Friday, February 25, 2011

Feminism is f*&%ed.

I saw a young friend of mine on Facebook posted some "It Girl" illustrations so I clicked over to see what all the fuss was about. I was intrigued/alarmed, because my first thought was that the "It Girl" images looked pretty much like Barbie if Barbie was a trendy teenager and she went to raves and/or appeared on a reality show and/or was a young hooker and/or had multi-cultural, fashion-obsessed friends.

There are 9 million "It Girl" users on Facebook. It is an avatar-based online shopping game. And here, verbatim, are the rules.

What is the purpose of the game? Welcome to CrowdStar’s It Girl: a place for fun, fashion and beautiful people. The purpose of the game is to become the It Girl, the most stylish person at cool events around the world, surrounded by the biggest clique! Visit stores to search racks for fashionable outfits, attend events and Show Off against rivals for the It Girl title. You can move around this ultra-cool world by clicking before or behind your avatar or by dragging your avatar back and forth. How do I create and customize my Avatar? You will be walked through your Avatar customization when you first start playing the game. After that, you can visit the Spa to change/update your Avatar’s appearance. How do I get cool clothing? Visit Stores by click on the door. Search through the racks to find clothing. Each piece of clothing has a ‘style rating’ that helps you Show Off. Clicking on the items will also show you how much it costs, and give you the option to try it on before buying. It will also tell you the type of event that particular item of clothing will be appropriate for (Black tie, Nightlife, etc.). If you decide to buy the item, it will be placed in your Closet. Visit your closet to change your outfits. Racks display as either hidden or searched. Once you search through a particular rack, it will display as ‘searched.’ As new inventory comes in, the rack will go back to being hidden. Hover your mouse over a searched rack to display the type of clothing available. Shopping in stores is like a treasure hunt: stores restock at random times. So come back to relook at inventory. On a random basis you will find an uncommon or rare item. Reminder: searching racks uses up Energy points. Use your energy wisely! How do I gain energy? Energy renews over time. You may buy power ups in the coffee shop using premium currency. You can also give and receive energy as a free gift. Simply publish a feed for your friends to send you some! How do I earn more money? You earn money over time. Think of it like an allowance. You can keep getting some as you keep coming into game. Your allowance gets bigger the more as you level up. Why am I seeing closed stores? A Store will show up as closed if you are not at the required level. However, you may gain entry into a closed store without being at the level by paying premium currency. What are Quests? Click on the Quest icons on the left of the game screen to display the description, requirements and rewards associated. Completing Quests gets you invitations to events. What are Events? All events fall under four Event Types: Night Life, Outdoor, Black Tie, Classy Casual, Casual Hip, and Beach Party. Events are parties or other social gatherings like a Debutante Ball, Lawn Party, Summer Rooftop party, etc. How do I enter events? You can get an invitation to attend an event by completing a quest or by attending other events You must complete the event requirements to be able to attend. For example: a Black Tie event – Debutante Ball – is being held at the Five Seasons Hotel on 5th Avenue. You are required to visit the stores that sell clothing for that event type (Black Tie in this case) and buy a black lace dress, black pumps, pearl necklace and pearl earrings. In order to attend the Debutante Ball, you must first buy the required clothing items and accessories at a suitable store. Next, you must find and travel to the venue: Five Seasons Hotel on 5th Avenue. You can also gain an invitation by clicking on an in-game ad promoting the event. Remember, events are only open at a specific time. You may not enter the event before the start time or after the end time. What happens at an Event? When you are at the event, you will need to Show Off against several other party girls. These are other real players who play It Girl. You can identify these party girls by the exclamation mark floating in a thought bubble above their heads. Click on the party girl to get a compliment from them. If you get a compliment, you will gain confidence points. If you get a negative comment, you lose confidence points. The event continues until you win the Show Off (by getting compliments from several party girls), or if you lose (because of negative comments), or if you run out of stamina. The number of party girls you defeat (by getting compliments from them) determines the outcome of the Show Off. How do I gain confidence? The Confidence bar (heart icon) determines how much you can battle at each event. When you battle against another party girl your confidence (and hers) will go down each time, even if you win. You're battling your confidence versus her confidence. Whoever loses lesser confidence is the winner. How much confidence you lose is determined by the outfit you’re wearing, your clique size, and the style points of your whole closet. How do I gain stamina? Stamina determines the number of events that you can go to. You gain stamina at a fixed rate through the game; the maximum amount being determined by your level. You may also purchase stamina using premium currency.

