Pancakes + Art = PANCART

So for the regular reader, there have been numerous mentions of PANCART and the pancARTHOUSE, but as I’m spending more time in Siem Reap, I feel like I need to explain in a little more detail what the following equation really means:

Made by PANCart


Pancakes + Art = PANCART




On a simplistic (yet incredibly tasty) level, it does exactly what it says on the tin. Pancakes are easy to make, require few ingredients and go well with donated jams, syrups, fruits or savouries like cheese or olives. Art is fun to do, and if it’s abstract then it doesn’t matter if you can’t draw like your art teacher wanted you to when you were at school.

Art is subjective. It can mean watercolours of a bowl of fruit, making rangoli patterns with chalk-coloured salt:img_2896

or throwing paint balloons at a giant canvas:img_2650 It could be a bunch of people hanging out with a drink and discussing whether there is life on another planet. It can incorporate movies and music, culture and food, really, when you think about it, art can be whatever you want it to be. And it should be inclusive. Which is where PANCART really comes into its own, because everyone is welcome. Sure, there are a group of familiar faces that pop up for most events, but for example, PANCART is in the process of helping a new local NGO school with their art curriculum, including visiting the kids at their school, getting to know them and even passing on some English skills in the process. In my limited experience of being Teacher Deena, I have found that the best way to teach kids anything is when the learner doesn’t realise that they’re learning. On the flipside, if you’re teaching adults, they want to see clear progress, so often will prefer to work through a programme of study, with assessments along the way to check their improvement.

PANCART is more a mode of thinking, a way of living, a collaborative method in the madness and also a home away from home. I have made friends as a direct result of attending PANCART events and if I didn’t have these people around me, I’d have left Siem Reap a long time ago, of that I’m sure. I’ve travelled to other parts of Cambodia with friends I’ve made through PANCART, and taken brilliant pictures like this Om in Kampot: img_2692 And although the pancARTHOUSE is pretty much out in the countryside, and currently has a cat that loves to play havoc with my allergies, it’s a happy environment, a free space to cook and collaborate, an open area to voice opinions without feeling ridiculous and a peaceful place to chill out whether you have a pencil or a paintbrush or potato peeler in your hand. And I think the founder needs a pat on the back and a massive thanks for making this British girl and her Minion welcome in town and generally being awesome.

So, in conclusion, if you want to know more about the PANCART founder, where his idea came from and how it is more financially viable in SE Asia than in Europe, check out this page from my blog and this article on the interwebs. I also have a blog post describing the morning I spent with the PANCART crew making my own piece of jewellery from bullet materials which you should definitely take a look at if you haven’t already. Finally, for anyone who is interested, this page lists every single one of my blog posts in chronological order.


Making something beautiful out of brass and bullets

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be part of the first PANCART and Ammo collaboration event. Ammo is a brilliant social enterprise aiming to make something good out of war – more specifically, used bullets (not from actual war, but used in military training and more recently, those used on the set of the latest Hollywood production from Angelina Jolie). Set up by a fellow Brit who studied jewellery design at uni in the UK 15-odd years ago, Maddie Green met some jewellery makers here in Cambodia and learned their techniques and styles, and then she shared her experiences and they pretty much did a skills-swap. She started off by taking on one local guy as an apprentice around a year ago, and now as each member of the team gets skilled up, they teach the next person who joins (with a bit of help from the rest of the team, I’m sure), and it’s a self-fulfilling teaching cycle. Maddie very rarely gets to do any hands-on jewellery making anymore, so she relished the time spent with us in the workshop last weekend!

Well, Mr Minion’s little legs were never going to reach, were they??

Maddie showed us the old school/make-shift bellows which were attached to an old fire extinguisher that contained a mixture of propane and petrol so we could heat the sheet metal with a blowtorch so it was pliable enough to work with. It really was a serious IMG_2754workout for one leg! She shared with us the very old and traditional stamping technique to produce pendants, earrings and even rings. Leaving us to it for half an hour or so, she then showed us the tiny serrated hand saw used to cut the sheet brass, demonstrating the different techniques she had come across. For example, all the Western jewellers she had ever met all cut of the downward stroke, whereas the Khmer people felt they had more control on the upstroke, so effectively use the saw “upside down”. Metal workers in the UK use vices to hold their work still, while Khmer people prefer the edge of a desk to work on. I tell you, when I had my turn trying to cut the metal, I could have done with a vice to save my fingers!

Spot the minion… He’s in there somewhere!


