Isabelle Roughol – The J junkie

The tribulations of a young journalist and writer looking for work

Archive for the ‘J junkie navel-gazing’ Category

Hire me!

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Lookie here: my shiny, updated-as-of-tonight resume, which you can find on my portfolio page or right here in English … or en français.

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Wednesday, 9 September, 2009 at 18:19

Scratch that

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Forget what I just said. I’m back in France! I left Cambodia last week in a bit of a rush and am now looking for work in Europe. The full story of why isn’t worth a mention here, but all is good and my beloved France has been quite welcoming, despite my having forsaken her four years ago. The good news is this gives me time to give my portfolio a proper redesign (self-hosting, self-coding et al.) and my blog some much needed attention. The bad news is… well, I’m unemployed.

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Monday, 7 September, 2009 at 12:39

We’re (sort of) moving

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The Frontline Club, the London-based charity “championing independent journalism,” has invited me to blog on its new website about my life and work in Cambodia. That’s an invitation I couldn’t refuse, but since it is redundant with this blog, I will stop posting here. (You may have noticed I kinda already have.)

This site will become primarily my portfolio, with occasional postings showcasing my work. All blog archives will remain here too.

I’d be happy to count you as my readers on Frontline at http://frontlineclub.com/blogs/isabelleroughol/. It’s been slow starting but should be going good from now on…

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Friday, 7 August, 2009 at 11:59

This is why I haven’t been posting

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A fisherman's boat at Koh Tonsay, an island in the Gulf of Thailand where I was 2 weeks ago. (Photo copyright me)

A fisherman's boat at Koh Tonsay, an island on the Gulf of Thailand across from Kep, Cambodia, where I was two weeks ago. (© me)

Among other things: a bit of blogging fatigue frankly, we all go through it. And not much Internet connection. But a lot of exciting developments are happening, which I will write about soon.

Phnom Penh readers, look for me at BarCamp Phnom Penh, Sept 20 at the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center.

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Thursday, 11 September, 2008 at 04:31

We’re moving

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Hello everyone,

It hurts me a little, but I must abandon this domain and return to my free WordPress. My year of hosting is ending soon, and I won’t renew it. With the budget of a NGO journalist, it’s Web hosting or health insurance. I’ll miss my fancy widgets, and I’ll have to redo most of my portfolio.

Follow me back to https://jjunkie.wordpress.com, where it all started. I decided that domain-mapping is in my budget so you can also access it via www.isabelleroughol.com. As a house-re-warming present, I am posting photos of beautiful Colorado, to be followed soon by photographs of my Cambodian adventures.

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Saturday, 14 June, 2008 at 12:47

Natural majesty of the rocky summits

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Welcome back to the old site. I am finally done with sorting and toning my photos from my family’s post-graduation trips to the Rocky Mountains. Here are a couple samples; more on my Flickr gallery.

I know it’s really Cambodia you were waiting for, but it’s monsoon season, and it seems my free time almost always coincides with torrential rains. I will get to it, I swear.

The evening sun reflects off a creek in the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge.

The evening sun reflects off a creek in the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge.

This tree, seen from the train on the ride up to the top of Pike's Peak, may not seem like much, but it's one of the oldest trees in America. It is more than 2,000 years old and started growing at the time Romans were building the Colysseum.

This tree, seen from the train on the ride up to the top of Pike’s Peak, may not seem like much, but it’s one of the oldest trees in America. It is more than 2,000 years old and started growing at the time Romans were building the Colysseum.

Georgetown's downtown area is reflected in the window of an antique shop. Georgetown is a nicely preserved old frontier town.

Georgetown’s downtown area is reflected in the window of an antique shop. Georgetown is a nicely preserved old frontier town. That’s my dad in the window.

Lost somewhere in North-eastern Colorado...

Lost somewhere in North-eastern Colorado…

The evening sun shines through clouds in a valley of Rocky Mountains National Park.

The evening sun shines through clouds in a valley of Rocky Mountains National Park.

The conductor announces the arrival of the Georgetown Loop train at the Silver Plume, Colo. station, and reminds schoolchildren to keep their hands in.

The conductor announces the arrival of the Georgetown Loop train at the Silver Plume, Colo. station, and reminds schoolchildren to keep their hands in.

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Saturday, 14 June, 2008 at 07:07

First Cambodian Impressions

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When pressed by my friends to write about my first two weeks in Cambodia, I was reminded of a scene in the excellent film “L’Auberge Espagnole” (“The Spanish Apartment”), which anyone who’s ever been an exchange student/expat understands all too well. Xavier, played by Romain Duris, is sitting in his hippie mother’s kitchen, eating his lunch, on his first day back after a year on an exchange in Barcelona, Spain. He’s silently chewing on his steak, trying to grasp the enormity of all he’s just seen and done. His mother tries to fill the silence with idle talk when, finally, she asks the dreaded question: “So, how was it?”

