Souls Blossom in Winter: A New Novel

Darius and Jewels have been together for eons. Jewels is determined to clean up her karma and move on from the life/death/re-birth cycle on Earth.

“One more lifetime. Then I’m done.” Jewels explained to her mentor.

Human life is never predictable. Every time is a gamble. How long will it take for a soul wake up and realize it’s mission? That’s what Darius contemplates as Jewels maneuvers through the chaotic circumstances of a soul living in a human form.

Novel will be available through Amazon Spring 2016

Reese photo

A New Novel By Reese Jula

By Reese Jula

Technical Challenges: updating your devices software

Who knew that I would have to spend literally three days to upgrade all my devices.

I bought a new/used I-phone 5s. Some of you might already be laughing. I was skimping by with an old but still usable I-phone 3s. I never updated any of the software on the phone or computer for years. Then one day my phone no longer would sync because everything was moved to the “Cloud”.  Needless to say I am on a steep learning curve as I come further into the 21st century.

Since I am changing my career to being a fictional novelist, it is imperative that I “link-in” with all the technology I have at my disposal.

For now its good-bye old phone and hello new world.  Reese

Bye Bye I-phone 3

Bye Bye I-phone 3

Nepal at the Crossroads

As Paul and I crossed the threshold from being urban dwellers to Himalayan trekkers, we had no idea where this path would lead.


Leaving Pokhara Bus Stand


View at the Bus Stand

The Threshhold

The Threshhold









In the quest to be guided by the ascended masters and our own intuition, we stepped off the local bus in Besishahar, Nepal, naive to what lay ahead. We placed our packs on our backs and set forth to locate the Eastern Annapurna Circuit Trailhead.


At the same time, two other Swiss trekkers inquired whether or not we wanted to share a jeep for part of the journey. We looked at the map and said, “That could be a good place to start the trek”. After 15 more minutes of deliberations, we agreed to ride with them thus eliminating 2 days if we had gone by foot. Our adventure was about to begin.

A2T1BridgeWhat I did not realize was that we would be stuck in a tank-like vehicle for 5 hours bouncing violently the entire way. What I did know was that we had a loose plan, a topo map and 12 days. Within the first hour I realized that the jeep ride was the first of many initiations along the way. The fact that I did not suffer from whiplash or other injuries was a bonus.

Our Ride

Our Ride

At a brief stop, I checked in with Paul to see how he was doing. He said, “I’m keeping the consciousness and focus of the tires staying on the road.” At that point, I knew that my own tension was reflected in his statement. My own concentration sometimes said out loud, “Turn the wheels, turn the wheels!” As my eyes glanced 1,000 feet ~ 300 meters ~ down at the sheer rock cliff below.




Our Road

So far the “Government Highway” has not installed guardrails. Multiple times an image flashed before my eyes … the jeep plunging to the bottom of the aqua white glacier water. The mega-river forced her way through the canyon with such raw power. She carved it smooth during eons of time, mama gaia’s endless beauty of light and form, dancing their unity in diversity.



I was caught between sheer panic and utter joy and bliss, beholding the majesty of our mother-earth.








A3B1FlowerAt the halfway point, I suggested that we could walk the rest of the way. My spine from top to bottom had already received about 50 adjustments. At one point I looked at the Swiss woman beside me and stated, “This is not a road, it is a river ~ bed.”


The Actual “Government Highway”

She simply smiled. Was I the only one who was ridiculously nervous?

Minutes later, the Nepalese man next to me stated the obvious, “This is a dangerous road. Last year a jeep and bus went over the edge and many people died.”

I was not the only one fearing for my life.

Obviously we made it to our planned destination. Jostled, breathless and exhausted, Paul and me were greeted by our Tibetan Grandmother and owner of the first teahouse.






Chyamche became the starting point of our trek. [For those of you who have ascended this trail and completed the whole circuit, I applaud you. It takes determination, physical endurance, courage and willingness to go beyond all your limitations at once]. We walked 4-6 hours a day for 9 days. For five days we climbed 6,100 feet ~ 1850 meters up and down. We beheld the grandeur of earth, her dozens of waterfalls and tributary rivers that flow towards India.



Paul and I slept on beds that were more comfortable than the ones in Pokhara hotels. We ate food that was grown on the land in the villages. We ate vegetable curry every night testing each cook’s [male and female] creative variations. Then we traded tips with other trekkers as to which places had the best culinary delights. At one point while eating delicate, simmering apple pie, under the benevolent gaze of the most vertical place in the world, I was struck both at the melting of my soul and the revelation that Annapurna Circuit needs more loving care from the entire globe.


We observed China’s foothold in the guise of building hydropower facilities, for free. Nothing is free. I marveled at the vastness of the construction project underway, tearing down the jungles, making some villages a concrete wasteland. They even created a tunnel for the diversion of the river around the dam until the construction is complete. In light of  my heart’s expansion and spiral consciousness, I can’t judge the Nepalese for this needed expansion of infrastructure.  Electrical power is now provided to some of the most remote mountainous regions in the world.

Naddi Hydro

I did ask one 27-year-old man what he thought of the jeeps, “good” or “not so good?” He responded by saying, “Not so good.” I could see him remembering a time before the road and before the jeeps invaded his mountain people’s Peace. Every step forward changes the topography of the situation at hand. Every country ought to have the benefit of modern progress. Otherwise a teenage woman in the most remote region could not walk an hour from her friend’s community to her village while talking on her I-Phone the entire way home.


The Nepal tourist industry is uplifting many from poverty. On one hand I am pleased that the economy is booming for many Nepalese. The first time I visited Nepal was in 1983 (32 years ago) there where a total of 10 guest houses in Pokhara, a small village next to the lake. I was 16 at that time. The population then was about 14,000,000 and now it is 29,860,686. Today, I can book 137 hotels in Pokhara online through This view from our balcony, I could not have envisioned in 1983.

Pokhara 2014

Pokhara 2014 2

My heart cried as I waited for breakfast at a lakeside restaurant in Pokhara. I could not see the closest foothills or the breathtaking 26,000-foot mountains of the great Himalaya’s. They were shrouded behind a brown haze that I refer to as smog mixed with moisture from the lake.

In sheer denial, many of the Nepalese in the area call it fog or haze from the water of the lake.

DSCN1838Most trash in Nepal is torched and we are all breathing plastic particulates into our lungs in the densely populated areas. It will take a commitment from all of us who love nature and want to keep it pristine for future generations.

A week in the Himalayas changes everything. I want the earth to renew Herself. I want to live along side Her in a peaceful synergy that illuminates my will to embody and experience the exquisiteness of this now moment. I want to simply allow the oxygen of the place we all call home to enter all my cells without concern for my health.


