Monday, January 26, 2009

The Phnom Penh government has just executed another violent large scale eviction in the heart of PP at the village of Dey Krahorm, streets away from our peaceful home. The below is cut and pasted from an emailed call for help by a friend of mine who works at the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights. Check out the footage linked at the bottom and help if you can, this is going on all over the country.

In the early hours of Saturday morning (24 Jan) 300 police in riot gear and 500 demolition workers surrounded the residents of Dey Krahorm together with heavy machinery ready to forcibly evict the 150 families living in the village. At 6am the police and workers moved in, using tear gas, batons, water cannons, fire extinguishers and rubber projectiles. The result was a war zone in the middle of PP which has now left hundreds of villages (men, women and children)homeless and with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The scary thing is that this happened at the door step to the National Assembly and just a stones throw away from Hun Sen Park.

The NGO LICADHO (the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights is assisting many of these families to find temporary accommodation, food and shelter. For the past 2 days about 30 families have been living at our offices.

Given that the villagers lost all their belongings we are urgently seeking second hand clothing for children and adults. Other temporary housing materials are also needed - i.e. tents, tarpaulins etc. Financial donations for food and other materials are also gratefully accepted. If you need to do a spring clean in your cluttered house now is the time! Anything would be appreciated!

Donations can be dropped off at LICADHO reception (#16, Street 99,Bang Trabek) or your donations can be be collected from you if you need assistance.

Please do not hesitate to contact Justin on 012 21 36 76 if you have any questions.

For further details on this sad saga you can check out the following links:
Footage of the eviction:

Photos and more background info:

Report on Dey Krahorm disputed land case

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I feel so sad. We have just come back from a good bye lunch with Jemima’s beloved friends Marina and Amanda. The three of them are great friends and class mates at school, and Marina is going back to Iceland tomorrow. Even though I am sure we will meet again sometime, I still had to stop myself from squeezing and sniffing the life out of the poor girl as I kissed her goodbye. I just wanted to imprint a bit of her in my memory, she has become such a constant part of our transient lives out here in Cambodia.

Jemima first met Marina when they were two, nearly two and a half years ago, at the little kindergarten they went to a few mornings a week. I remember the day I first met Marina. Jemima was upset about something and Marina marched up to her, sat on the swing next to her and put her arm around her, a tiny fairy godmother with attitude.

Soon after that I took Jemima out of the kindergarten to stay at home with me and we did not see Marina again. Then on their first day at Garden and Gecko school, a year later, the two girls just reconnected like old friends. Neither remembered the other, at least not consciously. But I am sure that on a deeper level they both knew exactly who the other was. These two were always meant to be friends.

“Of course neither of them quite understands”, we parents have been saying to each other. “It will sink in later”. Today I think we were proved otherwise. The two of them argued throughout lunch, like passionate couples often do before a time of separation. Actually they reminded me of James and me when we were first together, each of us travelling for a few weeks at a time. Of course we could put it down to the fact that the girls are both tired, it has been a long week, and Marina must be feeling unsettled at all the goodbyes and packing and changes afoot. But I also believe they are both more aware than we realise that something is coming between them, and this is their way of expressing the uncomfortable not quite understood feelings this sensitivity arouses. You would agree with me if you could see these two together.

For the last 18 months Jemima and Marina have been class mates, and played together at least two afternoons a week – mostly arranged by them. We are only informed of their plans at going home time. I would often be greeted with a laughing Marina saying: “Why did you come to get Jemima? She is coming home for lunch with me today!”

As we drive home from school in opposite directions every day they call out each others’ names from the back of their respective Tuk Tuks, until each is out of sight, just like lovers. You think I am exaggerating? When I asked Jemima today what she loves most about Marina she replied without a pause, “The flowers that she brings me”! Anything else? I asked. “Her heart. The inside smells of flowers.” She once carried a pair of Marina’s pants (I mean knickers, not trousers) around the supermarket, “Because they are Marina’s (and I like looking at Snow White”). We could learn a thing or two about romance from these girls!