We were using sheet metal that was bought, rather than the bullet metal since it is easier to work with, and none of us were metal-smiths. If I’d have known the techniques we were going to use, I would have designed something ahead of time. The stamps we were using were varied, there were squares, lines, double lines and curves as well as single points in different weights, cluster points and more. You can see our attempts here. Mine are the two circled, and you can see my finished article at the bottom of this post.our pieces.jpg

We finished the session with the promise that our designs would be polished up and made into whatever we wanted. I opted for a ring, since my fingers have been swelling up in the heat, and I’ve had to put the one I’ve been wearing every day since I was about 13, away in a safe place until I go somewhere with a cooler climate! But I think this is a great memento of my time in Siem Reap, and I’ll have a great story to tell whenever I’m wearing it.

Finally, for anyone who is interested, this page lists every single one of my blog posts in chronological order.

To walk or not to walk, that is the question

There are a few ways to get around town on a daily basis, bicycle, scooter/motorbike, tuktuk or your own two legs. Each has their pro’s and cons.

A lot of people travel about by bike in Siem Reap, but I have a slight issue here, in that I’m not proficient at manoeuvring around on two thin wheels. Yes, you read that correctly. This girl who has packed up her life in England to travel halfway around the world, pretty much alone, (save for a plastic minion) who has been zip-lining and mountain climbing, swimming in the sea and in rivers and in waterfalls, trekking through caves and experiencing new things almost every day since December 31st 2015 never learned how to ride a bicycle as a child. One of my awesome new friends who is from Mexico took this as a personal affront and vowed she would teach me how to ride on her bicycle. No doubt about it, being able to cycle in Siem Reap would benefit me no end, as the temperature at the moment (~35-40degrees) is not conducive to walking around, and I’d be reducing my journey times and overall time spent out in the sun, no end. On the other hand, the roads are chaos, so an unexperienced rider will probably get into more than a few scuffles, but a good first step would definitely be learning how to balance on one of those 2-wheeled contraptions.

Or maybe I should buy one of these to get around town… They are pretty speedy, whatever they are!

After two different lessons, having watched some interesting tutorials on the interwebs, I still wasn’t getting the hang of it. Not to mention the fact I was sweating with the exertion of just being outside, let alone trying to manoeuvre the bike around. The bike itself was pretty heavy, it was maybe a little too big for me too, and in the back of my mind I was always thinking that even if I master this fine art, I’m gonna have to navigate the crazy-ass roads of this town… What’s more, the bike was not as comfortable as I first imagined and the whole experience was actually much more difficult that I had originally thought it would be. There is no truth in the phrase “It’s as easy as learning to ride a bike”. It is not easy. After three different people trying to help me out, on two different occasions, I decided I would leave it be, and chalk it up as a life skill I just do not possess. Sure, I’m still going to have “tuktuk lady, tuktuk?!” yelled at me wherever I go, with the occasional “moto, lady? One-dollar motorbike?!”. But I can smile and say no thanks and continue on my way.  For those of you who know me from home, I can have a fairly short temper, so the first time I yell “NO I DON’T WANT A F***ING TUKTUK. I DIDN’T WANT A TUKTUK WHEN THE FIRST GUY ASKED ME, I DIDN’T WANT ONE WHEN THE SECOND OR THIRD OR FOURTH GUY IN A ROW ASKED ME, SO WHY ON GOD’S GREAT EARTH WOULD YOU THINK THAT I WOULD SUDDENLY DECIDE I DO WANT A TUKTUK JUST BECAUSE YOU ASKED ME SO F***ING NICELY?”, I’ll reconsider the cycling argument… or I might take myself to the beach for a few days, chill out and return with a more even temperament!

I do, however, have my own personal moto-dop, as we call them out here in Siem Reap. Mr Phen picks me up after my morning shift at school and drops me wherever I need every day. If I only need to go home, he doesn’t let me pay him at all since the journey is so short! He speaks little to no English, so even though I have his phone number, I doubt I will use it, in fact, now that I think about it, I’m not sure he knows my name. I should make a note to tell him next time I see him!

I also have a lovely reliable tuktuk driver that I can call who, very importantly, knows the location of the PANCarthouse (‘cos it’s a little out of the way!). I met him on my way to a shift at school, and he actually lives there with his family! So if I ever need a ride, I can always call him. If I’m just heading to/from the supermarket, I pick up a tuktuk/moto-dop as and when I see them. It is very clear that there is a local rate and a tourist rate, and I’ve been around in the area long enough to know when I’m being taken advantage of. A simple “no, au kun te” or “no thanks” and a brisk walk away makes them change their mind and quite often halve their price, just like at the market. Oh yeah, and the Psa Leu market is made up of narrow streets with one dude selling bamboo furniture next to a lady selling fish so fresh they’re still flopping about. And of course, no market is complete without a motorcycle racing through it:IMG_2022.JPG

I’ve seen my fair share of craziness on the roads out here, and have been gathering stories from other travellers about what they have seen and where. Here is my top five from everything I’ve heard:IMG_1785

5. A family of 6. One ~3 y/o kid standing in front of Dad, a ~5 y/o sitting in between Dad and Mum. A baby on Mum’s lap with another kid facing backwards, back to back with Mum. This kid must have been about 9 or 10. And fearless.

