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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Final Countdown


We are closing in on our final forty days in Cambodia and the heat is up - literally it has been in the 90s starting midway through the week.  Although we have been able to produce several small projects in our time here, we are only just beginning several others which we will have completed before heading home.  Admittedly we are guilty of succumbing to the slow (and disorganized) pace that is Cambodian life, but as our time here is winding down more pieces of the puzzle are falling into place.  We came over here with the hope and intention of telling stories about Cambodian children involved with Gary’s soccer league.  We wanted to use the soccer league as a vehicle for exploring the realities of kids born into harsh livelihoods due to the historical social and political turmoil that engulfed Cambodia for much of its recent history.  We have met many wonderful kids through the soccer league and children centers, which provide education and other lacking necessities for them.  What we did not count on was just how difficult it would be to share the kids lives through film – both due to the language barrier and to the way the children and their ‘images’ are protected by the school/center administrators.  Having said all of that, we have found other ways to get involved and portray some of what we hope to share with all of you.  It has been a long road building rapport with the various members of organizations and hopefully these relations will be the foundation of the projects to come.  These projects have changed from personal documentary aspirations to aligning with the goals and missions of the many people doing humanitarian work in Siem Reap who were in need of our videography skills.  We hope you have enjoyed reading and watching what we have presented thus far and stay tuned for more to come.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Grace House Library Project

Wassadeal, here is our latest video.  We made it for a small community center called Grace House which is just four kilos south of Siem Reap.  They recently finished building a library.  They only have two shelves neither of which is completely full of books.  They are hoping to have as many as six.  We hope you enjoy the video and stay tuned for more soon.


Grace House Library Project from Wassadeal Productions on Vimeo.

Now go donate 10 bucks!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bongs and Midgets: aka Confessions of a DVD Sales(wo)man

Ok so first of all I am pretty sure I accidentally published this post with only the first few words of the title so I apologize for anyone who just received MULTIPLE bongs and midgets emails - but I digress/got your attention.

Bong in Khmer is a term that refers to either an older sister or older brother - Bong Srey and Bong Pro respectively.  The term is not limited at all to family members but is a common term for friends of a given age.  Point is - we have lots of bongs in Cambodia - older sisters and older brothers in our neighborhood or people around town we have gotten to know.  Some of our bongs serve us breakfast, some of our bongs make our drinks, and ONE of our bongs sells us our DVDs.  Bong Srey Leak (pronounced 'Lay-Ahk') - aka Princess Leak  aka Big Mama as she likes to call herself.  Now of course this relationship has been built around the frequency that I have stopped by to buy DVDs since moving here - but the majority of time spent with Leak nowadays is nothing short of straight chilling.

What sparked the idea for this post today was the several hours I spent sitting with her in front of her shop just a few hours ago.  We usually talk a little bit about movies and a lot a bit about life - there is most often eating involved with these visits.  Today we consumed an entire watermelon and a plate of pork rice cakes as we chatted.  We talked about the process of applying for a visa for her and her husband (and their soon to be son) to visit America in a year's time.  Leak is due in May - hence the name Big Mama.  We also talked about the similarities that exist regarding the Boston/New York rivalry and the way some Thai people feel about some Cambodians (and vice versa). 

"It start like back in history between the governments," Leak said and then paused, stared off into the distance, and spit a watermelon seed as far as she could. "but government is government and people is people!" she finally said with a smile.

 I doubt she could hold any prejudice against anyone in the world be they Khmer, Thai, or even New Yorker (maybe after a few more chats we will settle that up though).  

 We then talked about a few different news stories she had read that morning - one of which she found to be the funniest thing she had ever heard.  Now her english is great, but certainly not perfect - she is constantly asking me to explain different words she doesnt know - but I generally got the gist of what she had to say.

"How do you say like a small guy?" she asked, holding her hands out in front of her with one above the other a couple feet apart.  

I offered some attempt at political correctness "A little person."

 "No but like the word?"

  "Midget?" 

"Ya that one.  Well he had like a wife who was like normal size and he was getting jealous whenever she would see her with like other people normal size so he like try to divorce her but like..."

