Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mind the Gap

If you're English you know what that means.

If you're not English you might think it refers to David Letterman or something...and well, I guess it does in a way.

As a little aside, and to let you know what it's like to live over here, let me describe a little search I've been on for a few days.

Wednesday I broke a tooth. Not a big deal, more like the facing on a tooth I'd had some work done on. Luckily, the piece that came off is still intact and I found it before I bit it into pieces. It didn't seem like a major problem and I figured I could buy dental adhesive or Polident, glue it back and deal with it when I got home. I usually carry a little dental repair kit with me when I travel, but this time I left it at home. Murphy's Law....

So I spent the last 4 days looking for dental adhesive. I went to pharmacies in Siem Reap ... they didn't even know what I was talking about. I had to go to Phnom Penh on Friday so I checked there. Someone offered super glue; I graciously declined.

Now my absolute last resort is to go to a Khmer dentist. Last resort begins with excruciating pain and several days of lost sleep screaming into a pillow. You'd understand that if you ever saw a Khmer dentist's office. They are usually store fronts along the side of the road or downtown. They may be next to a small market or just off the dirt path. You can find them because they have a big sign out front with huge tooth on it. I've never actually seen anyone in one of these offices....

Finally today, Sunday, I decided to go see the new shopping center in town. They have a little bitty pharmacy in it, mostly selling cosmetics. But they had Polident. A 6 ounce tube cost me $12.

Probably more than the dentist....

So while I was in Phnom Penh I had some meetings. I was to meet a good friend for dinner at 1830. At 1800 he called and said 'I can't get out of my house.' It had rained Friday afternoon. 3.5 inches of rain in 45 minutes. Absolutely flooded the town. While his car is 4WD and sits high off the road, the ones stuck weren't. We met for breakfast.

Last night I was gonna go downtown and have dinner then try and watch some sports at the Warehouse. It started raining about 1630 and rained until after 1900. and when it rains over here during the rainy season, it rains HARD.

I stayed at Green Town and watched Indiana Jones on the new big screen TV.

Today is Sunday and everyone is taking a rest.

Back to work tomorrow.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Personal Update

In the last day or so I've begun to feel the enormity of Hourt's death. I spent a good deal of time with Aki Ra and Hourt's brother, Senghour and his wife Sotling (who is expecting their first child any second). They are bearing up well. This afternoon I was at the office, which is part of Aki Ra and Hourt's house, and I spent a lttle time with Amatek, their oldest child. He ran over and started playing a little name-game we play and then jumped up into my arms and gave me a big hug.

That was difficult.

I'm helping Sophary in the CSHD office get a handle on things that Hourt used to do. She is very capable, but relied in Hourt a great deal. She'll do fine.

Tonite I had dinner downtown and was deleting some pictures off my mobile phone when I found one of Hourt and Mine I didn't even know I had.

When I ran a business I had what I called the "Runaway Truck Theory of Management", meaning if the boss got hit by a runaway truck, could someone step in and figure out what he did. This is just way too surreal....

I've been calling home a couple of times a day and talking with Jill about what's going on over here. Without her advise and support this would be infinitely more difficult.

Richard Fitoussi, from the Canadian NGO CLMMRF arrives this weekend and I will be very happy to have him here. Having someone to knock around with makes this less horrible.

Okay...enuff whining.

Every Thusrday night the NGOs in town get together and have a trivia night at one of the local pubs, The Funky Monkey. I'm headed over there in about an hour to see how well I can do.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009


It's Wednesday afternoon here and things, amazingly, are getting back to some semblance of normality after the terrible tragedy of last week.

The children have all returned to the Museum and are back to their ruoutines, which is good, since they need that structure, involvement and activity.

Mine and Amamtak are back in school. I'm not sure they quite yet grasp the fullness of their loss, but Aki Ra is there with them every day.

The deminers are back in the field and Yon, Aki Ra's brother has joined the team as a supervisor.

