Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Uncommon Snacks

In previous posts, I have mentioned a few examples of the many snacks that Cambodians enjoy that many of us from a western culture might find…uh…unappetizing. These include a wide variety of insects. One of my friends here in Cambodia is raising crickets in large quantities for consumption which, honestly, are rather tasty. I’ve tried a few of these snacks and will rate them in this fashion;  tried, not yet tried, or rather die first. The ones in which I have included a picture are silk worm larvae- tried, grasshoppers- tried, crickets- tried and snakes- rather die first. There is a picture of what appears to be a cockroach. The Cambodians insist that it is not a cockroach, it just looks like one. It’s a big bug and you have to pull the wings and legs off to eat it or it gets caught in your teeth. I did actually try it once, under protest, but succumbed to peer pressure. Not pictured include tarantulas- rather die first and ants- not yet. I’m sure there are more but these are the ones I’m aware of. Although some might find the concept of eating bugs hard to swallow, they can be tasty and do provide much needed protein to the Cambodian diet. Bon appetit!

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Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
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This is a short description of one of my books called Azaleas Beyond the Prison Walls. This is my favorite book filled with twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.

It’s 1930 and Carson Jones is a prison guard at the notorious Eastern States Penitentiary in Philadelphia where some of America’s most violent inmates and gangsters are serving time. Amidst the desperation of the Depression and a crowd of hostile convicts, Carson finds solace in an azalea garden behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art and in helping an inmate he believes has been wrongfully accused of murder and sentenced to death. Carson’s life begins to take a turn when he meets a beautiful young woman through a coworker. Her father is a judge and agrees to help him, but at a price. Carson is forced to choose between a life of meaning and purpose and leaving his friend at the mercy of a threatening warden who is becoming increasingly more unhinged. Though the life he has always dreamed of is finally within reach, is it worth it? In a novel chock-full of history and suspense, James Rizzo crafts a suspenseful narrative full of real-life history and page-turning intrigue.

This is the book trailer for my novel Azaleas Beyond the Prison Walls. Book sales are increasing so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those that have supported me by purchasing my books. Although I’m no longer with Smart Cat Publishing, all my books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Links are on this website. Hope you will take a moment to listen and enjoy.

 

 

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Coffee

Since I began this blog, I’ve covered a number of agricultural commodities that Cambodia is known for including rice, sugar cane, silk, salt, and pepper. Another is coffee although I’ve read that the number of coffee plantations in Cambodia are in steep decline. Throughout the country, coffee shops are everywhere. In Phnom Penh, there is one on just about every street corner. This country drinks a lot of coffee, usually iced. The coffee plantations in Cambodia are located in the higher elevations of the northeastern highlands of Mondulkiri Province. Coffee plants are not native to Cambodia but were introduced to the country by the French. Cambodia, like much of SE Asia, was occupied by the French for almost 100 years from 1863 to 1953. The French referred to its colony of SE Asia which included Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam as Indochina because it sits between India and China. The type of bean that is raised in Cambodia is robusta. There are many different types of coffee plants but robusta is one of the more popular ones being second only to arabica and about 40% of coffee production overall. Robusta grows well in the Cambodian Highlands due to the elevation and climate. Robusta is also the preferred type of bean bv connoisseurs of espresso. So in the pictures are what is known as the berries which are picked by hand. The workers picking the berries were shy and asked that I not take their picture. Inside of each of the berries are 2 coffee beans which are roasted and ground into coffee. I was never a really big coffee drinker but have found a nice cappuccino in the morning gets the day off on a good note.

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Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============

This is a short description of one of my books called Azaleas Beyond the Prison Walls. This is my favorite book filled with twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.

It’s 1930 and Carson Jones is a prison guard at the notorious Eastern States Penitentiary in Philadelphia where some of America’s most violent inmates and gangsters are serving time. Amidst the desperation of the Depression and a crowd of hostile convicts, Carson finds solace in an azalea garden behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art and in helping an inmate he believes has been wrongfully accused of murder and sentenced to death. Carson’s life begins to take a turn when he meets a beautiful young woman through a coworker. Her father is a judge and agrees to help him, but at a price. Carson is forced to choose between a life of meaning and purpose and leaving his friend at the mercy of a threatening warden who is becoming increasingly more unhinged. Though the life he has always dreamed of is finally within reach, is it worth it? In a novel chock-full of history and suspense, James Rizzo crafts a suspenseful narrative full of real-life history and page-turning intrigue.

