Europe feels like a world away and I had some incredible experiences after leaving France (which is when I wrote my previous post). I absolutely fell in love with the beautiful canal-lined streets of Amsterdam and could hardly believe the stunning architecture of the Oude Kerk (old church) - its roof is made out of old wooden boats!! I rented a bicycle for a couple days and had an incredible time meandering around the beautiful streets, but the hoards of tourists were a bit much for me after a few days...
It was so beautiful I couldn't take a single picture (I knew the camera on my phone could never do it justice) so I simply sat and took it in for well over an hour.
Actually, all of that sight seeing was on my first day (which was a perfect weather day) and when the skies opened up on the second day I decided to take it easy and stay closer to "home". My host, Valerie, is doing a Masters Degree in directing at the University of Essex and was having a dress rehearsal and table reading of an excerpt of Waiting for Godot that afternoon and evening. She invited me to bring my cello along and improvise some music, and I did, and it was so much fun! We went for a beer after at a good ol' fashioned British pub and the next morning I woke up at 5am to make the 1.5 hour tube ride to Heathrow Airport and fly to Kathmandu!
It was so revitalizing to be surrounded by mountains and I somehow felt very at home. The culture of Nepal is very unique in that Buddhism and Hinduism have mingled and overlapped over hundreds and thousands of years, very beautifully borrowing and exchanging traditions and rituals. Nepalese people are extraordinarily polite, kind, and generous - not once did I feel the least bit threatened or uneasy about walking around by myself or interacting with people, not even late at night. I observed that passersby would either look you in the eye (and smile and return a "Namaste" - the common greeting) or they would ignore you completely.
If you'd like to see some videos of me jamming in Kathmandu, check out my personal Facebook page, or my Sidewalk Cellist Facebook page as that's where they've been posted.
Now that I'm in Phnom Penh and have reunited with my faerie godmother, we've settled into a wonderful new routine: wake up, make our coffee in our little hotel room, head to Music Arts School (MAS), rehearse for a few hours (collaborating with a number of different musicians here and sending music out into the world as the doors are always wide open there), find some lunch, stay cool in the afternoon, and then return to school to make more music in the evening - it's fabulous!
We were honoured to be guests of the first Empowering Youth Cambodia conference and I am so inspired by the stories that were shared. This organization is doing so much to help Cambodians: providing education, medical attention, housing, food, scholarships for promising students to pursue post-secondary education, sports programs, music programs, yoga, mentorships, employment, skill training for parents (so that the children can stay in school and not have to drop out to help their parents earn money), and going the extra mile to help people in extraordinary situations overcome obstacles. Many of their current teachers and staff of EYC an MAS are alumni of their programs, the organization is like a big, ever growing family.
Before I leave Phnom Penh I am making a donation to both of these organizations and I encourage you to so as well. Every dollar will make such a difference! Furthermore, if you are interested in visiting this magical place to see for yourself how extraordinary these people are, I would be very happy to assist you in organizing a trip.
Email me anytime: clara [at] sidewalkcellist [dot] com
Until next time,