Many of the hotels in Siem Reap find ways of helping the local NGO’s do the good work that they do. Many have specific programs that they champion or even run themselves. The Shinta Mani Hotel started running a Made in Cambodia Market last year which has grown both in success and size this year. Anjali House is one of the NGO’s with a stall in the market, and yesterday was my first chance to help out.
photo 1
Here you see one of our teacher’s taking time during his Saturday night to help out at our booth. We sell predominantly photos taken by the children, postcards and greeting cards of their photos, other items made by the kids during workshops like soap and beeswax candles. We also sell copies of the Writing Workshop Magazine, and now, as you can see, we’re also selling copies of my latest novel, Out of the Ruins. Yes, I know the book wasn’t actually made in Cambodia, but since it is set in Siem Reap and dedicated “to the children of Anjali House and the adults who care for them” we were allowed to sell them as well. I am happy to report that we sold, and I signed, 8 copies and at US$15 each, that brought in a good amount to the shelter. I am honestly thrilled to be able to support Anjali House in this way. Another fun way that I have been able to help, outside of running the workshop, is that I have directed several people looking to volunteer in Cambodia towards Anjali. Right now, a writer friend’s son is here, and it’s been great fun seeing him both at work and here at the market. (To his mum — you know who you are — he’s terrific, happy, healthy and having the time of his life!). If anyone knows of someone looking to have this sort of experience, just leave a comment.
Besides all the retail therapy at the market, there is also some entertainment. Earlier in the evening, there was a performance of traditional Apsara dancing. If you’re curious about what that’s like, you can read my new novel which has an episode all about it (tee hee). Or you can read about it here. This year, though, I saw something new (and I’m happy to say I don’t yet know all there is to know about this culture!). It is called Bokotaw, Khmer martial art. Music is crucial to this culture, and it was important to this demonstration, as well. Against the sounds of Khmer drums and flutes, children and adults showed the different forms of bokotaw, all of which took on the feel of dance. Some used long bamboo sticks; others performed a series of wrestling type moves. And there was one demonstration where an amputee used his upper body strength and his crutch to fell a “nasty street thug.” It was fantastic, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if bokotaw somehow finds a way into my next novel. Here are some photos:photo 2 photo 3

Monday starts week 2 of the workshop. I’ll keep you posted.