Thursday, February 22, 2018

Friday, February 23, 2018

Gosh.  I can't believe it is Friday!  I feel like time has passed quickly.  At the same time, Cambodia has become so familiar over the years that I feel like I have been here forever.

It is 11:16 am and I am sitting at a table in the Villa Langka garden we like to call the office because it is where we do much of our work.  We have had a busy morning with a meeting with Room to Read at 8:30 and then a meeting with our Program Coordinator here in Phnom Penh, Panha Kol.  Both meetings were great.  We are collaborating with Room to Read on some projects as we do similar work.  Learn more about them here.

Since I didn't write first thing this morning I did not update you about yesterday.  We took a trip to the Russian Market which is an old fashioned market that has just about anything you could imagine from clothes, to tools to food to Buddha statues.  It is always an interesting experience exploring the market, it is very hot and there seems to be stall after stall of vendors.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Yesterday was a slower day.  I was thankful for that as we have been so busy.

Mr. Lee picked us up and brought us to the US Embassy where we had a meeting to discuss the Visa Process of Cambodians wanting to come to the US.  I had never been to an Embassy before so this was an interesting experience.

After we stopped at a store I really like here in Cambodia called Senteurs d'Angkor which sells Cambodian grown products. I visited Senteurs d'Angkor on my first trip to Cambodia where they are based in Siem Reap.  Siem Reap is home to the famous Cambodian Temples.  Exploring these temples on my first visit was simply amazing. Learn more here: Angkor, Temples.

I was very happy when I returned to find they also have a store in Phnom Pehn.

Note: Their website is not working so I took this piece from their Facebook page which gives you their story. 

The aromas they describe are truly amazing.
The moment you walk into our Senteurs d’Angkor shop you are immediately struck by an explosion of the senses with heady aromas floating from every corner. It ‘s can be difficult to choose which kind of scent you prefer so you can start with an everyday indulgence by trying our coconut oil-based handmade soaps. Available in a variety of scents including jasmine, orchid, cinnamon, lemongrass, green tea, mango. lotus and orange, our soaps are all made by hand, using traditional techniques and extracts derived exclusively from plant oils and 100 % natural ingredients..

Afford yourself some pampering, some “me time” with our delicately perfumed massage oils, body creams, body scrubs and bath salts, to ease the ache and pains of visiting the temples and send the body into a state of blissful calm.

For scents of a more aromatic kind, tease your taste buds with our fine selection of Cambodian spices including authentic Khmer curry, Lok lak, Satay, lemongrass, cinnamon, chilli and the famous Kampot pepper.

For an over the top indulgence, intoxicate your senses with the silky delight of our mango jam, the rich aroma of our flavoured tea and coffee from Ratanakiri, or the potent rice alcohol (brandy) from Siem Reap.

For those wanting to see more of what goes into making the scents and colours of Senteurs d’Angkor products, visit our workshop. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by a wide variety of brightly-coloured sugar palm leaves drying in the sun. See the weavers producing the lovely boxes that carry all of your purchases home. Then you can see how our natural soaps, moisturising creams, scented balms and aromatic candles are made. From there, move on to discover the different steps in the preparation of spices (Kampot pepper, lemongrass, ginger, chilli) and the mixture of subtle combinations which make traditional Khmer curry spice, satay and lok-lak.

Senteurs d’Angkor prides itself on sourcing all of its products in Cambodia, from our raw ingredients to our packaging materials, which is not easy task. In line with our philosophy of ‘home-sourcing’, most of our packaging comes from the sugar palm tree, an abundant, natural and recyclable resource in Cambodia..

This philosophy ensures that jobs and incomes stay within Cambodia, helping to address the country’s poverty and reduce dependence on imports. We use the finest raw ingredients sourced from all over the country.

We employ 160 people and provide regular work to another 100 people, mostly women from the rural area, 10% of the workshop staff are handicapped, and all benefit from good work conditions (salary, profit-sharing, insurance, working environment…)

The official Seal of Authenticity for handicraft from Siem Reap Province

Siem Reap artisans have developed what is a unique set of skills and creative talent. To award their contribution to the cultural richness of Siem Reap Province, the provincial Government promotes this Seal of Authenticity. it guarantees that purchase a handicraft product made by Siem Reap artisans.
We then returned to the hotel where I sat and finished my book, The Great Alone.  I really loved it and was grateful for the time to read.

