So, I’m back — back in my room at my guesthouse, back at the educational shelter, Anjali House, where this all began. I spent my first week wearing my Anjali House Board Member hat, checking in on administrative and fundraising tasks, talking to the staff and generally trying to be hands-on without getting in their way. Anjali House is really my home here. This year marks the sixth year that I have been working here, and it’s incredibly rewarding to see how not only the kids, but the programme itself has grown. In between all that there have been meetings with other NGO’s in the area, many, many meetings – sometimes three or four in a day. I have been checking in with organisations like Caring for Cambodia and Sala Bai, where my own NGO, Writing Through, has already been providing workshops. And I’ve been meeting with other NGO’s to discuss bringing the Writing Through programme to them. One of the most interesting parts of this work, for me, is getting a glimpse inside these other organisations. It’s fascinating to see how they work, how they are different and similar, who works in them and why. Back in London and the States, people are often incredulous at the work I do here. It seems so unusual and unique. But of course, once you’re here you realise you are just one of very, very many who leave the comfort of their homes to spend time in far-flung places, helping out however we can. Non-local workers don’t always make easy bedfellows with their local colleagues. That in itself is a fascinating dynamic, and one which I continually explore and portray in my novels. I must admit it is a difficult tightrope that I walk — to observe the dynamic between cultures, while also being a part of it. Another example of this is the excellent NGO, ODA, where my wonderful Facilitator, Barbara Rittner, facilitated a three-day refresher workshop for the students there. This shelter acts like a foster home for some of the area’s most impoverished and at-risk children. The work which these kids, of varying ages and English language abilities, were able to produce  was really remarkable. I’ll try to show an example in a future post.
Alas, there has barely been any time at all for me to think about my own writing, other than to worry about how I’m not thinking about it. I won’t be able to do much about that this coming week, either, as I start the first of three workshops for the High School students at Anjali House. I can’t wait to get started. The theme this year is a difficult one: Place, i.e. not only where am I, but is there a place in my imagination, what is my ‘place’ in my family, my ‘place’ in the world? Spoiler alert — think Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Perhaps more than ever before, this idea gets to the need for an ability to think conceptually, a skill which Writing Through really is striving to develop in people who have never been taught, or even allowed, to think in this way before. It will be fascinating to see what they create.