iZombie Apocalypse: the Symptoms

What comes to your mind when you read the title and adding it to a Phnom Penh context? A freshly wounded zombie hunting for a yummy brain like the ones from RUN while holding an iPhone? Well, the zombies I am going to discuss here today will be a little bit different. They are the so-called iZombies. They don’t need your brain and don’t go around saying unintelligible words like Gah! Or Aaah! Well, they are just more human.

My friend, NyRo, once said, “y’all are zombies!” when we met over for a round of ice cream. I turned away from my phone screen (like our two other friends who turned away from their computer, and phone screens respectively) and stared dumbly at him. We didn’t have anything smart to counter, because what he said really hit the nails on our heads! Internet users in Cambodia reached 2.136.625 in 2012, a bloom of 548% from the past years! The same study found that there were 1,100 people joining Facebook everyday! There were at least 700,000 social media users back in 2012. The trend seems to be progressing, and it’s expected that the number has rose a whole lot from last year.

With the bloom of mobile devices available, and more internet connections, AN EPIDEMIC HAS BROKEN OUT! Go to any internet cafés here in Phnom Penh, and you’ll see teenagers and young adults alike staring fixedly on the screen of their devices. You go in a class, and rest assured that there’s at least one person (who is usually situated at the back of the class) staring at their phone (and is likely to be checking Facebook). You go in a restaurant and you see a family sitting together, all looking at their separate devices; kids playing games, the teens updating their Facebook status, and parents following the so-called “Facebook news”! These people are the zombies I am talking about! If you are reading this, then it is likely that you are infected already! I know I am! If you are not sure, here are the symptoms of an “izombie”:

Oh! I have to wait for class to start; better update my status!
Oh! You’re driving? Cool, let me sit at the back and destroy these candies.
Wow! Time to sleep? Let me look at his/her profile just one last time. (besides, sleep is for the weak.)
I just passed by Angkor Hotel! Let’s check in! (You don’t want to waste any opportunity, do you?)
We’re going on a trip tomorrow? Oh my gosh, I can’t wait to take all the photos. (and share them on social media websites later on,duh)
I’ll have a lemon juice, please. Thanks, and what’s your wifi password?

Sounds familiar enough? If your answer is yes, read on. If your answer is no, you’re lying; admit it, it was a yes! Don’t be sad though, most people are the same. We are not fools, we know how helpful technology is and how it has changed our (social) life for the better. Those games, blogs, Facebook feeds have given us so much information and entertainment. I can go full on with an essay on all the advantages of technology, but I am sure we all agree on the ground that we need technology (and our devices). However, when it comes to a point when you literally can’t stand over being away from your phone, or checking your news feed/playing your game (cough-cough Hayday) even when you are on the toilet, then it’s high time for an intervention.

If you are still not convinced that too much staring-at-your-devices is harmful, here are some more disadvantages of doing so (I am going to cut over all the health crap, because let’s face it, we don’t give a lick about it):

  1. facebookYou miss out on your social interaction: having a social media account to keep up on current events and your friends’ activities from afar is alright, but clutching your phone and looking at it in the presence of friends is a no-no. A lot of people prefer to chat with their old friends through Facebook even when they have people in front of them in flesh! Here are all the opportunities to make REAL social interactions, and possibly more friends, and you lose it over your phone. All these amazing people and stories behind them ready to be unveiled and you miss it because you are too busy being fixated by your best friend’s photo of a Chattime drink.
  2. Are you masking? Sometimes, you don’t really need to check your news feed, or play your game, you want to mingle with the real folks in front of you. However, they look too intimidating and unfriendly; for the fear of rejection, you pretend you have some amazing things happening inside your phone! Fear of rejection is only one of the causes.
    doge Some people, however, like to show off their devices. Their Hayday imaginary cows could have waited, but no, they had to dive in and get it all organized, so that other people would know they had enough money to afford an Ipad; or some just want to look cool holding an expensive device. Honey, if you need a lifeless disposable 250cm by 190cm box of plastic that squeaks silly noises to feel better about yourself, then you have some serious self-esteem issues! Masking all these deep psychological issues aren’t going to make them go away, they will still be there! You are focusing your attention on hiding the wound rather than healing the wound!
  3. YOU MISS THE MOMENT: Thinh Nhat Hanh, a famous Buddhist monk, said happiness comes from living in the moment.

