2nd Annual EGBOKERY Extravaganza

Another smashing success with students and staff getting into the spirit of creating whimsical structures using graham crackers, royal icing and lots and lots of candy. We had one suitcase dedicated to carrying the graham crackers, candies, dehydrated egg whites and cream of tartar from the U.S.

Preparation was easy because students are always eager to help. We make the icing and fill the pastry bags, We put the candy in bowls and set the table.  Soon, one by one, students arrive from their internships, eager to see what this is all about.

The challenge is to prevent students (and staff) from eating the candy before we even get started. I do a brief demo on how to make a house, hold a pastry bag and then the extravaganza begins.  With lightening speed, houses, castles and temples are built, decorated with colorful roofs, ornate landscaping and creative abandon.  Candy is steadily consumed, fueling the speed of the constructions.

The results are stunning;  pride, delight and laughter filling the evening. Will there be a 3rd Annual EGBOKERY Extravaganza next year? We sure hope so.

PART 1 – Mise en Place (for non foodies – preparation!)

(1) making royal icing

Preparing the royal icing

(2) Candy set up

Candy, candy, candy….

Graham Crackers

Construction material — lots of graham crackers (some didn’t make the trip halfway around the world) and ice cream cones

(3) EE (SET UP )

We made up 10 stations, 4 students to a station.

Setting up table

Getting ready and setting the table

(5) Demo _1

Dara is translating for me, though candy is pretty universal

Demonstrating how to make a house

Demonstrating how to make a house

(6) Demo Done

A finished example — it took little instruction to launch imaginations

PART 2  Construction – Pastry Bag Skills

Pastry bag (6)

Skilled and charming

Pastry bag work _2

Sev, our awesome volunteer coordinator (among other things), showing her formidable pastry skills

Pastry bag work (4)

Very focused

Pastry bag work (5)

I am not sure what was being built, but it was big and grand

Pastry bag work

A future pastry chef?

Pastry Bag (5) Srei and Vann Interns at Park Hyatt Siem Reap

Park Hyatt Siem Reap interns — They would make the hotel chefs proud.

PART 3 – Serious  Construction Underway


Creative energy at work

Constructing EM house

EM = EGBOK Mission. Pretty sweet.

Construction (7)

Sometimes more socializing than creating. This is Soknak, one of our social workers, with Omnot, a graduate who stopped by for a visit.

Overview good (2)

Reatanak, our teacher who goes to the villages and teaches English, looks like an Iron Chef contestant. Students are impressed.

Construction (6)

The attention to detail was rather amazing.


Kandara, our project and program manager, shows her other skills.


Laura, another social worker, confesses she has done many houses during her life, creating a precise and lovely little home


Graduate Chantee and English volunteer, Sigrid, balance eating and creating.


Sev at work


Staff have their own table and put full attention to their creations


Work, work, work


Students with social work volunteer Sokha and teacher Reatnauk

PART 4 – Teamwork

Team work (2)

No words needed

Team work (6)

A natural flow of positive energy

Teamwokr (1)

We could learn a few lessons about teamwork from our students


Just plain fun

Teamwork (3)

The motivation shown that night is similar to the overall motivation of our students. They just need opportunity and access to resources. But it is more fun when candy is involved.

PART 5 – A Few Proud Architects

Finished (4)

Dara, our education coordinatora with his adorned house (looking a little like a wat!)

Finished (3)

Edible Art at its finest

Finished (6)

Paparazzi taking photos from all angles

Finished Chantee with house

Chantee is rather proud of her home and rightly so.

Finished Reatnauk

Reatnauk is the Iron Chef!

Finished team sassy

Proud builders of a beautiful building

Finsihed (2)

Proud and posing with “style!”

Finsihed (5)

A proud representative for many of the students

PART 6 – The Houses

House along (6)

House on an island of sprinkles

House (1)

Candles or steeples on top. Doesn’t really matter.

House (2)

A love house to EGBOK Mission

HOuse alone (2)

An ornate house for sure

House alone (8)

A house in the forest

House alone (5)

Holiday greetings to all

House along (4)

Love to EGBOK Mission

PART 7 – Celebration in the end

Me and Osman

Country director Osman and volunteer “chef” Barbara


Hmm, no graham crackers? No worries. Decorate your hand!

Dara and EE 2013

Dara with house and hand decorated

Barbara with houses and sign (2)

Mission Accomplished. Many thanks to Dave – can’t count the ways he helps…

Photo op (2)  Dave

Dave, behind the scenes helping to make this magic happen


Reatnauk (on right) and me in front of the EGBOKERY sign.


Photo opportunity time!


There is Dave! See him?


Happy Holidays to everyone. And a special thank you for all who support the wonderful work at EGBOK Mission

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Horizons Holiday Happy Hour Promotion in 24 Hours

Our days are full.  During the day we are at EGBOK Mission working on various projects and  at night, we head home to Horizons and help guesthouse owners, Chanthou and Socheata with promotions and guest service improvements.  Making money during the high season is a priority — the window is short and tourists want someplace fun to eat and drink. We want Horizon guests to find that fun at the guesthouse so a Happy Hour promotion is born within 24 hours.

