Now that I've been three times, settling in is very easy.... Besides, life in Phnom Penh is out of this world: Linda (my musical partner-in-crime) and I make our coffee on our hotel roof top garden, then we walk to the music school and often pick up a fresh coconut or a croissant for breakfast.... we practice and rehearse and teach until the mid-day heat is upon us, then its time for a tasty lunch, maybe a dip in the pool, a happy-hour cocktail, some reading time, and/or a nap!
The evenings are spent rehearsing, organizing the teaching/rehearsing/workshops/concerts for the following days as well as checking out lots of local events to support the growing arts scene. We went to the Phnom Penh International Film Festival as well as the International Jazz Festival - within the same week! We also got to see the Cambodian Space Project live (Linda got a video, I'll see if I can convince her to upload it...). I've got to learn one of their songs!!
I opted to stay at a hotel very close to the music school and I was so glad I did. Every morning I made my coffee in my room, then took the 5 minute walk to the music school, saying hello and "Mingalaba!" to faces that became more and more familiar each day. Charlie and I had a concert to do on the fourth day after my arrival so we set to work right away rehearsing each others songs, putting together a program, inviting friends, and sound checking at our venue.
The pagoda across the street was having a week-long festival which I checked out numerous time with my friends. The festival had two or three dangerous-looking carnival rides (I did not partake), Burmese street food (so tasty!), and stalls selling everything from toys to incense, clothes to woven mats, baskets, pottery, and numerous other goods and wares.
On two separate occasions Charlie and I took public transit downtown. Once to go see Star Wars, and the other time we went to explore and find the Pansodan Art Gallery (run by a friend of a friend - I had to check it out!). It was my first time on Burmese buses, and I have to say - it was pretty cool. The "seat" was a mere plank of wood and I had to hold on to dear life the whole way, but for $0.20 you can't beat the price! A truly authentic Burmese experience!
My last day in Burma was New Years Eve and it came way too fast. I hardly got to see everyone that I needed to see and I didn't get to spend nearly enough time with everyone. I don't have any photographic evidence, but my New Years Eve was really quite special. I didn't have plans so I just hung around the music school waiting to see what people were up to. A few of my musical friends were packing up their instruments and I asked where their gig was because I'd like to check it out.
"It's too expensive," they said "you won't want to come"
"How much are tickets?" I asked, I could afford to splurge once, right?
"Over a hundred dollars...."
Whaaaaaa!? I couldn't believe it - $100 in Burma is a LOT of money.... But then, we had an idea!
"Why don't you grab your cello and join our band? You can just jam along!"
Aaaaaaand that's exactly what I did! We rolled up at a fancy downtown hotel, unloaded our gear, sound-checked, then got to help ourselves to some seriously fancy buffet! We played until the count-down, had an absolute whale of a time, and then I had to get home (my flight to Chiang Mai was leaving at 7 am the next morning).
When I landed in Chaing Mai I was invited to stay with some friends of Linda's that run a resort just outside of the city. Nothing could have prepared me for the paradise that I found myself in.... I was besides myself with gratitude and determination to make good use of a very profound, deep, and peaceful space. Every day I did yoga, practiced my French, practiced my cello, swam in their pool, did my physio exercises.... I was very well behaved!!
There are two pictures of their property in the gallery above - can you tell which one is where I stayed and which ones are the Queen of Thailand's? I'm not joking!
I had five glorious days in Chiang Mai, three of which were spent on a little rented moto, driving around through the back roads, checking out buddha after buddha, pagoda on top of hill after pagoda on top of a hill. It was glorious - no map, no phone, no one with me - just the road, a helmet, sunglasses, and an adventurous spirit.
From Chiang Mai I went back to Phnom Penh for three super-short days where I caught up with Kate, my friends at the music school, and a wonderful Cambodian film maker named Polen Ly. He had emailed me months prior asking if he could use some of my music in one his films. Yes! I said, you can click here to see the trailer and click here to help them fundraise to make it a reality. We finally got to meet in person and had a really lovely Vietnamese dinner on my last night in Cambodia...
Alas, it has now been nearly two full months that I have been back in Vancouver and my heart aches for the countless people that I have been fortunate enough to make friends with. I very much look forward to returning this winter, maybe this you'll come with me...?
Feedback is always appreciated, write me any time - clara [at] sidewalkcellist.com