Mekong Blue

Today I picked up a sample of the pouch we’ll be giving away to anyone who purchases 10 or more finger puppets. These are made out of beautiful silk and sewn at Mekong Blue. Mekong Blue is a great, great non-profit organization that helps communities in Stung Treng. I’d always intended to visit their production center when I lived in Ratanakiri (deep north-east of Cambodia, ST is on the way, almost) but somehow never did. Then a series of small world coincidences resulted in our connecting and working together. A couple of my friends have bought silk from Mekong Blue in the past and currently a close friend is having her wedding dress made there (actually two, but that is long story). I went with her for one of the fittings and its turns out that the owner’s daughter is one of my students! Chantha, who runs the store, and I are also connected through various other people, volunteers and consultants who worked or still work in North-Eastern Cambodia. I also really believe in their project and their work and it seemed perfect to ask them to help with small pouches for the puppets. This way I get to plug Mekong Blue and have a gorgeous little silk bag to give away. So, now you need to go the Mekong Blue website and check out their online store. Of course you don’t really have to, but if you are looking for a stunning Christmas (or other occasion) gift, their silk scarves are gorgeous. The weaving is top quality, the colours are beautiful and well worth the price. The best...

Last day of training before Water Festival

So yesterday was the 7th day of training and the last before a week long break. Today is a holiday for the 5th year anniversary of the current King’s coronation, tomorrow is a holiday for the former King’s birthday and Monday-Wednesday are off for the Water Festival. Cambodia has the most national holidays of any country in the world except for Sri Lanka. Not for me though! The knitters have come in for a couple days of sewing together finger puppets are we are way behind! The training has been going really well. One knitter has quit…. she just could not understand. She tried really hard the first week and I had really hoped she would keep fighting on, but she decided she wouldn’t be able to do it. Of the rest of the knitters, about 4 or 5 are exceptionally good and pretty much ready to start making things for us! The rest are doing really well, but still have some problems like rowing out, twisting stitches or not doing the decreases correctly. When we go back next week, we’ll focus on those that need to improve their technique and we’ll bring some plastic eyes and tapestry needles so everyone can finish what they’ve made and have some finished products to be proud of. They can give these to their children or as presents or keep or whatever they want. There are also dozens of pairs of booties around and I’m going to contact the national hospital and see if we can’t donate them to newborns from poor families. The last of the sponsored knitter photos… I think....

Short and sweet

Only one knitter photo today, down below. Still having issues finding a translator to come with me! Grr. I completely forgot to write about the donation we made last week to an orphanage on the outskirts of PP. We had a bag full of toys that were from the first round of knitting in the round and less than perfect, but still lovable and in need of love. One my students (I teach part time at an English school) invited me to join her youth group on an excursion to this orphanage. They were planning on distributing food, clothes and toys. Yeng and I didn’t have time to join the activities, but we did hand over all the monsters that we had to pass onto the little ones. It was reported the children were very happy to receive them and we are happy they have a new home. Sim Soeun sponsored by Carol O’Neil.He is the son of Kung Pisey who is pictured in an earlier...

The Dance of the Accounting Fairy

For those of you enjoying a Sunday off, I envy you. My husband, darling, has been bothering me for weeks to budget and account for everything related to CK. Today he basically forced me to do it. A Sunday afternoon spent going through receipts and trying to understand accounting software is not what I call a good time. At all. However, thanks to the accounting fairy, I now have a better grasp of what is going on and what we can do in the next few months. I gave most of the sponsored knitters photos of their sponsors on Friday. They were happy to see your faces and learn where you are from. If you haven’t sent me a photo yet (you know who you are) do it! And since there is not much more to report, I give you a slice of life in Cambodia. Below are some photos of the rural Cambodian equivalent of a 7-11. It sells everything from water, laundry detergent, canned sardines, hair accessories to shampoo, snacks and cooking gas. It’s not air-conditioned and there are no slurpies, but it’s basically the same...

One week of training down

The first week is finished and most of the knitters are already able to make an elephant puppet! I still don’t have any more information for you as the translator stood me up yesterday and I wasn’t able to collect any stories. Grr. Chan Thyda sponsored by Kasia Zygadlewicz. Kut Jan Kosal sponsored by Jocelyn Pederick. Noun Soka sponsored by Colin Alfred. Soy Srey Chan sponsored by Lynn Walma. Sok Srey Pouv sponsored by Jo-Ey Lee. Krouch Koun and Sok Srey Mao sponsored by Juan and Shelli Mosley. Yu Tra sponsored by Kylie...