We talk, we plan and then take action. First we buy wine, then visit a banana chip producer to make us special black pepper chips. I make a poster and signs for guestroom doors. To get the spirit going, we place bags of chips on the doors of all guests Christmas Eve so Christmas morning they get a Horizon gift.

Want to make banana chips? Here’s how:

(1) Bananas

(1) Peel endless piles of bananas

(2) Peeled Bananas

(2) Peeled bananas ready for production

(3) Shaving Bananas

(3) Shave bananas

(4) tool for shaving bananas

(4) Very very sharp tool for shaving bananas (foodies, think mandoline)

(5) Adding oil to pan

(5) Add oil to the pot that is heated over an open fire

(6) Fry the chips

(7) Frying chips

(7) Remove hot, crispy chips

(8) Draining chips

(8) Drain the chips (note open fire below for heating oil)

(9) Socheata placing a special order to black pepper chips

(9) Socheata negotiating special order for black pepper chips

(10) Chips are hot!

(10) Final Taste Test — chips are hot!!!

(11) Promo sign for horizons


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A Happy Reunion

12:21:13 Omnot an Dave

12:21:13 Sreya Omnot, Me and Dave Visiting our awesome graduates, Omnot and Seyra

Dave and I visited two graduates, Seyra and Omnot, at their place of work. We met Serya 2 years ago when I taught a workshop at FLO, the orphanage in Phnom Penh where EGBOK Mission was sponsoring a program. Seeing him mature over the last 2 years has been extraordinary.  Seyra is now a bartender and a damn good one at that. Omnot was a stand-out student last year, always asking thoughtful questions and volunteering to help whenever an extra hand was needed.  He works the front desk along, juggling the responsibilities of being a bellman, receptionist, front desk reservationist and on-site manager addressing customer problems.  Omnot is learning the industry at a fast and furious pace and will surely be a top hospitality professional in the years to come.  Seeing these two young men in their jobs has been a high highlight of our stay.

12:21:13 Sreya Shaking margarita (2)

Preparing the drink


Garnishing the drink

12:21:13  Seyra finished drink

A proud bartender

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Getting ready for the 2nd Annual EGBOKERY Extravaganza

Mrs. Santa

Mrs. Santa standing guard

12:21:13 Dave, bike, luggage (1)

Santa on his way!

Dave and I packed 30 lbs of candy and graham crackers for our 2nd annual EGBOKERY, a fun event where students create whimsical constructions. I did the shopping in Ithaca (at Wegmans, of course!), finding buckets of gum drops and boxes of Good n’ Plenty, imagining how students would use these construction materials.  Dave miraculously bicycled and balanced  that heavy, precious suitcase on the back of his bike from our guesthouse to EGBOK’s Learning Center, avoiding collisions from all directions. Santa is on his way — Mrs. Santa stands guard once the goods are delivered.

Santas bag of goodies

Santa’s bag of goodies

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FB Post: The International Invasion of Brands

I’ve found my morning ritual while reluctantly admitting a self-serving bias. “No chains, no international brands!” I cry. “Oh wait – illy coffee? That’s different.” Illy in Siem Reap morning coffee with green tea macaron

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FB Post – Reunion with Students and a Wedding on the Calendar

What a day – Two former students, Sokim and Chauntee, visit to deliver a wedding invitation for Sokim. I remember them as two shy students who are now thriving young women. “It’s a Wonderful Life” comes to mind.Sokim anc ChanteeLaughing with the girlswedding invitation

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Arriving in Siem Reap

After 4 movies, 5 meals and a day’s worth of hours in the air, we land in Siem Reap Cambodia.   When Dave and I walk on to the tarmac the familiar thick warm air welcomes us and we do our celebratory fist bump.  It’s a moment of déjà vu and we both feel it.

Then comes the ritual hustle of obtaining our tourist VISAs with 2 crisp $20.00 bills and multiple declaration papers.  This too is déjà vu requiring a deep breath and a “go with the flow” attitude.  Being pushed and jostled by an anxious tour group makes the New Yorker in me feel downright passive and almost genteel.

Tourist Visa photo

All set for processing

But I don’t think it is just the tour group. The whole process invites a mob-like atmosphere. When entering the Siem Reap airport, everyone is forced to swarm towards the immigration counter  – the concept of lining up doesn’t exist and there is no direction. Instead, we are greeted by an endless row of stern-faced staff, each handling (what are they all looking at?) and then passing on our passports until a final official seals the deal and authoritatively stamps the books.

We have one final hurdle – getting our passports. The lone female on the staff, while standing on a chair, yells the name on the passport she’s just be handed.  With each name called the crowd moves in unison, surging forward making room for the person who has been called.  Rather than resist, I’m entertained, appreciating the young woman’s ability to pronounce the variety of foreign names.

When I hear my name I feel like an audience member in a game show whose just been called to “come on down.”  I excitedly respond, maybe too much so. The woman pauses, looks at me, glances at my photo and returning my smile, says slyly “I am not so sure” as she hands me my passport.  I feel like a winner as find my way through door #1.

12_13_13 Monks Blessing

Monks blessing the morning after

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