My 15 minutes of fame

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February 23rd 2011
Published: February 23rd 2011
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Up at 6:00, the last two mangoes taken care of, and at 8:00 out with Sitha from SADP to go to the Mat Shop. My spouse and other relatives, please note: I declined to ride on her motorbike with no helmet and insisted on a tuk-tuk instead. I've been a passenger on motorcycles twice; the first time it tipped over and the second, it tipped over. Conclusion: I tip over motorcycles when I am a passenger. Collateral reasoning: I will be paying for all the information I stuffed into my brain until I'm old. I want to be alive to see that happen. I'm sure Sitha is a very proficient driver, but I don't want to travel in Phnom Penh on a 2-wheeled conveyance, so a tuk-tuk it was.

We had fun at the Mat Shop, picking out colors of the items Friendship's crafts coordinator had requested. Sitha took two large bags back to SADP (on her motorbike, N.B.), while I layered a good handful into my suitcase. I'm transporting, I don't know, maybe 50 pounds of crafts back: Scarves, silk and woven bags, ornaments (stars, moons, birds, elephants...), carvings, wooden utensils, and journal covers, bottle covers. If you're interested in knowing when craft sales and other events will be happening, send an e-mail to and ask to be put on the mailing list. If you give your zip code, you won't get notices about or events away from your part of the U.S. You can also host a craft sale. See the website for more information:

You can buy the book at the website, too.

Oh, yes. About the book: As our tuk-tuk was leaving the Mat Shop, a street vendor sold me today's edition of The Cambodia Daily. I'm typing the article because there's no online link and I don't have access to a scanner.

New 'Responsible Travel' Guide Helps Tourists Act on Principles
Michelle Vachon
The Cambodia Daily, 2/23/2011 p. 25

As a book, "Responsible Travel Guide Cambodia" is a colorful, well-designed work that even people living in Cambodia may like to keep on hand.

Written in a straightforward manner, with vivid maps and just enough information for a tourist to easily consult while on a mototaxi or in a tuk-tuk, the 102-page guide produced by US volunteers was done with vital issues in mind.

As co-author Shoshana will explain at the book launch tonight at Monument Books, one issue has to do with helping tourists act on their principles while doing nothing more than having a nice trip in Cambodia.

"Most people would like to feel that when they visit a country they don't harm people. I think that the bottom-line consideration of responsible travel is probably: Are you doing something even unintentionally that may harm people or not benefit them," explained Ms , a psychology teacher at the University of .

"We wanted to try to bring people's attention to the idea that, even if you are not going to Cambodia to volunteer, you're not gong to work for an NGO, you're not making donations... you can still make a positive contribution with your tourist dollars."

Guesthouses, restaurants, craft shops and arts organizations listed all have policies against child-trafficking and sex tourism; treat their staff fairly and pay them accordingly; and keep their profits in Cambodia. They also may run educational, social, or environmental programs.

The book, published by Wild Iris Press, was done as a team effort by members of the US NGO Friendship with Cambodia. Coordinated by Pujita Nanette Mayeda, who is listed as the book's author, facts and data were collected and checked by the NGO members during numerous trips to the country, Ms said.

One other issue briefly broached in the book concerns Western volunteers and what Ms calls "functional colonialism." Her advice to avoid this is simple: Listen to Cambodians rather than telling them what they need.

The book launch starts at 6 pm.


The book talk went well. Monument Books, where I often spend as much as I spend on accommodation (and certainly more than I do on food) had the book prominently displayed. William, the general manager, was welcoming and gracious, and I enjoyed my conversation with him and Andy Brouwer. Andy lives in Phnom Penh and has an extensive Cambodia blog at (and here, too). He's the author of To Cambodia With Love: A Travel Guide for the Connoisseur.

I talked briefly about aspects of responsible travel, Friendship with Cambodia, and the making of the book. There were a lot of questions about how we got the information--did we just use literature or did we visit the places listed? How were Cambodians involved in creating the book? How are we managing updates and corrections? I was pleased with the audience's degree of engagement. Sitha came with two friends. It was a great pleasure to see her there.

I'm doing my last rounds of laundry and pre-travel tasks. Maybe I'll find where my business cards have hidden themselves, causing me to be ill-prepared for every human encounter over the last week.


23rd February 2011

You rock.
23rd February 2011

I couldn't do it without you!

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