Fog or Smoke?


DSCN1867Ironically the sunset will be a shade of red/orange/brown caused by the distortion of all the burning in the area — a muted version of its normal brilliance. After hiking untold miles up, we finally breathed 100% pure oxygen and drank perfect water. In this moment, I reflect on my own impact on the mountain, upon each village and each human being that I encountered on that trail. All along pondering, the eons of time when these Himalayan villages had no outside visitors. I wonder about how it is for them to have jeeps stir the dust and disturb the silence and the symphony of the forest?











If we, as trekkers, want to adore this spirit expanding opportunity in nature then let us assist Nepal to get on track with sustainable growth and a reliant clear map of how to achieve these goals. These kind of actions will keep Nepal’s part of the planet intact for all humans, who dare, be embraced by mother-Gaia, in her glory, free of trash (plastics) and open sewages.






P.S.  Mother Earth needs our support. As a mountain trekker, I want to see a shift from a degraded environment of trash/plastics on the trail and sewage running into the river below; to a clean, organized structure of reducing Trekkers impact throughout Nepal. If we want to continue to have these trails and guest-houses available for our kids and grandkids then we need to find a way to lighten the load of westerners visiting in mass to see the highest land in the world.

There are so many ways you can be involved:

• Create awareness with friends planning trips to Nepal. The environment in Nepal is in desperate need of concerted, global attention.
• The next time you plan to trek, take out extra rubbish.
• Suggest to your Government officials and or NGO’s, that Nepal is in need of a compressive plan   for waste management and sewage treatment infrastructure.
• You can investigate organizations like the following to know the facts:

These small acts can provide a way to empower these people to leap into the 21st century with dignity and not destroy their natural assets along the way. ~ Reese Jula


Reese and Paul trekking in Nepal


By Reese Jula Tagged

Add Cambodia to Your Bucket List

4.2 million tourists came to Cambodia in 2013—most stayed 3 days and 2 nights—the minimum time required to get a rushed overview of the ancient kingdom of Angkor Wat and a few Khmer meals in Siem Reap.


Rush hour on the Angkor Causeway any time of the day


Chinese and Koreans use umbrellas to “stay white”

Reese and I received a 30-day “visa on arrival” by bus from Bangkok and we discovered a whole world not covered in the Lonely Planet guidebook. Our month inspired this post as a response to a Mar 8, 2014 Huffington Post article, “Why You Should Take Bali Off Your Bucket List”.

This is “Why You Should Add Cambodia to Your Bucket List: Stay Awhile and Volunteer”. 

The difference for us was intel from Steve Grace.

 The Back Story:

During the 1980’s we were both writer–producers for NBC’s Today Show. In 1988 I attended his wedding in St. Louis. Two years after I left New York the second time, Steve also moved to Boulder, Colorado [in 2009], to become the executive director of Colorado University’s President’s Leadership Council [an honors program annually guiding 200 freshmen].

Steve, my wife Reese,


Steve Grace and Reese Murphy

and I sat in a sports bar in 2012 and watched the Colorado Buff’s basketball team win the Pac-12 tournament for CU’s first March Madness in decades. Then he slipped off our radar until Facebook posts began to emerge from Siem Reap, Cambodia, where he established the infrastructure for Angkor Expeditions–White Water Rafting on the Siem Reap River through the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park.

Boyd Matson [the Today Show correspondent who was my “suite mate” for a month in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia before and during the 1984 Olympics; but, probably better known as the host for National Geographic TV] had previously been here with Steve as his tour guide.


Boyd Matson & Steve Grace

Reese and I had looked forward to having a friend in one of the 7 countries on our SE Asia tour. Then, we got a call from Steve Monday, July 19, while in Bangkok saying he just accepted a new job in Saigon and would be leaving Friday. So we scrambled … finished some dental work and arrived by 7-hour bus at 5 PM Wednesday.

Ironically, I received a message from Boyd Matson asking if I was going to be in Boulder Friday. He was coming to visit his son Taylor who had graduated from Colorado University.

Back to the Present:

Steve met us at the station and took us first to our hotel, then for a quick pre-sunset drive through Angkor Wat Archaeological Park and then to dinner. Over the course of 2 dinners and 2 morning coffees, we received his verbal download and his “Things To Do in Siem Reap” spreadsheet. He talked us off the ledge of buying a 7-day Angkor Wat pass and instead connecting with a strong and supportive expatriate community that embraced us for 30 days as we crossed Viet Nam off our August calendar. Instead, his guidance allowed us to morph into 30 days of rejuvenation, connection with beings who would become friends-for-life  and a kinder, gentler tour strategy for the temples.

We would quickly discover that the largest temple area is Angkor Thom, a 9 km square with entrance gates in the 4 cardinal directions plus the “Victory Gate”.


Victory Gate

 The Four Directions are the foundations for all the temples, ritual ceremonies and now the basis for our bucket list:

 1] West: River Garden Inn

 The River Garden Inn is West of the Siem Reap River [North of the landmark Old Market].


Siem Reap River in front of the River Garden Inn

Just 200 yards from his apartment, this most-frequent morning coffee stop for Steve was where he was sitting when he received a call from the place where we had reservations. “They” were calling to say that they were “shutting down for renovations”. Deb Saunders is an Australian who moved to Cambodia 7 years ago and created her dream of the


Steve introduces us to Deb Saunders

the River Garden Inn. She immediately stepped up and gave us a deal during this, “the rainy season”, to stay in her rainforest with a salt water swimming pool.


Garden from the River to the Pool



Fountain by the Pool










The first evidence of “something different going on here in Siem Reap” is that the pool is “free” to her Khmer neighbors and ex-pats if they simply purchase “one drink”.


Khmer neighbors

The menu’s at River Garden carry Deb’s message: “We’re here because Cambodians are such wonderful people. They are honest, gracious, respectful and a joy to be amongst. We’re lucky to be here”.

The other stark contrast from the West is that Deb’s Khmer staff is nearly all under 25 years of age.


“Khmer 25” Staff

Steve explained that ten years ago the U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia remarked that 75% of the population was 25 or younger.


Cambodians have a glorious past [as long as one thousand years ago and as recently as in the 1960’s in Phnom Penh] and recent tragedy going to hell and back. President Nixon ordered B-52 “carpet bombings” that wiped out 250-350,000 people. The Khmer Rouge then killed 25% of all Cambodians between 1975-1979 [see “Khmer Rouge Convictions” August 17 below]. That was followed by the civil war through the 80’s. The 1990’s task was to identify and defuse land mines around the whole country including the Angkor Wat temples [Remember the charitable work of Princess Diana].

