Lotus The Blue
Issue 22, Summer 2020
Sangita Chaudhuri Rajini Upadhayay Grela Preema Nazia Andaleeb Pham Vu Hong Hung Thomas Daquioag Devidas Agase Ross Capili Honey Khor Joan Marie Kelly Ranjay Sarkar Ngakan Putu Agus Arta Wijaya Favian Ee 1
â&#x20AC;&#x153;I, a strange In a world I n
er and afraid. never made.â&#x20AC;?
A.E.Housman, the laws of God, the laws of man
Sojourn (Siem Reap)
(an extract by Martin Bradley)
short story the magical tree
ragini upadhayay greela
preema nazia andaleeb
sojourn in siem reap
Zhou Daguan left China and sailed to a country known by ames, such as Zhenla, Zhanla, Ganbozhi or Cambodia. I left n 2012 to visit Cambodia for the first time. I was writing out what was to become the Cambodian charity Colors of a. ht years I have travelled backwards and forwards between a and Malaysia. This journal is the by-product of a lengthier l stay in Cambodia, due to the rampaging pandemic Covid shut down countries and had me effectively imprisoned e Kingdom of Cambodia for many months. ry lucky that I was able to stay with Colors of Cambodia, g. I give my heartiest thanks to the Founder Bill Gentry, Phany....staff and students who eased my anxieties about ay from home for so long. I also give my thanks to others in a who have been very kind and supportive. Special thanks o Fevrier Sebastien, at Georges French Creole restaurant in p. He will know why. e Dylan Thomas (as I am wont to do) ‘To begin at the ’..... 4
phạm vũ hồng hưng
colors of cambodia school of art
cover image by joan marie kelly 2020
p104 ross capili
p120 anil chaitya vangad
p146 joan marie kelly
p152 ranjay sarkar
p160 ngakan putu agus arta wijaya
Lotus The Blue
editorial Firstly, my apologies for the lateness of this issue.
The world is still undergoing an assault by pandemic and, to quote terry Pratchett we are ‘Living in interesting Times”. I have been waylaid in Cambodia for a tad longer than I had expected (to date over four months instead of the four days I had originally come for). I am unable to get back to my base in Malaysia, so this issue is cobbled together without the benefit of access to my regular computer and its files etc. Having said that, the contributors to this issue have kindly allowed me to use their fascinating works in this ‘Special Issue’. From across Asia contributors have shown their support for The Blue Lotus magazine, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. Without any further ado…..this issue does reflect the times we are caught up in, but amidst the concern for this pandemic and its inherent negativity there is a reflective path showing us the beauty of this life we are honoured to live in, the fascinating people who walk with us and hope for the future. 6
“If I had a world of my own, ever Nothing would be what it is, beca it isn’t. And contrary wise, what wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”
rything would be nonsense. ause everything would be what t is, it wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be. And what it Lewis Caroll, Alice in Wonderland, 1865
sangita chaudhuri My thought process
Human life need to grasp something for living. There is very little importance to live only for ourselves because regular life is very monotonous. Without purpose spending life is painful and tedious. Our purpose of the life is for others. For our next generation. Art is my adoption for life. It is not mere a wish or hobby, brush and colour, is crop of my life existence my independence. I can split in two major part of spirit to create my art. One, past memories and relations and another is profound attraction towards movies. From my childhood I was curious about Bollywood movies , there I can imagine some fantasy and magic .Sitting alone after watching a film I used to recreate the characters according to my imagery . I decide their dress design, hair style etc. and made some drafts on sketchbook .In this way human figure took an importance in my painting . Superiority on body language and facial expression was a tendency of story telling and I love to create drama on canvas. Today’s lockdown situation may be the first time in world history but in my life it started long time ago. I am accustomed with it. After my mother passing away in 2005, loneliness covered me entirely. I could feel her presence her absence from every household things like from her perfume , saree, her college time diary this remembrance later reflected on my paintings .I almost detached myself from society, felt comfort with isolation . Spent couple of month inside house with my paintings and readings books , even stop being connected people with phone calls and in this way social detachment made me more self centred person. A profound interconnection with my father built from then. I started some of paintings subjected on my past life that was not completed the. Now in this quarantine period I have got another chance to complete the project. My past stand ups in front of me again through this pause situation and consequently came out “Time you left’’, ‘Baby sitter’, “Towards infinity’, ‘Atasi’. As I can see my mother in mirror reflection there some objects assisting to remember me past stories like bus tickets, cinema posters, black background etc. That stories depicted like window of a rented room, a balcony with a split of yellow afternoon, it may be red floor or migrated labour shown in painting ‘Towards infinity’..
Time you left
The red carpet
The Musical Tree
(excerpt, A Perfect Day for an Expat Exit) by Robert Raymer
We stopped at a shady area serviced by several hawker stalls and drank from coconuts as we made plans to meet Saturday morning for a tour around Penang. Instead of an arm and a leg, Jeya agreed to charge me only an arm. A dozen cats lay around in idle repose while waiting for their next meal. A white cat climbed onto a chair vacated by two Malays and put its paws on the table to survey the leftovers. A mewing gray kitten waiting below asked it to hurry up. A strange looking tree caught my attention. Then I realised it wasn’t a tree, but a composite of two trees. The one on the inside was old with a dark knotted trunk, while wrapped around it was a younger tree, a strangler, with light, smooth bark. The upper branches of the two trees were so inter¬twined it was difficult to distinguish one from the other. I pointed it out to Jeya and asked her about it. “Oh that. That is a musical tree,” replied Jeya. “A what?” “A musical tree.” She finished her coconut and said, “Come!” She led me to the tree and asked me to sit on the seawall directly beneath it. “Now listen.” She cupped her ear. “Hear it?” Dozens, if not hundreds, of birds were singing all at once, a symphony in full swing. I closed my eyes as I listened to the magic. “You can hear them, but you cannot see them, am I right or not?” The foliage was so dense and dark, it was impossible to see anything. “It must drive all the cats crazy,” I said. “Cats are crazy,” replied Jeya, and laughed at her own joke. “Every day the musical tree comes alive. Every day a free concert!” Two of Jeya’s classmates carrying schoolbags waved as they passed by. “I need to get my books,” said Jeya. “Remember, Saturday! An arm and a leg!” “Only an arm,” I reminded her. “Oh, yeah. An arm,” said Jeya, and scampered off to join her friends. The longer I sat under the tree listening to the birds, the lonelier I became…. Already I was missing Jeya’s company. A young Malay couple walked by holding hands. The boy said something to the girl and she boxed him on the arm. He grabbed his arm and feigned that he was in pain. Both of them laughed. She hit him again. They were young and in love, just starting out in life. In comparison, I felt old, not even thirty but
facing divorce. A Chinese derelict reeking of alcohol and urine sauntered over, uninvited. He sat down beside me and eyed the plastic bag containing some driftwood that I found. Expecting him to hit me up for money, I tried to ignore him. Why were children so giving, and adults, demanding? “You like the birdies?” He asked me and pointed up at the tree. “The birdies sing for themselves, you know. They sing ‘cause it makes them happy. If only people could sing without needing someone to hear them, they might be happy, too.” A black cat stirred. It paused in midstretch to look at me. The cat began to walk away. Again, it paused to look back at me as if to see if I was coming. I excused myself from the derelict and followed the cat. It seemed to know where it was going. For now, that was good enough for me.
Ragini hand karma wheel
ragini upadhayay grela I was born innocent in white colour as every child is born in one pure white colour. My journey started in a Nepali Brahman Hindu family; I was the fourth and last child of the family. I was brought up with many cousins in a large extended family in Terai. The colour of happiness was around me. Fortunately, my parents had faith in education, and I was sent to a Catholic school for my primary years. Later, I went to Allahabad (India) for further schooling, together with my two brothers and my sister. The first time my white innocent colour mixed with a dark brown colour was at the time of my first menstruation. My parents locked me in a dark room for a week. I had to sleep on the floor, away from my father, my brothers, male cousins, and my friends! My innocent mind could not comprehend this. What was wrong with my body? Why was everybody, my mother, my grandmother, my family unable to touch me? Why couldn’t I play with my friends? Why was I locked away, unlike my brothers? I had many questions for a girl of 12 who started to understand that life may not be easy for South Asian women! I was, in fact, one of the millions of victims of Chhaupadi Pari Pratha. This is a Hindu belief that women become impure during their menstruation and should observe many restrictions in their ordinary lives. They are even forced to sleep in the cow shed in many rural areas of Nepal. I showed talent for drawing and painting at a very early age, and I received several art awards at when I was in school. I remember that one my favourite teachers wrote in my diary, “Art should not be only for art’s sake, but it should be for life!” This line changed my life…. I observed it in most of my artistic realisations, where I include several socio-political subjects. This idea addresses the demands for justice for women, nature, ordinary folks, children …I often deal with wars, struggles, human pain and the quest for peace…..
