Saturday, January 23, 2010

Old friends

Vun Em, left, is the co-ordinator and singer with the Messenger Band
Last night I caught up with a few friendly faces when I met Sokhom, my long-time pal from Kompong Thom at the restaurant that sits under the Dara Reang Sey Hotel on Street 130, and also chatted with Dara, one of the sisters that run the hotel, who I hadn't seen for a few months. Sokhom was in town for 1 night alongwith a customer-friend in the shape of Thierry from Belgium. They had just arrived after spending an enjoyable night in a floating village near the southern mouth of the Tonle Sap Lake as part of their adventures in the north. Thierry is a regular visitor to Cambodia and always hooks up with Sokhom during part of his travels. After a bite to eat at the hotel, the three of us headed to Meta House to listen to the Messenger Band doing their bit to spread the word about workers rights, their hopes and fears, and highlighting the plight of female workers in Cambodia. All of the band's members were or are still garment factory workers and they take their message around the country to educate and entertain their audience. Some of their acappella songs are sad, some are less serious, all of them inform. They dare to talk and sing about topics that are often taboo and deserve great credit for their brave and courageous stance. They sang five songs and chatted to the audience before we watched a film made by the Meta House team called I Am Precious, which followed a fashion competition aimed at exposing the talents of garment factory workers in designing their own dresses and t-shirts.
The Messenger Band members enjoy a lighter moment during last night's performance

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sam's jaunt

Samantha Brown (above) has been globetrotting with her Travel Channel television show for the last decade. Last week she completed filming of her first visit to Cambodia for her Passport to Asia series having spent time in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the Angkor temples and on the south coast at Ream. Local fixers were Hanuman Films. In October last year she was in Vietnam. The Travel Channel is available in more than 95 million US cable homes, so she's pretty well known. Talking of Vietnam, Adam Bray, one of the contributors to my To Cambodia With Love guidebook, which is nearing completion, has been involved in the latest Insight Guides Laos and Cambodia guidebook, which should be out sometime next month. He also chipped in with updating the DK Eyewitness Vietnam & Angkor Wat publication that came out last month. A DK book dedicated solely to Cambodia is in the works as well after the two writers were spotted in town recently. Adam was also a contributor to the To Vietnam With Love guidebook by ThingsAsian, which came out last year.
It's raining outside as I type this which is really unusual for January here in Cambodia. It rained yesterday afternoon as well. Parts of the country have also been experiencing fog. Crikey me, we'll have snow next. This Friday night at Meta House (7pm) will see the Messenger Band performing acapella while presenting a film by the Meta House crew of the I Am Precious! fashion contest, held in November. Garment factory workers designed dresses and t-shirts to raise their profile and demonstrate their skills and of course, the all-girl band are all former garment workers themselves.

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