Wikipedia estimates that there were 60,000 to 80,000 Buddhist monks in the early 1970’s. Some escaped to Thailand. Less than 1,000 survived the slaughter.

Baby Boomers in Cambodia, the souls who quickly reincarnated after their great war, began to appear in 1992. The monks are back.


Monks walking across the river


Blessing a store and owner















Back to the 25’s:

On the placemat at our table, Deb describes what she calls her “Twenty-Five Khmer Staff”:

“Nearly all of our staff are under 25 years of age. They’re all studying, getting married, having children or contributing to extended family. We try to support and accomodate them in a safe and happy work environment”.

Everyone’s name tag includes one word added to their names by “Madam”.


Successful Shreynick


Sima [often forgot her name tag]
















Steady and always available was “Patient Phim” …


Patient Phim

And “Service Sihong” who instantaneously became “Sassy” to us.


Sassy Sihong


Cheerful Chea

We renamed Chea, “Sunshine” partly because she leaves home before the sun rises to ride her bicycle 5.4 miles from her home near the Prasat Kravan Temple in order to arrive at work every morning at 6:45 AM . 

RGCheaArrives Arrival

Friday morning Steve came to say goodbye.


Goodbye, Steve


Steve Grace, Reese Murphy and me

After Steve left, we did not leave the hotel grounds for 48 hours.


 Then on Facebook July 28, a picture appeared of Boyd Matson and his son at the summit of their hike up Mt. Sneffels.

Mat Son

Taylor and Boyd Matson

 Boyd was in Colorado. Steve was in Saigon. We were in Cambodia.

2] North: Sunday Morning Trekking Club–A Strong and Supportive Ex-Pat Community

Two doors North of the River Garden is “1961”, an art gallery on one side


Chinese Art Gallery [lower left]

and an office hub primarily frequented by ex-pats from multiple countries.



Steve suggested we team up with Stephane De Greef and fully recommended his Sunday Morning Trekking Club.


Stephane De Greef

Stephane is a Belgian cartographer, photographer, guide [for Boyd Matson’s National Geographic adventure] and data cruncher ; but, we primarily know him as the “Indiana Jones of Insects and Spiders”. Verification: 90% of his 95,732 digital photos are bugs.


a.k.a Bug Man

He takes friends and visiting associates for a 6 AM Sunday trek through the jungle beginning just north of Angkor Thom.


Sunday Morning Trekking Club

For our Sunday morning, we were joined by Kurt Xu, impresario of 1961.


Also above in the peach shirt

Two Chinese students volunteered to work for one month with a photographer at 1961. They were able to stay at the River Garden for a discounted rate arranged through conCERT, another NGO supporting environmentalism and responsible tourism.

















Valeria is a Russian fashion model who moved to Siem Reap 3 years ago to work for a travel agency.



This hike turned out to be our introduction to the Kingdom of Angkor Wat. Imagine trekking through the woods and coming out to see the South entrance of Preah Khan just the way French explorers discovered it circa 1914 [see Reese’s 17 August post about Preah Khan, “Heaven on Earth“].


Approaching Preah Khan


Preah Khan South entrance


Side View












We saw contemporary Cambodians fishing what used to be the moat of Angkor Thom. 


Stephane informed us that the ants


and termites were actually more dangerous than Angkor snakes.


Of all the trees in the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park, Stephane actually knows which one is the largest,


Biggest Tree

Our brigade passed through the North Gate.


We walked along the northeast wall of Angkor Thom


where we saw the source of the largest vine in the Park.

VineSource and the length of it’s extension.


Vine Links

And we were actually introduced to a “bleeding tree”. He took out his keys and made a vertical cut and instantly, this one started to bleed.


We exited through the North Gate gate; but not without seeing some of the real tourism crowd.


Preview of the temples


Alternative ways of getting there











$15 Elephant Rides


Elephant “Airport” Boarding Area

















With such an introduction to the archaeological park, Reese and I postponed the purchase of our ticket into Angkor Wat for another two weeks while we sunk back into the nourishing River Garden rainforest.

We would also discover that there are other ex-pat groups on Facebook, Siem Reap Ex-Pats.

Before going to the temples, we chose to explore some of the recommended non-profit ventures.

3] East: Touch a Life

Wednesday morning we took a tuk-tuk across the river to the home of Mavis Ching, Four mornings each week her house is also the setting for Touch A Life.


Quite simply, on Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s, Mavis along with a paid staff of Khmers plus many traveling volunteers and a few ex-pat regulars, prepare over 5,000 meals a month and feed children.

Reese prepared a coconut vegetable curry for 120.


Reese Stirs the Pot


Coconut vegetable curry










Then each Saturday, 670 meals are prepared and delivered to villages near Angkor Wat [see “Touch A Life” below posted 20 August].



These 4 girls go to school until 11:30 AM and then get their bikes and hunt for plastic and card board to earn money from the recycling center.




There is an “accepted exploitation” at the schools. Teachers earn $100 per month. It is commonly known that their income is supplemented by charging extra fees to students for their classes. Kids pay 5 cents per day just to park their bikes at school.


While they waited for leftovers. they drew pictures.


Unexpectedly, this one was for us.


They wait to get bags of left over’s to take home so their families can eat.


And then they are off to work.


4] South: ConCERT & Sister Srey Café [Friday]

After we moved to be closer to the Old Market, the first place we went was to Sister Srey Cafe for breakfast.


next to the Buddhist Temple

While Banteay Srei is the “Citadel for Women”, Sister Shrey is actually two Australian sisters who created a “Citadel for Temple Boys” [for the explanation, see Reese’s 17 August post, “Serving Humanity from the Heart of the Universe”].

Everyone knows that a good barista remembers a patron’s drink.


Sister Lauren hugging her barista

Here, Mr. Grace is known as “Steve Americano”.

One of the first NGO’s to fund themselves by opening a restaurant was the Sister Srey Café.


It is also a portal into the clearing house for many other restaurants and hotels that have united for this central purpose:

ConCERT Connecting Communities, Environment & Responsible Tourism” is anot-for-profit social enterprise based in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Our vision is a Cambodia free of poverty; our mission is to turn people’s good intentions into the best possible help for the most vulnerable people in Cambodia.

New Leaf Book Cafe

5] Victory Gate: Beatocello [Saturday Night + Thursday’s in High Season]

We passed by the sign

beatocello poster

Free Concert Saturday

in front of Kanta Bopha Children’s Hospital


every time we entered Angkor Wat; but, did not go to the free Saturday concert until our last weekend.

Quite simply,  this block of Charles DeGaulle Boulevard is the Victory Gate of the 21st Century.