Friends, if I haven’t written yet, it’s not that I don’t wish to share and appease your curiosity. I can’t even blame the relative difficulty of finding an Internet connection. It’s simply that I wouldn’t know where to start. If I thought I knew culture shock, I was mistaken. (And if I think I know it now, it’s only because I haven’t been into the countryside yet.) Just about everything I do and everything I see every day is entirely different from all I did and saw in the United States or in France. Still, I will try to share what I can.

The “shock” in culture shock, for many Westerners I think, comes from the intense poverty that hits you like a slap in the face the second you get off the plane. It’s nothing like the occasional homeless person you meet in the West or the pockets of poverty isolated in ghettos carefully hidden from view to all who do not wish to see. Here, you can’t miss it. Many people sleep on sidewalks at night, or live in shacks made of whatever scrap material they could find. Some inhabit buildings that bear the marks of bombings or fires, gaping holes in their facades, like a three-face dollhouse displaying its residents’ homelife to the crowded streets below. And like in a feed-a-kid-for-the-price-of-your-daily-coffee commercial, half-naked children share the sidewalks with skinny chicken and even skinnier stray cats.

But it’d be too easy if it were so one-dimensional. Amid the motorcycle taxis that seem to have withstood hundreds of crashes and been taken apart and rebuilt a dozen times, you also find shiny new SUVs on Phnom Penh streets. And 1-grand-a-night hotel rooms, glass and aluminum office buildings and teenagers into J-pop. From the air, the juxtaposition of shantys and modern developments was the first thing I noticed. Even modern malls, such as Sorya Market’s eight air-conditioned floors of consumerism heaven, have made their entry, with the plastic grandeur of a country that is just starting to discover mass consumption. It flashes, it glitters, it pops and it shimmers. It’s pink, it’s blue, it’s a freakin’ rainbow. It’s Hello Kitty and Santa Claus on acid. Yet, it’s a Cambodian market with its tumbling piles of pots and pans, and its $1 reproductions of Angkor temples next to the 52-inch flat-screen TV and the roller rink.

In a country that has only been standing on its two feet (and still, it wobbles) for barely a decade, the need for infrastructure and government intervention is obvious everywhere. Although I have seen garbage trucks driving about, for instance, the waste collection leaves something to be desired. Litter is everywhere, sometimes in neat piles when the street sweepers or homeowners have bothered, but most often scattered on the sidewalks and streets. The stench of the city — a mix of trash, piss from the men urinating on the streets, exhaust from age-old motorbikes, fish markets and stagnant waters, all macerating in the heat — is at times unbearable. Yet, sometimes, the hot air carries the overpowering smell of jasmine flowers, which are laid at the foot of Buddha statues in the city’s many pagodas. Then it’s a blessing.

Musee NationalThe courtyard of the National Museum in Phnom Penh is typical Cambodian architecture.

Speaking of government, I should say a word of it. Cambodia has gone through many hurdles since the end of French colonial rule in 1954, not least of which was the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. The country has now been somewhat stable for about 10 years and relatively democratic compared to what existed before, although the governing style of the ruling Cambodia People’s Party often raises eyebrows (at least to outside observers, if not always to the people itself). The prime minister graces us with priceless quotes that need no embellishing. The hot topic of the day is land grabs: the real estate market is booming in Phnom Penh and elsewhere, and the price of land has skyrocketed (in fact, inflation is in the double digits in all things). Many farmers who have been on their land for generations don’t have titles to it, or they’re not powerful enough to resist the businessmen and friends of the powerful who grab the land for expensive developments. Public land has been sold to private developers, too, but the people has seen little of the money.

Yet, for all its flaws, I’m starting to love this country. The people have been extremely welcoming, and although my Khmer lessons only start in a few days, I’ve been able to communicate. The expat community is even larger than I had expected, and all Western amenities can be found fairly easily, although to keep a budget on a non-profit salary, it’s good to get used to a Cambodian lifestyle. I’m slowly but surely finding my marks: the restaurant by the office where I can have lunch for less than 2 dollars and watch BBC World, the motodop driver who can help me find anything, the swimming pool not far from my house where I escape the heat, and the cafe where I can blog while munching on fresh vegetables. I’ve even found the cockroaches’ point of entry in my room and promptly taped it shut. I’ll be ok here.

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Saturday, 7 June, 2008 at 10:45