Finally, we had dinner at my favorite restaurant in Cambodia, Malis.  The focus is on traditional Cambodian food and it is absolutely delicious.  I had Fish Amok, the most famous Cambodian dish.  Then for desert I had Kampot Pepper Brûlée.   While we ate a woman played traditional Cambodian music on a Roneat Dek, also called a Roneat Thung- beautiful. Learn more about Malis, Fish Amok, and Kampot Pepper by clicking on the links in red.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

It is always funny for me writing as I start my day 12 hours ahead of you as you are heading off to bed in my yesterday : ) We had another good day yesterday.  The morning was slow, time to write a blog post and read my book.  Then in the afternoon we went to Kandal to visit more students.

This visit brought more wonderful conversation with our students and the opportunity for university students to advise the provincial students about the National Exam and the college application process.  I am so appreciative for the guidance the older girls are able to give the younger girls, it is one of the best parts of this program.

We ate delicious spicy green mango while we sat under the shade of a mango tree and talked.  After, we walked to the building where the new CASF/Open Book Library will be and Jean-Claude along with another CASF board member who lives here in Phnom Penh, Kimna Mong, did a performance of the Cat and Dog Fable in both Khmer and English.  It was wonderful and the young students who are taking English lessons in the space that houses the library joined us.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

We had a wonderful time yesterday afternoon.  Jean-Claude did a performance of The Cat and Dog Fable at Open Book.

After the Kamichibai performance we took a tuktuk to the dorm to visit with the university students.  It is amazing to see how much the girls have grown and how confident they have become.  We had a lovely conversation about what makes us happy and the new things we have all learned in Phnom Penh.

Later today we will head back to the country side, this time the ride is only 45 minutes to Kandal.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Monday, February 19, 2018

Good Morning from Phnom Penh.  It is 7:45am and I am sitting in the garden restaurant of Villa Langka drinking tea and enjoying my most favorite mango.  I arrived at Villa Langka on Friday at 2:00 in the afternoon after 37 hours of travel. We checked in, took naps, woke for dinner here at the hotel then turned in early for the night, we were so tired after the long journey.

We have been quite busy the last couple days, it seems hard to believe I left Maine five days ago as the time has gone by so quickly.  Here is a recap Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday, February 17, 2018 Silk Island

We had a relaxing morning.  Breakfast, complete with mango of course: ) Then a little time by the pool trying to recover from the long flight.

It was so nice to just be outside even though it is very hot and humid.  It has been in the mid 90's and the humidity is around 80% or higher.

I started a new book, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah which I am really enjoying.  It is not a book I would recommend for middle school students, however, on the plane I finished Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson that I highly recommend.  I hope you are finding some time to read over vacation as well.

After lunch we met Mr. Lee, our tuktuk driver, and headed to Silk Island.  It took about an hour to get there, we had to take a ferry to cross the Mekong River and then rode through beautiful farmland.  We were in search of a woman our friend Constance had met a couple of years ago who weaves the most beautiful silk scarves in her home.  Constance had had a wonderful adventure and we were in search of the same.Upon our arrival we found ourselves very disappointed because we were at a cooperative where weaving demonstrations were conducted and scarves were for sale but it was not the real experience of seeing the actual weaving that happens as part of weavers daily lives.  Juli, who is the Executive Director of CASF had downloaded a photo of the woman we were in search of from Constance so we showed the photo, the girls running the shop recognized her gave Mr. Lee directions and we were on our way.

It felt like a bit of a wild goose chase as we stopped several times to once again show the photo and ask if the person we were speaking knew her.  Each person kept pointing to continue on in the direction we were headed until the last person said, "yes, this is me."  What started as a disappointment turned in to a wonderful experience.

She invited us into her home where there are three big looms, she explained one of her sisters and her mother all weave in this space then she asked if we would like to try.  I was quick to say yes and was amazed by the process that creates that turns silk in to georgeous scarves. We then went into her shop to purchase scarves to sell on our website to raise money for CASF.

Here are photos of the day. Check out the two videos me weaving and a professional : )

Sunday, February 18, 2018 Svay Rieng Province

We woke up very early to begin our three hour drive to Svay Rieng.  A few of the University studenmet us at Villa Langka, we piled into the van then stopped at Open Book (CASF's Umbrella Organization in Cambodia) to pick up Catherine Cousins, the Founder of Open Book, and we were on off.

We had a great visit with our students in Svay Rieng.  We discussed what their favorite subjects are, what their plans are for the future and university students were able to answer questions about the National Exam and the process of applying to University to the provincial students, particularly the 12th graders who will be going through this process in the spring.

After lunch we had a Kamishibai performnce first in Khmer and then in Eglinsh of Jean-Claude Redonnet's new book, The Cat and Dog Fable.Kamishibai

Also, while we were there I was able to see the library TAMS donated books to last year which is being called Open Book 4.  It’s very exciting to see this!