So fueled by caffeine, you tart yourself up and shop for clothes and try to get friends to join your clique. To gain self confidence, you have to get people to compliment you. And you loose self esteem points on a matrix that calculates how big your clique is and what is in your closet.

Honestly, I don't really need to say more, do I?

Except maybe to repeat my headline. Feminism is f^%#ed.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What is your diet? Does it serve where you want to be?


Today I had the good fortune of guest teaching at a Health class at the University of Cincinnati. I had 50 minutes to try and explain why the True Body Project work is important to the concept of health and wellness. I tried to get across how the mind and body work together to create intricate, habitual patterns ... most of them under the radar of our consciousness ... and that unless these patterns are exposed and examined, we may end up stuck in repetition mode.

Back when I was drinking heavily AND daily, I hoped for change every single day. I would wake up frustrated and dispirited and decide in my mind that that day would be different, that was the day I would drink less or not at all. Then, I would go through all the exact same rituals (coffee, cigarette, stare at the computer, not eat properly, get annoyed with people) and then be frustrated and dispirited when I would follow the pattern all the way to the Jack Daniels or Chardonnay end of things.

I read a great article recently that suggested that we no longer want what we like. We just want the want. And we don't have to like what we want to still want it. In short, our bodies just get stuck in the pattern of wanting. In the late 90s, for me, my body was stuck in the pattern of craving and wanting. It was a seemingly endless loop of hoping for change but being trapped in the status quo.


So today, at U.C., we looked at our "Diet" in the broadest sense of the word. What do we take in? What do we think about? What do we do? What are the things we are consuming and considering? Are we stuck in a pattern that is disconnected from our goals?

We looked at the following categories. You can make your own list. It is unhelpful if you answer in the aspirational voice (i.e. what you think you should be doing as opposed to the real list). Write your truth. It is the only way to shift a pattern.

I ATE - What have you eaten in the last 24 hours? Had to drink?

I LOOKED AT - What media have you consumed? Facebook? Law & Order? Literature? How much? Most young people consume more than 40 hours a week of media - the equivalent of a full time job. So it most definitely effects our overall well being.

I TALKED ABOUT - Did you talk about other people? Did you gossip? Did you talk about artistic ideas? Did you talk about history or the news? Did you talk about the same problem you talked about yesterday? Did you talk at all?

I THOUGHT ABOUT - Did you day dream? Did you think about how to move a project forward or did you think about how to meet George Clooney?

I DID - What did you actually do? Did you do what you intended? Did you exercise? Did you nap? Did you work? At work, were you actually productive?

I TRUSTED - Who did you actually reach out to and ask for their support of advice? We tend to rely on our sense of connectedness without exercising our connections.

I HELPED - Who did you serve? Did you smile at someone? Did you open a door? Did you volunteer? How did you get out of your own self-interest to connect with someone else?

I LEARNED - We have these huge, elastic, awesome brains. What is something useful that you learned today? Did it expand your consciousness?

I THANKED - Who did you actively express your gratitude to? This is another way to shift the paradigm of stuckness.

So my guess is that you didn't make a written down list but made a mental one instead. I would suggest that you go back and make a real list - either handwritten or typed. The simple process of connecting ideas to movement, even if just the movement of our fingers and hands to execute writing, is a way to jump start the neuro-muscular system to tell it you mean business. And we often use the logical part of our brain to tell us stories that make our nonsensical behavior palatable. ("I was doing great with exercise until he dumped me." "You would drink too if you were as stressed as I am.") Movement - even of the writing sort - helps us access feelings of our emotional body that we may be overriding habitually to avoid change.

