Monday, August 06, 2007

The Vet to the King of Bhutan dropped by...

I've not had any desire to update the blog because I've had a terrible few months. So I'm actually uploading what was sent to my friends in an email.

In the last 3 months, my housekeeper ran away to her province with my camera and many other things; thieves axed my back door in an attempted robbery (housekeeper gone by this time, so they must have known I'm staying alone with my puppies); my neighbour screamed in the middle of the night because 4 men tried to break in to steal her son's motobike (neighbours have made a roof out of metal grilles so it looks like they live in a cage now), I almost sacked entire Bloom team for infighting (again! and now there are only 5 bag workers left and would you believe it, 3 cliques), Bloom cafe's opened and my cook is 4 months pregnant! argh!

anyway, I've been so down, I've not been updating the blog. Am also smoking too much (I *do* know it is a filthy habit, so please don't give me flack about it) and not sleeping much. The good news is that I've rented a shop at the Russian market (major tourist attraction- every tourist goes there for USD2 GAP T-shirts, USD6 Docker pants etc). It's only been 2 days and the shop's not fully decorated but we've sold 2 bags! YAY!

I've printed a huge manifesto banner (2.8m by 2m) which will cover the back wall completely. it's coming on tuesday and i'm quite excited.


1. We believe in the right of all people to a decent
life, free of poverty, and with access to education
2. We believe you can be rich by helping the poor
3. We believe women hold up half the sky
4. We believe your handbag is a reflection of you
5. We believe quality is worth paying for
6. We believe workers should always be paid a fair
wage—to hell with big, fat, CEO paychecks!
7. We believe if you knew the truth you would not
tolerate the exploitation of workers
8. We believe exploitation is evil
9. We believe in the power of good over evil
10. We believe in the power of the individual to
bring about change
11. We believe in love at first sight (at least where
our bags are concerned)
12. We believe in transparent prices; life is too
precious to waste time on bargaining

Actually i have another one: " We believe intellectual property is only for those who can afford it."

Totally un-PC but completely realistic, I think. I may rotate the last point on banner every so often. I was also thinking of "a million flowers blooming" and something punny like that, but that's a bit too Mao-ist for me. But holding up the sky is fine, hee hee.

I'm also thinking of having a Bloom Wall (like the Berlin Wall, haha) where people can scribble what *they* believe in. the shop's tiny 2m by 4m, so space is a premium but we don't have that many designs, believe it or not.

The cafe biz on the other hand, is very slow, last month we brought in only us150 for the whole month, which is not sustainable obviously (that's my cook's pay alone!). Many customers tell me, the food's really good, I just need to get the word out. Maybe i'm not doing enough marketing, although i have placed an ad in the Phnom Penh pocket guide, and printed flyers, and made brownies to give to tourists at Tuol Sleng, so we shall see.

It's bloody hard work this cafe biz and I feel like a prisoner in my own home (I live upstairs the cafe and I'm also the waitress).
The good news is I've discovered I'm not really the hermit i imagine I want to be. I love, absolutely love, meeting new people. Yesterday, for instance, I met the vet to the King of Bhutan, who checked out Austin and declared him to be a healthy, tartar free dog! (Everyone gives me hassle cos he looks all skin and bones, but the vet, Marianne--she's French--said it's his breed).

Did you know bhutan is a closed country? There is a usd200 a day tariff on all tourists, which includes accomodation and food and travel. weird. Anyway, Marianne runs a shelter that has 200 dogs and is so inspiring. Cambodia needs an animal
shelter too. a lot of abuse but I guess in a place where human life is cheap, what more animal life? It'll take a lot to change people's thinking. By the way, they eat dogs here. 5000 riels per kilo. Very cheap compared to beef (20,000 riels) and pork (16,000 riels). Only the men do it though, when they drink beer. They believe it makes them strong. Yeah, yeah, like tiger penis and the like. Crap. Black dogs are especially valued. Khmer men think it makes them courageous. I was horrified to see dog skulls in a hawker's glass stall one day.

It's 5am and time to go. I'm planning an FAQ for Bloom customers. I really hope the russian market stall will drive customers to my house. I cannot continue lose money like this! Alan has given me one more year. After that, it's pack-up-and-move-to-the-(cheap) beach time. Doesn't sound bad at all, but is 2 years really enough time to try to make things work? Every expat tells me it takes 5 to 10 years to achieve something in Cambodia. oh well, we shall see.

In the meantime, take care all, and I hope to be back in Sing soon. I feel like I really need a break. Most days I don't miss Singapore at all, it is easy to live in Cambodia, believe it or not. I do miss friends and family though!!



Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your blog very much. Your life in Cambodia is captivating. I admire your sincerity and kind hearted toward Khmer. I wish Khmers abroad are more like you. I can't wait to read your next post.

Anonymous said...

just passing by and reading your blog. very entertaining! keep it up please!


Unknown said...

visiting by chance. I'd been stayed there in Cambodia for 6 months last year. your story remind me of that time. miss PP.

Diana Saw said...

Hi all,

Many thanks for dropping by. Yes, Cambodia is an interesting place. I have my ups and downs but in general, I prefer my life here than back in Singapore. A large part of it is that I dropped out of the rat race and am now doing what I want to do. I met a Kiwi lady yesterday who lived here for 11 years (!) but gave up eventually because she said, "the government drove me nuts".

The best thing about Cambodia, for me, is its people. Most are just lovely and despite everything--their poverty, the suffering they have been through--most Khmers are very honest and decent people. Most of them do not deserve to be screwed by their system, not matter what some people say.

Do keep in touch!



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