it is not bad for your Karma. It is just something you use when you are cooking, like you use salt and pepper.

So, you say you always get headaches when you eat food with MSG? Ok, first, is that also the case with tomatoes, broccoli or cheese? Second, it doesn't actually matter what you feel. That's not how science works, because you could be just feeling bad because someone told you so ("Uaaah, Chinese food!!! Beware of the MSG!!!") 

Science works this way: You get 500 people and you divide them randomly in two groups. One group gets a meal with MSG, the other group the same dis without MSG. Both groups don't know about the MSG-thing. Once they are finished, you asked them if the are more thirsty, if the have headaches etc. You may do that 12 hours later again. And then you compare the results. If the MSG groups reports a significantly higher number in headaches, than you have strong evidence that it causes headaches. But all studies came to the opposite result. 

You are NOT healthier if you eat MSG. It doesn't do any harm to you. There are thousand more health risks in Cambodia, like the tab water (yes, it contains most likely E.coli, but again, you also have them in your intestines and for a reason).

So, nothing to worry about and now you can go to all those lovely local restaurant, even if they do not have a NO-MSG sign on the door. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Just go back to your country, where dogs aren't chasing you

There are basically two fractions of expats: Those who compare the current country with their home country and those who are kind of "take it as it is" people. You may find people between those fractions, but start a controversial Facebook post about the garbage problem, and you will see how easily people get divided.

Like the guy who complaint in a Facebook group about dogs chasing him while he was running. That's a common issue in Asia (and Africa and South-America, I assume), and I do understand it might be annoying to runners. If he just would have asked if there are places with less dogs for running, he would have gotten suggestions in seconds. But he took a broader approach, talking about kicking dogs and killing them with his bare hands – the usual troll thing.

Not a dog, and will not bite you. 

I am exploring Siem Reaps outskirts in my bicycle a lot and so far never had issues with dogs. When I see them, I slow down, say hello and that's usually it. I adapt to the environment I am in, and that is the key. If you like running, you most probably developed this hobby back home, in an environment that is safe for runners. Where people keep dogs inside, or on a leash.

50 years ago, before urbanisation and jogging, dogs were roaming the streets in the west as well, or at least they protected the house and the yard and sometimes sneaked out. Jogging and the fitness thing came with the office work and apartments, where people did less physical work. A farmer didn't need to go running after a work day.

And then there is is the natural behavior of dogs chasing everything that is running away from them. Because they can. That's why it is always a good idea to slow down and/or stop and tell them with your body language that you are not a threat but that you are gonna pass by no matter how much they bark.

So, if you start complaining about the fact of roaming dogs (or that many of them carry rabies, what they do), then present a suitable solution. You may find a charity for free rabies vaccination, but you will not change the fact that dogs are allowed to roam the streets. This will change over time, as you can see in Phnom Penh already, when population gets more dense and people start living in condos rather than single houses. (Although Bangkok shows that street dogs still survive, mainly because people feed them well).
This is a dog, but will also not bite you :-)

When you live in another country/continent and maybe soon on another planet, you have to adapt to a certain extend. It doesn't mean you have to throw your garbage around, or burn it. But you have to accept that your neighbors are doing it. You can talk with them, and you may make a change. But other people will still burn it and there is nothing you can do about. Complaining about it is the least helpful approach, and the we westerns vs. those locals thing isn't helpful either.

There are just things you can't do in Cambodia, as there are things you can't do in England or Germany. I miss the snow sometimes, but there is just no snow here. Khmer may want to go fishing at a German river, but they need permission, if they like it or not. We all have to adapt to the environment to a certain extent, whenever we change it. It's like the sweating issue: Most foreigners -  me included – are going crazy when they move to Asia because they are sweating a lot, and it's kind of embarrassing. Until you recognize that locals sweat too, and that it is not a big deal.