Well did you ever…
on Phnom Penh Pal (Cambodia), 31/May/2014 05:26, 34 days ago
Please note this is a cached copy of the post and will not include pictures etc. Please click here to view in original context.

Or, things I never thought I'd do, never mind do in Cambodia…(I started writing this post in February, then edited it in March, and now it's June tomorrow. Although when I started this I didn't know I'd be leaving Cambodia, it does have a feel of someone who's moving on. Perhaps this helps give you an idea why it's such a bittersweet decision to be leaving this lovely place)Sing Christmas carols with the British Ambassador in his houseIt's thanks to neighbour Andy that I got to do this (he was invited as he works for VSO). I didn't even know where an embassy was in the UK before, never mind been inside one. Now I've been into the UK, the US, the Indian and the Indonesian embassies here in Phnom Penh and, just before Christmas, I found myself in the Ambassador'sresidencescoffing home made mince pies and mulled wine and singing along with a choir to Christmas carols.Sadly, neighbour Andy only had a'plus one'so Gordon did the gentlemanly thing and let me tag along. (panic not, mince pies were smuggled home to him as a thank you)Terrible picture, but we'd moved out of the prime photo-taking spot to go in search of more mulled wine. That's the (now ex-) Ambassador in the pale blue shirt and his partner on the right in the black shirt. It's a beautiful old building.And this just made me laugh - health and safety to the max (watch that 4 inch step up to the pool area!) in a country where health and safety are just things that you wish to someone!Make a dance videoBefore you go any further, please watch the video, and then you'll understand how much fun I had helping to make this.A few months after moving to Cambodia I was delighted to discover theCentral School of Ballet had just opened and it was teaching adult classes. Adultcontemporaryclasses! I signed up and have been dancing there ever since (more about that below). My teacher (and the Artistic Director of the school), Stephen, has become a really good friend and he asked if I'd help him with his other project here, Dance Made in Cambodia. He works with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, believing in the power that dance, and the arts in general, has in transforming people's lives.We were making the video for a project calledDance Our Citythat Amrita Performing Arts (where I now work) were curating for Our City Festival - an annual festival of art, architecture and ideas. The idea forDance Our Citywas to celebrate your city through dance.The video was shot at the Olympic Stadium, one of me and Gordon's favourite places in Phnom Penh.You can read more about Dance Made in Cambodia at www.dancecambodia.comDance on stage - twice! (I guess the second time round I should have expected it)Crossing the Bridge Dec 2013I've been learning contemporary dance for maybe four years now - two years on and off in Scotland and nearly two here at the Central School of Ballet. At the end of year one the School had an end of year performance. And then at the end of year two they had another. I've loved doing both.Crossing the Bridge Dec 2013Simple Pleasures Dec 2012Simple Pleasures Dec 2012Attend a film premiere alongside a who's who of Cambodian arts royalty (and actual royalty too)In January, we were lucky enough to attend the film premiere ofDon't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock and Roll.I've never been to a bona fide film premiere before. It was strange sitting in a room and going"Oooh, that's so-and-so. And OOOOh, there's what's-his-name."It was an experience made even more special than I imagine most premieres to be because there was just so much history in the room and in the film. You can read more about the night inthisblog post (which you should click on just to watch the trailer for the film and see some wonderful old footage of Phnom Penh and all the cool cats getting their groove on in Cambodia!)Dress up like a Khmer bridebeforeafterIt's a bit of a tourist thing to do, and I still can't quite decide if it's a little offensive to Khmer people, but it was a fun morning planned as a goodbye to a friend who will soon leave da Penh. $15 for hair, make-up, outfit, bling and three photos ($10 for Gordon - saving on the hair and make-up!). Some great Photoshop action later you have the'after'photo.(Sadly, I had to return the outfit and the bling - you don't get to keep them for 15 bucks!)Attend a swanky event celebrating 65 years of Indian independenceAmrita, the dance company I work for, also do production work. We were working with the Indian Embassy to produce a performance of 35 classical dancers from India. Someone from Amrita got invited to the Embassy's event celebrating 65 years of independence. They couldn't go; Gordon and I went instead; there was an ice sculpture of the Taj Mahal; never saw this one coming either!Yarn-storm a cycloOne of the lovely things I do in my spare time, apart from dancing (see above) and being in a book club, is to Stitch n Bitch. For those not familiar with the concept, it's the modern name for what I've always known as a knitting bee. Basically, it's a group of people who get together to stitch (mostly knitting and crochet but all forms are welcome) and have a chat (the bitch element of the name, but we don't do that).One of the cyclo drivers heading off on his newly decorated vehicleFor this year's Our City Festival we decided to yarn-storm something. Normally you yarn-BOMB something but we figured that was not a good choice of words in a country where things are still a little wobbly after the last election. For more information on what a cyclo is, what we did and why we did it, read a great entry on the Phnom Penh Stitch n Bitch group bloghere.An additional note to the blog: when I first spoke to a cyclo driver about this he explained (through someone who translated for me) that he was happy that we were making a'dress'for his cyclo because it's very lonely being a cyclo driver. He'd been a cyclo driver for 20 years and people are now more interested in using tuk tuks or motos (very few people use cyclos now and cyclo drivers are generally very, very poor). Also, a cyclo only takes one person and you don't sit next to each other so that's lonely too. He was happy we were taking an interest in him and his cyclo as it made him feel warm and cared for. Yup, had me a bit teary at the time too.Read Address to a Haggis. To a pizza. On our roof.For Burns'Night we decided to actuallydosomething this year. Sadly we couldn't find haggis. But we could find whisky and friends, and our roof is a great place for parties, so we toasted Rabbie in the only other way we knew how. With pizza. We all took turns reading a verse as we addressed the pizza and then toasted with whisky. And then we even had a wee ceilidh on the roof (a Strip the Willow for those that are interested)A late entry - attend a King's birthday partyOkay, so I'm taking a little bit of licence with this title but it's almost true. The Royal Ballet of Cambodia is directed by His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni's sister Princess Norodom Buppha Devi. She created a new work for the company, Lights and Shadows (which recently toured Europe), and they gave a performance for the King's birthday. And somehow, again, because I work with Amrita and we helped produce the event, Gordon and I managed to go along. And the King was there. And it was his birthday. And this performance wasforhis birthday. So that means we were at the King's birthday party. Right?That's the King sitting in the middle. The King!This piece was unusual as it also include sbaek thom (large shadow puppets) - a separate art form not usually included in the balletsparkly costumes and insanely beautiful bent handsNot the show that we saw, but a sample of work from the companyI suppose my point in this, rather than purely updating you of some of the things we've been up to over here, is that, doing something like VSO has opened us up to new experiences that we never thought we'd have. I truly didn't think I'd ever do half the things I've been lucky enough to do here. We've been so, so lucky to have these experiences and it's definitely taught me to look at the world in a different way. Many VSO-ers (and I'm sure other people too) are quick to point out that they get back so much more than they feel they put in and that's certainly true for me.