It is New Year’s Day and Siem Reap is as quiet as it will ever be. It is a national holiday and just about everyone, locals and tourists alike, were out late celebrating last night. The peak of Dave and my festivities were at La Residence, the luxury hotel managed by hotelier extraordinaire, Cornell Hotelie alumna, Carla Petzhold-Beck.
As we watched hotel guests launch prayer floats down the river, fireworks exploded over our heads as the champagne flowed. Carla has brought a touch of elegance and a whole lot of fun into our lives here. We felt like a Cinderella couple, toasting the remarkable good fortune in our lives.
But no rest for the weary here! I’m madly preparing for the arrival of the Cornell students from the SMART program (Student Multidisciplinary Applied Research Team), who will help identify what product(s) EGBOK Mission should launch to help generate income for the organization, expand exposure and attract new donors. The bottom line — make EGBOK Mission sustainable by generating a stream of revenue — generating business that will enable us to continue serving young adult Cambodians who now have minimal, if any, access to job and life skill opportunities. The Cornell students and I have our work cut out for ourselves when they arrive on Monday.
As I was sharing the outcome of a meeting I had today with the lovely Kim RAN from Indochine Spices (source for Kampot Black Pepper) to Dave, he began this new year with the best damn idea. The man really can think out of the box sometimes and this time, it was brilliant. He connected the dots between EGBOK Mission, Cornell University, a product concept and an integrated marketing program that would benefit all of the constituents and the goals for what the SMART students are focused on achieving. The clarity of this vision has never felt so clear and realistically achievable.
And, my earlier conversation with Kim over Cambodia soda and sweets was equally as inspiring. Her background was humbling and reflected the common theme here of overcoming adversity through hard work and luck. The phrase “luck is when preparation meets opportunity” never seemed so true as she described how she met an American, “Uncle James” at Angkor Wat. This gentleman provided her with the initial support and ultimate opportunity to change her life. We chatted for over an hour, both of us becoming more engaged with one another, sensing our meeting was the beginning of a long relationship. At one point, I felt chills and fought back tears; our paths had more in common than I would ever have imagined.
This is going to be a good year. I can just feel it.