That Art is Garbage

Yes, you have heard the expression before, but in this instance it was true. Creative Sydney friends Emma and Neil organized a theme around “garbage” to raise money for Down in the Dumps.photo1

The concept was simple. All artists – which included everyone on their mailing list – had to create a piece of art from garbage: metal tins, plastic pieces, glass bottles. Then on Saturday 1 March everyone showed up at E&N’s for a silent auction of the carefully crafted treasures.


The pieces were many and varied. My favourite story to come out of the event was that Cormac – bless his little pint of Guinness – paid $100 for “Mr. Whiskers Thawing.” Emma had a frozen mouse in the freezer, as you do when you have a pet snake. She put the little rodent into a small gravy tray, Sky sprinkled it with a bit of parsley and – presto – it was garbage art that brought in a good price. Still not sure if Cormac or the snake got to eat it or if it was just shellacked for prosperity.

When the silent auction ended everyone carried on into the wee hours and had a wonderful time. photo2I have partied with these people before, so there is no doubt about that. And we can just quietly speculate about what they may have gotten up to. Artistic types are like that, you know.

There was also a donation box for those so inclined. When all the money was accounted for Emma and Neil showed up in the Kingdom with the grand sum of $1,145USD. Akun, akun, akun.

And, of course, we – which includes their daughters Laura and Isabel – did a trip to Stung Meanchey so they could meet the people and see where the money would be spent.








DITDs budget

A couple of months ago I was getting a touch worried as the coffers hit a low of $2.70. Then George zapped some money into my Paypal account, Peggy added another contribution and Grace – who is her swimming buddy – also donated. The budget is now at $1,535.

The playground still needs some equipment, and The Nurse will be adding to the mobile medical pack, but there aren’t any major projects in the works. So, at this point, please don’t worry about making any donations as I would have to hire an accountant. Or worse – do the complicated books myself: scary thought.

Dental Developments

Ross Wright runs the non-profit CHOICE programme and they have a fully equipped dental clinic at a village about an hour out of the capital. An Australian dentist is volunteering for a few months. CHOICE has a van that leaves from the Sundance Inn and Saloon every morning at 09:00. Ross has offered space for the dump people who need dental work – and some of their teeth are shocking – so we will get that operational next week.

So stay tuned to this blog for further Down in the Dumps updates. Meanwhile I hope everyone had a happy Khmer New Year and/or a happy Easter as they had the same dates this year.






Just Not a Rhinestone Sort of Girl

As I walked up the massive steps of an opulent hotel I realized that the invitation to the wedding was a more elaborate event than I had expected.IMG_5948

The general procedure to get hitched in the Kingdom is to block off a section of a street, put up a tent, with covered tables and chairs and throw together a kitchen to feed a hundred or so people. Then organize the monks to start to clang and gong and chant at 05:00 for three days. When it is all over, everything is packed up and gone as quickly as it was set up. Simply really.

When we arrived in the massive ballroom we were escorted to the table IMG_5965where Nick’s mother, father and a few other relies were already gathered. A quick glance around the room and I noticed that every – and I mean all – the women were decked out in sequence gowns with professionally done hair and make-up.

By comparison I looked like the church-mouse cousin from the provinces. But I’m a berang, so it doesn’t matter all that much. IMG_5955

And as I don’t do pomp and circumstance very well – or very often – I think I will pass on getting a rhinestone cowgirl outfit. Stiff synthetic fabric with thousands of hand-sewn sequences just isn’t my style.

There were over a thousand guests at the banquet. Uniformed waiters were everywhere. I couldn’t even begin to speculate how much it would have cost. The Khmer tradition is that you give money in an envelope, which is so much more civilized than wading through registers of what to buy the bride and groom. I gave Nick the amount he told me was appropriate.


Without any particular adieu the food and drinks started to appear. IMG_5960And they just kept coming and coming. I had a flash back that I was at a state banquet in the Middle Kingdom. As the food tapered off, the bottle of Johnny Walker – conveniently placed on a circulating lazy Susan in the middle of the table – made the rounds. Waiters kept coming around and dropping ice cubes into the glasses. On the stage at the back of the hall a woman started to sing.


Then there was the grand entry of the bride and groom. I need a good flash for my camera so I didn’t get any good snaps of their outfits – all in sequences, of course – that oozed serious money.

There were a few short speeches and people started to leave.Going out the door I was handed a key ring with three pandas on it as a gift for attending the wedding. A most interesting evening. And now I can tick the “Khmer wedding” box.



On Being Water Blessed

IMG_5883Orange is so not my colour. If there were ambulances patrolling the streets in the Kingdom they would likely have screeched to a halt and hauled me off to the nearest hospital. Pastels make me look deadly sick.

But when the sopping wet wrappers for being blessed only come in one shade there wasn’t much choice about fashion. Parked next to Tim on the stone step he instructed me, “Keep your feet out in front of you with your toes pointed in either direction. And hold your hands together and bend forward every time you get splashed with water.” That sounded easy enough.

Tim continued, “Sometimes Luc Bon Psat – the magnificent head of the monks in Cambodia – throws the water really hard. Occasionally he also beats me with this stick and it hurts, but I don’t mind. He must be doing a consultation, so we will have to wait.”

Since Tim knows Luc Bon Psat personally we’d been invited to his 5th celebration. IMG_5885We weren’t sure if it was five months or five years, that he has been the “pope” of the monks. We settled on the former as he is only about 31. Then again, the Dalai Lama assumed full political power at 15, so it is difficult to gauge.

Behind us a garden hose dripped water into an oversized fish-tank. We waited. Then without warning Tim was belted with a big dipper-size whack of water. Next it was my turn, but not as much and not as hard. Perhaps I didn’t need to be blessed quite as much as Tim got the most of it.

Tim oohed and aahed and went into a spiritual sort of trance. I sat there – and got wet. But then I missed Christianity, Islam, and yoga fire breathing so it was likely to be expected that I just wouldn’t “get it.”

Dripping wet I went off to a loo the size of a USB to change back into the little silk frock I’d worn to the pagoda. When I finally managed to wiggle into it – not an easy task when literally soaked to the skin – I realized it was, in fact, inside out. To hell with it as my apartment is only half a block away.

We stopped at Luc Bon Psat’s house and joined the people who bowed, lit incense, and said prayers. IMG_5884We left a cash donation for the water blessing and slipped away.IMG_5898

Headed for home, a couple of women ran after me. Apparently my shawl didn’t cover the zipper that was only closed half way up  the back of my dress. They insisted on saving me from myself and managed to reach inside and move it a touch farther up.

It was a curious experience and it seems to work for some. Personally, I prefer to sit on the terrace at the back end of the wat to see what the monks really get up to.