Word of the Week Wednesday 5/31/17

Namaste readers!
Today marks another month ending on my YAGM journey! So, in light of that bittersweet train of thinking, our word of the week is:


Language: Khmer

Part of speech: Noun

Pronunciation: Git-tee-ah

Translation: thought

Thoughts seem to be something that permeate my mind recently, as they should. These next few weeks will especially be filled with thoughts of the future, or past that want to creep into my present, and dwindling days here in Cambodia.Well, here I am to stop them head on. (See what I did there?) I acknowledge they are there, but this next month and a half is not about all of those thoughts, it is about the people and places that have accompanied me this past year as I do the same with them. So, that thought can wait, for now my brain is busy in the moment.

Keep Shining,



Word of the Week Wednesday 5/24/17

Joom Reeup Sua,
What a wonderful week this has been, and this weekend brings the first of many lasts in Cambodia. Worship weekend ascends, meaning that this Sunday will be the last chance that the CamFam will have to attend church together here. The next time we meet, we will have left our placements, which means our church home for the year, and my literal home, will no longer be a place for us to attend. However, the changes ahead are not the only things changing in Cambodia recently.


Language: Khmer

Part of Speech: Noun

Pronunciation: Plee-eng

Translation: Rain
The seasons are changing her in Cambodia and so the rain, rain, rain, has again started to come down,.down, down. In Phnom Penh we have been welcoming it every afternoon around 3-4pm. One thing I would like to say though, is that dry season almost seems like a myth after these past months. It was a bit hotter and no rain appeared for a few weeks, but it was nothing compared to the four to five months of rain-less heat that the YAGMs of last year warned of! Do not get me wrong here, I am a self-classified space heater and therefore do not mind the lower temperatures, but it does make me wonder about the many farmers that needed dry soil for their crops. Or just a dry day in general for rice. Now that rainy season is back, it does not seem to want to stop anytime soon.

Keep Shining,


Rice Rice Baby

It is an age old story that cultures make up more words for the things that are important to them. The classic example is that Eskimos have many words for snow because they need to know what type of snow something is. Fluffy, fresh, packed, blizzard, etc. Well, here in Cambodia, I have learned just how important eating, and particularly rice, are to society.

First, let us start with eating. There are five main words for eating in Khmer depending on who is speaking and who they are speaking about/to. Those are:

ស៊ី See

  • For animals (impolite word, although it seems to be an acquired slang for university age students between close friends. Either that or cockroaches count as animals and the hostel students are talking to them.)

ញុំា Nyam

  • For someone younger, or the same age

ហូប Hope

  • For someone the same age or slightly older

ពិសា Pisa

  • For someone older than

សោយ Sowey

  • For the king and God

Just looking at the specifications with which they classify the verb “to eat,” it is clear how important food is to Khmer culture!

Now, let’s look at the ways that rice has integrated itself into society. It is important to note that rice production is one of the biggest ways that many families provide for themselves in Cambodia. Not only that, but every meal is served with rice. I could eat rice for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert if we have it! In fact, I usually do! To start with some basics, let’s look at a couple places associated with food:

ហាងបាយ Hang bai

  • Restaurant (literally “shop/store of rice”)

ផ្ទះបាយ P’teh-ah bai

  • Kitchen (literally “house/home of rice”

What about if we follow rice through its process of production?

ស្រូវ Skroh

  • Patty rice

អង្ករ Angkaw

  • Uncooked rice

ដាំ Dahm

  • Cooking rice verb

បាយ Bai

  • Cooked rice you eat

And finally, how about when you are talking about eating, or being hungry in general?

ញុំាបាយហើយ Nyam bai howee?

  • Have you eaten? (Literally: Have you eaten rice already?)

ញុំាបាយជាមួយខ្ញុំ Nyam bai chea-moi knyohm

  • Come eat with me. (Eat rice with me.)

ខ្ញុំឃ្លានបាយ Knyohm klee-en bai

  •  I am hungry. (Literally: I am hungry for rice.)
  • Note on this one. Sometimes hostel students will joke about this one and say “Klee-en mee” (I am hungry for noodles.)

Well folks, that’s all and sadly it is time to say good-bai! If you are in a particularly rice-y mood, or enjoy rice related humor, go on over and check out the post featuring An Ode to Rice on my other blog!

Keep Shining,


Word of the Week Wednesday 5/17/17

Good morning/afternoon/evening to you!