Your elastic brain and your willing body are ready, willing and able to create new and helpful neuro-muscular habits to serve you. Are you ready to let them?


Today, I heard that a lot of students have difficulty sleeping. I also hear this a lot from my female friends. Usually, when insomnia is an issue, we probably start thinking about it, actively, around 10 p.m. or so when we are trying to begin the process of getting to sleep. We so badly want a good night sleep. But did we do anything different from the day before to tell the mind and the body that we are moving into a new pattern?

The body loves patterns. It tries to figure out what we want it to do and then it does that and repeats it until there is new input. So our insomnia body continues to wake up at 1 a.m. because this is the pattern we have established. Often, the sleep cycle gets interrupted because of an adrenalin kick in the night from a drop in blood sugar. This comes from erratic sugar intake from food or alcohol. So if you don't change the intake into the body and/or consider what it is triggering in your sleep cycle, you can expect to be awake in the middle of the night for a long time.

One of the most noted early benefits for recovering alcoholics is the ability to sleep through the night. Basically, when we were drinking, our bodies woke up to express a craving. By eliminating or reducing alcoholic intake, we take the body off the blood sugar roller coaster so it can sleep.

We are often more sensible about our vehicles than we are about our own bodies. If you put sugar in the fuel line, what happens? If you don't put oil in the car, what happens? Understand the consequences of your intake. You don't have to be judgmental but if you want to change, you need to be discerning and realistic.


Does this make sense to you? It is so helpful to hear feedback to know if these mind/body posts resonate with you. If you have time, send me a note on my Facebook or on this "Comment" page. I am especially interested in hearing how you shifted from a stuck place into new behavior.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

True Body, Strong Voice - Teen Class starts in March!

True Body, Strong Voice (Teen Workshop) - $149

March 13-April 10, 2011 Sundays, 1-4pm

Find out why teen girls LOVE the True Body Project! This is designed for all girls and especially teens who want to be able to express themselves as artists and advocates and connect to True Body teens in the U.S. and abroad.

The program includes five Sunday afternoon sessions for teen-aged girls in grades 8-12 designed to strengthen girls’ authentic voices and enhance body awareness. Combining the movement and arts curriculum from The True Body Project with WWfaC writing practices, teens will learn ways to enhance self-esteem, build skills in creative self-expression, and encourage deep listening and sharing in large and small group settings. Classes focus on creativity, movement, confidentiality, building community, positive feedback, and ways to balance body and mind.

Visit for registration and contact info. Or if you have any questions, feel free to write to me at If you want to learn more about the True Body Project, visit or connect with us on Facebook.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dance with me.

I've been thinking about inspiration and collaboration since I got back home.

As you lovely readers-o'-my-blog may have surmised, I am aching for creative connections or just connections. I am wondering when is the next time I get to sit in a room with smart and talented dreamers and schemers to bring a story to life. Hopefully, the VIVIAN GIRLS musical (which is a semi-finalist for the O'Neill this summer!!) might be an avenue. Hopefully, the pilot I just penned may be another. But there is a new idea that is crawling around in my heart that wants to express itself. I can just feel it.

Usually, when I feel this desire, I slow down a bit and talk to fellow artists about what they are doing that inspires them. I had two of these conversations this week which lit my brain on fire a bit more and compelled me in on a Friday night to let ideas and images and words spin around in my brain.

Here is what is coming at me:

Thoughts of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. Just kids.
The idea of the revolutionary body. Or bodies in revolt. Abused, ignored and silenced, the body speaks.
David Bowie, Louise Lecavalier, Edouarde Lock.
Mirror neurons.
Phantom limbs.
Sitting in Jay Bolotin's kitchen, listening to Aralee Strange and Jay talk - my very own Hotel Chelsea.