    “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it. (21)”
    Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

    You might be there thinking like: he’s a monk, his words ain’t got no scientific proofs! Well, if thousands of devoted Buddhists isn’t a good enough proof, let’s take a look at this. A Harvard doctoral student, Matt Killingsworth, through an app called Track Your Happiness has gathered scientific information for his research on happiness. The result is his breakthrough PhD paper concerning happiness and living in the moment. Basically, he concludes that you live happiest when you focus on the moment. If you are interested in this topic, Killingsworth’s Ted Talk may very well be the starting point of your quest! So to sum it up, if you are not living in the moment (but are rather concerned about what your friend is having for lunch) then you are being less happy than you might have been in the moment.

You might have noticed that every situations I mentioned happens when you are supposed to be doing something, but you hold your phone instead. You see, I am not opposed to using your phone when you have free time on your hands, but if it dominates every single minute of your life, then you, my friend, is already infected. Now go away before I drive an axe through your head.

No, I’m just kidding (of course, I am). If you have just realized you are an iZombie, and you want to be disinfected, then stay tuned for our next post: iZombie Apocalypse: the Cure.

LB, TB, LG, or Transgender

If you cruised around the Lesbians society in Cambodia, you would likely encounter constant mentioning of “LB”“LG”,“TB”. These trends sort of just caught on, and nobody knows for sure about the words’ origins, or their definite usages. As a part of this community from 2011 follow through to 2012, I will try my best to explain this.

The following paragraphs will each correspond to a term, its general usage, and its usage in Cambodian teenagers and young adult context.


LB, is mostly seen as the abbreviation of LESBIAN. According to Wikipedia, Lesbians are females who have romantic or sexual relationships with other females. One example of this is Ellen Degeneres and Portia De Rossi (they are married, and both are lesbians). In Cambodia, It is used to generally identify homosexual women.

Ellen Degenres and Portia de Rossi
Ellen Degenres and Portia de Rossi

TB stands for TOMBOY. Tomboy, by western definition is used to identify women who   exude the characteristics of a boy or the appearance of a boy. IT IS NOT A SEXUAL   PREFERENCE! A tomboy can be gay, or she can be straight. She can be attracted to a girl, a guy, or both. Whomever she’s attracted to, if she has the characteristic of a boy (such as the love to compete), or loves to dress like a boy, then she’s a tomboy.

However, when being applied to Cambodian context, it takes a distinctively unique turn. Since most of the very first Cambodian wave of homosexual females (happened in the last decade) were all tomboys. They all kept their hair short, wore boyish clothes, and generally referred to themselves as boys. It caused the misunderstanding that TOMBOY EQUALS LESBIAN. If you have your hair short, wear baggy jeans and a T-shirt on the street of Cambodia, brace yourself, you will be identified as “that lesbian girl”.

What about LG? LG has no general definition, meaning it’s our Cambodian original slang! While the term LG just caught on. My guess (and from the responses I have asked around) is that it represents the word “Lesbian Girls”. The origin and full term of the word is not so clear, though its usage is broad day-lightly clear. LG is used to identify LB’s girlfriends. Here’s the likely reason behind this term: LB is referred to as the “Lesbian Boy”, while  LG as the “Lesbian Girl” by some.  LG usually think of themselves as normal girls, who are in relationships with a boy when they are clearly in a relationship with an LB (who despite her manly appearance and characteristics, is still a girl). Most LG feel no differences when being in a relationship with a guy, or an LB. To them, they are all the same.

How about the not-so-popular term, “transgender”?  According to Wikipedia, a transgender is someone who is not satisfied with their sex. They feel like they are in the wrong body. They desire to be a boy, but is born to be a girl; or the other way around. Well. What about male transgenders in Cambodia? Now here is where it gets super tricky. The LG I mentioned earlier? Those that are LB’s girlfriends? They don’t typically identify themselves as a “lesbian”, though they are in a relationship with a girl, because to them, their LB lover is not a girl; the LG views the LB as a boy. Society, the LB’s girlfriend, and the LB herself view the LB as a guy.


Nick, one of the most iconic tomboy figure in Asia
Nick, one of the most iconic tomboy figure in Asia


Most of the lesbians here in Cambodia are tomboy, who wear boyish clothes and cut their hair short, who refers to themselves as boys and are super embarrassed when associating with girly activities. A friend of my brother’s (who wishes to remain anonymous) was an LB. She didn’t like going to girl’s restrooms, as a result of her great embarrassment. It’s as if she’s a guy who are embarrassed to step in a girl’s restroom. With all these characteristics, almost all of LB here in Cambodia are also transgender.


