Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cambodian sexworkers: Hooker or girlfriend?

Phnom Penh Post is running a much needed story about the diversity in the so called sex industry, where not every girls fits the stereotype of western NGOS and the yellow press.
An American academic has spent seven years researching the local hostess bar scene, and come up with some surprising findings. This is the first in a three-part series. It begins in a bar and involves young Cambodian women and foreign men. Another tale of prostitution and exploitation you might think. Another portrait of a sad bar girl in need of rescue from pervy, middle-aged sexpats, and a system that traps her in a life she would obviously never choose. We’ve all heard it before. But this tale has a twist. .... Just because Cambodian women have transactional sex with different people does not mean they are bad or broken. When western women do it, they are considered smart, and even powerful.
Dr Heidi Hoefinger has been researching the hostess bar scene in Phnom Penh since 2003. She received her PhD from Goldsmiths, University of London, and is author of upcoming book titled Sex, Love and Money in Cambodia (Routledge 2013).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

ASEAN web radio

I was thinking about starting a web based radio for the ASEAN region. Question is, where should it be located? The idea is, that we can play music from all ASEAN countries (modern mainly), but people can also record reports and publish it, as well as we can record and broadcast skype conference calls. Anyone into this?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Common people stories - a new blog

I started a new blog. I tell the stories about common people I met and know in Asia. Not the heroes from CNN or newspapers. It is about neighbors, guards, waiters, shop owners - average people. You want your story being told? Message me!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Avoid the Blue Tongue Hotel

I stayed here two times, it's cheap and because of the walkaboutbar next door every motodub driver knows can bring you there. Thats pretty much it. The supervisors act like hey worked in prison before, the owner acts like he was in prison for a long time, (he is actually violent). Breakfast is worst than dog food, and their understanding of cleaning is way different from what hotel guests expect. It isnt that much booked, nobody was here, so please avoid this place. I also suspect some scam going on there with surcharges for lost or dirty linnen and towels.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Projects I am working on

I am working on two projects right now on a volunteer basis.

1. Filmcamp Laos
Since Barcamp was a huge success and I am a big movie and filmmaking fan, I was thinking about starting a Filmcamp in Laos. The goal is to bring together all people interested in filmmaking an TV, cameramen, actors, anchors, whoever is interested and let them share ideas and knowledge in a unformal environment. What I have achieved so far is the support from Lao Star TV, the support from the Luang Prabang Film Festival, a venue (Vientiane College), and some interest from filmmakers in Vietnam and Thailand as well as Cambodia. What is left is a talk to the department of cinema next week - if they agree in general, my plan is to set up a committee to do the final organization.

2. Young Leadership Challenge - a TV reality show
Seila Prum from Cambodia, who did this show on CTN, contacted me and we were talking about the idea to bring the show to Laos. I like the concept of this show - developing leadership skills for young people and using them as a role model for others. In a country like Laos that lacks of skilled people that should fit perfectly. What I need know is finding sponsors.
I do have already support from Lao Star TV as the shows host and some students and Lao people interested in bringing this forward. Meetings will start soon!

so stay tuned...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

TEDxPhnom Penh: My personal review

A dream came true for me: getting an invitation to a TEDx-conference. For those who dont know what TED is, check out Basically, it is a conference for the brightest people. The claim is "Ideas Worh Spreading:, and Phnom Penhs subtitle was "Building The Future".
The brightest people in Cambodia to answer the question are, at least the TED organizers selection:
Keeda Oikawa & Kung Nai: Live Painting & Chapei
Sithen Sum “Self-Education”
Mike Rios “Dong Chim the Quarter-Life Crisis”
Enemies of the People Video Presentation by Rob Lemkin & Thet Sambath Live
Tiny Toones “Dance Your Life Around”
Kounila Keo “Blogging: The New Generation of Cambodia”
Chris Brown “Lean Startup – a bootstrapping guide for young entrepreneurs”
Channe Suy “Building the Future of Cambodia starts with Sharing”
Colin Wright “Extreme Lifestyle Experiments”
Chris Noble “From Little Things, Big Things Grow”
Theary Seng “Reconciling Peace with Justice in Cambodia”
Phloeun Prim & Cambodian Living Arts Performers “Transformation of a Nation through the Arts”

The dramaturgiy of the event was well prepared and executed. I dont now how much they had to follow TED rules, but the organizers did a great job. Keeda Oikawas live paiting, while Kung Nai was playing, was already a highlight right at the beginning.
Sithen Sums call for more self-education was exactly the kind of talk I was expecting at TED conference, well presented, leaving me a lot of things to think about. I found myself in this talk as someone who has no dregree or diploma. Most things you need you find in life, not at school.