How does it all go together? Who knows? But this moment, the moment where the void demands to be filled and it calls in light, text, movement and history for consultation ... it is the best.

Thanks to the inspiring players, past and present, for stirring things up for me. And I hope you can take time to watch some of this video (or get the documentary by Michael Apted called INSPIRATIONS for more of same plus awesome interviews with artists including Bowie, Lock, Lichtenstein, Chihuly and more about what inspires them) to see how exciting it is when artists open themselves up to discover new vocabularies.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On not dancing, in the year I danced.

I am in LAX waiting to fly back home to Cincinnati.

Before I left, I imagined dancing in Cambodia and Thailand and when I was back in LA. Or at least moving my body in some culturally appropriate way. And all I really was able to do was some yoga. I'm not dissing yoga, mind you, I'm just saying that the opportunity for dance didn't really present itself. And when it did, when I was back in LA, I chose to hang at the hospital with Kristin instead. One night (brace yourself people) I stayed up until 2 am for a remarkably fun Game Night party and when it came time for morning dance, I slept in instead of suiting up for hip hop.

I spent so many years slacking my way toward a drink and a cigarette that my commitment to movement and to "doing what I say I'm going to do" is gargantuan, obsessive even. So for me to give myself a break these last couple of weeks is kind of a big thing.

So far, the sky hasn't fallen and my body hasn't morphed into some unrecognizable lump of flesh.

But boy oh boy, am I ready to challenge my brain and my heart and my bones and my muscles with my favorite Cincinnati dance teachers and my dance friends.

And now that I know I can actually stay up past midnight, I might just meet you out for a night at the clubs.

Now it is time to board.

Tomorrow, it is time to dance.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day.

Wow. I am sitting in my chair in Kristin's room at City of Hope hospital. Before I left for Asia, Kristin was suffering through the hardest part of her bone marrow transplant, with her levels low and her spirit and health lower.

Today, Valentine's Day, we await word if she will get out tonight or tomorrow. Either way, it is a big, giant heart-filled blessing. The nurse is wearing heart scrubs and I've already overheard several "I love you" messages in the hallway as nurses and doctors call home to check in with a loved one.

Kristin's son Simon sang her a rap Valentine's song this morning into her voicemail. I just read my son Nick's sweet Valentine message to me from Chile.

I have an email in my inbox from one of the Cambodian girls, filled with smiley face and love emoticons. And I have so many loving notes from my friends, eager to see me back home.

The sun is out. My friend is leaving the hospital. This month's journey is about to come to a close.

And in my mind's eye, I am drawing a giant heart around the entire experience.

Happy Valentine's Day to you! I hope you feel love. It is everywhere.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Last dance.

I said goodbye to the island and took a long tail boat then a taxi then a plane to Bangkok, then spent one night, in order to fly to Phnom Penh for a final day with the Transitions Global girls and staff.

I brought the girls shells and they turned them into hearts: "One for me, one for you." I got to eat lunch with them on their school break and they were delighted that I was not a picky eater. I didn't let on that when I tasted the thing I thought was a mushroom and it turned out to be chicken liver, that it almost did me in. I was just happy to be in their company, beautiful, smiling brave and wonderful girls.

I spent the afternoon resting up at the house with Summer, Prium (who is I swear to god the cutest boy on the planet), and Courtney, watching Spiderman and drinking tea and finishing up a few work details. After over a week of alone time, I felt like I was back in the arms of family.

Finally, Courtney and I went to NataRaj studio for a great Ashtanga flow class with super strong and fabulously tatted up Alison. Ending my trip on a rooftop in Phnom Penh doing yoga felt just right. I saw Srey Neth (Transitions grad) and Nara (my yoga helper for the week) and I, again, felt like I was back home.

I didn't know how much I came to love Phnom Penh until I traveled to Bangkok.

And I was reminded how much I love my Cincinnati home (and my LA outpost) when I crossed the world.

See you soon everyone! More posts from LA. Or maybe even later today when I am bored out of my skull in the Seoul airport for my very very long layover. Bonus: latte in the lounge, massage down the hall. xo

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Solitude is work.