4. A heap of live chickens. This I have seen more than once, and I managed to take a snap…

3. A breast-feeding mother. Her boob was out. I agree that it’s the most natural thing in the world, but it’s DANGEROUS on the back of a motorbike!

2. A collection of live pigs. In Vietnam, where else…?

1. A brand new full size Samsung fridge. I’m not being funny, if you can afford a Samsung fridge, you can afford a delivery van and a driver.

It must be noted that these are just items being carried on one single motorbike, not including tuktuks, trailers or trolleys. If these were included, the list would be much longer! What is the weirdest thing you have ever seen on a motorbike? And in which country? Leave me a comment and let me know! Finally, for anyone who is interested, this page lists every single one of my blog posts in chronological order. 

Is Siem Reap some kinda arty hipster town in the making…?

When I talk to people about living in Siem Reap, I tend to get the following responses: “There is never anything to do,” “It is just so hot all the time!” and “The community spirit is incredible, but I need to escape the bubble every so often”. I could not disagree more, I’ve come across a heap of interesting and arty things to see and do. Okay, the heat I may have to agree with, but if you choose to live in a country that is on the equator, you should be prepared for plus-35 temperatures for half the year round…

So, in my first week in town, I had the pleasure of meeting a fantastically enthusiastic German guy who runs a long term community art project which aims to bring together those who love all forms of art, and his personal passion for pancakes, which he has logically named PANCART. He has historically managed to hunt down local artists who present their art, maybe in a public space or at his pancARTHOUSE (where he often has a resident artist staying via the brilliant airbnb), whilst he makes pancakes for all to enjoy. It really is a perfect combination. I mean… have you ever met a person who says they don’t like pancakes?imageThe PANCART events that I’ve been involved with to date include a Music/Art fundraiser for a local NGO school (non-government organisation, which also generally means they are non-profit), a pre-organised feminist rap night followed by an open mic, the production of giant purple cardboard elephants for a food festival, film-viewing on a weekly(ish) basis and just general food-sharing and merry-making. I may even be getting on to the yoga scene, but I’ve never been one for flexibility, so we’ll just have to see about that one. It is a fantastic way to meet creative people, and even if you’re like me and can’t draw for toffee, it’s a great way to make friends. Although, since becoming a teacher, I’ve actually found that my drawing skills are improving! Now you can at least distinguish between a cat and a cow… You can read more about my good friend and the founder of PANCART here.

I had timed my re-arrival in Siem Reap beautifully with the start of the first ever annualIMG_2513 Friendship and Music Festival. A lot of time and energy had gone into organising wonderful and (mostly) free events every evening for a whole week in the middle of February. I got to see some incredible drummer girls who had travelled all the way from Madagascar. There was an open air concert on the last Saturday afternoon/evening where I met some girls that I’m really great friends with now! There was a Battle of the Bands competition, and at a different gig I got to see world famous chapey-dong veng player Master Kong Nay in action. I skipped over a pop-rock concert for a band called Dengue Fever, but I know a lot of people who went and I’ve only heard good things about the gig. There was also a Giant Puppet Parade through the streets of Siem Reap town, celebrating 2016 being the year of the Monkey and that really was a great show, with a fantastic atmosphere that tourists, expats and locals all enjoyed together.

I hear a lot of great things on Facebook pages that are aimed directly at the Expat community, so there is always something of interest going on. Whether it’s a food festival, the opening of a new bar, themed nights, Farmer’s Markets, karaoke, pool parties, Pool competitions (I haven’t played so much Pool since I was at uni…), live music nights, there is always something cool being advertised on the Expats page.IMG_2505 In fact, that’s a good point too… what is the criteria for being an expat? Personally, I was born in the UK, and I have a British passport; I have chosen to live abroad, albeit for a fairly short period of time, so does that automatically make me an expat? So why then, are my grandparents called emigrants when they moved from India to England in the ‘60’s? If I am the progeny of an emigrant, can I ever hold the title ‘expat’? Food for thought and I’d love to know what you think. Finally, for anyone who is interested, this page lists every single one of my blog posts in chronological order.