Find us at Living Room!

I finally got the act together and put some of our final products on display on Living Room. If you’re interested in picking one up, head over there for a delicious coffee and shop away! Some puppets will be there tomorrow as well. Final training day for the week tomorrow. Sorry I haven’t been posting photos, but I haven’t had the chance to go out there. Tomorrow I will 100% for sure and with the added bonus of a translator! That means stories and more photos (if the cameras start behaving itself after acting all spazzy today)...

Sponsorships call is over!

We’ve had more people interested in sponsoring a knitter than we have knitters! While it’s great that all participants now have a distant supporter, I’m sorry that some of you won’t be able to sponsor a knitter this time around. If all goes well, I hope we can train another group in late December or the new year and then we’ll look for more sponsors. I haven’t been able to go to the training at Toul Sambo the past couple days as I’ve been stuck at the computer doing boring admin type things instead. The trainers get to have all the fun! I’m actually really happy that they can go out there on their own and are more than confident and competent to carry out the training without me. We’re taking a very informal approach to the training, no modules or tests, no books or note taking. Most people when they learn from their friends or mama’s simply sit nearby and ask lots of questions. Nothing is more important than just practicing and frogging and learning from mistakes. Our approach will need to change somewhat once we’re working on the patterns, but that brings up a whole other issue… Many of the participants are illiterate and we have to find a way for this not to be an obstacle to them. The trainers think that those that can’t read can get help from those who can to get through the patterns. I don’t think this is ideal because it will create a dependency and a power dynamic that might lead to disempowerment and frustration. While I’d like to think...

Training Day 1

The first day of training this morning went very well. Three knitters, pictures below, were able to finish knitting a bootee and were eager to start on the second one as we were leaving. I’m sure there will be many more finished tomorrow. Everyone who signed up on Thursday attended, which is great. When I called for a break at 10am, they all told me to basically shut up and let them get on with it. They also wanted us to stay longer as everyone wanted to keep going. Some photos from today: Ven Vireak sponsored by Stephen Seto Kung Pisey sponsored by Ali Sanderson Heng Srey Neang sponsored by Clairone...

An interesting perspective on globalization

I just loved reading this so much a few weeks back, I decided to post it here too. This might as well be the story of my family (minus Oxford scholarships) from small Polish potato farm to Polish-Japanese, Polish-Greek, Polish-African and eventually Polish-Cambodian children all over the globe. I’m sure its the story of many readers too… This is written by Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyer, about himself. Published in The Times of India. In 1992, I wrote a book titled Towards Globalisation. I did not realise at the time that this was going to be the history of my family. Last week, we celebrated the wedding of my daughter, Pallavi. A brilliant student, she had won scholarships to Oxford University and the London School of Economics. In London, she met Julio, a young man from Spain. The two decided to take up jobs in Beijing, China. Last week, they came over from Beijing to Delhi to get married. The wedding guests included 70 friends from North America, Europe and China. That may sound totally global, but arguably my elder son Shekhar has gone further. He too won a scholarship to Oxford University, and then taught for a year at a school in Colombo. Next he went to Toronto, Canada, for higher studies. There he met a German girl, Franziska. They both got jobs with the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC, USA. This meant that they constantly travelled on IMF business to disparate countries. Shekhar advised and went on missions to Sierra Leone, Seychelles, Kyrgyzstan and Laos. Franziska went to Rwanda, Tajikistan, and Russia. They interrupted these perambulations to...

Busy Monika

Sorry for my slackness and not updating more as we head into the first week of training. I really thought that with my thesis out of the way I’d have lots of time, but instead I have been running around all week, catching up on all the things I put off while writing. Finally, some catching up this weekend! We went to the community on Thursday to hand out information about the training next week and to get a final tally of those interested. The trainers have been doing a great job the few times they have gone there the past few weeks and everyone was eager to show me the swatches they had been working on. There were heaps and heaps!! Some are already onto increasing and decreasing and almost everyone is knitting even, neat rows. A few people had crossed stitches, but still they were even. They’re a nice group and my knitters really like working with them and I think everyone is looking forward to having them there, teaching, all week rather than just every few days. Mony especially is really great at forming relationships and making people feel comfortable and relaxed. I have the final list (although we are quite certain a few people were away on Thursday and might sign up on Monday morning) and will be matching names to knitters this weekend and sending those out to all the sponsors. A big, huge thank you to everyone who offered to sponsor a knitter! We’re all full and no longer need any more sponsors for this group. If all goes well, maybe the next...