This is my last night on the island.

Today was quiet. I gathered more shells for the girls at Transitions Global and wrote a little and walked a little and read a gripping thriller that I will borrow for my plane rides tomorrow and the next day.

I sat on the beach and took a minute to thank all of the people who helped make this trip possible, either through donations to True Body Project for my work in Cambodia and/or to me personally for my travel adventure. I have felt you all on this trip and I hope you feel in return the gratitude I sent you via the ocean waves and the soft breeze.

It is certain. I am an intrepid traveler. I can go it alone and have a great adventure. This is a good thing to know how to do.

But you know what all this quiet time in the last 10 days has taught me? I yearn more than anything to connect, either with words or movement or laughter.

I look so forward to sharing those things soon. Until then, my quiet and happy soul says thanks.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I hope you have pie.

I hope you have pie.

That is what it said on the brochure in the seat back pocket on my plane en route to the greater Phuket area. It gave me the idea that this trip would be full of oddities and surprises.

Yes sirree.

So this morning I waded out into the surf to catch my tour boat to a handful of islands in the area. They had all boarded a half hour earlier and stopped by to fetch me in my out-of-the-way location. It was 10:00 a.m. when I hopped aboard.

The minute I stepped onto the boat, I thought "Oh shit." I am not big on tours. In fact, I am so not-big on them I really don't think I have ever done one. But isolation combined with extroversion compelled me to go for it.

So at 10:05 a.m. I was sitting in the back of a jet boat with 20+ other tourists, half of them drunk. Did I mention it was 10:00 a.m.? I am not sure if it was to impress me or not, but the Russian dude to my right inserted two drinking straws in his nostrils so that he even further resembled a walrus and then took a "photo" of me with his box of Marlboros. Oh. You sexy beast. You had me at "Na zda-rĂ³-vye!".

I looked at the girl next to me. She looked to be about 12 and she had put on her headphones and had the glazed over look of a girl who has left her body. I wanted very much to join her as I was jetting out into the deep ocean for at least 6 more hours with my jolly friends.

I spied a good looking couple up a bit and a single guy across from them. There was hope.

The tour guide spoke "English" but when it is so heavily influenced with Thai inflection it might as well have been Thai. But since I am polite and a people pleaser, I maintained good eye contact and implied he was connecting with me, deeply, with each and every word.

When he said "Scooby Do!" I laughed. Ha ha! Scooby Do! I figured whatever it was must be multi-culturally funny.

First stop, kayaking. I got paired up with a good looking, nice "alone" Belgian. Soon, I met the cute couple (Canadian girl, hot Australian Hugh Jackman looking boyfriend) and the day got a lot better. We kayaked through these amazing caves and rock formations. I really don't have words to tell you how beautiful it is but as hungry as I was for conversation, it really rendered me speechless.

We ate lunch at a Muslim stilt village and then we saw the James Bond Island and then we went walking into a cave. Kind of scary but kind of cool. Then back to the beach up from the beach where I am staying. I said my good byes and hiked over a bunch of super slippery rocks and waded in the surf to get to my home away from home. My dog ran up the beach to meet me and I was happy for the quiet again.

It is a few hours later and I'm at my post on the deck, wired up and happy for it. It is a hot night and the bugs are crazy. I have another day before I head to Bangkok to fly to Phnom Penh for a final visit with the girls. More and more, I find myself drifting back home. My brain is as much in the writing project I am revising as it is here.

In many ways, a trip like this tells you how to do it right the next time. Many things I got right. And don't get me wrong, I am super grateful for every second. But I think that by this point in my next adventure, I will be meeting up with friends somewhere. I miss companionship. Yes, yours.

And hopefully, then, we will have pie. :)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Morning becomes acoustic. Evening becomes electric. In the middle, we give thanks.