This is the book trailer for my novel Azaleas Beyond the Prison Walls. Book sales are increasing so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those that have supported me by purchasing my books. Although I’m no longer with Smart Cat Publishing, all my books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Links are on this website. Hope you will take a moment to listen and enjoy.

 

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Making Silk

SE Asia is known for many things and one of them is silk. Not far from Phnom Penh there is an island on the Mekong River that is called Silk Island. As the name implies, the island is known for silk production. Here there are people still producing silk from the worms and weaving it on large wooden looms. This island really has an island vibe that is relaxed and laid back even though it’s on a busy river.  To get to the island requires a series of ferries because as of yet there is no bridge. Silk production began thousands of years ago in China but was revolutionized with the invention of the loom. I suspect that the process has not changed much since then. As pictured here I am holding the silk worms in my hand. They make the cocoon that are the yellow looking cotton balls. The cocoons are placed in hot water so that the fiber of the cocoon is separated from the cocoon into a strand of silk. That strand is wound around the contraption that is pictured. Once enough of the silk is wound around it can then be woven into garments. You can see me attempting to weave some silk garment on one these large looms. It’s actually more complicated than one would think. To make the different patterns there are many pedals and levers on the loom. The silk is threaded through the loom using the spindle. Silk Island really feels like you are in another time and place where life was simpler and peaceful. A place where people live happy, quiet lives producing silk.

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Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============

This is a book review I had received from my one of my young adult novels “The Gift of Phineas Lake”. Kirkus is well known for their high standards in regards to book reviews since the 1930’s. Needless to say, I was very pleased with their review. Please take a moment and read this review. All ordering information is on this website. http://www.jimrizzo.com

A quick, compelling historical novel with a magical touch.

Rizzo uses historical figures and facts as the foundation for this suspenseful story within a story about the Underground Railroad and racial tension in antebellum industrial Pennsylvania. The book begins in 1897, when Jake and Gordy, two boys, get curious about an abandoned house in town—the former home of the titular Phineas Lake, who disappeared 50 years ago under mysterious circumstances. Though most adults discourage the boys from inquiring further, Gordy’s grandfather Cooper reveals that he was Phineas’ childhood best friend, and he’s just the first of many who begin to tell the boys about Phineas as they piece together the true story of what happened. Phineas had been blessed with a miraculous healing touch—able to cure any wound or illness with his hands alone—but he did his best to keep his gift a secret, since Rev. Davis, the village preacher, was quick to condemn such a thing as witchcraft. During the night,

however, Phineas would heal the freed slaves—the closest doctor refused to treat them—who worked at the iron furnace in town. After a nearby Underground Railroad conductor realized how Phineas’ skills could be used to help the exhausted and sick fugitives, Phineas (along with young Cooper) became a fugitive himself, only returning to town after a terrible storm brings on a deadly fever among the locals. The racist, magic-fearing Rev. Davis, however, hardly gives

him a warm homecoming; it isn’t long before he’s calling for Phineas to be killed. Rizzo’s story has plenty of momentum, and the boys’ eagerness to listen to each of Cooper’s tales works well, keeping the reader as enthralled as Jake and Gordy are. Though there’s not much historical nuance here, the book has an unassailable moral message that would be a great choice for YA readers with an interest in the history of American slavery.

A well-paced, engaging reimagining of antebellum Pennsylvania.

 

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Jungle Trek

I live south of Phnom Penh in an area that is hot, flat and mostly rice fields. But there are areas of Cambodia that are mountainous and much cooler. They still raise rice in these regions but it is a different type of rice that isn’t raised in water paddies called dry rice. Dry rice is planted directly into the soil. In these higher elevations, there are fields of tall grass among pine forests that resemble many areas in the US. As you drop down from the higher elevations you will come into dense jungle. I recently took a guided trek into the jungle, sleeping in hammocks. This guided trek in particular was in an elephant sanctuary. I did see a critter that they refer to as a raccoon but looked nothing like the ones in the US. It looked more like a squirrel. There are also snakes, monkeys and gibbons but didn’t see them. However, the elephants and scenic waterfalls made it a worthwhile trip.