Ragini flying wishes budda
My recent work, WHY I BECAME KALI expresses not only my own revolt but stands for the mothers and daughters. The goddess KALI is the form of Mother when she becomes angry, her tongue and eyes come out in angriness! She takes BLACK GRAY COLOR as KALI is also a symbol of DEATH in Hindu mythology. I became Kali because I observe the unending injustice suffered by women, because I see the Mother Earth crying, because I feel the rays of Sun becoming fire on my hand, because my dreamy clouds start to cry, because the peaceful moon falls from my hand, because my heart blood drops from my palate. I must carry the skulls of my dead love ones because GOD didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t make justice for me. This time my brushes became my tongue of KALI to fight on behalf of all the Mothers Women and Daughters of this earth! Despite the suffering, my life continues as well as my journey of colour.
Ragini justice for nature
Pain of connection
Why I became a Kali
Rope of Karma
Georges Georges Rhumerie French Restaurant
Georgesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Lane, Krong, Siem Reap, Cambodia m.me/frenchrestaurantsiemreap Call 096 861 7448 36
preema nazia andaleeb “A picture is worth a thousand words”
Preema as a “PREEMA DONNA” herself has a life that is full of adventures and experiences. Her personal and artistic journey has been always intertwined. Her journey is an aesthetic journal. Her life is a storyboard so the photo archive is an important aspect to understand the prolific Preema. From her childhood till now, she has been disruptive to conditioning. She is a non-conformist but her journey is very strategic. It’s emotional but it’s definitely a performance, as she believes. Artistic instinct is her instinct quality, vivacious nature is her strength to bear any pain and life to her is a constant process of learning and reflecting, even as an artist.
Preema is limitless, and she is fearless. The journey of aesthetics is not only of institutional training, rather experiences accumulated since childhood, meeting personas around the world, traveling rigorously, gathering knowledges from her experiences and always challenges herself of her own limits. Looking-atothers’ works and thereby coming up with newer visions every time added dimensions to the artistic self. Preema’s such mementos are briefly presented upon which she exists: a never-ending journey of discovering the self as an ever-growing artist.
I see life I
I see life II
I see life III
I see life IV
I see life V
Khmer proverb Nothing is as long as a longing heart. Nothing is as strong as surging flood. Nothing is as heavy as the weight of gratitude. Nothing is as hard as doing a job set by oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own wife.
Sojourn (Siem Reap)
(an extract by Martin Bradley) In 1296, Zhou Daguan left China and sailed to a country known by various names, such as Zhenla, Zhanla, Ganbozhi or Cambodia. I left Malaysia in 2012 to visit Cambodia for the first time. I was writing a book about what was to become the Cambodian charity Colors of Cambodia. Over eight years I have travelled backwards and forwards between Cambodia and Malaysia. This journal is the by product of a lengthier than usual stay in Cambodia. This is due to the rampaging pandemic Covid 19, which has shut down countries and has me effectively imprisoned within the Kingdom of Cambodia for four months, and counting. I am very lucky that I am able to stay with Colors of Cambodia, for so long. I give my heartiest thanks to the Founder Bill Gentry, Director Phany....staff and students who ease my anxieties about being away from home for so long. I also give my thanks to others in Cambodia who have been very kind and supportive. Special thanks goes out to Fevrier Sebastien, at Georges French Creole restaurant in Siem Reap. He will know why. To quote Dylan Thomas (as I am wont to do) â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;To begin at the beginningâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;.....
It is the sixteenth of March, 2020, and we are due to board AirAsia Flight AK 540 at 12.45pm.I’m in seat 19B So far all smiles, at least I think so. It’s difficult to tell under the blue masks. A thought concerning Jain Dharma (and ascetics of the Śvētāmbara tradition) runs scampering through my sleepy brain. Perhaps, in a more social distancing future, we shall all wear filtering masks, but maybe not in the face mask banning France. Presenting my, minimal, bags at the x-ray scanning conveyor I feel a little guilty not wearing a belt in my trousers. Scanning officials inevitably ask to see a belt, and I have to disappoint them. My Marks and Spenser baggy cotton trousers need no belt, only a cord with a haphazardly tied knot. It is such a shame. Perhaps on my next trip I shall wear a belt to please the officials, let them show me where I should place it. Kuala Lumpur International Airport dua (2) appears no less busy amidst the presenting Covid 19 pandemic. I’m not quite sure just what I expected, empty spaces, people cowering, shying away from contact. I notice no bell ringing, no ‘Bring out your dead’, and no hook-beaked Charles de Lorme plague masks on black clad doom bearers. There’s none of that. Business, it seems, is as usual at KL airport. Siem Reap, on the other hand, is sanitiser mad. My host, Phany Phanin Futago, the Khmer Director of the charity Colors of Cambodia, leapt to douse me with misting fluid. “Everyone must be spray,” she said. I was busy cleaning my glasses at the time. She tells me that tourism is down in the town. And, in a place that relies on tourism to survive, this is very difficult for the locals. Mine host indicated that small businesses would find it hard to survive without tourists from North America, Japan and Europe especially, for those countries are the countries whose tourists are temporarily banned from visiting Cambodia. I am to be housed on the third floor of Colors of Cambodia. A room made ready to accept people on a ‘residency’, or important guests giving workshops over a period of time. On arrival I sling my small rucksack into the room and, crippled with pangs of hunger, walk
to the street running parallel. Over lunch in The Hideout (Barista and Lounge), on Central Market Street and just past Coconut Alley, I overhear one ‘journo’ reporting in. He is questioning the low number of reported cases of the sia. I was so concerned about what is happening here in Cambodia, my settling in, getting used to the new room and its little quirks, its sudden noises, the fact that its window opens up onto another room, not to the outside, that I had forgotten all about Malaysia in this time of the latest Corona Virus. Well, the big news is........
I am informed that Malaysia will be on lockdown from the 18th to the 31st of March. My flight back to Malaysia is on the 20th, or rather won’t be. Why do I get the sudden urge to listen to something by Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour, and read Daniel Defoe? It is as if Malaysia was just waiting for me to leave. With a little wave and a great big smirk, some large gentleman dressed in some sort of officious uniform firmly closes the gate to Malaysia and gives me the digitus impudicus (middle finger). ‘See ya around sucker, but not today ha, ha.’ Well, thanks a bunch mate. Coincidently today is my father’s birthday. He would have been 101 born, as he was, in 1919. Unlikely isn’t it.
I am still reeling from the Malaysian news. That ‘lockdown’ has dire consequences for most in Malaysia. We talk about the raiding of shops, hoarding of essentials, and non-essentials, enforced seclusion and non-participation in mass gatherings, including Friday Prayers and Sunday Masses. However, for some of us, those of us who have no permanent place in Malaysia, it makes us reflect on little things like status, belonging, otherness. Some say that Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79) originated the phrase ‘home is where the heart is.’ My heart is in Malaysia. I feel for Malaysia and Malaysians regardless of race, religion, politics, gender or sexual orientations. Yet I am other to them, foreigner, an orang asing. To some I am forever ‘Mat Salleh’, ‘Orang Puteh’ or Laowai/ Gwai Lo, stuck in a perpetual otherness because of my place of birth and the colour of my skin. These things I cannot help. There is
difference between us, constantly stirred by a history that I had no part in. My enforced absence, my extended vacation in the beautiful land of Cambodia/Camboge is not really a hardship, merely an inconvenience. My, now distant, wife (via Facebook PM) has suggested that I.... ‘Take it as a holiday/retreat Practice meditation Do more writing’ That I ‘Hardly got the chance to rest so long, take the opportunity to do some things different.’
‘Does this person even know me?’ I silently scream. And yes, said spouse has been reading Jack Canfield’s anthology series ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ recently. You can tell, can’t you? Since the perceived urgency of this crowned Covid 19 virus has bitten in the psyche of many nations, demarcation lines and the concept of ‘Othering’ have been reinforced. I and Other, Us and Them, In-group and Out-group are emphasised by urge for social distancing. Quarantine for those who belong, banning for those who do not. Some outwardly proclaim foreigners to be ‘filthy’, not at all like us. Erving Goffman would have had a field day considering all the ‘Stigma’ involved. Even in the times of virulent viruses there must be breakfast.
Two beautiful Khmer young women (twins Phany and Phanin) stop by this morning with Sita our unofficial Tuk Tuk driver. They escort me to breakfast. Our destination is Bangkok Boat Noodle, along Wat Polanka Road. It is a tiny eatery about fifteen minutes from Colors of Cambodia, and through the dusty and warming Siem Reap streets. According to the twins the concept of ‘Boat Noodles’ or guay diow rua, hails from Thailand, and specifically the Bangkok canals. I have mine with sen lek, which is rice noodles, beef balls and a variety of fresh local leaves including ‘Saw Leaf’ and ‘Thai Basil’. The meat is thinly sliced beef, and the soup diluted cows blood. I ask
‘not pig’s blood’, but no, ‘to be real should cow’s blood’ I am told. It is later. I sit, looking out the upstairs window onto the world, I cannot help but reflect on these superficial distances we put between us, now being officially told to isolate, distance because of potential infection, passing one to another. If only mankind could spread love so easily. Well, that all got very serious very quickly.