I awoke in my tent this morning to the sun rising over the ocean and the jungle's crescendo. I have never heard such a symphony from nature. I am not sure if I have ever really heard nature, to tell you the truth. There are some show offy musicians on this island: the crickets and the birds and I have no idea what else each try to outplay the other and then at times they just go "Aw hell. Let's just all play real loud. I mean the sun is coming up and that's cool, so let's jam."

I took a long walk along the beach before breakfast with "my" dog. There is like no one else here so I feel like I can call her my dog. It wasn't until late in the day until I discovered her 9 puppies. Super duper cute and I was very impressed with her vivaciousness on our walk for such a tired mom. I call her Pepper. Like in Angie Dickinson. Pepper's run in with a sand crab was hilarious.

The rest of the day stretched out like taffy. Kindle still on the fritz so I found a book in the give-away library and 30 pages in I realized I had already read it but I kind of liked that. It felt familiar and I need a teensy bit of familiar. So my day was walk, eat, read, read, read, swim, walk (beach), eat, read, read, read, walk (jungle), read, eat, electricity!

Now I am listening the Beatles, eating the hottest, mild green curry ever and planning my day tomorrow. I think I am going to see the James Bond island and other Thai special sites on a jet boat/canoe/cave tour. Chat up some tourists. Stuff like that.

But it hardly matters what I do or don't do on my final days on the island because like the sign says, every day is a gift.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Isolation, electromagnetic weirdness, tropical island. Am I LOST?

Am I lost or am I found? The next four days will surely tell.

I arrived on the small island of Naka Yai Island, Phuket, by boat which was about 20 minutes from a small port in Phuket. I just sort of went with the non-English flow and followed people who seemed to know where they were taking me. It was low tide so we had to put the boat on the beach about 75 yards away and hike up the beach to Tenta Nakara. It is an eco-friendly, tented bungalow set up and I think I am the only person here besides a family from Germany, plus the nice staff.

You get a lantern and a lighter and if you need it, a battery to hook up to your fan once the generator and wifi go off at 10 pm. Electricity and internet are permitted from 6 pm - 10 pm.

So here I sit, all alone on a bungalow dinner deck, listening to the ocean and the wind and the loudest next of crickets and singing critters I have ever heard.

I was all set to turn off the computer and turn on my Kindle (sort of cheating, I think) but it is FROZEN and according to the website, may have electromagnetic issues!!! I mean I saw LOST, didn't you? Any black smoke or reference to the "others" and I am going to skedaddle back on my Long Tail Boat back to the mainland.

Wow. I wish I could get the photos to upload from my phone. I will work on that tomorrow during my hour of connectedness.

Good night and sweet dreams and crawling things, stay out of my tent.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Stranger in a strange land.

I suppose it is not written in stone that I enjoy every single minute of my adventure, right?

Bangkok is not my thing.

I arrived in a blissed out state from Siem Reap loveliness and barely paid attention to the long lines and hustle bustle at BKK. I was reading "Just Kids" by Patti Smith in the immigration line and didn't even notice everyone jumping lines to speed up the process. In the end, I think I was one of the last to go through.

Found a cab easy enough and started the long ugly crowded crazy ride into the city. I must not have been paying attention to all the Bangkok movies or my son's stories of his semester here (sorry Nick) but WTH? Bangkok is gargantuan and more crowded than NY combined with LA combined with some other crowded city.

We finally got to Khao San Road where I imagined I would chill on the cheap with the backpackers. The taxi driver dropped me off nowhere near my guest house and when I finally found it, I knew I was in the wrong part of town. I went to check out the room and smiled at a pretty backpacker on the elevator. I startled her out of her X fueled buzz. She said, "Wow." I believe that translates to "Shit, what's that mom doing here?" Or, "Shit, she's uptight."

Yes indeed. Especially when I saw the room. Can't deal. My room in Phnom Penh was pretty basic but the area was fantastic and the people were terrific. Not so at this place. So I fought with the front desk for awhile until the manager called me a big baby which is when I decided to bail to Silom, which had been recommended to me by someone else. I booked a cheap but nice hotel (I have come to discover it is only fake-nice) and took another long painful taxi ride to the hotel. Even with directions, the taxi drivers cannot find places. I don't quite understand that part. Illiteracy?