If there can be a victory in Cambodia’s recent history, it is the lifetime achievement work of a man better know as “Beatocello”. He is the synthesis of Dr. Albert Schweitzer and the Mother Theresa. This pediatrician has saved the lives of countless thousands of children.

Steve told us this was a “must-see” night of a cello solo, a French documentary and appeal for funding and blood donations.

The Beatocello Trailer on YouTube does not reflect justice:

Dr. Beat Richner is a Swiss pediatrician, cellist and founder of 5 children’s hospitals in Cambodia. As edited from Wikipedia, he is a cellist and a medical doctor known by patients, audiences, and donors as “Beatocello”.


Beatocello, street musician

After receiving his medical degree in 1973, Dr. Beat Richner specialized in pediatric care at the Zurich Children’s Hospital. Working for the Swiss Red Cross, he was sent to Cambodia where he worked at the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital in Phnom Penh in 1974 and 1975.


Dr. Beat Richner with patient

The hospital was named in memory of the daughter of King Norodom Sihanouk who died at a very young age (1948–1952).

When the Khmer Rouge overran Cambodia, he was forced to return to Switzerland where he continued his work at the Zurich Children’s Hospital. In the process of pursuing his medical career and with an interest in music and entertainment, Dr. Richner developed the character of “Beatocello”, an artistic and comedic clown who played the cello.


Richner also published many children’s books based on “Beatocello”.

In December 1991, Richner returned to Cambodia and saw the devastation that had taken place following the ensuing conflicts with the Khmer Rouge and Vietnam.

He was asked to re-open and re-build Kantha Bopha by the Cambodian government. Creating the Kantha Bopha Foundation in March, 1992, Richner officially returned to Cambodia to begin reconstruction. Kantha Bopha was reopened in November, 1992. The foundation has funded the expansion of Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals to include five hospitals.

Currently, of the 2,500 Kantha Bopha staff members, Dr. Richner alongside the head pathologist Dr. Denis Laurent, are the only expatriate staff members employed at the hospitals.

The Kantha Bopha hospitals treat half a million children per year free of charge. Japanese encephalitis, malaria, dengue fever and typhoid are common, often exacerbated by the presence of Tuberculosis. TB is the number one killer affecting 65% of the population. Kanta Bopha has decreased the infant mortality rate from 6.5% to an astonishingly low 0.3%.


The hospitals are primarily funded by donations from individuals in Switzerland where Richner is somewhat of an icon. He was named “Swiss of the Year” in 2003.

As “Beatocello”, Richner performs free concerts at the Jayavarman VII hospital in Siem Reap on Thursday and Saturday nights, during the high season. The evenings include songs, played on his cello, and talks on the health crisis in Cambodia.


Dr. Beat Richner

He asks the young tourists for blood, the older tourists for money, and the ones in between for both.

The Foundation has raised $370 million. Kanta Bopha Children’s Hospital is the Victory Gate for the 21st century.

Dr. Beat Richner is the Albert Schweitzer of the 21st century and the Mother Theresa of Cambodia!

Saved from the ambitious plan of spending 7 days at the temples, there was more space for reflections on the personal impact of Angkor Wat [September post, …] and the 5 key questions provoked by our month in the kingdom [September post, “Cambodian Temples for your Bucket List”.

By Reese Jula

Cambodian Temples for Your Bucket List

Part Two of our Cambodian Bucket List is the Five Temples that complement Angkor Wat.

1] Kbal Spean: Waters Blessed by 1,000 Linga

We chose to begin our official, ticketed journey through the Angkor Wat kingdom in the East, 22 miles from Siem Reap. We knew that there would be a 1 mile hike up the side of a mountain and Deb suggested we climb early before the heat and the bus loads of tourists. [Wise Innkeeper]


Reese half way up the mountain to Kbal Spean

Most of the stone for the temples was cut in the Kulen Mountains and then put on boats to be delivered to temple building sites. Water is the Key to the Kingdom of Cambodia.

“Kbal” [headwater] “Spean” [bridge] is a tributary that ultimately connects with the Siem Reap River.


The head water bridge at Kbal Spean

In 1968 another Frenchman, Jean Boulbet, discovered a 150-meter stretch that has become known by its Sanskrit name, Sahasralinga, “River of a Thousand Lingas”. In 1059 King Udayadityavarman consecrated a golden linga.


Linga under water

In dry season, lingas are more visable. In the rainy season, a good under-water camera [or Samsung S5] is preferable.


Rows of Lingas

Brahma, Vishnu reclining and Shiva are all represented.


Four-Faced God Brahma seated on a Lotus

Reclining Vishnu

Reclining Vishnu

Shiva appears primarily as the Linga. The pattern of 5 linga [Mr. Meru surrounded by the four directions] is completed by the square enclosure with a channel at one end, the feminine principle, Yoni.


Yoni [top], Lingas [bottom] Under Water

We would have missed them had we not been guided by one of the Park rangers.


Water passes over this Sacred Union blessing Compuchea [Cambodia] and her children.KSFalls2] Banteay Srei:

Twelve miles north of Angkor at the foot of the Kulen Mountains is the “Citadel of the Women”.


It is considered by many to be the “Jewel of Kymer Art”. Pink sandstone adds to the delicate beauty of the intricate carvings.


It was built by Yajnavaraha, guru of the future king Jayavarman V, not as a royal temple; but as the center of a settlement. It is small, almost a miniature compared to the temples built to honor Kings and male gods.


With an abundance of unexpected time, it is an opportunity to develop a glossary of architectural terms and building types:

Cornice: A decorated projection that crowns or protects a doorway [above a lintel].



Lintel: a rectangular stone over a doorway with a carved design.



Pediment: a Triangular, vertical face above a lintel.


Triangular Pediment

 Prasat: A terraced pyramid temple.



Viharas: the main temple houses.


Adorned Devatas grace the doors of the 3 Viharas.














Only to discover, that the three primary enclosures each surround a male supreme being.

While the viharas are not open, long lenses can help discern what’s inside.


Pushing in through the doors from infinity …


one can see remnants of the Buddha.


In the Holy of Holies of another vihara is the central linga-Shiva, “Great Lord of the Threefold World”, Tribhuvanamaheshvara.


Elsewhere, Vishnu sits on his mount, Garuda.


Krishna kills Kamsa in ornate, pink sandstone.


Krishna Killing Kamsa

Curiously, the Citadel of the Women in the Age of Pisces paradoxically reflects the religions of male dominance.

3] Baphoun: The Largest Architectural Jig-Saw Puzzle Ever

From a distance, one cannot see the troubles of Baphoun.



An extensive and troubled restoration project began in the early 1970’s with archaeologists dismantling the 5-tiered mountain and creating extensive research records. The pyramid needed to be dissembled in order to be re-inforced. The Center of Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient was in the middle of the long-term project when civil war erupted and the site was abandoned.