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Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============

This is a book review I had received from my one of my young adult novels “The Gift of Phineas Lake”. Kirkus is well known for their high standards in regards to book reviews since the 1930’s. Needless to say, I was very pleased with their review. Please take a moment and read this review. All ordering information is on this website. http://www.jimrizzo.com

A quick, compelling historical novel with a magical touch.

Rizzo uses historical figures and facts as the foundation for this suspenseful story within a story about the Underground Railroad and racial tension in antebellum industrial Pennsylvania. The book begins in 1897, when Jake and Gordy, two boys, get curious about an abandoned house in town—the former home of the titular Phineas Lake, who disappeared 50 years ago under mysterious circumstances. Though most adults discourage the boys from inquiring further, Gordy’s grandfather Cooper reveals that he was Phineas’ childhood best friend, and he’s just the first of many who begin to tell the boys about Phineas as they piece together the true story of what happened. Phineas had been blessed with a miraculous healing touch—able to cure any wound or illness with his hands alone—but he did his best to keep his gift a secret, since Rev. Davis, the village preacher, was quick to condemn such a thing as witchcraft. During the night,

however, Phineas would heal the freed slaves—the closest doctor refused to treat them—who worked at the iron furnace in town. After a nearby Underground Railroad conductor realized how Phineas’ skills could be used to help the exhausted and sick fugitives, Phineas (along with young Cooper) became a fugitive himself, only returning to town after a terrible storm brings on a deadly fever among the locals. The racist, magic-fearing Rev. Davis, however, hardly gives

him a warm homecoming; it isn’t long before he’s calling for Phineas to be killed. Rizzo’s story has plenty of momentum, and the boys’ eagerness to listen to each of Cooper’s tales works well, keeping the reader as enthralled as Jake and Gordy are. Though there’s not much historical nuance here, the book has an unassailable moral message that would be a great choice for YA readers with an interest in the history of American slavery.

A well-paced, engaging reimagining of antebellum Pennsylvania.

 

 

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Halong Bay

A World Heritage site is a landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, and is legally protected by international treaties. These designations began in 1975. In the US there are currently 22 of the total 981 sites worldwide. Examples include; Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Everglades, Yosemite and Chaco Canyon.

Halong Bay, Vietnam is one of these sites. There are thousands of these limestone islands that jut out of this ocean bay. The water is emerald green. The islands vary in size and the larger ones are forested and can support wildlife such as small monkeys and some sort of cat. I took an overnight boat cruise through the bay which is an area of 1,553 km2 so it’s a relatively large bay. At one point the boat stopped and were able to kayak around some of these towering natural limestone islands. We could even paddle around a floating fishing village which is pictured. We also stopped at a floating oyster/pearl farm. The cruise ship was great with nice staff and fine dining. The cabins were luxurious and with a balcony. I sat on the balcony with a nice glass of wine while cruising by some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever seen. Aside from the cruise, the town of Halong Bay is being converted into an amusement park. There is a beach but if an amusement park isn’t your thing then Hanoi is close enough to make the trip to Halong Bay and return to Hanoi when you get off the boat. I know I probably say this a lot but if you ever make it to SE Asia put this one on the list

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Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
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Sunset Over East by [Rizzo, James]

 

It’s 1880, Denis and Hope McConell are on a train traveling through Indian Territory on their way to Tombstone, Arizona. Denis has been hired as copyeditor of The Epitaph, the Tombstone newspaper owned by John Clum whose friends include the Earp brothers and Doc Holiday. Denis will be reporting on the events of the rapidly growing wild boom town. But after their arrival, he realizes that because of his association with the Clum and the Earps he has many dangerous enemies. After the loss of her husband, 19-year old Hope is on her own and forced to protect her infant daughter, a 15-year-old Chinese girl from the Chinese mining camp and a 15-year-old girl that had been forced into prostitution. She finds solace and friendship among the Chinese miners but they are under constant threat from brutal marauders who will stop at nothing, including torture and murder, to get what they want- silver. But the law will do nothing to protect the Chinese miners. Now Hope must now learn to defend herself and protect the others from the constant threat of danger with little resources and fewer options