I’m conscious that I am choosing eateries where I am distant from other customers. I’ve never liked groups of people; so keeping away from others is not one of my problems. I’m back at The Hideout, diligently spraying my hands with the sanitiser left outside. I order the house lok lak because now I’m on a much smaller budget than I was yesterday. Today is a whole different world that has lengthened my stay in Cambodia. Tea. I finally have Lipton’s tea. I love coffee, and I do like water but I am British. British equals tea. Do ask Ben Miller’s British Detective character (Richard Poole) in season one of TV’s ‘Death in Paradise’, he’ll tell you. Okay, yes, this tea does come with a minute stainless steel jug containing condensed milk, and another similar jug filled with sugar syrup (don’t ask). Not to be deterred, I once more brave the Khmer gentleman with his temperature gun and am given the okay to enter Thai Huot Market again. I dash for Lipton’s tea bags, buy Hale’s (fast dissolving) sugar cubes, more water and cheap ceramic mug. Phany provides a kettle. I have already bought volle melk (Dutch milk), and am all set for a self service ‘cuppa’. When I lived in Britain, I had no idea that the Dutch supplied milk to Asia. This evening I disappear to Mamma Shop (Italian restaurant) for the second evening, for dinner. Last evening I had a four-cheese (quattro formaggi) pizza, which was most excellent. So, this evening, I try Ravioli di peche pomadoro e panna with a glass of Rosé and Tiramisu for dessert. Yes, yes, yes I am supposed to be on a budget, and I have overspent for today, but the truth is that all the budget meals are open during the day. Not at night. To buy the ingredients for a sandwich or two would cost as much as having an evening meal out. Okay, okay, yes I am trying to justify the unjustifiable. Today is
excessive, true. However, there is soupçon of self pity in this meal, a tad comfort eating/drinking to gloss over my situation, and the situation of many, many, people are in right now. The glass of Rosé helped me gloss over a moment of self-indulgent loneliness. Through the half lit streets I walk back to Colors of Cambodia. The twins, with Kosal Son, are having a party. I am delighted to hear the tender strains of traditional Khmer instruments being played, observe fried grasshoppers being taken like another culture might absent-mindedly devour peanuts, or cashew nuts ... I try a grasshopper or two, to be polite. They taste nutty, but a tad too dry for my throat. While here in Siem Reap, staying above the gallery of Colors of Cambodia, on the third of four floors, I am constantly reminded that this charity does not stop at just offering an art education, but extends itself to envelop Khmer creativity per se. Because of the loss of so much cultural learning during the time of the massacres by the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979), it has been left to this new generation of Khmers to re-capture Cambodia’s traditional ways. Twins Phany and Phanin work towards a regeneration of Khmer culture not just through teaching, but creating their own art works, playing tradition instruments as well as practising Bokator (a Cambodian martial art). These young Khmer simultaneously struggle to move forward with the rest of South East Asia, towards an un-designated point between ‘Modern’ and ‘Contemporary’ art. A color of Cambodia’s Director Phany avidly promotes knowledge concerning Cambodia’s artistic past. She teaches her young students to appreciate art and music dating back to the early days of the Khmer Empire, back to Kambujadesa, and to the 9th through to the 13th centuries. Phany uses a book of Khmer line designs found on surfaces and architecture from Hindu and Buddhist carved bas reliefs across Cambodia, many from the remains of the ancient Khmer city of Angkor (from the Sanskrit word ‘nagara’, or holy city) standing some 5.6 kilometres from Siem Reap town, and the Colors of Cambodia art school/gallery. In Phany’s book (Kbach, A study of Khmer ornament, with line drawings by Chan Vitharin, and published by Reyun Publishing, in 2005) are drawings of Angels, Apsaras, Asuras (demons) and Devas (gods) as well as intricate graphic designs representing all aspects
of the natural world (as carved at the five peaked temple which itself represents the five mountain ranges of the mythical home of the ‘gods’ at Mount Meru). Khmer tradition and the contemporary world become intermingled in the works of art spilling out from Colors of Cambodia’s doors. Bill Gentry’s founding of the Siem Reap art school, the initial tutelage by artists from Batambang’s free Phare Ponleu Selpak school of art and circus skills, the coming and guidance of Malaysian artist Honey Khor and the current direction by Director Phany, have led to the fragrant blossoming of this Khmer school of art and a maturation of its students.
My Khmer (surrogate) daughters have once more taken me for breakfast. This time to Phô Amap, along Street Taphul, Phoum, Taphul Road, Khet in Siem Reap, for Vietnamese Noodle Soup. I confess to not being a great fan of Asian breakfast soup noodle, albeit Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Malaysian etc, etc, etc. I find soup noodle unsubstantial, not at all like breakfasts from the Indian subcontinent or, indeed, from Europe. These contemporary virus (plague) days find us treading careful down unknown paths, where once we might have run, care free. Did I make that up or have I remembered this from something I read.
I guiltily sit and begin my second (self indulgent) ‘Flat White’ at Sister Srey Cafe. I have my wife’s (imaginary) voice, somewhat like a midnight mosquito, in the back of my head, telling me to be more frugal. On the other hand, if this is ‘the end, beautiful friend, the end’ as Jim Morrison (The Doors) sang, then I want to see my end jacked up with ‘Flat White) coffee leaking into my system, sparking my brain and enabling me to see the end, when it comes, with greater clarity. Would it be too much to also quote another Jim, this time Jimi Hendrix...’I’m the one that’s got to die when it’s time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want to.’ But, of course, I hope that will be some years hence. There again, who would have thought that a pandemic virus would close down countries, stranding some of us for weeks? I hope that it is only weeks. Meanwhile....
There is less ‘Tuk Tuk sir’ as I pass, and those drivers who comment seem a little half hearted. Sita, my Tuk Tuk driver friend, only made two dollars yesterday, he tells me. This is going to be a difficult time for small businesses and those who are self employed. Mind you, in many places people are being asked to take unpaid leave, just to rub their noses in their poverty. In Siem Reap, white foreigners still clog up the cafés, same as, but there is a quiet on the streets. Everything, and most people, seems a tad subdued, as if waiting... I don’t drink beer. But here I am at Siem Reap’s Jungle Burger Sports Bar, drinking cold draught beer. It’s free, and comes with the meal ((Fush and Chups.... another thing I don’t really do, eat fish and chips, unless it’s here. And I am.) Light my Fire, by The Doors, is playing, right after Creedence Clearwater Revival. I feel at home already. Clayton Venis has created a little slice of perfection here at Jungle Burger. The food is great, affordable, and comes with a free beer. The music at Jungle Burger is generally, good too. I visit every trip to Siem Reap. It’s a small mercy in these harrowing times.
Before embarking upon my, what should have been a short, trip, I had been reading up on the American writer Henry Miller. I was trying to get some idea of Paris in the 1930s, for the little piece I am attempting about Amrita Sher-Gil and her time there. I included in my reading Miller’s ‘Tropic of Cancer’, set in Paris of the 1920s and 30s. Now, in my fourth day of exile from the home I have made in Malaysia, I think about my lack of sex. I’m not sure if this is a result of missing my dear wife, Henry Miller’s influence, or of the sheer comeliness of the average Khmer female, or possibly all three. A person talking about ‘Sports Bras’ (on Facebook) does not help when seeing images of half naked Apsaras everywhere. Mr Miller, if you haven’t read his works, can be quite graphic about his thoughts on, and experiences of sex. I’ve never been able to write that way. Is this due to a lack of experience, the lack of ability, or simply not wanting to betray those who have entrusted their bodies to me for a short while? I cannot say. Besides, right now, I really cannot bear pondering on the unavailable. Of course, my
other half would have some glib comeback gleaned from her current readings on Thích Nhất Hạnh‘s Buddhism, pop psychology or from the enormously popular self- help book ‘The Secret’ (Rhonda Byrne, 2006) which she was reading when we first met. My problem, if you call it a problem, of not wishing to indulge in onanism (look it up), but preferring the company of an emotional as well as a physical closeness, occasionally weighs a tad heavy. I think about making love, that Tantric bliss, that ‘weaving and expansion of energy’ from a couple blending into a singularity, with true intimacy in its unique form and sigh, quite a heavy sign. In this mid-age period, of what Jung called Individuation, the memories of feeling are still there, with greater thought I could conjure, and become overwhelmed by them. Instead, I mentally change the subject. My two guardian angels have taken me to a Khmer restaurant (Try Me) this evening. The (beef) steak is soft and juicy, topped off with a delightful green pepper sauce. The local salad is also very good. Business is not so good however. I understand that the management would save more money by closing, rather than staying open for just a few customers. On the surface, all seems well in Siem Reap, but scratch that surface and life is not so easy at this moment in time.
