Friday, October 01, 2010

Lois' visit and Bloom Garden Guesthouse

I'm writing this as I sit on the terrace at Bloom Garden Guesthouse. My Australian friend Lois just left for Preah Vihear after spending a night here. Lois has an NGO in Preah Vihear, at the Thai border, and where Thailand and Cambodia are fighting over the cliff-side temple. The young women are given free education and lodgings at a dormitory, and this year, four of them qualified for university in Phnom Penh. They are the first in their family, if not the entire village, to have this opportunity, which Lois hopes will change their lives and those of the community.

This is Lois, at the guesthouse lobby, proudly showing off the miniature Christening dresses that she and a friend taught some of the women at Preah Vihear to make. The miniatures are beautifully made - I had a close look and the workmanship is impeccable. The women are paid a fair wage and can earn up to US$120 a month, says Lois.

This is what these tiny dresses look like. Lois tells me there are some 300 miniature clubs around the world, so potentially a large market for these doll-like dresses. They are made from imported French lace, so it is not something the Cambodians will be able to copy. Copying is a big problem for those of us involved in product design and manufacture in Cambodia, especially for those of us who believe in using locally made and sourced materials--like me, cos of the carbon footprint and also to create as many jobs as possible for the local community. It is not easy juggling business decisions and one's principles and I am glad I have not caved in yet, unlike Bono, who decided to tackle African poverty by moving production base to China.

I got to know Lois when she contacted me for an interview for her PhD thesis on social entrepreneurship (SE) and we've had many interesting discussions on SE models (I refuse donations but Lois thinks it's still possible to accept donations and be an SE. I'll write about these discussions separately because they are interesting.)

When Lois checked out, she actually paid US$20 for the room, instead of US$15 that we asked for, as she said $20 is the price it should be! My friend Sun also said I had underpriced the rooms when she visited, but because we are new, I decided on special rates. (See why I love my friends? They're all people with a sense of fairness).

Anyway, this is the view I'm looking at while typing this at the guesthouse terrace.

I love the open space and the view of the trees and the sky. Because Singapore is one of the densest countries in the world, it is hard to get a view unblocked by tall buildings, so I always appreciate it when I see a large expanse of sky. And of cos the breeze is nice too.

Yesterday, one of our water lilies bloomed, so I took the chance to photograph it. So pink and pretty!

Here is the lone lily, underneath the orchids. Lois and I had breakfast here and it is very peaceful and quiet. The other day while I was sitting there with a friend, a tiny bird hopped by.

And these are the orchids.

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