The Khymer Rouge destroyed research records and scattered stones.


Work paused for 25 years.

When the restoration was resumed in the 90’s, 300,00 stones were numbered.


and the enormous jig-saw puzzle began.


The Wall


Close up of Same Wall


















I’ve been to Legoland and this is bigger.


Wide Shot of Same Wall

Many more stones are still spread around the temple.


Restoration was completed in 2011.


4] Bayon: The Ultimate Selfie

Enigmatic Bayon is in the exact center of the 9 KM square of Angkor Thom.


The Entrance of Bayon


A Stone Mountain of Ascending Peaks

It is also in the center of at least two different mysteries regarding the giant carved stone faces:


1] Were there originally 54 towers of the same four faces [for a total of 216 faces] or just the 37 towers which remain? Regardless, it must set the record for the must carved selfies on the planet.


Each tower was created with faces oriented in the cardinal directions.

















2] Is the face of Loksvara, Mahayana Buddhism’s compassionate Bodhisattva?


or  Jayavarman VII who built the state-temple?


or a fusion composite of both?


There are 3 physical levels of Bayon. First, on the ground level exterior walls, there are the requisite bas reliefs. Military commanders rode elephants.


Khmer [Cambodia]  war against the Chams [Viet Nam]

Second, there are the maze-like interior rooms.


Beyond the Holy of Holies, yoni with missing linga, Reese ponders


Finally, there are glimpses through the portals of the faces.


Until one climbs up the stairs,


and stands eye level with the King … or with Buddha.


Can you find 7 faces?

The roof [third level] is


where the fun begins.BYPoses


Framed by Doorways and Smiles

How many faces can you see in one photo?


















Is that a bigger smile on the right?













Turning around a corner, the silliness escalates:


A Japanese Romantic


Multiple Internationales

We waited for our turn …


Reese’s Smooch

… only to discover that the camera man must get down on his knees for the correct angle. I could not reach low enough; but I bow down to the creator of these special effects.


A Forest of Towers of Unequal Heights

The King was virtually Canbodia’s first complete leader: proclaiming the population equal, abolishing castes, building hospitals, schools, and roads.


5] Ta Prohm: Romance vs. Restoration

Yes, you have seen this temple at the cinema if you saw “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”.


Angelina Jolie at Ta Prohm

It is the “Temple of the Trees”.


East Entrance to Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm is another example of a Buddhist-Hindu fusion temple originally intended to be a monastery [the principal deity is “The Perfection of Wisdom”]. Nature intervened.




Religion is an after thought upon seeing enormous silk cotton and strangler fig trees growing through the stones.


Best estimates are that the trees were created around 400 years ago when birds would drop seeds into the cracks of the temples.


This was the original temple selected by the French [E.F.E.O.] to be left in its natural state.


Today, an Indian preservation group is preparing additional restoration.




After Reconstruction

The current debate is between Romance [“The trees are most impressive”]


and Restoration [“Maintaining the monument is our duty”].


So what is the “Perfection of Wisdom”?


Reese was in her zone when we set our early Tuesday morning.


She returned to the hotel and wrote her reflective post [17 August, “Heaven and Earth”].

I found myself walking around, looking for the perfect shots with the best lighting …


And laughing.


Perhaps there’s a middle ground to the debate–Restore some of the temple and support the Trees?


Reese’s Birthday in India

For our solar returns, we consulted astro-theologian Subathra Dewi to do our charts. Not so accidentally Subathra was staying next door to our Augherah friend Una in an Ubud , Bali guest house. [see post below of July 2, “The Best Exotic Anugerah Hotel”].


Subathra, of mixed Persian-Egyptian-Indonesian lineages, was in between her past home in Maui and her next home in Sedona staying in Bali while writing her first book about Astro Theology and the gods.


Subathra contends that the only way one can manipulate their astrology is to choose where to be on the planet for your solar return, the anniversary of your first breath after birth.

She confirmed that for our September birthdays and first-year wedding anniversary, Tiruvannamalai, India is our place.


Shiva Temple in Tiru

Reese had a breakthrough mystical experience when she was here with her SGLA students in 2009. I simply love the fervor of Krishna Das when he sings about Arunachala, the mythical home of Shiva. For Hindus it is more precisely the Agni element of Shiva.



We left our guest house shortly after sunrise; but, before the cows were completely finished milking.




Milk Sales

Some Sadhus were up.


Some Sadhus were down.


We were joined by Paola, the yoga princess from Mexico City we brought from our Auroville community house, and Ashish, the Rajastani guru we met in Shanti Cafe our first morning of what turned out to be our weekend seminar, “Why Not?”


Paola & Ashish


“Aruna” translates as “Sun”. “Achala” indicates “stillness”. We began our ascent up the steps behind the Sri Ramana Ashram at the foot of the mountain. The sign set the tone.


Love Arunachala as You Love Yourself

Mostly, Indian Pilgrims climb these steps to celebrate auspicious moments in their lives.




The universal sign for Shiva is the Linga.


Sun Light Radiates from Linga and Yoni

The goal for many is not the summit. It is the home where Sri Ramana meditated for 7 years.



No cameras were allowed inside the home or Virupakshi Cave where he meditated for the previous 18 years.


The Light can be seen from outside.

It is a joyous day.



Apsara Dancing


When we returned, we were invited to stay for lunch in the Ashram.


Sitting in rows on the floor eating food off banana leaves and laughing

Happy Birthday, Reese. May your Soul enjoy Immortality.


Peacock at Ashram

Angkor Wat

“Angkor Wat” literally translated is the “city [which became] a pagoda”. It is not just a temple. It is a Kingdom. And, it is the world’s largest religious building.

Early speculation was that when Indian traders reached SE Asia they had to wait 6 months for the right winds before returning across the Indian Ocean. They brought religion. They imported their architecture based on a simple cosmology: Place Mount Meru, the home of the gods, in the middle of 4 mountains


and surround the temple with a 200 meter moat [representing the oceans].


Angkor, the capital of the Khmer empire from the 9th to the 13 century, ruled a vast territory that is now Cambodia, Thailand, Viet Nam and Laos. It was the first metropolis in Southeast Asia, before Bangkok and Singapor . The population was over a million at the same time when there were fewer than 30,000 in London. Angkor Wat was completed around 1150. Construction of the Notre Dam Cathedral in Paris began in 1163.

Every day for nearly a thousand years, each tower—shaped like a closed lotus—seems to sprout out of the Sun.


LotusClosed *

Lotus in Morning Sun


Lotus Tower

Four million tourists flocked to Cambodia last year. We chose to come in the rainy season when there are fewer people, yet greener surroundings.

