Amid the beautiful gardens of La Residence d’Angkor Hotel, we launched the 2014 Anjali House Creative Writing Workshop. After four years of running the program, this evening party has become one of the highlights of the school year. The 16 students from this year’s workshop stood up and read before an audience of friends, teachers, local NGO staff, local business owners, and the occasional hotel guest and drop in. I tell you, if my own readings produced such an audience, I’d be thrilled. Workshop time this week was spent practicing their deliveries. How do you make eye contact without it frightening you? How do you speak loudly enough so that people in the back of an outdoor space can hear? How do you vary the tone of your reading so that every line doesn’t sound the same as the one before it? How do you approach the podium and bow to show respect for your audience and pride in yourself?

How do we support each other and give each other courage? And this year, to go along with our theme of change (which is pronounced chanGe and not chain, just like life is pronounced liFe and not lie — surprisingly difficult distinctions for them to make!), I had two of our veterans act as Masters of Ceremonies. They themselves were introduced, and then they introduced each of their friends and fellow students, one by one. All I needed to do was stand by and beam, and then say a rather emotional thank you at the end. This is really what the workshop is all about. Yes, English. Yes, self expression. Yes, conceptional thinking. But even more, pride, a sense of accomplishment, and self-worth. Next week, I travel up to a remote village in the north, ringed by ruins that supposedly rival Angkor Wat. It is called Banteay Chhmar, and the educational centre is run by the French NGO, Enfants du Mekong. I am likely to be without internet access all week. But when I get back into a cloud of technology, I will report back.
But in the meantime, here are a couple more photos from The Annual Anjali House Writing Workshop Launch Party. How can it be over already?