What a wonderful we this has been. Full of new experiences, new memories, and new words! Today though, I bring in an old word. One that I have known since I first came to Cambodia. Before I could read the Khmer letters for it, and before I even know how to say I was tired or full or busy, I could say this.


Language: Khmer

Part of Speech: Noun/adjective

Pronunciation: Sah-bai

Translation: Happy, fun

My day is filled with questions of “Sok sabai dte?” How are you? Although it is easy to just say good or fine in English, I find myself being honest in Khmer. Sabai, or aht sabai. Happy or not happy. Albeit, many of my days here are happy, or fun, or indescribably wonderful, so usually I answer with a simple sabai. I hope your next week is full of fun, and you too can say you are sabai!

Keep Shining,



A friend recently sent me an article about language in The Economist. It focused on the idea of “What makes a language difficult?” The concept of this piece was very interesting to me because it seems that any time I delve into learning a new language, there is a question that always arises about its difficulty. Friends and family members want to know if the language is “hard.” Each time I am asked this question, I usually respond with no, and then attempt to explain why.

Languages are different for a reason. Learning Khmer may show me more challenges than learning Spanish, but that does not make the language more difficult. Each one has its own set of rules, alphabet, grammar, and vocabulary and as I drift into languages outside the Latin-based family, there will be more challenges. These differences are what makes the language interesting, and oftentimes unique.

When I first started studying Hebrew, it took me so long to remember that I needed to read from right to left. I grew up reading left to right, and so it felt uncomfortable to what I was used to. However, someone who grew up reading right to left would say the same thing if he or she needed to switch. One is not more difficult, they are just different.

The same is true of my time in Cambodia. At first, I was very frustrated with how slowly I was learning this new language. But then, I thought about the facts of my study: I was learning the language by immersion instead of classes, it is my first language with a Pali/Sanskrit background for pronunciation, and I was learning a completely new alphabet. When I put all of these reasons together, I realized that instead of getting frustrated with myself, or labeling this language as “hard,” I should give myself some credit.

I am now many months into my journey here and I would probably not label myself above beginner level Khmer, but I am learning. Speaking, reading, writing, and progressing every day. Not because this language is more difficult than others I have learned, but because learning takes time. And that seems like an easy thing to comprehend compared to another alphabet.

Keep Shining,


Word of the Week Wednesday 4/26/17


This week I have a very important word that I should have learned months ago, but have learned it this week!


Languge: Khmer
Part of speech: Noun
Pronunciation: Chom Nai
Translation: Snack

Now, let me tell you that in the US, I am a snacker. Since coming to Cambodia, I have found that there seem to be two cultures embraced on this front. First, whenever I visit friend’s houses out in the provinces and in villages, snacking is definitely a thing. There is always some snack or dessert or fruit around to munch on. This usually means I can eat more because it is over a whole day and not only three meals. The second snack culture is what I have found in the city. Snacking is not as much of a thing here. Sure, we have fruit every once in a while, but it seems that just having a little snack is not as much of a habit as in the village. Part of me wonders if the busier lifestyle of the city ignore some of the possibilities like snacking. Another factor could be that I live with hostel students and it is rare to have I am eating a snack allows me to explain why it may seem like I don’t eat a lot at one time. I am better with smaller snacks all day. Still, no matter how many snacks I may want to eat, nothing can replace sharing dinner with my friends at the hostel around a big pot of rice.

Keep Shining,

Word of the Week Wednesday 4/19/17

Last week there was a hiatus for Khmer New Year, but we’re back with more word wonders this week! This week’s words is…


Language: Khmer 

Part of speech: Noun

Pronunciation: Bayd

Translation: Biological sex
So, I returned to my sitelpes this week after a week at a friend’s house in Kampong Chhnang and got right back to events. I was invited to help with a training for the LWD Learning Center because it is in Phnom Penh. The training is for the staff at an NGO about 5 blocks from the LWD office and it covers Gender Mainstreaming in the Workplace. Now, this training is in Khmer so I honestly cannot understand most of it, but while talking with the trainer over lunch and snack breaks, she helps me get the gist. 

One of the first sessions was about the difference between the words sex and gender. When she told me that I asked for them in Khmer so I could listen during the session for those words. She told me the word for sex, which is our word of the week, and then said they do not have a word for gender so they use the English. This is something I have become accustomed to with Khmer. Sometimes there are just not words in the language so they say it in English. Either way, it is so interesting to hear a training on this topic with many words that just do not translate into Khmer. I look forward to learning more!
Keep Shining,