 

 

 

 

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Tran Quoc Pagoda in Hanoi

I’m not an expert on Buddhism so please forgive me if there are any inaccuracies in the post. My understanding is that there are three sects in Buddhism which are Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. I suspect they are much like denominations as in Christianity. The Dalai Lama is of the Mahayana sect otherwise known as Tibetan. Theravada is the sect that is practiced throughout most of SE Asia including Cambodia. I was surprised when I found out that Cambodians had never heard of the Dalai Lama. I knew there were different sects of Buddhism but I was confused when I realized that they did not know of him. I sorta viewed it as me knowing who the Pope is even though I’m not Catholic. So perhaps these sects have distinct differences but I don’t really know.

A pagoda is a Buddhist temple. Pagodas, more commonly referred to as Wats in Cambodia, are all over Cambodia which did not appear to be the case in Vietnam. There were some but I didn’t see them to the degree of prevalence as Cambodia. These pictures are of the Tran Quoc Pagoda in Hanoi. Tran Quoc Pagoda was built during the 6th century, which is about 1500 years ago, by King Ly Nam De (541-547). It was relocated to its present location on a lake in Hanoi in the 1600’s. There are many former monks and Buddhist masters that are buried here. One of the more notable monks that is buried here is Zen Master Tinh Tri Giac Quan who, according to the Tran Quoc Pagoda, founded  Zen  Buddhism at this pagoda during the second Le Dynasty. If I understand it, Zen Buddhism is considered one of the branches of Mahayana Buddhism.  One of the more recognizable Zen Buddhists today is Thich Nhat Hanh who is originally from Vietnam but now living in France. At the pagoda is a graft of the Bhodi tree, the tree that Buddha sat under when he became enlightened, that is thriving. This is apparently a very old tree considering Buddha lived somewhere between 400-600 BCE. It’s truly a beautiful place. Walking around this pagoda, the reverence is palpable. It’s been a sacred place for a very long time.

=============
Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============

This is a book review I had received from my one of my young adult novels “The Gift of Phineas Lake”. Kirkus is well known for their high standards in regards to book reviews since the 1930’s. Needless to say, I was very pleased with their review. Please take a moment and read this review. All ordering information is on this website. http://www.jimrizzo.com

A quick, compelling historical novel with a magical touch.

Rizzo uses historical figures and facts as the foundation for this suspenseful story within a story about the Underground Railroad and racial tension in antebellum industrial Pennsylvania. The book begins in 1897, when Jake and Gordy, two boys, get curious about an abandoned house in town—the former home of the titular Phineas Lake, who disappeared 50 years ago under mysterious circumstances. Though most adults discourage the boys from inquiring further, Gordy’s grandfather Cooper reveals that he was Phineas’ childhood best friend, and he’s just the first of many who begin to tell the boys about Phineas as they piece together the true story of what happened. Phineas had been blessed with a miraculous healing touch—able to cure any wound or illness with his hands alone—but he did his best to keep his gift a secret, since Rev. Davis, the village preacher, was quick to condemn such a thing as witchcraft. During the night,

however, Phineas would heal the freed slaves—the closest doctor refused to treat them—who worked at the iron furnace in town. After a nearby Underground Railroad conductor realized how Phineas’ skills could be used to help the exhausted and sick fugitives, Phineas (along with young Cooper) became a fugitive himself, only returning to town after a terrible storm brings on a deadly fever among the locals. The racist, magic-fearing Rev. Davis, however, hardly gives

him a warm homecoming; it isn’t long before he’s calling for Phineas to be killed. Rizzo’s story has plenty of momentum, and the boys’ eagerness to listen to each of Cooper’s tales works well, keeping the reader as enthralled as Jake and Gordy are. Though there’s not much historical nuance here, the book has an unassailable moral message that would be a great choice for YA readers with an interest in the history of American slavery.

A well-paced, engaging reimagining of antebellum Pennsylvania.