She erupted into laughter and was unable to further explain any part of the story.  Now I don't know why the word 'like' has become such a part of her vocabulary and I don't know EXACTLY why she thought it was so funny but I do know it was the highlight of my day.  Leak embodies and in the most classy and humorous way flaunts the genuine joyfulness that nearly all Cambodians have within them.

Going to try to post some pictures from my ipod (and a video if it works) but more to come soon everybody.  Much love from Cambodia.

Moving like Bernie (see youtube).
Miles





video

Monday, January 10, 2011

Burmese Food, Basketball, BBQ and the Beginning of the Soccer Season

Howdy everybody.  Wanted to give a quick update on what we have been up to the past few days and the beginning of the soccer season here in Siem Reap.  First off we went out for lunch last week at a Burmese restaurant and were endlessly impressed with the food.  They had a long list of curry similar to an Indian restaurant with chicken, beef, and mutton options with varying other ingredients - i.e. potatos, split peas, pickled mango.  I had a beef and beef and split pea curry and Gabe had mutton and potatos.  Each dish was accompanied by rice, roti, and a light soup (broth and onions).  I highly recommend that given the chance everyone gives Burmese food a shot - not quite like anything youve tried before but if you are a fan of Indian food you will be delighted by Burmese.

Second off we have started playing basketball again.  For those of you who don't know we have been joining a pickup game that is played every day at 4 or 430.  This week, three of us (with Jordan and his jumpshot in tow) we teamed up with two Korean kids and won three games straight (beating mixed teams of Khmer and Philippinos).  Our friend and fellow expat Tyler, who is from Maine but living here teaching English, showed up and with a team of fast Khmer kids beat us in an exhausting battle.  We are finally getting used to little aspects of the game that make it different from pickup ball we've all played at home.  For one, there is ALWAYS a player streaking to the basket as soon as a basket is made on his hoop or when he sees a turnover.  The hail-mary passes that make those cuts worthwhile are difficult to make, but we are often caught off guard in this way.  Second we are getting used to players who play the same position every point - one player in particular is an approximately fifty-five year old man who sits at the top of the right side of the three point line non-chalantly waiting for the ball.  He rains threes on us constantly - launching the ball with his entire body in the seemingly least athletic way possible. Wet. He has gained our respect quickly although we knew he was a legend the second he stepped onto the court - taking one last drag of his cigarette, stubbing it out on the bottom of his worn basketball shoes, and tossing it to the side.

Next up to share is our visit to a local all you can eat barbecue joint.  For three dollars you are given a grill at each table and a buffet of every meat you can imagine and some you can't.  Beef, pork, chicken - and two un-identifiable ones of similar color.  Squid, crab stick, clams and an assortment of fish cakes.  In addition there is tofu, rice and yellow noodles, rice, and vegetables of all sorts plus spring rolls (fresh and fried).  I actually left the table worried that I would vomit between the table and the street.  I made it and somehow biked home pleasantly plump and stupidly satiated.  Prolly go back this week...

And of course our biggest news is that the Siem Reap Junior Soccer League HAS BEGUN!   Teams in the 15 and under age group took to the fields beginning at 8 am and by kick off at 9 there were easily two hundred kids and fans there.  This number only grew (to probably a total of over 300) throughout the day as more games started every half hour or so - teams play 12 minute halves with a 2 minute water break in the middle.  We have realized that the overall story to be told about the soccer league will come from getting to know people (coaches, families) and kids from all different teams in the league.  On just the first day we learned about a team of girls that walked 4 kilometers to the fields to play in the first soccer game of their lives.  We also learned about a team of international students - from Korea, France, Holland et al. who have also joined the league this year.  Most of our attention of course was on the kids we have trained with from Grace House Community Center - who came out victorious in a 4-2 battle.  We are really hoping to better get to know these kids in the coming weeks and share their stories with you - and you will best be able to determine for yourself what the addition of organized sport has provided their lives.  It was apparent Sunday and will only become so more as the season goes on.