This morning I was due to fly out from Cambodia at 8.30 am. The situation in Malaysia, right now, with a Movement Control Order and ‘foreigners’ banned from entry, prohibits this from happening. Therefore the airline I was booked to fly back on (AirAsia) has cancelled my flight, and has given me a future flight for free. It was to be expected. Once Malaysia went on this partial lockdown to prevent Malaysians travelling and banning foreigners entry from the 18th to the 31st of March my fate was sealed. Hmmmm. 8am, and before we leave for breakfast, Phanin gives offerings of youtiao (Chinese deep fried dough which in Malaysia are called Char Kway) to the various spirits (Buddha and other ‘god’ statues included) here in the Colors of Cambodia gallery. These offerings are a custom found in various Asian cultures, including Cambodian and Thailand. Phany explains that this is part of her family tradition. They are a family whose members, over decades, has comprised of
Thai, Chinese and Khmer backgrounds. These offerings to spirits and related beings occur on a much larger scale during the 15-day Pchum Ben religious festival, but many families, like that of my temporary guardian angels Phany and Phanin, observe this as a daily practice. A touch of ennui wafts over me, post-breakfast. While outside, in the new virus dominated world, newly awoken dragons and blind bald eagles tussle for world domination. Today I am tired. Psychological or physiological I’m not too sure, maybe both. It is a day of rest. Is this why I bristle a little when some random white chap, sitting outside a cafe where I am walking, looks me up and down and, as I pass, looks at me with a smirk on his lips and says ’Shalom’. I give him the death-ray eye. and say nothing. Even if my black hat, round glasses and raggedy beard did give that individual the merest of impressions that I might possibly be Jewish, which I am not (not as though that matters), he could have just registered that fact, and kept schtum. Having tucked my two evening music albums of Quicksilver Messenger Service away. My problem is that I have to forage for food three times a day. Lunch was the usual at The Hideout, the special whatever it is. The yearn for an evening meal has dragged me, once more, to Jungle Burger, this time for a Mac & Cheese for a change. The man who really doesn’t drink beer is having his second beer in four days. And then ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’, by ‘Yes’, comes on and brings a small smile to my warm, previously pensive, face. That, and a conversation crammed with nostalgia that I had with Clayton.......... shhhhhhhh. Private.
Cambodia on Twenty Dollars a Day.
It is a Saturday though, to be honest, every day seems to be the same. To break a pattern, I’ve walked through small lanes which have lead me from Colors of Cambodia (opposite the Angkor Hospital for Children, established 1999), round the back of the Preah Promreath Pagoda (AD 1371), through more narrow lanes, across the infamous Pub Street, to Nai (traditional Khmer food restaurant) at the back of
the old market in Siem Reap. Nine thirty and I am the only one at breakfast. I’ve been coming here for eight years because the Khmer food is tasty and reasonable on the pocket. Today I have two sunny-side eggs, bacon, toast and two (minute) cups of coffee, Italian style. But I break with the Italian tradition of black espresso, and ask for condensed milk with the coffee. Well, when in Cambodia, do as the Cambodians would do. As my stay here may be prolonged past two weeks, I now have to consider more careful budgeting. I was quite happy to spend $30, or thereabouts, for three meals per day, and eating in the mid-range Western style restaurants. Now, if my stay is to be more extended, I serious need to consider a more realistic food budget. From $30 it should, more realistically, be $20 per day. That is, roughly, $6 per meal. Hence eating at Nai. That, of course, does not really allow for extras, like buying water and milk for my Lipton’s Tea. Looking out at the brightness of the mounting heat, still Street 09 is crowded with tuk tuks, motorcycles, cycles, scooters and humanity servicing, or being serviced by, Phsar Chas (the Old Market). On the street opposite Nai, a Khmer lady wearing a mid green polo shirt and matching trousers tilts her white floppy hat as she attempts to make a living selling sugar cane juice. The juice is dispensed from a blue metal trailer replete with cane crusher and big orange icebox (presumably to preserve previously crushed cane). In a fiscally cavalier manner, and still being thirsty, I order a mixed fruit shake. The bill for the meal, two coffees and one fruit shake, came to $6. Shopping - 1.5 l of water and 1.2 l of milk came to $5 equals $11. I’ll skip lunch seeing as it’s 11.40 am already. I shower, rest and recharge both my Tablet and Phone. Lunch is not skipped but consists of previously bought bananas ($1 for a small hand) and a mug of Lipton’s Tea, which sustains me until 8pm when I decide to re-visit Mama Shop, (the nearest Italian restaurant). I am over the day’s budget (by one dollar) because I just had to have a glass of Rosé with my very impressive pizza.
It’s Sunday. My guardian angels are away for a couple of days.
Walking over to The Hideout I take a circuitous route, past the Angkor Hospital for Children, to the end of the road, turn left and left again then walk towards breakfast. I notice, that added to the general Siem Reap street debris, cigarette packets and cigarette ends et al, there is a multitude of discarded paper masks. It seems that this is a symbol of the current age. Budgeting continues to be troublesome. You will remember that I have allotted $20 to each day. But with breakfast (two slices of small toast, two rashers of streaky bacon, two sunny side eggs, what passes for a sausage in many parts of Asia, a very small tomato cut in half and cooked, and a small pot of Thai tea) $6.50 (it comes with a very small, practically minute, stainless steel jug of condensed milk which is actually probably creamer), and simple shopping (bottled water, juice carton containing carrot and mixed fruit, tissues, air freshener - because it’s a small room with no outside window, two cans of Schweppes Tonic Water because I am off Coca Cola just now and finally came to the conclusion that in drinking Gin and Tonic, it was the tonic I liked) coming to $7.20, it only leaves $6.30 for lunch and dinner. Again I forgo lunch in favour of a descent dinner. It’s a damn good job that I no longer take tuk tuks, am not attached to alcohol, do not frequent prostitutes or smoke, otherwise........ A thought.
For some, and I being one, there always a tussle between how you are loved and how you want to be loved. Many are lucky, and seem to very quickly reconcile the two, while others continue to struggle. Perhaps it’s a glass half full, or a glass half empty. Maybe it’s all a matter of perception or understanding. Some people love to be cuddled, and others think that a cuddle is merely a prelude to the real thing - fornication. There are those who need reminding of being loved, while others hold the other in their heart, but not in their mind. It’s Mars and Venus, cats and dogs, emotional intelligence, but it’s also nature and nurture. You will of course know that we are Primarily Socialised, that is learn from an early age in our families. We learn the rules, the culture of our families long before we step into the outside world.
Some families give obvious displays of affection, cuddling being one, kissing hello and goodbye another. In other families obvious displays of affection are very much frowned upon. It is difficult to reconcile the two approaches. Unlearning takes a lot longer as it is much more difficult than learning. While one partner glances at Facebook’s Private Messaging app. for news of the other, or simply a warm hello. Another does not. Like a cat frequently shooed from a lap, one will wonder what they had done, or not done. The other will not have that thought at all. Talking it through might help but, frequently, cultural habits developed over several decades are difficult to break, even if there is a will to do so. End of sermon.
This morning Kosal Son and Narak, two of Colors of Cambodia’s most diligent students are in the gallery. It’s not an early morning for them, but a late night, they explain. Oh what it us to be young and full of energy. Presently I am back at Nai for breakfast. The morning walk through Siem Reap’s alleys has set me up for a cooked breakfast, something I rarely have at home. It’s still very quiet here. Does this unexpected sojourn in Siem Reap, Cambodia, concede to Poe’s writing....‘is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?’ (Edgar Allan Poe, 1849). Admittedly, there were times in my younger life when, due to LSD, I would have been unable to know the difference. Those days passed half a century ago, and yet the strangeness of life is constantly reinforced. These are not ‘acid flashbacks’, or yet psychological absences but an acknowledgement of being very tangibly other, Heinlein’s ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’, maybe or an unanchored selfhood, or dare I say glimpses into an alternate reality, a ‘Sur’ reality as promoted by André Breton and the Surrealists. 19.26 Back to Nai for curry fish and a fifty cent beer. Here is practically devoid of tourists. Maybe it’s early. There are only two other people eating, and we are well spaced apart. It’s warm here. Not as humid as Malaysia. For the second time I see a
customer light his cigarette in this restaurant. One was last night, and another tonight. There is a ban on smoking in restaurants in Cambodia, some people simply ignore it, ignorant of their effect on others. Back to pondering our strangeness to each other. As suggested by my absent significant other, I bough cornflakes for breakfast tomorrow. Earlier I bought another $1 hand of small bananas. Whoohoo today’s total expenditure $10.50
I have walked, under the morning sun, down to, and crossed, the Steung Siem Reap (or Siem Reap river). I’ve walked by the dusty riverside with the still river a carpet of green, not yet troubled by three wheeled vehicles and their drivers.
An aside. The days of the ‘traditional’ small engined motorcycle pulling a two wheeled, four person, carriage (a remorque or tuk tuk as they are more commonly called), seem to be nearing their end. Those handy vehicles are slowly being replaced by smaller, two passenger vehicles, like the Indian Bajaj Maxima, Vipar RE205 or the Italian Piaggio Ape. I’ve turned up 7 Makara Street and walked a short way along Wat Bo Road to Wat Damnak Pagoda. It is the largest pagoda in Siem Reap, and had been the Siem Reap Royal Palace for King Sisowath (1904 to 1927). His official residence being in Phnom Penh. Wat Damnak houses that charitable charity - Life and Hope Association, which has been responsible for building numerous houses for Khmer poor, in and around Siem Reap, as well as numerous other kind works, since 2005. Wat Damnak also has the Centre for Khmer Studies, and a library for the study of Khmer culture. I am seated on a concrete terrazzo bench, outside the charity Life and Hope, under small leafed trees. I am dripping with sweat. This is a tad unfortunate, as I only have one clean shirt left. The rest are in the wash. I came to the Pagoda for peace and quiet. It is a pity that peace and quiet doesn’t come with air-conditioning. I am just
too hot. I drip onto my, now quite ancient, but nevertheless still convenient, iPad Air. I get up, walk around the gardens and take a circuitous route back towards Colors of Cambodia.