 

 

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is The Temple of Literature

I’m living about 55 kilometers south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia which happens to be in the heart of SE Asia. Thailand on the one side and Vietnam/Laos on the other. Myself and a friend took an excursion to Vietnam last week. We started out in Ho Chi Min City, formerly Saigon, which is a 6-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh. Ho Chi Min is a huge and busy city. Our final destination is the world heritage site, Halong Bay. Check for my next post on Halong Bay because you won’t want to miss that one. Before we could get to Halong Bay we went to Hanoi. While Saigon is in southern Vietnam, Hanoi is in the north but still about 1000 miles from the Chinese border. I stayed at the Hanoi Rose Hotel, comfortable and inexpensive, with welcoming and accommodating hosts. From the hotel, we had easy access to both the French Quarters and Old City Quarters. Hanoi is filled with parks, lakes, old city streets, pagodas and museums. We were stopped on the streets by children and teenagers anxious to hear about where we were from and about our country. Pictured here is the the ancient Temple of Literature one of the many sites to see in Hanoi. The temple was built as a university in 1070 and dedicated to Confucius. Originally built to educate royalty but then opened up to others. The woman in white is wearing a typical Vietnamese formal dress. I think she was getting married or in a wedding party but was happy to take a picture with me. I went to several museums one of which was the infamous Hanoi Hilton where John McCain was held and tortured for 5 years as a POW. More on this in another post.  I also went to the war museum and spoke with a woman about the war. She told me that when the Americans entered the war they were considered invaders to their country. I didn’t disagree with her. How could I? After all these years the American government has yet to fully disclose why we were fighting in Vietnam.

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Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============

This is the book trailer for my novel Azaleas Beyond the Prison Walls. Book sales are increasing so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those that have supported me by purchasing my books. Although I’m no longer with Smart Cat Publishing, all my books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Links are on this website. Hope you will take a moment to listen and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Rice Planting

Cambodia has two seasons, wet and dry. We are now in the wet season which goes from early June into October. This doesn’t mean it rains every day, in fact, there can be stretches of dry days during the rainy season. The type of rain can vary from a rare day of drizzle to a more common afternoon monsoon down pour. But the streams, lakes and pools fill up this time of year which means plenty of water for the rice fields.

So, yes, that is me out in the rice field, trudging through the water and thick mud, planting rice. Rice is planted with rice plants of about a foot in length. As I worked along side the Cambodians I asked someone about any critters, particularly snakes, that one might encounter in a rice field. He enthusiastically replied that there were and lots of them. Apparently, water snakes are considered a tasty dish. But, he added, not to worry because they are non-poisonous unlike the cobra that was recently spotted lurking in the grass I had just walked through to get into the rice field. (Which also happens to be the  way out, I might add). There’s a new adventure every day around here.

=============
Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============

This is the book trailer for my novel Azaleas Beyond the Prison Walls. Book sales are increasing so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those that have supported me by purchasing my books. Although I’m no longer with Smart Cat Publishing, all my books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Links are on this website. Hope you will take a moment to listen and enjoy.

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Sugar Cane

The first picture that I have posted here is a field of sugar cane. It’s raised all around this region and is a major agricultural commodity in Cambodia. The second picture is of the machine that a person will run a stalk of sugar cane through to squeeze out the juice. Cambodians consume huge amounts of sugar. It’s in soda, energy drinks, coffee loaded with sweetened milk, cake and bread. They will drink pure cane sugar juice from this machine. They even will coat meat with sugar before frying it in oil. This is all done without an understanding of the health consequences that can result from the high consumption of sugar which includes diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Often they might not even realize that they are consuming sugar. For example, I’ve tried to order a fruit smoothie without added sugar only to have them pour sugar cane juice into the smoothie. I don’t believe, however, that it’s unusual for a country that raises sugar as a commodity to consume large amounts. I’ve been to Haiti and Guyana where they also raise sugar cane. But I’m not sure I understand the point of raising sugar cane but not vegetables which seems to be the case here in Cambodia. In Haiti, sugar cane has the added consequence of rum production. Rum is produced from sugar cane and is a contributing cause of alcoholism. But just to be clear, I have nothing against rum, in fact, I’m a big fan of a Mai Tai. I have nothing against sugar either for that matter. I enjoy a sweet treat like anyone else but the health consequences of over consumption can have a significant impact on ones health.