Photos to come soon from the soccer field festivities and a few portraits of the kids from our neighborhood.  New Wassadeal stickers are being made in the next twenty four hours.  Get em while theyre hot or find them plastered over the city of Siem Reap.  Love, Peace, and deep fried tofu with ginger, bok choy, n chicken grease.  Beleedat.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

It's Gooood For Ya

Wassadeal little children?  Wanted to school ya'll in on whats for dinner out here in Cambodia.  The pictures below perfectly illustrate what you get for 30 cents at the Old Market and for free for volunteering at Trailblazers NGO.  We paid 30 cents for the morning glory (a Khmer favorite out here), garlic, and rice at the Phsa Chas (Old Market); and we got about a kilo of chanterelle mushrooms FO' FREE from Trailblazers.  The NGO is in the midst of doing tests for growing mushrooms out here sustainably so that they can teach the villages who practice subsistence farming.  Plastic bags filled with sawdust soaked in

mushroom spores are hung from bamboo rafters in the shade.  After the bags are misted several times a day, copious amounts of shrooms start exploding out of little holes in the plastic.  We get to measure the yield and then take some home to fry up.  This project has only just begun but pretty soon Khmer villagers in the surrounding region will learn to grow and eat their own gourmet chanterelles.  We cooked the morning glory with tons of garlic, some soy sauce, sugar, and oyster sauce.  If you don't know about oyster sauce - you better axe somebody.  It's the realness.  The mushrooms got cooked in oil and garlic and salt; however, I wish we had some fine olive oil or some butter...  That's not the point though.  I'm gonna break you off with one of Papa Zinn's favorite jokes before we wrap this up:  "Why do toadstools grow in clumps....?  Because there isn't mushroom!"  If you didn't understand that or didn't find it funny, well, that's not really my concern.



Oh yea, and just so everybody knows... The Globalteer Soccer League kicks off tomorrow at 9 in the AM.  It's gonna be big.  Everyone is excited.  Stay tuned for more on the topic in the coming days.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Good Life

Every morning when I leave my house, after cooking breakfast, I stop and buy a coconut for 50 cents, on the side of the street 100 yards from my house.  The coconut has been sitting in a cooler full of ice and a man chops a tiny hole in the top with a few adept swings of a large cleaver.  He then sticks a straw in it and hands it to me.  I drink it while walking down the street.  I just thought I'd share that with you...  

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, New Juice, New Squeeze

Even though the New Year hit Siem Reap 12 hours earlier we will still be wishing all of you 'Happy New Year' late.  New Year's Eve was a bit of a spectacle around town and I am happy that is has come and passed so that we can get back to the regular slowed down pace of life that is normal to Siem Reap.  Having said that, things are beginning to pick up around here.  The league officially starts up this Sunday and the fixtures are completed for the entire season.  Tonight there is a league meeting we will attend and representatives from all the children's centers involved will be there.  It should be good for everyone to get the whole thing underway - especially Gary Hodder, league founder.  It's hard to describe the way things get accomplished in Cambodia but everything is done to a slightly different beat with a different sort of logic underlying the whole process.  It has definitely been a struggle getting everyone on the same page.  Twice already have we attempted to run soccer clinics with Gary only to have none of the kids show up for various reasons mostly with regards to communication.  In any sense, it will be a wonderful sight once the kids are on the pitch and running around consistently.

With the notion of the league starting and the kids playing soccer, we have had the urge to kick the ball around ourselves.  Yesterday we rose from bed early to meet up with our friend (and fish massage worker) Sotcheat.  He had organized a team of Khmer to play a team of foreigners that we put together.  This was our third attempt at organizing a game and it was finally successful (Gary's not the only one who has had trouble with this as you can see...)  They had 7 we had 5.  We ended up beating them slightly but it was still a close game.  We could not play for long as all of our conditioning was so poor and some of us were still recovering from an eventful New Years Eve.  Sotcheat sent me a text message swearing he would be victorious in our next match.  Hopefully that will be soon.  Later that day we biked 4 kilos down the Siem Reap river towards the Tonle Sap Lake to participate in a practice for the Grace House team.  Grace house is a small community center just outside of Siem Reap where we will consistently be coaching/drilling/playing with/filming the kids.  We showed up and had a blast running around with the kids and giving them small pointers.  It was instantly apparent the large amounts of pleasure and well-being that can be garnered by being involved with organized sport as a youth - or as XL youth like ourselves.  It was a nice reaffirmation  to both of us that coming over here and being involved is not only a noble and worthwhile cause, but going to be oodles of fun.