So to simplify it all, the terms LB, LG, and Transgender are used interchangeably in Cambodian society. The cause is likely due to the low level of awareness of our citizens on the gender issues.

The reality is that these terms are all mixed together. What do you think? Should we keep using them this way, or should we start raising awareness of the different gender spectrum’s and start using these terms by their true standards and definitions?

YDP Charity Trip

YDP Charity Trip

      If you followed the news, you would have heard about the tragic stampede happened in 2010 over Koh Pich Bridge (Diamond bridge), Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It happened on July, 22nd, 2010, on the very day of Cambodian much celebrated water festival. The bad omen sort of followed through, water festival was  canceled once and again in 2011 (mourning for the loss last year, duh) and 2012 (due to the flood).
      This year, it was yet again canceled (same old reason, the flood).
Using this opportunity, YDP (Youth Development Program) decided to organize a charity trip to Siem Reap province from 16th to 18th November, 2013. This trip was sponsored by non other than ACE,Room to Read CambodiaICA CambodiaUCITCRULE, and UHS. (if you are puzzled by all the acronyms, click on the link to know who they are! Blind dates!)
YDP Charity Trip logo
      The first day was devoted to travelling (we had to get up and meet at 6 o’clock sharp), and delivering our packages and books to the children over at HVTO (Homestay Volunteer Teacher Organization).
Homestay Volunteer Teacher Organization
      The second and third day were the real reasons why most of the participants joined, to visit the a dozen or so famous Khmer Temples at Siem Reap, renounced for their beauty and elegance.
      I have already been to the land of wonder (Siem Reap) for several times already, so i wasn’t THAT excited over the second and third day. The main reason I joined was that I wanted to know how sweet charity tastes.
So in this post, I am going to focus heavily on the first day of the trip, the HVTO visit. 
(Excuse me for not having enough detailed information, I didn’t care about any details since I didn’t intend to write about it)
It was maybe 10+ kilometers from the main road, the path was full of holes filled with red-brown mud and water (some as big as a lake, and i’m not even kidding). We were waved at whenever we passed a house full of playing kids. I bet they didn’t see big 25-seat buses crossing their villages that often; and the holes in the road sort of support my bet.
      We arrived at HVTO headquarter at around three o’clock. The kids were already lining up, waiting for us. Upon further questioning, we found out that they had been there since ten o’clock. I was a kid once, and i was forced on several occasions to wait for “the guests”. The notion that the kids were wasting their time waiting for us didn’t sit well with me.
      Just to be sure, I asked a young girl next to me if she was upset that she had to wait that long. To my astonishment, she said the kids AGREED no, DEMANDED to wait.
Nobody forced them. They were genuinely excited for our arrival.
      This has reminded me of how genuine country people can be as opposed to some (*cough-cough* most) sarcastic, whiny towns children.
      We spent over one hour playing some games and taught them some English words. Not that they needed any teaching; i mean, the little girl spoke much better English than some of my friends here in Phnom Penh city.
The kids over at HVTO and YDP organizers
      As the evening approaches, we began to feel fit to say our last words and bid the children good bye.
     Mr. Chun Serey, representative of all the village seniors who were absent due to their duty to over-see the construction of another building at the moment, expressed his gratitude to us.
He said this organization DOES receive funds from time to time (obviously), but this was the very first time CAMBODIANS were the givers. I am proud to be a part of this so.
Mr. Chun Serey speaking to the audience

“It was about time people who are more fortunate reach out to those who have less. We can’t always rely on foreign aids; it’s time for Cambodian aids.” -Chun Serey

Mr. Diep Sophal, a famous history lecturer and was the head of this trip, said a few words that still linger with me long after the trip (just as most of his invaluable words).

“ខ្មែរស្រលាញ់ខ្មែរ។ Khmer loves Khmer.” – Mr. Diep Sophal.

It’s this simple. The whole charity trip stems from the love we have for one another as Khmers. We are certainly not the first Cambodian to help our fellow Cambodians out, there are numerous others before us. However, it is still not enough.
I believe it is about time all of us who are fortunate enough realize our luck and reach out to those who have less by all means possible.

What about you? Have you reached out yet?