I work in a rural health center that focuses on pre/post-natal care and vaccinations. My effort here is to educate the staff on the assessment and management of these non-communicable diseases by providing the clinic with glucose monitors and triglyceride/cholesterol monitors and educating the staff on how to manage these diseases.

=============
Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============

This is the book trailer for my novel Azaleas Beyond the Prison Walls. Book sales are increasing so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those that have supported me by purchasing my books. Although I’m no longer with Smart Cat Publishing, all my books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Links are on this website. Hope you will take a moment to listen and enjoy.

 

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Transportation; Cambodian Style

When tourists come to visit and Americans, Aussies and Europeans who live here often use the standard modes of travel to get around Cambodia being planes, trains and buses. But these standard modes of transportation can be more expensive and will only go to larger towns or tourist sites. Where I live there is no bus service, the airport is in Phnom Penh and the closest train station is 20K. So, I move about the country Cambodian style which means bike, moto, turih and tuk tuk. A moto is a somewhere between a scooter and a motorcycle. It’s small, durable and efficient. It can take the dirt roads with huge potholes and can go where a car can’t. They are also economical. They cost around $1500 new and can go around 40K on a liter of gas. In and around larger cities people will use their moto as a taxi. I don’t recommend this practice. Riding a moto in Phnom Penh without a helmet is just asking for a head trauma. The better option is the tuk tuk. These are carriages that are attached to a moto. I think they are a bit safer and it beats walking. The price for a tuk tuk can vary and the price goes up dramatically if you look like a foreigner or in tourist area. Speaking Khmer, I can negotiate a reasonable price otherwise tuk tuk drivers will take you for a ride in more ways than one. There is new competition for tuk tuks called passap. The price is reasonable and doesn’t need to be negotiated. Now moving between towns, we use turihs. These are minivans that generally go from one town and then back picking whoever or whatever needs to be transported. Again, the price is negotiable. Traveling on turihs is not for the faint of heart. In addition to packing as many people as they can they also act as a delivery service from town to town. Sorta the UPS of Cambodia. The drivers can often drive really fast while answering their cell phone. If you feel unsafe, don’t be afraid to tell the driver to let you out and grab the next one that comes along. But it is a cheap way to go and possibly the only way depending on where you are and where you want to go. So if you come to Cambodia, try traveling Cambodian style- if you dare.

=============
Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============

This is a book review I had received from my one of my young adult novels “The Gift of Phineas Lake”. Kirkus is well known for their high standards in regards to book reviews since the 1930’s. Needless to say, I was very pleased with their review. Please take a moment and read this review. All ordering information is on this website. http://www.jimrizzo.com

A quick, compelling historical novel with a magical touch.

Rizzo uses historical figures and facts as the foundation for this suspenseful story within a story about the Underground Railroad and racial tension in antebellum industrial Pennsylvania. The book begins in 1897, when Jake and Gordy, two boys, get curious about an abandoned house in town—the former home of the titular Phineas Lake, who disappeared 50 years ago under mysterious circumstances. Though most adults discourage the boys from inquiring further, Gordy’s grandfather Cooper reveals that he was Phineas’ childhood best friend, and he’s just the first of many who begin to tell the boys about Phineas as they piece together the true story of what happened. Phineas had been blessed with a miraculous healing touch—able to cure any wound or illness with his hands alone—but he did his best to keep his gift a secret, since Rev. Davis, the village preacher, was quick to condemn such a thing as witchcraft. During the night,

however, Phineas would heal the freed slaves—the closest doctor refused to treat them—who worked at the iron furnace in town. After a nearby Underground Railroad conductor realized how Phineas’ skills could be used to help the exhausted and sick fugitives, Phineas (along with young Cooper) became a fugitive himself, only returning to town after a terrible storm brings on a deadly fever among the locals. The racist, magic-fearing Rev. Davis, however, hardly gives

him a warm homecoming; it isn’t long before he’s calling for Phineas to be killed. Rizzo’s story has plenty of momentum, and the boys’ eagerness to listen to each of Cooper’s tales works well, keeping the reader as enthralled as Jake and Gordy are. Though there’s not much historical nuance here, the book has an unassailable moral message that would be a great choice for YA readers with an interest in the history of American slavery.

A well-paced, engaging reimagining of antebellum Pennsylvania.

=============
Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============