Saturday, January 3, 2009

Reflections: Neither in nor out

In Cambodia I was an insider-outsider. As a half-asian person with dark-ish skin, I was often mistaken for part-Cambodian. I was both "on the inside," but also always the "other." People assumed I would know how to eat certain foods (at least more likely to "take" to things that my whitey-white counterparts), people were receptive and encouraging of my attempts at Khmer. They tried to listen because I looked like I might be able to speak.

It's funny how being "ethnic" can help you avoid some of the idolization of westerners. Well... you're barang, but not realllllllly. I still remember when a student at the local business university would not believe I was American -- "no, you can't be! you're chinese!"


  1. Finally I'm starting to see a lot more of the Khmer language used on the net. Most readers probably wouldn't have a clue about the Khmer words you're using because you have no translations :) For english readers, "barang" actually refers to French people but now "barang" is commonly used to call westerners (anyone with white skin)"barung"

    L from

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