Feeling Surreal in Cambodia

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It started with Songkran, the traditional celebration of Khmer New Year. Throwing caution to the wind, we put on our “New Year Shirts” (which looked a lot like Hawaiian shirts to us), piled into a tuk tuk with the Horizons Guest House family, and set off for Angkor Wat. Siem Reap hosts the biggest songkran of the country, and an estimated 1 million people passed in and out of the temple park over the three day event. We heard it was insane, but we were here so how could we not go? I’m so glad we did. It was absolutely hysterical fun — imagine the biggest fun fair you’ve ever seen. I was even able to understand the woman on the loudspeaker saying such an incredibly organised announcement as Little Srey, 5 years old is lost. Please collect her at the information booth. Is this Cambodia? Yes, it was, and you couldn’t escape that fact when you looked at the food being sold by vendors, listened and danced (!) to the the driving beat of the blaring Khmer music, saw the lit candles floating on the moat of Angkor Wat. The atmosphere of fun and excitement was infectious. Our silliest selves came out. Witness below the crazy white-haired barang (i.e. my husband) helping sell ice cream to the passersby. The pictures will tell the story:

Unbelievable traffic on the way into the temple district
Unbelievable traffic on the way into the temple district
crowds picnicking - a favorite Khmer pastime.
crowds picnicking – a favorite Khmer pastime.
the scene at the bridge into Angkor Was
the scene at the bridge into Angkor Wat
selling ice cream
selling ice cream

 

 

 

 

 

 

the gang of us
the gang of us
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the light show over the temple

We didn’t even get dowsed with water until we were on the way home. It was an amazing day and a true insight into this culture which has captured my heart.

Onto this past week which was, in some ways, just as surreal. A team of media students from Groenigen University  in the Netherlands has chosen Writing Through as the subject of their final project documentary. The two talented and incredibly focussed young women arrived in town and spent the week interviewing us, our teachers and students, and visiting some of the NGO sites where we work. This week saw some of the worst heat we have ever experienced, hurtling up to 98 F/37 C by 9.00 am every day. But still we trooped around, filming outside in order to get the best footage. I am so impressed by these students, and also so grateful for their belief in what we do and desire to spread the word. But the most moving and unanticipated  part of the week was listening to our Partner NGO’s and their students talk about the importance of the Writing Through workshops and how it is actually changing lives through creativity in education. As a writer, I am used to creating something and releasing it into  the world. But listening to people speak about this other creation of mine, Writing Through, with the same kind of passion and enthusiasm that I have, was honestly one of the most meaningful experiences of my working life. I can’t wait to see the final product of the filming, and rest assured, I will share it with everyone here.

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And now tomorrow, I’m off to Singapore for the annual meeting of Facilitators and volunteers. It’s always a treat to spend time with these friends and make some new ones.

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