Magic happens here all the time. You never know when one stray conversation will lead to a new connection, a new opportunity.
This past Friday we traveled from Sisophon, which I wrote about here, back to Siem Reap for the Writing Through Cambodia Big Event celebrating the work of the latest batch of student participants from Anjali House. (I should tell you that when I say we, I mean me and the wonderful and adventurous Katy Oglethorpe who has been hired by Enfants du Mekong to lead their Writing Through Cambodia Workshops for a few months after I head back home. She now has her own blog, which you can read here). I always get excited before each of these celebrations. They are a big deal no matter where they are and for what school. Each time something magical happens.
This one was held at the gallery and artists workspace called The 1961. Everything was all set up when I got there, with fairy lights in the front, and one of the giant puppets standing guard in the front garden. It was great to see the kids after my two weeks on the road. I brought them all together to give them a final pep talk, but they didn’t seem to need much of one. There is something about this group. They have a confidence and an ease about them. For the past five years they have seen their older friends be the stars of their own Big Events and now, finally, it was their turn. Sure, they were a bit nervous, but there was also an uplifting sense of entitlement as if they all knew they were now ready to stand up and announce their presence to the world. And they did it with extraordinary poise, confidence and teenage good humour. Here is an example of their work on our theme of taking risks:

Dream of My Imagination

 By Sokim (age 16)

In a lovely day at school

I was thinking about my dream.

I want to fly like a wonderful bird.

It’s time to go home.

When I arrived home

I did what I always do.

While having dinner

I always tell my mother

about my dream.

At 9 o’clock I went to sleep.

I was dreaming again.

I saw I have a pair of big and beautiful wings.

I feel very very fantastic.

When I go higher and higher,

then it’s the end because it’s time to go to school.

After this dream, I feel fresh and happy.

I hope it will come true

in my life one day.

I want to fly like a bird.

You would think my report on the event would end there. But when I first arrived, I was introduced to a film crew from Los Angeles whom Bee, the Anjali House volunteer coordinator, met during a recent weekend trip to Phnom Penh. They are following the singer known as EVRYWHR as he travels around Cambodia connecting with its artists and preparing for a big event of his own in Phnom Penh and a possible tv special. She told them all about Anjali House and about Writing Through and so they came to Siem Reap. On Thursday, he led a songwriting workshop with some other kids from Anjali House, which sounded fantastic. I wish I had been there to see it. And then on Friday evening, there he was to watch the Writing Through event and to film it! (In time, we will get our own short video from them which I will dutifully show to everyone willing to watch.). Before I knew it, I was signing a release (which works both ways, I hasten to add), was hooked up for sound and video, and was being filmed talking to EVRYWHR about Writing Through and these kids. Then, after the kids had all read and taken their final bows, he came up on stage and sang his own song about taking risks in honour of them and their work. It was his present to this set of brave teenagers and it really did feel like a gift, and like magic.
It may be a week or so until my next blog post. I’m now off to Banteay Chmar to teaching another Writing Through Cambodia workshop with the students in the Enfants du Mekong centre there. I taught there last year and I’m really looking forward to seeing those kids again.