Thursday, June 24, 2010

Epic Arts

While we were still in Siem Reap staying in Clem's lunch hut, we met another couchsurfer, Meera. Meera is from England and was traveling over the summer break after completing her undergraduate for pre-med. In the fall she will return to Oxford. She was up in Siem Reap for a four-day national holiday, but she was staying Kampot where she was volunteering with an organization called Epic Arts.

According to their web site:
"Epic Arts is an arts charity established in 2001. We organise and run visual art, drama, dance and music projects for people with disabilities in the UK, Cambodia and other international locations. Our projects celebrate the creative potential of those with whom we work, by offering new skills and giving each participant an outlet for their creative expression. Epic Arts works with the philosophy that Every Person Counts (EPiC)."

"In Cambodia, Epic Arts provides a range of professional dance, drama, music and art programs to people of all abilities and disabilities in order to promote empowerment, integration and acceptance. This is vital is a country where an estimated 1 in 10 people have some form of disability."
They also run a cafe in Kampot.

When I was finally able to try food on Sunday after my first Saturday of illness in Kampot Cale brought me back some oatmeal (porridge on the menu) from the Epic Arts Cafe. It was the perfect mush food for someone who found swallowing painful. I still was only able to handle a couple of bites, but it was a good start. When I was able to leave the guesthouse the next day we breafasted at Epic, I had the oatmeal again. This time I was able to eat more and added some of the palm sugar it is served with. It was pretty good. We at breakfast at Epic the next two or three days in a row. They had an impressive-looking menu that included a lot of delicious-sounding dishes...if a bit pricey. However, I only ever had the oatmeal.

Cale had been ordering other breakfast items and a french press of coffee. He was less than impressed with the coffee. It was expensive and not very good. After several days he decided to bring his own coffee and mug with him and just ask for some hot water. On the second day one of the barang employees (or volunteers, I am not sure) came over to talk to Cale. She took issue with him bringing his own coffee into a cafe where they sell coffee. Cale could understand her complaint and explained that their coffee wasn't very good and he was perfectly willing to pay for the hot water, but they were having none of it. It was strange to me. We were there every morning ordering pretty sizable breakfasts and yet they were raising an issue over a cup of coffee. Cale was angry enough that he didn't want to return. We started breakfasting at Coco House around the corner from our new guesthouse (Paris Guesthouse). The breakfast there is cheaper, just as delicious and they are more than accommodating of Cale's request for some hot water.

Cale says he has mixed feelings about Epic Arts. He loves the work that they do for artists, but is less than happy with the cafe. "Promoting the idea of professional artists is one of the things that makes a civilization."

When we finally made our way down to Kampot we planned on looking Meera up, but it occurred to us that we might have missed her. She was only volunteering for a month and it was three weeks ago that we had met her in Siem Reap (she was a week into her volunteer work at that time). We texted her and discovered that the same weekend I was sick she had gotten food poisoning in Phnom Penh (and later we discovered that Clem also had food poisoning in Siem Reap, how odd is that?). She was just getting back to work on Wednesday after taking several days off and then Friday was her last day. We ended up meeting up with Meera at her going away dinner from Epic Arts.

At dinner Meera introduced us to another American who is staying Kampot and is on couchsurfing. Tony told us he was from Detroit and Cale and I refused to believe him. "You don't sound like your from Detroit." You know why? Because he went to high school in Indianapolis. He graduated from Ben Davis two years before Cale and I graduated from Pike. It is a small, small world.

The place we had dinner with Meera and the Epic Arts crew was impressive that I am refraining from naming it now so I can give it its very own blog entry. Tune in later to learn about the barbecue pork ribs we had in Cambodia that rival the best ones I have had in the States (even Dreamland Joel, even Dreamland).

— Sara

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