The Week in Review

Dave and I have been in Siem Reap for over 2 weeks — hard to believe. Sometimes it feels as though we arrived yesterday, and at other times, it feels so familiar, as if we never left.

The week began with a friend of Osman’s, Fabian, a puppeteer (see his amazing shows at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWpn6iSoe9w).  He showed the students at EGBOK Mission a few tricks, and the students loved the challenge of keeping a fabric bag in the air.

Fabian teaching students

Fabian teaching the students

Emerging Acrobat

An Emerging performer at EGBOK Mission

The week was filled with  meetings with hotel general managers and new vendors to prepare for four Cornell students to arrive and help identify the best opportunities for a product that will yield a high profit margin for EGBOK Mission.  I’m setting the stage so when the students arrive, they can hit the ground running.

It isn’t just a product that we are seeking — we are also interested in creating a story that will resonate with tourists who stay at the leading hotels that are our supportive partners. Our goal is to have products placed in hotel gift shops, and ideally, promoted in the guest rooms.  Most of the vendors I’ve identified are from NGOs that already have relationships with  EGBOK Mission, including the The Kamonohashi Project, where local women (former victims of sex trafficking or those at risk) make beautiful woven products — ranging from book covers to wine carriers — from reeds.  We visited the project and saw the production in action. Not easy work, but the women welcomed the camaraderie and safe environment.

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The Community Factory where 125 women are employed

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We will soon teach teach English and introductory hospitality to young adults from this community.

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This woman is dipping the reed into a hot dye to create a deep pink color

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Weaving by an elder

VenSomnieng Hoeurn
Venerable Somnieng Hoeum – Director of Life and Hope Association

Another possible partner is the Park Hyatt-Life & Hope Association Sewing School, directed by the Venerable Somnieng at Wat Damnak (temple), which is located just two minutes from our learning center.  The Venerable is now getting his masters at Harvard University.

Kim kampot pepper

Kim Ran, part of a family-run business producing the amazing Kampot pepper in Cambodia and selling it here and in the United States

Other possibilities include a product with Kampot Pepper from the Indochine Spice Co. where the young woman above, Kim, explained how her “sponsored father” from the U.S. runs the export business from San Francisco where he was a Stanford professor.  Her family of six siblings and a mother is another story of struggle that has led to determined success. Typically, a helping hand is all that is needed to initially give the people here an opportunity to thrive.

Dave and I also continue to help our guesthouse owners, Chanthou and Socheata, develop promotional programs, including a new Happy Hour with food specials.  Today,we had an official taste test and tomorrow we launch the promotion!

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Socheata prepping the food

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Fellow guesthouse resident, Teganyi, enjoying the smells of lemongrass and galangal on food

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I’m taking notes as Chanthou and Socheata prepare the food on their new grill

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Dave supervises the action

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We are ready for the tasting!

All in all, a very good week.

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About Barbara Lang

My career has been filled with life experiences and professional opportunities all focusing on food, ranging from university lecturer, restaurant owner, schooner chef, and Adult Lifelong Learning Coordinator for the U. of Virginia's Semester at Sea. During the around-the-world voyage, I found food adventures in all 15 countries, but India is the most memorable. Early on I was a Napa Valley, CA winery culinary director and most recently started a company called The Etiquette Factor - helping people present the best of who they are, as they move forward in their careers. In late October, my husband I will start a three-month commitment volunteering at a NGO in Cambodia where I'll be teaching and advising young adults hospitality skills as they pursue careers in the local tourism industry. It is my hope and intent, that in upcoming years, we will return to India for more than 6 days, becoming more acquainted with the people and of course, the incredible food.
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