A Bit of a Blog for the Week

Contrary to popular rumours, my involvement with the recent civil unrest in Cambodia has been grossly exaggerated. Instead of being taken to a jungle camp by rebels, I was held hostage from getting a chill after being soaked in a monsoon rain. By the time we got to the gate on Tuesday night I was dripping and still had to wade through the knee-deep water running down the street. I empathized with the flooded-out people in Calgary. My grandmother’s warning of “You’ll catch your death of cold” kept running through my mind.


It was a week of openings. The Australian Embassy hosted “Message Stick,” – a touring  Aboriginal art exhibit – at Meta House on Tuesday.




Then it was off to the Tamarind for Bruno’s opening on Wednesday night.




And Chhim Sothy’s premiered at the Intercontinental on Thursday.


We took Nick the tuk-tuk driver with us to the Intercon, which was great fun.  By the end of the evening he was sauntering up to the touring platters of food and drink like the rest of us.

IMG_3719Darlinggg, sipping wine, nibbling  hors dóeuvres and making comments about the art is such fun, but realllyyyy three openings is enough for one week. It would be very easy to get very fat very quickly.

Down in the Dumps (DITD)

By Saturday I was feeling – and looking – like death about to happen. But I’d told Vichika I was coming, so we loaded up 50 kg of rice, 20 tins of fish, a dozen bottles of soy sauce and headed for Steng Meanchy. The budget – thanks to a donation from Rob in Holland – now stands at $703.99.



Todd – the DITD photographer – selected 24 images to be auctioned at the 11 October International Day of the Girl event. Now I have to do the interviews and write the bios to go with them. The next while is going to be very busy as we pull together the details of who is going to do what.


Oh, and one of these days I have to find more paying work.

Current State of the Kingdom

After the recent election, the opposition – which really isn’t much of an opposition – tried to contest the results as they claimed the proceedings were corrupt. No argument there. Hun Sen – some of whom would say in a thug – has been in various stages of power since 1979 and is known for his crushing approach.

If you want to read about the protests and the tense atmosphere in the city, check the Phnom Penh Post.  When I went off to a class this morning, one of the main streets was blocked off. So I did the helpless foreigner bit and one of the police helped me lift my bike over the razor wire. I pedaled away without further incident.

In preparation for what could be a three-day siege I stocked up on water, food and wine. The bases are covered even if the shops stay closed. While I don’t feel in any danger I’m going to stay low. Before the election I inadvertently ended up in the middle of a protest rally and it was a claustrophobic experience I’d just as soon not repeat.

Mostly I think it will be a lot of saber ratting, but nothing much is going to significantly change.

Stay tuned to this blog for updates as they unfold.

Signature photo



Down in the Dumps Deliverables

Down in the Dumps Deliverables

 Akhum – thank-you in Khmer – to the people who recently donated to the Down in the Dumps (DITD) project: Christine, Anonymous, Carol, Sharon, Jamie. Every bit helps and the coffers are currently standing at $717.49. On the ground, we can do a lot of good with that money. By the way, the DITD budget is public information so anyone who wants to see how we spend each and every riel is welcome.

Samples from Saskatoon

I asked about perfume samples when I was buying makeup at a pharmacy in Saskatoon as I thought they would make good pressies for the women at the dump. The beauty consultant told me she didn’t have any. While checking out I told her a couple of dump stories. She got a touch misty-eyed, picked up a bag, dumped in over a hundred skin care samples, handed them to me and said “I don’t have any perfume, but you are welcome to these.”

What to do, what to do? I announced to Shawna – my niece who is a hair stylist – that “we” had a project.

Shawna and the samples.
Shawna and the samples.

Anyone who knows me is aware that whenever I use the plural pronoun it is time to duck ad dive. I made a Down in the Dumps poster and she cleared away a space in her salon for the samples and a donations jar. She reports there is over $50 and the contributions are growing. Anyone in the Watrous area is encouraged to go down to Miz Bojangles and do their bit. The night cream you buy to use there will turn into rice to eat here.


Rice Run

On Saturday 4 August Nick, the tuk-tuk driver, and I did a rice-run to the dump. It is the monsoon season and the people are struggling. We took 100 kg of rice, 100 tins of sardines and 42 bottles of soy sauce, for a total cost of $131.50.








Upcoming event

On Friday 11 October 2013 Meta House is graciously hosting a fund-raising event for A New  Day Cambodia (ANDC) in honour of the International Day of the Girl. The gregarious Princess Soma is the mistress-of-ceremonies. This action packed evening includes music, traditional apsara dancers from ANDC, an auction of 24 of Todd Black’s photos of girls at the dump and the first public screening of the film Girl Rising. After the documentary Tony and the Beatniks will entertain us at the bar.

Sokha –one of the nine stars of the documentary– will dance and talk about her experience of growing up at the dump. Although she has gone on to bigger and better things – speaking at a conference in New York, meeting Fist Lady Michelle Obama and learning passable Turkish – she never forgets from hence she came and how she spent her childhood as a scavenger. Tuk-tuks to transport the women and girls to the event at Meta House on 11 October have been arranged and they are excited about it. Why exclude the men? Mostly because they are useless and it is the females who are making a difference. Educate a girl and change the world.  My part in this production is that I’m sort of the delegating organizer.

To get the photographic part of the production underway we did a run to the dump on Saturday 31 August. Seng Sang – our Khmer translator – bought a couple of hundred balloons and was an immediate hit with the kids.

Seng Sang and his friends.
Seng Sang and his friends.







Through him we were able to confirm that DITD is not an NGO, rather just a collection of people who donate without any administrative overhead. The people at the dump are familiar with the former, but not the latter so the fact that we aren’t with an “organization” is a touch confusing. Todd, our photographer, worked on photos for the auction. As he walked around the dump and clicked away he was twice invited for lunch. The dump people may not have much money or much food, but they share.








Other Updates

Srey is now attending school at the Cambodian Children’s Fund. Vichika is ever so pleased she isgoing to school and shyly asked ifI could buy her a book bag. Yes. The backpack and supplies were a personal gift, rather than a DITD expenditure. I’m delighted to have sent her packing to school.

Srey starts school.
Srey starts school.

On yet another topic, when I sent out the happy snaps of my delightful new digs I neglected to mention that pink is not my favourite colour. I got over it quickly, however, as I spend most  of my time at my desk looking out over the street and into the back-end of a wat. It is curious to watch what the monks get up to with the walls. The bathroom is the size of a small USB. That said, I love the sun-drenched light and the energy of the new place.IMG_3357-001

I’ve lost the two or so kg that I accumulated while in Canada and the bruises from slip sliding away in Saskatchewan have faded so I’m back to “normal.” Insuallah.

More later, J

Matching hair and handbag.
Matching hair and handbag.