I decided to get some dinner and call it a day. Oh, I did get to watch them giving blessings in the temple down the road. Definitely more ornate than in the Cambodian countryside but seems to be pretty standard blessing stuff.

This morning I found a park to go to hoping to see masses doing Tai Chi (as the guide book promised). Another long confusing taxi ride to get there and there was one caucasian dude teaching an Asian lady Tai Chi. "You watch me now," was the main thing I heard, the lady to her teacher. Then another cab ride back to the hotel that it took like five guys at a fancy hotel on the same street to figure out.

I met another lone traveler at breakfast and she had just come from Thai countryside and was feeling the same as me. We headed off to the travel agent to cut our losses.

So now, I'm cutting it short here in Bangkok for a small island off Phuket. By tomorrow night I will be resting in my tent-room in a day-time only, generator-driven electricity place called Tenta Nakara Tent Resort. Check it out, the photos from online.

The beauty of it is you can escape from BKK and you can do it really inexpensively. For me to get the hell out of Dodge for four days, including airfare, hotel, and transfer, is about $350 USD.

But for now, I am going to drink Coke out of can, read the end of my novel and then load up a few more on my Kindle for the beach, then nap. Dinner tonight with my new ally from the hotel, then sweet dreams, then sweet beach.


P.S. Photo of hippy girl not actually the hippy girl but just for visual reference. Photos of tent resort actually the place I am going. xo

My new Facebook friend is a monk!

Well technically he isn't my Facebook friend until he accepts me but Yorn Chea, the monk I met last night in Siem Reap, is going to "friend" me when he gets enough money to turn his internet on again.

On my last night at the wonderful RiverGarden in Siem Reap, after another great day of temple gazing, I accompanied Deb, Marcie and Beryl over to the Pagoda where the monks live and worship. Four days a week, the hotel owner (Deb) and staff (Marcie and Beryl) and guests like me help the monks teach the children in the village how to read and speak English at the free, outdoor, evening school.

I watched extremely eager students take in everything that was offered to them: crossword puzzles, word games, printed English words. They copied them carefully into their notebooks and wouldn't move on with an assignment until they were entirely finished. (Note - in the older class - the "high school age class" - there was 1 girl to about 15 boys. I asked about this and no one really could answer why girls were missing.)

The lovely ladies had the teaching covered just fine so I had time to talk to Yorn, my new monk friend, about his efforts at the pagoda. He explained to me that in the village there are 330 children and only 3 teachers. The teachers are not well paid so sometimes they go to school and sometimes they don't. Here is Yorn's meticulous breakdown of how eagerly the kids begin their education and what happens after 2nd Grade:

1st graders - more than 100
2nd grade - 68 students
3rd grade - 45 students
4th grade - 30
5th grade - 25
6th grade - 35

Plus there are very few books. So York wants to raise $150 a month to get another teacher and to buy books. He also wants to help with the salaries the other teachers so they are more motivated. He thinks another $20 a month is a good incentive. Yorn's education ended in the 2nd grade which is one of the reasons he became a monk. So he could become better educated to give back to his village. He's got even bigger plans to help teach one family at a time to be better stewards of livestock and chickens and the like. He is bright and committed. His eyes shine with his well thought out plans.

And when he isn't studying or giving blessings (I got one of those too!), he is also taking care of several boys who live too far away to travel to school. This includes the beautiful, smiling boy with only half of each of his four limbs, in the first picture in this post. Man, can he get around! He can write and climb stairs and seems to have lost no joy or ambition.

All in all, a beautiful effort in a very poor place.

So if you want to learn more about Yorn's work at the pagoda, you can "Friend" him too on Facebook. And as soon as he gets his internet up and running, I know he will keep us in the loop about how he overcomes the struggle to educate the next generation of Cambodians.