Overcome by the dual need for a decent coffee (I only have 3-in1 back in my room) and air-con, I have nipped (or rather trudge, as nipping just seems too energetic after my walk), into Caffa Coffeemaker, and now sit in air-con and start to chill. I say start, because no sooner have I started to relax than an obviously tone deaf individual has begun to sing along with the Khmer song being played. Though the song seemed to be a lilting romance, the voice accompaniment was more of a Khmer Banshee wail. My brain has gone all Popeye....’I can stands so much, but I can’t stands no more’ because this Karaoke is certainly not okay with me. I get up and walk next door to Thai Huot Market, to reconnoitre prices for tomorrow’s cooking. spent Coffee $1.50, $1.30 on paring knife, water .45, nail clipper . 90, Sushi $6 equals $10.15 today.
Today I eat breakfast of Kellogg’s Cornflakes with milk and two sugar cubes, in my room, instead of roaming the streets. The cubed sugar was a mistake, I admit. But I bought it as it is so easy to add to tea or coffee. Not so handy on cornflakes, however, with practice I have devised a method of melting those cubes. When I discovered that the sugar cubes were difficult to crush, I decided to put them on top of the cornflakes in the Dong Jin white bowl that I found in the room. Then I squeeze the 200ml tetra pack of Australian (Cowhead pure) milk onto each of the cubes. It is enough for them to dissolve. After breakfast I gather herbs and spices from Thai Huot Market, totalling $14.95. With the pork and paying for my washing ($2) today I have spent $21.95. I am cooking lunch for those at Colors of Cambodia. I wanted to let them try Pork Adobo, a dish from the Philippines. Some say that Adobo, as a style of cooking, is ancient, and has been adapted of the years from a vinegar and salt dish to being a soya sauce and white vinegar dish. That combination not only gives flavour, but is also a preservative.
Filipino vinegar is wonderful, but sadly I cannot get it in Siem Reap, nor annatto seeds for colour. Instead I add whole garlic, dried chilli, bay leaves, star anise, whole black peppers and sugar to the pot (to offset the vinegar and soya sauce), and let the whole thing simmer and reduce for about 2 hours, to become thick. This we shall have with rice. Thank you Phany for helping me buy the pork which looks very fresh. If I bought it, I would pay skin tax ($7per kilo in supermarket, $5 per kilo at the Old Market). I am sitting in the Colors of Cambodia gallery, waiting to attend to the pork, and looking out through the thick glass doors. I see a woman wrapped in clothes that perhaps were once colourful, but now look as they need a good wash. Momentarily she looks as if she is just passing by, but stops. Quickly she bends down, and scoops up the Char Kway (meant for the spirits) and eats it quickly. This is followed by her drinking the liquid also meant for the spirits then, before I could really register what is happening, she is on her way. She moved deftly, as though she were an eddy of wind swirling on the pavement. Perhaps she is a spirit. Perhaps all street people are really spirits. I am relishing my time, in fact my first time, cooking in Siem Reap. Finally I feel useful again. Cooking for other people not only acts as a form of meditation, but also connects us together. It is a form of DÄ na (Pali language) of giving (freely, with no expectation), of giving back to society/mankind in a small, but meaningful, way. The dish is cooked. Phany too has cooked, rice in the rice cooker, and prepared chicken and vegetables too. As Phany has fetched her sister, we sit down, a group of five, to eat. The whole thing is a most satisfying experience. A Colors of Cambodia family, in my mind there is a call for John Boy.?
Today is a bit up and down.
I awoke, gradually, at 6am, for no good reason except for a brain alarm, I guess. The day itself was struggling to get light, with branch and leaf shadows dancing Lakhaon Nang Sbek (Khmer shadow play)
silhouettes on my room curtains. Although the room here on the third floor of Colors of Cambodia does have a window, there is a whole other room, and another (balcony) window between it and the outside world. It is if I am in Plato’s ‘Cave’ (Republic) with its representations of things. It is quiet here at Common Grounds. With my cornflakes finished yesterday, I have had to seek breakfast outside. Social distancing is made easier here due to the lack of customers. Four people, myself included, have occupied tables each in one corner of the room. I don’t think that this is conscious, more like a natural reticence, at least mine is. Intermittently, my mind drifts to Spain, to Catalonia and dear friends, some departed, whom I have not seen for a long time. I also recall the Spanish Civil War (Jul 17, 1936 – Apr 1, 1939), Orwell and Hemingway writing under fire. Okay, so I’m not a famous international journalist, not a journalist at all really, just a humble writer. Blogger perhaps. No, it’s this pandemic virus that has us thinking this way or, should I say, its constant promotion over the social media making us all believe that we are all heroes in this contagion war. We most assuredly are not. Just humble humanity waiting for difficult days to pass, as they assuredly will. Many believe that patience is “the most beautiful but most difficult garment that one can wear.” There is the thought of impermanence, called Anicca (in Pāli) or Anitya (in Sanskrit), that nothing is forever. China too, in Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching (verse 5), reminds us that nothing is forever....
‘Heaven and Earth have no permanence A man may choose one over another but to Heaven and Earth all are the same The high, the low, the great, the small – all are given light all get a place to rest.’ If nothing is permanent, then why do we hold onto things (materialism, consumerism, people) in the hope of personal salvation, possibly out of not being able to let go, through a perceived psychological need (John Bowlby, Attachment Theory, also the Object Relations theory of Melanie Klein). Letting go is
quite possibly the most difficult of things to do, but also the most necessary in this ever changing multi-verse. Forever Shiva destroys only to constantly recreate. The stress of my situation is beginning to show. You know, there is a point in every holiday when the realisation comes that you would rather be at home. As nice as Cambodia, Siem Reap, the twins and Colors of Cambodia are, it’s just not home. Yes, I do appreciate that many others have it much, much worse, and that I am well off in comparison to a lot of people, but all my understanding of Dhamma, Kamma and Annica is all very cerebral, obviously not internalised otherwise I would simply shrug and sing ‘all things must pass’, and mean it. It took me years to settle in Malaysia. I battled frequent bouts of homesickness and the yearn simply to return to England and all things familiar. That was even though there were many familiar things that I just wanted to get away from. The weather being one. But I stuck it out because the gains were so much more in Malaysia, than the losses. That was my choice. This current situation has been thrust upon me, and I am beginning to flounder. To some degree I know that I am experiencing, albeit in a mild form, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s ‘Five stages of grief’ (DABDA or Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance). The stages are not consistent, but jump around all over the place and vary in their power to disrupt. Buddhists might talk about ‘Dukkha’, or ‘suffering’, ‘anxiety’ ‘stress’, or ‘unsatisfactoriness’. I took the following from the online encyclopaediaofbuddhism.org Dukkha is commonly explained according to three different categories:
‘The obvious physical and mental suffering associated with birth, growing old, illness and dying. The anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing. A basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of existence, because all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance.
The Buddhist tradition emphasises the importance of developing insight into the nature of dukkha, the conditions that cause it, and how it can be overcome. This process is formulated in the teachings on the Four Noble Truths.’ From suffering, eventually, comes salvation so, okay universe, I’m done with the suffering part, can I just skip onto salvation, pretty please with knobs on. Meanwhile it’s watermelon for dinner ($1), as I don’t have enough cash left (out of the daily $20) after a too expensive breakfast ($8.50) and a lunch which cost more than I had anticipated ($5.50) because I was too lazy to walk further afield for something cheaper. I really cannot over spend again, today.
This morning, Siem Reap is like a ghost town. Eateries are closing.
I escape from my pleasant prison, kneel to lock the glass door, then walk through three alleyways, around the back of the nearest pagoda and to the Old Market. There I find that Nai, my usual cheap eatery, is closed. Opposite, I notice that all the eateries on that road are closed, all except the authentic Khmer eatery, which I dare not try due to a potential upset stomach. I walk back, sweating due to the exertion and to the heat. I am back at The Hideout, which is not cheap, but now nothing is. I am having the American Breakfast, which includes pancakes, American style not British or yet French, small, fluffy pancakes which come with a minute knob of butter and some viscose fluid which is neither maple syrup nor honey, but sweet nevertheless. These are accompanied by slightly salty bacon which, thankfully, has not been overcooked and two (quite passable) sunny-side eggs. Of course it’s not filling. And the small amount of coffee I have been presented with seems stewed. A great way to start the day. I am being ironic. I think tomorrow I need to buy some eggs, cook eggs every morning, just like I had in Dhaka, only here I will have to cook them myself, have no beautiful soft chapatis either, and wash up after myself. A question. Why is it that Indian restaurants in Siem Reap don’t want to serve breakfast food, like idly and dosa, at breakfast time. Mostly they open at 10am, and then wonder why they don’t get
customers. Today is challenging, frustrating, stressful and whole lot more adjectives and a few expletives too. I am attempting a piece of work which includes five young adults, one ageing Mac computer, one app. that I am not familiar with (Discord), and another app. which I am becoming more familiar with - WhatsApp. This evening started off full of hope. ‘Yeah, I got this’ I say to noone in particular, punching the air as I do so, and very careful not to brain myself on a white (barely distinguishable from the ceiling) low hanging concrete beam. I have a run-through with my project manager, and all seems well. But now, it seems, that it isn’t. One by one, the little faces come up on the project board in ‘Discord’. I should have known that there might be a very good reason that a) the app. was free, and b) that it should have that name. Up they pop, smiling, hopeful young faces. Then they freeze. The audio book which I had arranged to play, could not be heard. My young audience stared out from the screen like zombies oblivious to my instructions. No matter how I try to interact with them, nothing happens. We try, and try for more time than I would otherwise have wished to spend on such an endeavour. Nothing happens. Luckily my audience cannot hear my Anglo Saxon language, otherwise it would be project over. Luckily, we had previously been interacting on WhatsApp., which is good but limiting. So now I have transferred the ‘class’ over to WhatsApp. We can text, we can even leave short burst audio messages, jpeg images to, and that is our work round. Tomorrow I hope that we can continue. Today’s spend Breakfast $6.50; Shopping (bread, butter, cheese slices and tomatoes) $8.05 = $14.55.