One of my favourite things to do is to sit on the sofa and just listen and watch as they play, often with Amanda as well. They get into role more of less the minute they are together and the next hours are spent lost in imaginary games of Mummy, Sister and Baby: “Sister! Sister! You forgot your shoes! We’ll be late for school”, travelling on planes, pulling buggies and suitcases behind them and wearing fleeces in 35 degrees, because “Marina, it is so cold in Iceland, yeah?” “Yeah, and it is so cold in England Jemima, right?”, making houses with all the cushions in the house, painting each others faces... and much more.

Whatever the game, it would inevitably involve changing clothes at least five times each. When they’ve all departed at the end of the day the house resembles my home when I was a teenager, one of four sisters... Knickers, scrunched up inside out t-shirts, odd shoes, pretty much the entire contents of Jemima’s drawers actually, strewn all over the place.

I knew clothes would be an issue with girls at some stage, but I was bargaining on a few more years yet. Jemima, Marina and Amanda come home each day from school with each others’ clothes and flip-flops on. Sometimes they share the shoes out between the three of them, so that they all have one of the other’s; or over the months one of them amasses three pairs of another’s. Our drawers are full of Marina’s knickers. However often we sorted it all out and returned them all, a week later they would be back. I love the fact that we have traces of Marina all over the house.

I feel sure that Jemima and Amanda will miss their darling friend but happy that they will continue to enjoy their own lovely and unique relationship. Until the summer, and then we have to put them through it all again. Hmmm, won’t dwell on that just yet.

If you liked this post have a read of this.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Long post! Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope you all had lovely Christmases. Ours was very quiet with visiting family, perfect really.

Ah it has been so long and I have missed my blog. I have been writing here and there and perhaps I should have just posted it all here as well to keep readers interested. I fear I have become such an infrequent blogger recently that no one is reading anymore. Comments are very rare, so then I think ah well, no one will miss me. But I miss it and you so shall continue blogging regardless! You will be pleased to hear that I am finally getting published again! Not my motherhood book, I have left that to brew for a while. But two short stories will appear in a new book called Expat Journals. I have also co- written an article on gang rape soon to be published in LOOK magazine, which has opened up another world to me, one of slavery and cruelty beyond most people’s wildest imaginings. The sex trade will become my campaign of 2009 I think.
Of course right this minute I should be studying. This always happens. I open my books and read a few pages of my yoga files, that cover everything you can possibly think of that has anything to do with life, as we do and do not know it... the anatomy of the human heart, the soul, dharma versus karma, destiny versus fate, recipes for health, how to love a woman... it is like a sacred manual for succeeding in life and death that I have in my hands. As I read I can’t believe how it is that I have lived for 35 years without thinking about all of this! For ten of them I have even practiced yoga and enjoyed the experience, but still not given it much thought. I always thought of us as human beings who have the chance of a spiritual experience but now I believe we are spiritual beings born with the chance of a human experience. I was always postponing the spiritual experience but now that I see it in reverse and am practicing daily yoga and meditation, I feel very different. I feel like a spiritual being who is constantly trying to improve, and live to the full, life as a human being. And the result is that, mostly, life feels so much easier lately. Things work out, knock backs don’t hurt so much, anger and despair are no longer daily or weekly emotions for me. The river just seems to flow more smoothly somehow.

Because of the changes I feel in my life since following this path, every time I sit down to study I last about five minutes before I get so inspired I want to tell everyone about it! Last time I attempted my homework I ended up writing a poem. Often I go and do yoga or meditate. The thing I really struggle with is staying put and doing my assignments! I will never get my certificate at this rate, though I could argue that I am experiencing it and spreading the word.

Well today I shall give myself only 20 more minutes to blog and then I shall get back to my studies I promise. My plans for 2009 are to get this certificate under my belt so that I am no longer bound by homework and reading course work and can focus more time on writing and reading about all the other things I want to, still all closely related to yoga and mothering of course. Then I will have more time to develop my teaching and begin to work therapeutically with women and children who have suffered trauma.

