All posts by John Kershaw

Local Food

We have found flour! And lentils! We’ve been buying flour from the big supermarkets but it’s a long drive and you invariably end up buying other stuff you don’t really need to make it feel the journey was worthwhile. We’re currently on an austerity drive to recoup all the money we’ve spent trying to get the air-con working, so local-bought is best.

The snag with buying from the market is no-one advertises what they’re selling – bread is hidden in lidded baskets, lentils live under the table, and flour sacks are stacked at the back of the stall. Of course, WE don’t even know which KINDS of stalls & shops might sell which kinds of things, and it’s not always obvious. Cambodians are very rigid about who can sell what – the guy who fixes moto punctures doesn’t do mechanical work, the person who sells 7 kinds of rice doesn’t sell flour. But, it turns out, the woman who sells lentils and noodles DOES have flour! Hidden of course, but we located the correct stall by the usual process of Googling a photo of the thing we want to buy on the phone (lentils), then playing ‘hotter or colder’ round the market.

“No have”, they say. I point up and down the row, they look confused then point in the direction of someone selling the item. Probably – it’s not an exact science.

We’ve also managed to get bread delivered to our door. There’s a chap who rides round every morning with a bread basket on the back of his bike, calling “Num pan, num pan” but it’s always after we’ve left for school, so we caught him one Saturday and explained (miming, no language barrier) that we would put out money in an envelope with a picture of a baguette on it and a bag underneath; if he comes by and sees the envelope, he counts the money, divides by 700riel (about 20c, or 15p) an leaves that many baguettes. It took a few days to nail it, but now we have a steady supply, as long as we remember to put out the ‘bread trap’ each morning.

Even better than finding cheap local food, God has been blessing us with FREE food! Our neighbour visited family in Siem Riep and brought us some yellow mangoes, our other neighbour came back from the provinces and gave us bananas, green mangoes, white sweet corn, and some strange sticky rice parcels beautifully wrapped in banana leaves. Tom said the bean filling reminded him of bran flakes. And weirdly, he was right.

New school, new gecko

Today we rolled up our sleeves, shifted tables & chairs, swept floors and generally started getting the new school ship-shape. Or school-shape.

During the festivities we found a takoy gecko. They eat mosquitos and cockroaches, so after we explained to him how many of each we could offer at Chez Kershaw, he was more than willing to accompany us home.

He’s nocturnal, so is currently biding his time waiting for night so he can begin hunting…

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The Duerdens are here!

Safe arrivals

Margaret and David arrived from England late on Friday evening.

They’ve been up to see the new school building (site), down to the market and out to the off licence!

Cath's mum looking lovely.
Cath’s mum enjoying the greenery (of our neighbours house – our foliage is decidedly yellow).
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David gets the beers in.


Chamkar Pring Amusements

We visited Chamkar Pring and rode the ‘very exciting’ roller coaster and big yellow spinny-swingy-thingy. Both had safety restraints, neither worked.

Tom and Matt on the dodgems at Chamkar Pring.
Tom and Matt on the dodgems at Chamkar Pring.
David & Margaret's first ride in a Cambodian tuk-tuk.
David & Margaret’s first ride in a Cambodian tuk-tuk.


Feed and clothe the poor

Village church in Baray
Tom with a day-old duckling
Youngsters at play in their ‘living room’.
Tom getting to know the locals.

Today we took buckets of rice, bottles of fish sauce and gifts of clothing to some of the poorest villagers in Baray, about 100km north of PhnomPenh.

In one of the houses our children played with day-old ducklings, alongside Khmer children; boundaries of culture and language melted away as all squealed with delight. Another mother we talked with (through an interpreter) proudly showed us their church, a peeling wooden shack. We chatted with her in a lean-to barn amongst her animals, only to discover that the ‘barn’ was her home, and she was saving up to buy some walls.

Meals without Mums

With Mrs Kershaw off with the elephants in Mondulkiri, and Matt and Lauren safely away with their year groups (Koh Kong and Rabbit Island) Tom is stuck eating ‘Daddy Food’…*

Tonight’s ensemble began with shitaki mushrooms fried with spring onions, followed by cauliflower & cabbage in a cheeseless** cheese sauce, sweet corn daubed with (peanut) butter and poppadums.

Good thing we’re both heading to our village ‘home stay’ camp in Baray tomorrow.

  • Tom’s suggestion was custard with Spam…

** autocorrect suggested cheerless…

The Krama

The humble Krama is a simple piece of material for which the ingenious Khmer have found a myriad uses.

Tom wrote and presented this short talk about the Krama in class. We investigated some of its timeless solutions to everyday needs, as well as exploring some new uses for the 21st century.



The Krama is a bit of cloth. Not at all exciting – just like every other bit of cotton in the world. Sure, it’s got a lovely chequered pattern in either red or blue, but that’s really just decoration.

It’s only good features are:

You can use it as a sling to carry your baby – or carry your pigs/chickens/ducks to market.

You can wear it as a belt, apron or sarong / man-skirt – or keep the baking Cambodian sun off your head.

You can twist it and wrap it around your head to carry heavy loads, or use it as a hammock to soothe a crying baby.

It can be folded into a shopping bag, or act as a pillow case or bed cover.

On cold mornings a tuk tuk ride feels very chilly – but not if you hang your Krama up as a windbreak, or wrap it around your neck as a scarf.

But like I said… it’s just a piece of cloth.

But in many ways this piece of cloth has been the binding of the Kingdom of Wonder for more than thirty years, since the devasting Khmer Rouge ravaged its social fabric and ripped it apart.

The bustling city of Phnom Penh that I have been living in for the past six months is absolutely filled with smiles.

No trace of Pol Pot’s horrific regime scars its face, though below the surface is another story.

This recovery has been, in some small part, due to the humble, unassuming Cambodian Krama: its people’s bandage, protector, and national symbol.


A double-length Krama hammock.


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This old woman’s Krama keeps the sun off her head.


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iPad stand.


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Hands-free coffee and iPad.


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Scottish kilts go back to the 1600s, but the Cambodian krama-skirt was worn by “every man or woman” at least as far back as the 13th century.


Iced Custard

Our first proper home-cooked roast dinner in Phnom Penh was worth waiting for. Cath made jelly to go with the fruit salad, but I fancied some chilled custard on mine…

1 tbsp custard powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup milk powder
1 cup water
1 cup ice

In saucepan, mix dry ingredients to a paste with 1 tbsp of the water.

Heat gently, gradually add remaining water.

Turn off heat, stir in ice.

Serve with fresh fruit and strawberry jelly.

Ilkley Moorbodia

Tom, Matt and John headed north of the new school on their bikes to explore ‘the unknown country’ – and found a n open, grassy landscape not dissimilar to lots of places in Yorkshire, albeit flatter, hotter, and with more date palms.

Very happy.