We made the decision not to enlist the service of a knowledgeable guide. Rather, we took a brief overview from the commonly used guidebook, “Ancient Angkor”, before exploring.  Then we read more pointedly at the end of the day after our experience. Our purpose, as always, was to ask Spirit for guidance and then be attentive to who shows up on our path.

Mr. Kim took us to Angkor Wat after lunch on our second day for good reason.

Mr Kim

Mr. Kim, River Garden Inn Tuk-Tuk Captain

Later the guidebook would confirm that one should go for the first time after 2 PM when the sun highlights the West facing entrance.


Honestly, it was initially annoying to be greeted by huge NAGA reptilian serpents, more associated with Buddhism, up close and in our faces. After all, we came to see the world’s largest Hindu temple.


Naga Serpent

Sometime during the reign of  Jayavarman VII, [1181-1220], Buddhism took over Angkor Wat. Then the national religion reverted to Hinduism with his son, Jayavarman VIII [1243-95]. Buddhism became Cambodia’s dominant religion in the 14th century. Buddha is often depicted with a naga snake over his meditating form.


My hope is actually that the moat keeps the nagas out. Temples were built for the gods to reside.


Causeway to West Entrance

There are 3’s everywhere in Hindu mythology. Angkor Wat has 3 Gopuras or entrances.


Next there’s the immediate realization that the temple is a 3-tiered pyramid.


The temple was built by Suryavarman II [during his reign from 1112-1150].


Suryavarman II

to honor Vishnu, the Protector.

Vishnu’s cosmological role is to preserve universal order and he fights to restore harmony. Vishnu’s most symbolic representation is the four-armed man holding four attributes or symbols:



1] a conch shell for sounding his victory over chaos; 2] a discus, the invincible weapon given to him by Indra; 3] a mace, symbol of his own power, and 4] in Cambodia, a small ball representing the earth.

Level 1: Bas Reliefs

The third enclosure [or outer perimeter] is covered with Bas-Reliefs from floor to ceiling [600 meters around the temple by 2 meters high]. The corridors seem endless. The number of artisans must have reached into the thousands.


The artistry depicts stories from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. I chose 2 of the many stories to minimize the eye strain [The lighting is uneven. Without proper lighting, photography is challenging].

The Judgment by 18-Armed Yama between Heaven and Hell.


18-Armed Yama

The central register of the South wall shows the place where souls are judged by Yama. It is 66 meters long. There are 32 “sin-specific” hells where cruelty is extreme and the tortures are just shy of water boarding.


32 Hells

There are 37 Heavens.


37 Heavens

Either Michael Freeman or guidebook co-author Claude Jacques [or both] state that the “heavens are considerably less interesting than the hells”. Elsewhere they say, “The Heavens appear as a succession of palaces where not very much happens, and whatever delight the apsaras are supposed to give, they do it modestly”.


Apsaras Dancing in Heaven

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was fond of saying “Knowledge is structured in consciousness”. The expression has stuck with me since I first heard it in 1973. The current application is that “knowledge is different in different states of consciousness”. In the world of “consensus reality”, people love their drama. In higher states of consciousness, the non-dual or Unity Consciousness, Absolute Bliss prevails. I prefer the songs and dances of the apsaras to cops and robbers.

Elixir for Immortality

The battle for the Elixir, the Soma according to Rig Veda, is the creation myth of the Bhagavad Gita. It is a “Thousand Year” war between the gods and the asuras who try to essentially steal immortality from the faithful. The battle is alternately called “The Churning of the Sea of Milk”.

AWSeaof Milk

Sea of Milk

By pulling alternately on the body of the giant naga Vasuki,


Tug of War pulling the giant snake

the 92 asuras [left] and the 88 gods [right] churn the milk for one thousand years.


Asuras pullling from the left


Devas pulling from right
















The gods or Devas are assisted at the far right by Hanuman.


Hanuman at the end of the rope

But the difference is Vishnu and Garuda. What I love about Vishnu is that he must often take an earthly form to intervene in human affairs.  As an Avatar, he descends his consciousness into appropriate forms to help humanity spiral into more conscious evolution. In this, his second descent, Vishnu becomes Kurma, the turtle.


Vishnu as a Turtle

In the end, though, it is Garuda who makes the difference for Vishnu and becomes his mount.



[See the “Bird Tribes” post below 31 July 2014 for the back story of the Garuda becoming Vishnu’s mount after successfully taking the Elixir of Immorality back from the serpent nagas].

There are 10 total forms when Vishnu becomes an Avatar and descends from god to earth. I eagerly await the tenth form, Kalki, riding a horse, who is called the “Future Avatar”, who will appear at the end of the present era, Kali Yuga.

Level 2

The second level of Angkor Wat is adorned with 2,000 Apsaras.  

Apsaras are beautiful, supernatural female beings.












They are youthful, elegant, and superb in the art of dancing.


They are often the wives of the Gandharvas, the court musicians of Indra. Apsaras dance to the music made by the Gandharvas. As ethereal beings who inhabit the skies, and are often depicted taking flight, or at service of a god. They may be compared to angels.


Apsaras Connected to the Heavenly Realms

This corner on the second level of Angkor Wat is re-created in the Angkor National Museum and draws the most spectators.










Level 3: The Ascent of Mount Meru 

Going up is easier than climbing down.


Many more people are going up than coming down

From the moment I arrived on the top of these steps, I experienced immediate anxiety about the climb down. It was irrational and overbearing. What was that fear?


Looking down into the cloisters

It had to be cellular memory.


Looking out to the horizon, I could not be present in the moment. My breathing was shallow. I looked around for distractions.

After ascending 3 levels in the world’s largest religious building, Mount Meru, one discovers that the Holy of Holies


Holy of Holies

is actually smaller than the kitchen we had in our Boulder Sky Temple home.


And, ultimately, there’s a reclining Buddhu in the Hindu summit.


Reclining Buddha

A young, male attendant asked me to make a donation in order to light some incense. I preferred to become incensed and tell him he had no business at the apex of a Hindu temple.

It had to be about the journey because “Getting There” was so anti-climactic.

It was time to go down.


I started singing “Om Namah Shivaya” on the top of the first step and that began a cascade of laughter all the way down the stairs. It was suddenly child-like and silly.

The only other time I’ve experienced such shortened breath and irrational thoughts was descending the rain-soaked steps [seemingly only 5 inches wide] of Huana Picchu, next to Macchu Picchu, in 1987.

We walked around the corner only to see the next flight of stairs unrestored and without hand rails.


The ascent of Mount Meru has been the dream and aspiration of Hindus for centuries.