I visited Hourt yesterday with Babes Feddon, a representative of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority, seconded to them by the United Nations. He left a wreath and we went to the Museum where he paid his condolences to AKi Ra.

Word is just getting out over here about Hourt's loss as many were away from the cities for the holidays.

Thank you for all the donations to help pay for Hourt's funeral. Aki Ra and the family have been deeply moved by the outpouring from around the world.

More later

Sunday, April 19, 2009


To all those who have emailed me in the past few days, I apologize for not being able to give a personal response. I'll be posting here on a regular basis updating everyone on the happenings here in Cambodia.

Hourt's funeral services finished yesterday at noon. I arrived at 1330hrs. While I was unable to be here for any of the ceremonies, I was able to meet with Aki Ra, and Hourts family and convey all of our deepest sympathies and the depths of our sorrow.

As for the circumstances of her death, I am not going to go there. It is enough that she is gone, and our thoughts should be on her accomplishments and successes.

The children are doing alright although they don't understand that she is gone. Aki Ra is coping well. He has a lot of support, family and friends with him. I actually think they are coping better than we are. They are together and have been grieving together. We have to do it by ourselves, alone with our memories of this wonderful woman who accomplished so much in such a short time.

Her burial place is just outside Siem Reap in a lovely Pagoda surrounded by the countryside she loved so much. Her stupa (burial mound) is covered in flowers and there are dozens of incense sticks around her resting place. I visited her yesterday with Aki Ra and I will post a photo of her stupa later in the week.

The work goes on at the Museum and at CSHD. The children who had families went home a week ago to celebrate Khmer New Years which ends today, Sunday. Most were notified by phone of Hourt's passing and the others will be told as they arrive back at the Museum. Aki Ra returned there yesterday as did Sanghour and his wife Sotling. They are expecting their first child, a girl, any day.

The Landmine Relief Fund and the Cambodia Landmine Museum Relief Fund have raised most of the money to pay for the funeral expenses and for Hourt's stupa. We wanted to do this to not merely help the family meet these expenses, but so that we can all share in this tribute to a very special woman.

The flags at the Museum are flying at half staff and will do so for the next month.

More later.


Saturday, April 18, 2009


It is with profound sadness that I announce the passing of Aki Ra's wife Hourt. She was the mother of Amatak, Mine, Metta and dozens of children who now and in years passed have called the Cambodia Landmine Museum their home.

She will be deeply missed. She made all of our lives better for having known her.

I am en route to Siem Reap for her funeral services which have already begun. I will be there for a couple of weeks to help where I can and let Aki Ra and the family know that they are in our hearts and prayers at this terrible time.

Donations to help them cover the cost of the funeral can be made at the our website: Any excess monies will be used to carry on the works that were so close to Hourt's heart.

With deep sadness

Sunday, April 12, 2009

New Year and Gratitude

It's Khmer New Years so I thought it was a good time to sit down and tell a story about a young man who taught me how to look at the world through a different pair of glasses.

In February I sat with a 17 year old boy who told me how his hands were blown off when he picked up an unexploded cluster bomb.

He'd been told about landmines and UXOs. But he was 17! Remember when you were 17?

You were invincible.
You were immortal.
You would never grow old and wrinkled, bent and wheezy.

But this young man is grateful. He's grateful that he's found a home where he is cared for. He's grateful that he has the opportunity to go to school and get an education where most in his country don't. He's grateful to have others around who understand his physical limitations and push him beyond them.

He's actually a pretty happy kid.

There are a lot of kids in Cambodia who aren't happy, grateful or coping.

That's why my friend, Aki Ra, started clearing mines wherever he could find them. That's why he does it for free; and that's why he and his wife Hourt have adopted dozens of maimed, orphaned and destitute kids.

And its my very great honour to be allowed to help in my small way.

We can all make a difference. We just have to try.

Today is the beginning of the Cambodian New Year Celebration. So to all:
Sua Sdei Chnam Thmei

Happy Easter
Happy Passover