The Times They Are a-Changin, sang Mr Robert Zinnerman (Bob Dylan) in 1964, and they are...... Breakfast (banana sandwich and Super 3 in 1 coffee, with brown sugar) at Colors of Cambodia today. I just couldn’t afford yesterday’s disappointment yet again. Speaking of disappointment. I have set up the small, ancient, Mac computer to research for material for this evening’s continuation of
the project. The mouse that I used yesterday is missing. I have just searched high and low, but cannot find that mouse. Argh. Okay, no problem really. I walk a few metres and, lo and behold, there is a computer shop. ‘Help you?’ ‘Yes, computer mouse. Cheap mouse for computer.’ The young gentleman’s smile quickly disappears. I read his mind - huh another cheapskate! The vague vestiges of that smile disappear altogether when I start haggling the price. I can’t help it, it’s automatic. I’ve lived within the Chinese community in Malaysia for too long, something’s bound to rub off. And the original price, $3. I paid $2. I’ll be barred from that shop I think. To quote ‘The Bard’, ‘all’s well that ends well’. And it has. Two hours and that work is complete, wahoo. My dear guardian angel Phany brings me sustenance (Pork kebab [satay], rice and a small bowl of very hot and very sweet sauce), just as I am finishing. I was going to just have a processed cheese square sandwich, but this young lady (early thirties) really is a khmer angel.
I am tired this morning. It’s yet another day that I wake up not having been turned into a cockroach, or yet having been a cockroach, wake up as being human. I usually am tired on a Sunday, after Friday and Saturday ‘project’ meetings. I turn off the hard working air-conditioner. Within minutes I turn it back on again. There is no fan, and no room for a fan, in this room without a fan. Once more I eat banana (commonly known as chek here) sandwich and drink Nescafe (Red, whatever that means) instant coffee, for a lazy breakfast, and still not showered at 10am. I sound like a teen student, which I am most assuredly not, well not teen, not by half a century, but student, perhaps, now and forever. Yesterday, after reading a ‘call for submissions’ for a 6,000 word story, closing date May, I was very excited, even wrote out a beginning sentence. Today it seems like an unnecessary slog. Honestly, to rush to write 6,000 words which may or may not be published, and if they are published bring in no remuneration, seems somewhat of a foolhardy endeavour. I love writing, true. I write this diary for free, true. I continue to write for little financial
reward, also true. But do I need to also write the 6,000 short story words as well. That remains to be seen. As I have said. I am tired today. My brain drags today. More water perhaps, or a ‘nice cuppa tea’. I walk through (mostly) deserted streets to Jungle Burger for lunch, and just to get out of my room. I shall be eternally grateful for the loan of that room at Colors of Cambodia. Being there has helped me write, and learn more about the students and how the charity runs on a daily basis. Sadly, that life saving room, day by day begins to get smaller. This, of course, makes me even more grateful for the room that I have in Malaysia. I have been in Siem Reap now for 14 days. Over that time, the streets have been getting increasingly quieter too. Sitting drinking, yes beer again (it’s free) and Jungle Burger is empty except for me, even the music is muted. I saw few people on the walk over, little traffic too. Is this because it is Sunday, or is this because of Covid 19? I have been lead to understand that many non-essential businesses, like bars, pubs and karaoke places are being closed in Phnom Penh (once called The City of the Brahma’s Faces), with workers returning to the villages from which they had come, penniless. Siem Reap too has felt the brunt, not so much of the virus, but how that virus discourages people from mingling, especially eating out, one of the main industries of the fun loving Pub Street and its surrounds. I also learn, from the Phnom Penh Post, that there are two extra cases of the Covid 19 virus in Siem Reap bringing the total now to 98 in Cambodia. I worry when I hear students coughing downstairs. Ah well, Kamma (Kharma). Today’s spend is $7 at Jungle Burger, and $6.20 for orange juice, water, tonic water, digestive biscuits and soap Equals = $13.20
There is nothing like being ‘skin taxed’ for reminding you of your foreignness, even though, technically, we are all in this anti-Covid 19 boat together. I have been to the Old Market, here in Siem Reap. I bought a chicken and potatoes to cook chicken curry. Now this is no mean feat in a foreign country, where each has their own language but no
language in common. Coming back to Colors of Cambodia I learned the error of my ways. While walking to the market and attempting buy things for lunch may have been just a tad heroic, in some minuscule way, it was also extremely foolhardy. I paid well over the odds, even for a supermarket. I had, once again, been skin taxed. I paid the very same amount per Kg for chicken, as I would have paid for pork in the supermarket. The supermarket is nearer too. But hey I’m a white guy therefore I’m rich yeah. Well no, actually. I earn little at writing, and stretch my meagre pension as far as it will allow. If you see me in your country, it is because I have gone without other things to enable me to save to be there. I don’t have any form of transport, no bicycle, no motor cycle, no car, just my legs. Personally I own no property, do not have investments, no gold, jewels, only a few dusty books. I am, perhaps, the poorest expat that you will meet. But you, native to which ever land, will not understand that. You will know of the ‘ahem’ ‘Great’ British Empire, perhaps know of those white fellas who ‘trade’, or work for big companies and spend far too much money in your country. You might know of young backpackers spending their middle-class parents’ money, but I am none of those. When people think of The Raj, The Commonwealth or even United Kingdom, they inevitably think of the middle and upper classes. Those who own. Those who have. What many fail to remember is that countries are made up of all sorts of people, many of whom are poor. When jolly old England was off invading other countries, it was the poor, under-paid soldiers and sailors, not the rich, who actually did all the work. It was the same back in England. It is and was those poorly paid people who held/ hold the nation on their shoulders. That is my heritage. What am I? Who am I? Some might say a wingeing pom. I was born into a working class family. We never had a car. My father rode motorcycles. At one point we didn’t have a bathroom or indoor toilet either. For some time my mother was a housekeeper to the gentry, enabling us to have a rented ‘tied’ property, known as farm labourers’ cottages. My father, for a while, was a tractor driver. He had exited the British Army as a Sergeant Major (noncommissioned officer), having worked his way up in the ranks,
but two years too early and never got his promised pension. We struggled. My family never owned their own house. Never had savings. When the last Lord and Lady moved, we were housed by the council. I was 13. Today’s spend is $9 for a scraggly whole chicken and .50 c potatoes at Old Market $10.25 breakfast at Common Grounds bagel (cheese, egg, bacon) and 2 large flat whites. Therefore = $19.75, call it $20.
It was another night with broken sleep, hence this lazy day today. Yesterday, a dear friend tried to cheer me up and to some extent it worked. Without knowing when I can return home does bring me down. Like many other people, my life is on hold right now and full of uncertainty. I try to be more positive but there is an awful amount of negativity about, with more each day. Phany has just informed me that, from tomorrow, the electricity with be cut off for three hours every day. We do not know the times. In the middle of a serious pandemic is this really such a good idea. Today, I have sandwiches of bread, butter and palm sugar (Skor Thnot) for breakfast with instant coffee also using palm sugar. For lunch I have sandwiches comprised of bread, butter, processed cheese and a small, very deep red, fresh tomato and two nice mugs of Lipton’s tea. I’m trying to use up what I have, and estimate that I drink 1.5 litres of water, in various ways, per day. Earlier I had gone to the Thai Huot Market and discovered that fresh chicken is cheaper there than at the Old Market. It is a price (literally) that I have to pay outside England. Ho hum. While at the supermarket I bought orange juice, two 1.5 litre bottles of water, four cans of Schweppes Tonic Water, a litre tetra pack of Cowhead Pure Milk and two mixed fruit Dutchie yoghurts. Okay there is some comfort drinking there. I really, really want a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate, but when I realise that one bar is equal to a whole meal elsewhere, I refrain and just keep on longing. Altogether those items cost $9.50. Say $10. I am very lucky to have such a good supermarket within easy reach. However, whilst at Thai Huot Market, I realised that Colors of
Cambodia is low on Butane Gas for cooking. Forgetting that I am in a country whose English language isn’t English, but American, I ask an ‘English’ speaking supermarket employee ‘do you have any gas, Butane gas’. I guess that he only heard the word gas, and said no, but tried to direct me to a ‘station’ down the road where is, apparently, a big sign. I thanked him, paid for my shopping all expectantly, walked out of the supermarket, and that is when it hit me. Gas, not as in Butane gas but as in Gasoline. Ho hum. One by one the restaurants in Siem Reap are closing. I now add Sister Srey and The Village Cafe to the list. The latter of which is, honestly, far too expensive (closed until further notice). Of course, when some of those do decide to open again, they will face stiff competition. Some may not open again.
