Sunday, 31 January 2010

Back to Ground Zero

After three weeks of dashing around the Far East, we're finally back in Sunny Dordogne! It's very nice to go travelling, but ......
Cambodia was a revelation - it is certainly the closest we will ever get to landing on another planet. The colours, the smells (the pollution!); but most of all, the people. One would think after their recent traumatic history everyone would be introverted and unfriendly and nervous of foreigners. On the contrary, they are generally outgoing, welcoming and apparently, with the best sense of humour in that part of the world. One of the first things we did was to visit a charity called, The Cambodian Childrens Fund ( , where we instantly fell in love with all 500 kids whose ages ranged from 2 - 16 years. Our western school children could learn a lot from their good manners and work ethic. Mike is already running the UK fund-raising arm of CCF and I am going to think about ways we can raise money for it through our workshops in future.

I had hoped to organise an embroidery project with some of the mothers, but apart from silk weaving they have lost so many skills in the last twenty years, that it would have taken several months to train them and set up production. My original idea was for them to make embroidery items that we could hand out and sell at the workshops here, but that little idea will have to wait for another visit. There is a womens' collective called Mekong Blue ( already in existence in the north of Cambodia which produces very fine silks , but we didn't have time this visit to travel that far afield this time around. Instead we finished our travels in Siem Reep to see the amazing excavations of Angkor Reep. This tree is for real! Apparently it's where they filmed the first "Tomb Raider" - who needs special effects!

Home at last and we hit the ground running. Requests for details and application forms for all the workshops coming up have been flooding in and we are about to start a big marketing push. A third sister, Lizi, is joining the ranks of Les Soeurs Anglaises and will doubtless be running a tight ship.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Day of Departure

We're almost all packed and ready to go. The days of travelling light have well and truly passed, but it doesn't help that we are taking numerous heavy atlases and text books for the kids at CCF in Phnom Penh- - a charity that Mike is now very involved with (he and a couple of other trustees are setting up a UK branch for fund-raising) and is the main reason we are to visit Cambodia. Whilst we are there, I also hope to source some women to do embroidery for a new project, and will liaise with Kate Pullen of Aspara Silk - - who has generously promised to introduce me to her network of weavers and stitchers. I am so excited about this.

But, of course, there will be plenty of time to just relax in the sun and catch up with reading, so there is a pile of books to pack as well (this lot is about half), including the last in the Steig Laarson trilogy, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest" which almost needs a suitcase itself. I'm taking my sketchbook as well ..... just in case.

But part of me hates to leave Briancon, especially on a day like today. Not warm, but the sky is clear and blue and particularly quiet after the New Year festivities. The village has an abandoned air to it with only a few hardies buying bread and the odd supplies from Merlauds. 2010 doesn't really commence until after the weekend here in La Belle France.

It's very nice to go travelling, but I'm already looking forward to getting back to my nest.