But, this will probably be in the UK now, rather than here. Yes! In six months or so my blog will have a distinctly colder, windier, wetter feel to it altogether. We are leaving Cambodia. The decision has been made and although I still have half a year to enjoy and so much I want to achieve while I am here, I can no longer think of anything else.

This is where you can help me, my British readers at any rate. I am staying awake worrying about car seats and the tantrums that go with them, twenty layers of clothing (and the tantrums that go with them), the sudden exposure of my very stylish (dresses over skirts over skirts are her latest thing) and confident four year old to peer pressure, fashion, labels, consumerism generally (and the tantrums that go with that!)...

How negative all this sounds. I am also kept awake with exciting plans for creating a lovely room for my children in my father’s house where we are moving for a while, to keep him company and to delay the decision about where on earth we should settle; dreaming about the vegetables we will grow in order to survive while my husband studies and I look after the children. I will teach and write too when I get the chance but still, we have pretty much decided to be broke for a while and enjoy being together as a family. So yes, that is a lot of vegetables we need to grow. I am excited about bringing Kundalini Yoga to the countryside, though town halls and school gyms feel less than ideal after having been so fortunate to teach on wind swept, sun dappled roof tops in Phnom Penh.

Probably what keeps me awake most, having complained about the heat for three years, is the cold! Suddenly I am terrified of moving back to cold, and so often grey England. Having longed for home all this time I am now realising that life in the tropics is so easy as a mother. The kids are always naked, potty training happens with us barely noticing, clothing and shoeing the girls costs practically nothing, and we always get to see the sun. I get sudden panics that the girls will suffer depression from seeing so little sun after having it everyday for most of their lives. How pathetic I sound. I’ll tell you why.

Over the last few weeks Cambodia has been officially cold. 24 degrees in the shade. The water in the pools feels so cold that I hardly take the girls swimming anymore. I am wearing jeans and a jumper as I write, and even Jemima wrapped herself up in my cardigan on the Tuk Tuk on her way to school this morning. 24 degrees! What has happened to me? My friends and family won’t recognise me. This is the same woman who has swam in the coldest Cornwall seas, who for thirty years could not physically pass a lake, river, sea or pool without having to get in, whatever the weather, whatever the season. I stopped short of those Boxing Day or New Years Day plunges, but only because we were never near water. Had it been a family tradition I would have been first in. I was your hearty English lass. James reminds me how utterly unsympathetic I was when he quite literally turned blue on the beach one summer on holiday in Cornwall with my family. I have been spoilt, my character has softened. And if I have, imagine how the girls will react to the cold English seas. Of course by the time we leave here we will have endured the hot season and I will be back to my old sweaty, miserable, moaning self (it will be interesting to see if the yoga and meditation will mean that the heat becomes easier to endure too, I will let you know), so hopefully the cold will seem more enticing by then.

James says the biggest shock for me will be no longer having Sophy around the house to take Bella whenever I want to write or do yoga. He is so right. I am quickly realising that all the things I want to do for myself will have to wait until after bedtime. At the same time I am looking forward to spending more time with Bella while Jemima is at school. Now I tend to work most mornings, so that will be a nice change for a bit. But ah Bella! She is one. I think I will post my chapter on this area of mothering from my book actually, to remind myself as much as to share with you all. Notice my emphasis on tantrums above... Actually Bella is so far stopping short of full tantrums, and still mostly delightful and gentle, but she is just at that stage where she wants to do everything for herself in her way, yet, of course, is not always able. She gets understandably cross with the bicycle that won’t drive through closed doors, or the t-shirt that won’t cooperate with her arms, or the cat for not letting her ride it. And she gets even crosser with me for trying to help. This is another post on its own so I will write it soon. My twenty minutes is up long ago. Bella will be back from her little play group in about half an hour. Oh dear, another studying period gone pear shaped, and all I have to show for it is a very, very, unblogly long ramble. Back soon, if you are up for it.

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