Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hong Kong Tsunami named Jackie

A week ago I left Siem Reap for Hong Kong with Aki Ra.

I’d been to Hong Kong a few times, but Aki Ra had never been there in his life. And this trip might just have changed his life.

A wonderful portrait photographer named Tony Hauser met Aki Ra a few years ago and did a series of portraits of some of the kids at the Museum’s Child Welfare Centre. The photos are amazing. Life-size, you look the kids in the eye as you meet them. Then you can read their story. It’s dramatic, touching, moving, and very dignified. You connect, and you connect viscerally. ( )

Well anyway, a good friend of Tony’s saw the exhibit in London. Her family moved to Hong Kong, and she moved heaven and earth to get the exhibit to come. Her name is Jackie Russell and she is a whirlwind. There is no way this exhibit was not going to be in Hong Kong once Jackie made her mind up to get it there!

The pictures were exhibited at the Canadian International School. If you have had the pleasure of visiting their campus in Aberdeen, Hong Kong, you know how beautiful it is. If you haven’t, go to their website ( and check them out. It is truly one of the nicest facilities I have ever seen.

We met hundreds of kids and Aki Ra and Tony told their stories: Aki Ra of being a child soldier and deciding to spend the rest of his life making Cambodia safe, and Tony of stumbling on the old Museum and returning to do the photos. They were kind enough to let me speak a bit about the history of the conflicts in Cambodia and how I got involved in this campaign.

Jackie kept us running all week. We spoke at the Asia Society, met for nearly 3 hours with CNN, had an interview with the South China Moring Post newspaper, spoke at the FCC and Rotary Club of Kowloon and Jackie hosted a cocktail party on Monday for almost 200 people at the International School where the Canadian Consul, Ms. Doreen Steidle spoke.

But the crème de la crème came Wednesday evening where Jackie and her friends had put together a dinner for over 80 at Crown Wine Cellars in Shouson Hills. It was the armory for the British Army and the last place to fall when Hong Kong was captured by the Japanese at the outbreak of WWII. Now a World Heritage Sight, it is quite amazing.

And so were the people of Hong Kong who raised their glasses and open their wallets for the Child Welfare Centre at the Landmine Museum.

We will forever be in their debt. Jackie and her family are visiting us at the end of the month. We’ll never top what they did, but the smiling faces of the kids will say far more than either Aki Ra, Tony or I could ever say.

Thank you Hong Kong!!!


Friday, October 9, 2009

Floods and Feuds

Okay, so the dog has been ignoring me now for about 2 days…although it should probably be spelled ‘daze’.

We left LA on Sunday the 4th of October. We left the house at 4pm, with more than a tad of trepidation. We’ve always wanted to live in Palm Springs; and while we moved 14 times in the first 28 years we were married, we’ve lived in this house for 13 years. Of course we will be back…but it’s still tuff to lock up and walk away from your life for a couple of years. At least…

We got to LAX, put Mikki (our mixed breed Aussie) in a kennel and boarded our flight for a 17 ½ hour flight to Bangkok. Sitting in our seat we could see Mikki in her crate sitting all alone on the tarmac at LAX while all the other luggage was loaded. I stood in first class and looked out the window until I was sure she made it on board. Jill was…let’s just say she was wiping her eyes.

The flight turned out to br the easy part.

Arriving in Bangkok we had to get Mikki out of customs, pay her ‘duty’ to be in Thailand for all of 4 hours and get outa Dodge. Turns out the vet at the airport was sleeping in a back room and no one could find him. Wish they hadn’t. By the time we got through with him we were out a nice chunk of change. We almost didn’t get her outa hock. No one could figure out how to do the paperwork since we were driving to Cambodia the same day. Then the customs guys got their 1,000 Baht. It wasn’t a bribe, ‘cause I got a receipt.

Our driver was waiting though. We loaded our 4 suitcases, 4 carry-ons, and Mikki's kennel into his ‘stretch’ cab and headed for Poipet on the Cambodian border. Not a problem. Smooth as glass.

Then we got to Poipet. We needed a hand drawn cart, 5 handlers, one chief and the 2 of us to negotiate the Thai and Khmer intricacies. That cost us well over $100. Then we had the 19 minute bus ride to the bus station. Don’t even ask….

But once we got there, Sophary and Sau were waiting for us. We got back to Siem Reap at about 2:30 and made it home by 3:00 after we fed the crew.

Jill had never seen the house; only pictures. It’s really very nice … 4 bedrooms, office and walled. We have a/c in 3 of the bedrooms and the office, which is nice. We spent the last couple of days getting things set up, buying a few dishes, silverware, and cleaning.

Sunday Aki Ra and I fly to Hong Kong where a wonderful supporter of the cause, Jackie Russell, has arranged a whole speaking tour for us, with an interview with CNN on Wednesday. When I find out when it will be on, I’ll let everyone know.

We get wifi at the house on Saturday so I will try and get more up on the blog on our return.