Phnom Penh, Cambodia. January, 2009. It’s deathly cold in the winter in Mongolia. Mongolians categorize the frigidity of the winter with the number 9. According to Mongolian tradition, the 81-day-long winter begins when distilled fermented yoghurt, nermel, freezes. These 81 days are divided into nine sections, each lasting 9 days. The 4th ‘9’, during which cow horns have been known to break off due to the extreme temperatures which can fall to 45 degrees below zero, is when a few Peace Corps friends and I decided to scoot down to South East Asia to thaw out.

Cambodia is my kind of country. Developing. Interesting culture. Warm. Sunny. Delicious food. Friendly locals. Fresh fruit smoothies on every third street corner for 25 cents. My friends and I were strolling about the capital city, Phnom Penh, when I spied this scene down a narrow alley. I set the exposure so that the scene as a whole would be dark enough to see the variation in the shades of the flames. I love the light on the man’s forearm as he stokes the fire and the shimmering waves from the heat of the oven that distorts everything near it.


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