Touch A Life

To feed 670 people in their villages South of Angkor Wat by sunset on Saturday, you must arrive at Mavis Ching’s house by 7 AM ready to chop vegetables.


Chum Ree-Up Soo-A

The Mission:

Mavis registered this Non Governmental Organization in Malaysia, soft launched it in Indonesia, then brought her vision to Siem Reap, Cambodia in 2008. Her N.G.O. is simply called “Touch a Life” and it does so by feeding children—lots of children–more than 1,250 each week. She and her staff must sometimes even turn away would-be volunteers who want their own lives touched by the children they serve.

On Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Fridays, 80-100 children are fed in front of her home …


Any Given Wednesday













And 40 more meals are moto-biked to an orphanage.


On Saturday, food is prepared and wrapped until 2 PM and then delivered by the same food preparers to villages just South of Angkor Wat–the nexus where world travelers meet the “Khmer kingdom of today” inside the world’s largest archaeological park.

Character Development:

It takes a village to feed a village. This Saturday we are blessed with volunteers from Europe [Portugal, France, Italy and the United Kingdom], 6 from Singapore, Reese and I from the People’s Republic of Boulder [Colorado, USA] plus Cambodians feeding other Cambodians.


We were 10 minutes late. Carrots were already being diced.

Mavis’s Khmer assistant Boneth Deab has already been to the Old Market at 5:30 AM to buy bags of morning glories, long beans, eggplant and garlic for a month.


Boneth with a Pineapple for Sweet and Sour Tofu


Morning Glory



Eggplant & Long Beans











Kosal Som started with Touch A Life and is now the project manager for Life Project Cambodia, the recipient meals on Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s.



Eiffel, Justin  and Rahim are all from Singapore and have become regulars since they moved to Siem Reap.


Eiffel with the red tints



Justin, the blonde Singaporean











The other Ex-Pat regular is Tiffany from Paris …



who displays the only combo tattoo I’ve seen with both the Ankh and the snakes of the Caduceus–an immortal one.


Ankh + Caduceus

The true guests of honor are three women who flew in for the weekend from Singapore just to volunteer for “Touch a Life”.


Jasmine, Joana, Jean and Esther

Zoey Court, from Essex, England, had just arrived in Cambodia earlier in the week on a work visa to spend a year assisting Leah Frazer with her business.


Leah & Zoey

And, for the month of August, 3 pre-med students from Coimbra, Portugal add their medical touch in the villages.


Ines Morais

Ines has also organized simultaneous one-month volunteer internships for her fellow pre-med students in East Timor, India, Mozambique and Cape Verde, South Africa.

The other Port-u-Gal is Joana who also grew up in Coimbra.


Joana Silva

Joao practices surgical precision on the onions.


Joao Marques

“Madam Fritatta” [Admittedly, the nickname I gave her hasn’t stuck yet] is actually named Doriana. She’s Italian and speaks a few words in English.


Her husband manages a travel agency in Siem Reap and she’s been here for years.

Preparing the Meals:

She has come every day for 9 months and quietly makes all the omelettes.


Over Madam Fritatta’s Shoulder


350 eggs yield “Omelettes for 670”

Three cauldrons—each with 230 cups of curry soup—simmer before being measured into one-cup plastic bags.


Curry Soup


Khmer Chefs











Young men from Life Project Cambodia arrive to measure 390 grams of rice and pack into wrappers.


Kosal’s Crew from Life Project Cambodia



Rows and Columns of Rice














The rice packages are placed in blue Ikea bags and the ladies prepare for their ride.


Food for 670 To Go


The first regularly scheduled stop is actually on the Charles de Gaulle road to Angkor. This man lost one leg when a Khmer Rouge land mine exploded in the 1970’s.


Grateful Man

All meals are distributed from the back of the motor-cycled tuk-tuk according to the accounting ledger.












When families register, they receive a card that entitles the presenter to the same number of meals each week.


Mavis checking cards while the medical staff “works the line”

Lives Touched:

The “bread winners” come in all sizes.


and ages …


Anyone over the age of 35 worked in rice fields, concentration camps or hid during the siege of the Khymer Rouge [1975-1979].


This is the road during rainy season.









































He bikes 9 KM [5.4 miles each way] every Saturday to get food for his family









































Not unnoticed ….



Stalks crafted to look like rifles


Young Cowboy


Medical Attention:



The last stop is the biggest village,  Mondul Bey.


Patience is required.


Then there’s everything else going on …











Aon–one of the businesses in the World Trade Center September 11, 2001


A Closer Look













The line to the food truck is still long.



Only her hand has moved












A mother of 3 keeps an eye on her pearled darlings.














While Mavis fills the last bag.



At 6pm, it is done.


Our Tuk Tuk driver can head back into town less the weight of 2,000 packages of egg, rice and soup.



PS  Credits:

Kai and Nak have washed the vegetables before everyone arrives and then stay to wash all the silverware, dishes and pots after we leave.


Kai & Nak


Everyone was exhausted and needed some time before reflections.


Since it was the first “Day in the Field” for the 3 pre-med students, we asked them for their reflections.

Joana touched on some raw moments:

When I first walked into “Touch a Life”, I saw a big smile on Mavis’s face. I still remember and feel the big hug she gave me. I felt so welcome in that moment. I started immediately to enjoy Cambodia!

Inês, John and I went into the villages by bicycles. The second stop was the most difficult for me, because I’ve never seen anything so poor.


The most challenging moment was when I saw the 50 year old man who almost couldn’t move and was so, so thin! He kept saying, “Thank you”, “Thank you”—millions of times. He said, “We are the best part of his week”. I almost cried.

After that, I started to see the most beautiful smiles from the kids.


In the end I just realized that this is the poorest place on earth I’ve ever been; but, it’s a “type of poor” that is so simple.

It seems they do not suffer. Cambodia feels safe. In other countries when people are poor, they start to be violent. Their country gets dangerous. There are lots of robberies.

In Cambodia, no. They are so poor. They almost don’t eat anything for days. They are polite. They show love. They hug you and smile!!


They are so pure, so innocent. They just run and play with each other in the middle of nothing, in the middle of nowhere.

We were impotent. We couldn’t do much to help them!

At the end of this day, I was tired and exhausted–physically and emotionally. But I was “full”. I was happy.


I’m in love with these kids!



Joao wrote:

One thing that makes me admire Mavis’s work even more is that she provides not only food, water, paper and pencils; but, also a sense of gratitude and humility. They must realize what they get there is not free but the result of others’ (Mavis, ex-pats, tourists and locals) will and compassion.

A simple evidence is that every child remembers to say “Hello” to us … “Thank you”, “No, thank you” and “Good Bye”.