Today is April Fool’s Day. April fool me. I wanted to cook a Catalan type pork casserole (or cassoulet) but when I saw the price of the tinned beans (more expensive than the pork) I switched to a different version which now includes okra and green beans. Oh, and there is no way that I could afford the preserved pork meats, or chorizo. So mix and match today. Today’ spend at Thai Huot Market is $21.10 for........Bread, Pork, Okra, French Beans, Tomatoes, Eggs, Water, Butter, Garlic, Baby Potatoes (which I admit to buying because they reminded me of my friends in Bangladesh), White Pepper Powder, Onion, Garlic Powder and Dried Thyme. The additional water, today, was for slow cooking the pork dish. I’m still trying to figure out Zoom. Is it my situation, or my age, which makes me hesitate with technology now. Having not been entirely successful with Classroom, WhatsApp and Discord apps, I am wary of Zoom. I understand that in Kampot, a city on the Preaek Tuek Chhu River in southern Cambodia famous for its pepper, black especially, all bars and restaurants have been closed, except for take away food. Belts are tightening. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Cambodia, there is serious talk about a State of Emergency. Oh dear. And then... I have been shopping, cooking, eating, and yes, sleeping.
Meanwhile Phany and the Advanced students (sounds a bit like a 60s band) have been sketching in the burning Cambodian sun. The results are spectacular as usual. Siem Reap is a tourist town, now with few tourists, it has the feeling of Southend on sea, Margate or Paignton in the winter, only without the cold, fish and chips and drab pensioners wishing they had stayed at home. The ‘amusements’ are rapidly closing here While I seem to be less motivated day by day. Waves of ennui wash over me. I spend more time sleeping daily than I would normally. Upon waking, and wanting to leave the ever-present bed, I think, actually, what’s the point. But leave I do, eventually. There are things to do. I spend time trying to familiarise myself with Zoom. There will be a trial run on Friday, another on Saturday, so we’ll see how we go. Honey has helped me try the app. out. It is still limited though. I will sleep.
I get up. I shower, wash hair, brush teeth, dress. I take my plate, three eggs and a tomato downstairs to make breakfast. The gas canister is empty. The kitchen has been left in a mess and, heaven forfend, the back door (which leads onto an alley) is left unlocked and slightly open. Ho hum. I’ve never been good at communal living, but I am trying my hardest to tread a very thin line between noninterference and friendliness. I miss the freedom of my home. Back upstairs, in my small room with its small table, I rustle up sliced bread (four slices), extract my pat of French butter (Elle & Vire), from the small fridge outside and open a small jar of palm sugar. I then begin constructing my breakfast sandwiches. Coffee is not large, flavoursome or flat (as in Flat White), no those days pass into memory as a retrospective golden age, the age of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, of good coffee, proper bagels with jalapeño pepper and cream cheese. Bagels are not bagels in Siem Reap, they lack, well, something. My coffee is Nescafe Red, with palm sugar and milk; my bagel is bread from Jasmine Bakery & Coffee, in these new Days of Covid 19. I Facebook PM to Julia, just to see if she is okay. Colors of Cambodia’s American volunteer teacher Julia, who has
taught on and off in the charity, had been in Cambodia but took a trip to India to further her yoga studies. She got stranded in India, because of various Covid 19 lockdowns and has, finally and safely, landed in North America. She had been placed on an evacuation flight out of Delhi, which was paid for by the ‘Latter Day Saints’, landed and caught two more flights heading toward Chicago. She is in quarantine, then planning to go all Walden (Walden, Life in the Woods, famous novel by Henry David Thoreau about living in seclusion for two years and two months, which heavily influenced Beat writer Jack Kerouac). Walden, incidentally, is a place called Walden Pond, Near Concord, Massachusetts. Today’s spend, including a piece of sheer self-indulgence, to wit $1.50 on a Chocolate and Kampot pepper ice cream at Gelato Lab, in Mondol 1 Village; $5.30 for 2 yogurts; slices of Arla ‘Burger’ cheese (Cheddar Taste), Frissee and water. Total is $6.80. I tried the Asia Market, not only was it smaller than Thai Huot Market, but more expensive too. So I walk from Sivatha Rd, Krong, back to Preah Sangreach Tep Vong St, Krong, on a quite quiet, but nevertheless hot and sunny Cambodian day. Lunch is the two pots of yogurt. As I type (on the midi Mac), I have just had afternoon tea with a few McVities Digestive biscuits. Must keep up the culture into which I was born, don’t you know. The threatened power cut so far (fingers crossed) hasn’t happened. Oops, perhaps I shouldn’t have written that, tempting fate and all that. As there are so many people isolated, quarantined, locked down, the Internet has been a ‘godsend’. Using Facebook to keep in contact with friends really does help. Yes, there is a lot of stupidity but, generally, there is a lot of (okay stupid) fun too. Memes, such as ‘name 10 bands you watched, one being false’, giving people artist’s name for them to look up, seems trivial, sometimes it is the trivial which saves us all from sinking into lockdown depression. I too teeter on the brink of that one. I’m still here, 130 days and counting..........
phạm vũ hồng hưng
There are also pairs of opposites in our life, such as good and evil, stillness and noise, life and death, freedom and dependence, etc. What I feel in the current opposite is a calm air reminding me of human condition with nostalgia and desire to keep. It is paralleled by the devastated wild pristine nature, and also the pain of material culture which is increasing covered by an inhuman life. Therefore, it makes me think of a lot of questions for life: Who am I? Who are they? Why do we exist? What are we living for? Etc. Perhaps, there probably won't be a complete answer because we are different and separate beings. As for me, I like presenting through paintings, which I trust the most in the present. Placing the human figure in endless space allows us to develop free imagination, reflect our own experiences. It uses boundary between reality and illusion to fundamentally explain the difference of our own experiences with existence of the world through a potential liberation space.
colors of c
# 270 Mundull 1 Village, Sway Don Tel: 855 (0) 63965021; Tel: 855 (0) 122
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Colors of Cambodia provides free art education for Cambodian children through our gallery and in local schools. We also host various workshops and lectures by local and internationally renowned artists and hold full-scale art exhibitions regularly. The art gallery at Colors of Cambodia features art by our students and teachers. Proceeds from the sale of art works by students, teachers, and our founder go directly to assist students and schools. Advanced art-training classes are offered to children showing special talent. Advanced teaching in drawing and painting is available to assist students in higher education, and to prepare them for a possible career in the arts. One long-term goal of Colors of Cambodia is to be able to offer scholarships to exceptional students.
ngKum Commune, Siem Reap District, Cambodia 214336 - Phany; Email: email@example.com
siem reap, cambodia
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founding a school of art Bill Gentry, founder of Colors of Cambodia (2001) said... “The Colors of Cambodia project started out as a small idea. Now, I could probably say that it has become the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. It is truly something to try and help others by giving time and knowledge, rather than money. A 75-year-old French missionary once told me Cambodia needed time, not money, and that has remained etched in my mind. Volunteer and project manager Honey Khor and her friends have helped a lot, like a godsend to keep this project alive, year after year, child after child, budding artist after budding artist. I am in the process of taking the Colors of Cambodia concept global, to the U.S.A., India, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The world needs more creative people who “think outside the box.” We must support sensitive minds, and help talent to flourish. “Art Will Save the World,” our motto, is painted on our building and gets right to the point. Creative people sooth hearts and solve problems, and their creativity could save us all!”
Volunteering is an opportunity for a truly rewarding experience psychologically and spiritually, in the act of giving your self, talents and time for the wellbeing of the children in Siem Reap. Please see opportunities for volunteering below: As an Art teacher
(Teaching in Colors of Cambodia art gallery and local schools.) Conducting workshops for our advanced students and teachers. Giving art talks concerning your areas of specialty. Or as an English and Music teacher Or maybe helping to distribute school items for local children in September.
traditional khmer design and
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founder Bill Gentry says....
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thomas daquioag Since the imposition of lockdown three months ago, the jeepney has been sidelined, even as NCR has transitioned to general community quarantine. The push to modernize jeepneys has also kept traditional jeepneys off the road. Many drivers have lost income during the lockdown and have resorted to begging in the streets. Today, the LTFRB allowed some routes for traditional jeepneys â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the last to resume operations among mass transport options â&#x20AC;&#x201C; though only about 10% of 55,000 jeepneys are allowed to ply Metro Manila roads so far.