Mike Rios vibrant talk about the life quarter crisis after you finish university went in the same direction. "Give your life a meaning" was his key point, and if you have to quit your job for that, do it. I hear this many times at conferences, and I actually followed this advice four years ago, but I can also understand why people still walk in the treadmill of a 9-5 job. It's not that they can't leave, it's becaue the treadmill is comfortable and safe. To understand, that emotional saftey and balance is at least as important as financial stability, is, in my opinion, propably only possible if you have gone through a crisis first.

Although Rob Lemkin & Thet Sambath did a great job with their movie "Enemie of the people" I was a bit disappointed to see it at TED, where the claim is "Building the future". Same counts for Theary Sang. It's not that I am saying the past is not important, and they we need to understand the past to build the future, but I would like to see a shift in the importance of topics. Cambodia needs after the economy development a social development, in culture and education. To constantly tell people that their families are either killer or victims, doesn't bring a society forward. My hope was that TED was focussing on the future. It was, at least partially, not.

Kounila Keo, a young cambodian women who I admire a lot and who helped me, was talking about the future and the social development I am demanding. "Blogging gives us a way to express our thoughts and feelings and make it public", she said. And she is right. Blogging can have political or social impacts, but it has impacts. Since Cambodia is still a bit more relaxed compared to their neighbors Thailand and Vietnam, she calls for taking the chance and participate in a civil dialogue.

Chris Brown is an old Barcamp buddy, I always love to listen to his talks about lean businesses and how to start up, minimizing the risks. "Fail fast, fail cheap" is one mantra, and "Customer development before product development" another. I hope that his engagement and enthusiasm will encourage more Cambodian people to start their own business. The upcoming Khmertalks and the Cambodian Young entrepreneurs are a good sign.

I know Channe Suy from a Minibarcamp at the Insteed headquarter, where she works. These guys doing a great job developing software for desaster and health response. Geochat is an application that works as a group and locations based sms communication tool. It gives people the tool to respond fast and share with other. Building the future means for her sharing information and knowledge. I cannot agree more.

It is a already challenge to move to another country, and even more if you do it every 4 months. This is exactly what Colin Wright is doing. He calls it the extreme lifestyle, and it certainly is, at least for someone from a western country. His most important defiance is to deal with the unexpected. You can prepare a lot, but you will for example not think about that internet connections in New Zealand are just bad.

Chris Noble, the founder of Footprints and Worldnomads, talked about how travellers can make a positive impact to the places they visiting. He received one million Dollar from 400.000 donors, to build houses, roads, roofs or whatever was needed in rural amd poor areas. I personally think that the impact for the so called voluntourist is bigger than for the communitys. Having a bunch or young travellers in your village might be a a welcoming distraction from the daily life, but doesn't mean the house will be build faster and better.

Last but not least the impressive talk by Phloeun Prim, who I also admire a lot, about transforming a country through the living arts. He talked about preserving the Cambodian culture as a fundament a future is build on. Again, the debate about how to build a future is a starting oint, and arts were always a basis for a developed society. Cambodia dveloped the arts centurys ago, and need to remember the values this art gives the country, but also daily life.

So my conclusion: A well organised conference, where I learneda lot, where I learned from other people as well, and where I had moments when some tears came out. TED is not just a rational event, but also emotional. This TEdxPP followed this claim. In the future, the planning team should try to get a location that represents Cambodia better then the expat compound of Northbridge. There are good and suitable locations in town. Also I would like to see more Khmer people in the planning team, and not only the usual young white volunteer gang. And please, no more "from that dark ages of the Khmer rouge regime" talks. We know it, thanks.

Again, a big thank you to the organizers for making a dream come true for me.