On Saturday, in the villages, I was too busy to realize what was around me. Only at the last stop did I take some time to look around the vicinity and see … one of the simplest and most basic ways of living.


In spite of that, I saw happiness. 
Most of all the people in the street were children playing and caring for their loved ones at the same time.


That makes me think the future is bright and a lot can change in the next years.

I wish them a prosperous future.



Ines shared an email sent to her parents and friends:

It was quite hard not to cry as I have never seen anything so poor and dirty; yet so pure and untouched.

Children would go around barefooted or even naked. Their clothes can’t even be called “clothes” as they lost colors and shapes. Children have flies and other insects in every part of their bodies and it seems that they haven’t been eating for more than 20 days.

Joao, Joana and I were supposedly doing the “medical” part.


The work was so frustrating. We would finish disinfecting someone and they would go back somewhere and get dirty.


My incredulity started to disappear as the hours passed. I started enjoying the moment. I understood the gratitude and happiness of the people.


My small contribution was a great feeling of satisfaction in the end. Most important, it was a respect for those who do this work everyday for so many years, without any kind of compensation–just the smiley and toothless ‘Aukun‘ (“thank you”) of the kids.


This email aims to tell you that nothing that you may have seen can compare to this misery; but also, no happy kid is as happy as these kids when they receive love.


So if you ever cross this part of the world, please come and get to know this piece of forgotten land.


Five souls were touched Saturday.


By Reese Jula

Serving Humanity from the Heart of the Universe

DSCN1244On the rare occasion that I peek into the news through the mainstream media, I am seldom uplifted. Usually I end up angry or crying when I see the mounting atrocities that we are doing to each other and the biosphere. Then I vow again to focus my attention on what is right in front of me, in this current now.

I spent 10 years running a nonprofit organization educating young adults to be leaders of global sustainability. I have been purporting all along that, “Our Youth are the Leaders of Our Future, Now.” As I have been traveling in South East Asia, I have met some brilliant young people who are really doing the work on the ground to make a difference. For me they are the fulfillment of the vision I held during my nonprofit days.

My desire for youth leadership has never been so clearly illustrated than by the two young Australian women that I discovered while living in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I know first hand the challenges of bringing a passionate idea into reality: the myriad of moving parts, the long hours, the planning and orchestration it takes to birth an NGO[Non Governmental Organization]/Nonprofit business into existence.

One of our recommended restaurants was Sister Srey Café, SSC. We went one morning, having no idea about this new and expanding Siem Reap trend of Restaurant/NGO/Training Center. Paul and I briefly met one of the sisters who started SSC but did not have the time to converse with her about her project.


The very next evening we were eating dinner at “Old House” and lo and behold Lauren Gravett and her friend Sally Douglas sat down at the table right next to us.  Paul blurted out, “Oh, aren’t you are one of the Sister Srey, sisters?”

A bright and jovial exchange occurred and before we knew it hours had passed. As we asked questions and listened to the story of Lauren and her younger sister Cassie. We learned how SSC got started.

Lauren shared that she and her sister Cassie had been on holiday traveling in Asia in early 2012. Lauren was 23 and Cassie 21. They arrived in Cambodia with the intention to visit Angkor Wat and stay three days. On the third day they thought that it would be a good idea to volunteer with an NGO for a day.

They asked an expat if he had any suggestions of where they could help for a day. He was very curt and said, “Don’t bother. If you really want to make a difference you have to make a commitment to the ones you want to serve. One day doesn’t help. Is just makes more work for the others in the NGO, as they try to get you up to speed on the project and its mission. If you want to make a positive impact you’d have to stay for a while.” In that moment, two sisters said “Yes!”, to a destiny that their souls had collectively orchestrated. They went directly to the travel agent and extended their visas for three months.

Lauren Cassie

Lauren and Cassie

They started right away by volunteering teaching English to Cambodia teenagers. It was not long before they realized the real plight of their young male students. Most only had the time to attend each week. [The census in 2005 revealed that 75% of all Cambodians were under the age of 25, most were illiterate, malnourished, and living under the poverty line, making only $5.00 a month.] Lauren and Cassie began to piece together the story of these young men. They worked for the Monks as “temple boys” housekeepers and cooks. They worked 14 hour days, slept on concrete floors, [they had to sleep on a level lower then monks which was the concrete floor], had one day a month off and received monthly wages of $50 dollars.

It was at that time Cassie and Lauren conceived an idea. They brainstormed and thought, “we could start a restaurant. The tourism industry is expanding and we know how to make awesome western food. We can take these young men under our wings, train them to be waiters, how to serve, make food and run a business. With the proceeds of the business we can pay them a fair wage, give them time off to go to school, pay for school fees, and find them a place to live.

Satisfied Customer

Satisfied Customer

Eating Yummy Food

Eating Yummy Food








We can also make money for ourselves and really start seeing the transformation we have envisioned for the Khmer people.”

That is exactly what they did. Two and a half years later, the young men have flourished. They live in their own flats, have scooters, girlfriends and some are attending college. Sister Srey Café is one of the first of its kind in Siem Reap. Other NGOs have now emulated their astonishing model with the same kind of success. The sisters have recently extended educational scholarships to all the kitchen staff and their children. They offer ongoing classes through the collaboration of other NGOs, to improve the staff’s confidence and self-esteem as human beings.

All the staff and friends of Sister Srey Cafe

All the staff and friends of Sister Srey Cafe

Lauren with the Original 5

Lauren with 4 of the Original Staff











As they continue to stabilize the business, Cassie and Lauren cannot stop their efforts and ideas from flowing. With 10% of the Café’s proceeds, they started a Foundation called, Hearts to Harmony. The multi-pronged plan to lift up the poorest of the poor. With a very small budget they are now providing families with: toilets, wells/well pumps, educational scholarships, bicycles, monthly rice donations,dental care, women’s health care, [working with NGO: Days for Girls] and micro-credit business loans.

I asked Lauren, “What is the legacy you want to leave behind?”

She replied by sharing one of her favorite moment. “I am very loving towards everyone. I am always hugging people. One of the original “temple boys”, Bun, who has always been more shy and quiet than the rest, was making a cappuccino. I turned to him, hugged him and said very loud, ‘I love you!’ We released our embrace and he was weeping. Concerned I asked if I had done something wrong. He said through his tears, ‘No Madame, no one has ever told me that they love me.’ I guess you could say I want to leave the legacy of Love behind.”


Lauren and Bun Theoun

As you read this, I urge you to click the link for their website and behold the endless hours of two sisters, now 25 and 23, with the passion to serve humanity and the courage to do it with hearts wide open.

SEND them Paypal money. They need it and so do the people of Cambodia, eager to learn, rise up and become a self-reliant, proud country once again.