Ayuda sa Bahay kong Jeep
Thomas Daquioag is an instructor in the College of Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas. Graduating with a degree in Commercial Arts and Painting at UST, he is now working as a performance-based painter in Makati City, Philippines. He has had 10 solo exhibitions and has participated in at least 80 groups exhibitions here and abroad. While taking up his MFA degree in UST, his exposure to the practice of conservation and restoration further nurtured his curiosity and innate love for the arts.
Nothing else matter
I come from the district Beed situated in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra, India. Beed is a historical place of medieval origin. Coming from a family of sugar cane farmers and farm hands, I have been a close witness to farmers’ struggles and that of the working class on the farm and off it. I have realized that the needs of food, shelter, clothes, however basic, are an uphill journey for a farmer. The farmers play different roles by taking up menial jobs to merely survive in society. My works explore these realities of the world and are strongly influenced by my own childhood memories and experiences. Coming from Indian background, the significant role of history, mythology, gods and goddess, turn up in my works. The three-faced deities in stories, like Trimurti, Datta-Digambar, Vishnu-Dashavtaras, and Krishna– Vishwaroopa have been of interest to me as a child and till date they inspire my work. These childhood narratives from various sources trigger my thought processes about the multi-faceted existences within the contemporary context. I try to recreate this idea of polymorphic reality as is seen in mythology, as a reflection in today’s human being. My works borrow the concept from the scientific term Polymorphism, meaning a person 100
at a time can have multiple layers of characteristics invisible to the society. These layered human beings are adapting to their surroundings, and the situations of surviving trials and tribulations of life. I consider the essence of the experience always helps to shape the core of the artwork. In my work I explore the correlation between society and human nature / human being as well as the ideologies that govern the social norms like the morality, materialism and politics of the human mind. I believe that there are silent individuals within an individual who battles for survival at a basic level, irrespective and because of, social, political, religious, and personal conditionings. As an artist I attempt to become the narrative voice of the silenced through my works. I love to experiment with new mediums, and learn from most of the people who have interacted with my work during my shows, I believe it only enhances my work giving it a new perspective and a fresher voice.
ross capili be still Every person on earth is on hold yet nature is in defiance, still displaying its grandeur — as though to remind us of God’s word to be still and rest in His promise The art of Rosscapili (b. 1959) with its single minded lyricism encompassing the shifting of many moods and feelings- subscribes to the prescription once written by the French Symbolist poet, Mallarme: “Paint not the thing but the effect the thing produces.” How apt and appropriate that message is, which can be gleaned, in one sweeping glance at the productive output of the artist-a stun of works that sustain the breadth of its technique. The implications of their spatial dynamism, achieved through the lyric exclamations of a water-soaked canvas or hardboard, suggest the immersion of the viewer in the illusionary space that the artist’s gestural moves have created. These are not a stock of images that the artist pulls out, like rabbits out of a hat, but rather, a flow of images that the material itself has so cunningly — and so blessedly — chose to manifest to the artist.
honey khor Honey Khor (aka Khor Pei Yeou) has been an artist for nearly a quarter of a century. She is an art facilitator and founder of the Honey Child Development Centre & Ever Day Art Studio, now both in their third decade. She is a volunteer art teacher in the children’s charity – Colors Of Cambodia, in Siem Reap, Cambodia, since 2007, and a volunteer Art teacher at Nasom (learning disability), at Taman Supreme from 2016 – 2018 as well as being a curator for Zhi Xuan Fine Art Gallery, in Kuala Lumpur. Honey has held exhibitions in Cambodia, China, Italy, Malaysia, Philippines and Spain, In the past couple of years Honey has been studying Art Therapy with Alanus Hockscule )Germany and Malaysia) and is making arrangements to further study Art Therapy in England.
anil chaitya vangad Anil Chaitya Vangad is a traditional painter of his tribal Adivasi ‘Warli’ art. He comes from the village ‘Ganjad’ in India’s Maharashtra, and represents the third generation of artists in his family. He has been exhibiting his work across India since1991, this has included shows at notable galleries in India’s Pune, Mumbai, Nasik, Thane, Kolhapur, Lucknow, Madras, Udaipur, Delhi, Bangalore, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Bhopal, and Mangalore.
Earth and Covid19
Warli (from the tribe of the same name) is a traditional art form from Maharashtra, India
In general Warlis (the name taken from the tribe) are created by the Warli tribal people from the North Sahyadri Range, Maharashtra, and are mud plastered designs on the walls of huts, using them as available canvases. The Warli ‘tribal’ designs are largely painted in white or brilliant sindur red. geometric shapes: a circle, a triangle, and a square. These shapes are symbolic of different elements of nature. The circle and the triangle come from their observation of nature. The circle represents the sun and the moon, while the triangle is derived from mountains and pointed trees. In contrast, the square appears to be a human invention, indicating a sacred enclosure or a piece of land. The central motif in each ritual painting is the square, known as the “chauk” or “chaukat”, mostly of two types known as Devchauk and Lagnachauk. Inside a Devchauk is usually a depiction of Palaghata, the mother goddess, symbolizing fertility, for the main purpose of these ‘drawings’ is to promote fertility, avert disease, propitiate the dead and fulfil the demands of ghost spirits who fill the dream world of the Warlis. The Warli paintings, originally adorning mud walls of their homes, are an expression of a kind of fulfilment experienced in relationship to a harmony with nature and their gods and have become deeply rooted in tribal tradition.
Mohamed Zakaria Soltan Egypt
shehan madawela Sri Lanka
min yin thant Myanmar
long thien shih Malaysia
nicholas chong Malaysia
celso pepito Philippines
Kaustubh Kavathekar India
mohammed iqbal Bangladesh
joan marie kelly Joan Marie Kelly is a social artist as well as visual artist. She empowers communities through creativity. Kelly has taught at Nanyang Technological University, School of Art Design and Media in Singapore since 2005. Her recent book Invisible Personas 2019, published by Author house includes 42 of her paintings and four essayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s by scholars who have worked closely with Kelly, Dr. Bhaskar Mukhopadhyay, a cultural theorist; visual artist Sarah Schuster; Dr. Pamela Karimi, an Iranian art historian; and David Cohen, a prominent art critic in New York City, have all written from four distinct perspectives about years of artwork made by an artist deeply involved in the communities surrounding her. She is a participant in the 2019 Salon du Beaux Arts, Carousel du Louvre Museum. Her recent solo exhibitions were held in Blue Mountain Gallery New York City, Fez Morocco, Smith College USA, and New Delhi India. Recent Biennaleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s include, Beijing, Bangladesh, Izmir Turkey, Korea, and Casablanca.
Covid contemplations 1
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Granary amid greenery 152
Granary amid greenery This installation is inspired by traditional granaries of India in general and Bengal in particular. The ageless form foreshadows the temple architecture. Amid the greens, they synthesize what are seemingly opposite â&#x20AC;&#x201C; namely, the physical and the metaphysical. 155
Ngakan Putu Agus Arta Wijaya Ngakan Putu Agus Arta Wijaya (NPAAW) is an Indonesian artist whose style of artwork is very much inclining towards resembling the style of classical paintings. Focuses on the use of animal idioms as a language in his work, NPAAW uses these images to reflect the nature of human beings. He is intrigued in exploring the world of evolution as prompted by Darwin, drawing differences or even similarities of nature that both human and animal possessed, thus questioning the progress of our conscientiousness and our sense of moral judgment.
Daddy day care
Big apple addict 1
Birth of Mercurius
Black and white
The Creation of Adam
Favian Ee Favian worked in the visual effects industry for 6 years on some of Hollywood's biggest films such as Interstellar, The Dark Knight Rises, and Hunger Games: Mockingjay. He is now teaching animation at a polytechnic imparting his skills to a new generation of artists. Favian joined Urban Sketchers Singapore in 2012 and has been a regular member ever since. He has travelled with the group to events in Penang and Bandung, and with other sketcher friends for sketching trips to Hong Kong and to Siem Reap to sketch the ruins of Angkor. He was invited to give a workshop in Bandung in 2015 on sketch-storytelling. Favian has had a passion for comics and storytelling since young, and has applied his experience in sequential art to the urban sketching context. He produced a book of his trip to Sketching George Town 2 in 2014, which was very well received by participants of the event. He has also contributed to several publications with Urban Sketchers Singapore, and collaborated to produce a book with drawings of all of Singapore's public swimming pools.
Martin Bradley is the author of a collection of poetry - Remembering Whiteness and Other Poems (2012) Bougainvillea Press; a charity travelogue - A Story of Colors of Cambodia, which he also designed (2012) EverDay and Educare; a collection of his writings for various magazines called Buffalo and Breadfruit (2012) Monsoon Books; an art book for the Philippine artist Toro, called Uniquely Toro (2013), which he also designed, also has written a history of pharmacy for Malaysia, The Journey and Beyond (2014). Martin wrote a book about Modern Chinese Art with Chinese artist Luo Qi, Luo Qi and Calligraphyism from the China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China, and has had his book about Bangladesh artist Farida Zaman For the Love of Country published in Dhaka in December 2019. He is the founder-editor of The Blue Lotus formerly Dusun an e-magazine dedicated to Asian art and writing, founded in 2011.
Lotus The Blue