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Friday, June 22, 2007

Author documents Cambodian adoption in ‘Bones that Float’

LANDER, Wyo. — It took a trip almost to the highest point in the world for Kari Grady Grossman to discover her professional calling in life.

In spring 2002, Grossman was tracking the Ford-sponsored women’s expedition to the summit of Mount Everest (local Jody Thompson and former local Kim Clark were two of the climbers) as a writer for Discovery Channel online. On Mother’s Day, at 18,000 feet elevation and 8,000 miles away from her 2-year-old adopted son, whom she desperately missed, she realized that adventure writing was no longer her dream.

“That was a real defining moment,” Grossman said.

She redirected her efforts toward researching a book on Cambodia, from where she adopted her son, Eric Ratanak Grady Grossman, in 2001 and where she and her husband sponsor a school in his name.

Four years later, she realized her goal, publishing “Bones that Float” a memoir of her experience adopting a child from poverty-stricken Cambodia and attempt to locate her son’s anonymous birth mother intertwined with two stories of survival from native Cambodians. The first is the compelling, often heart-wrenching, recollections of Amanda Prom, a neighbor and friend of Grossman’s in her hometown of Lander, Wyo., whose family lived through the cruel Khmer Rouge regime before escaping to the U.S. in the early 1980s. The second is of Sovann, an early 40s friend of the Grossmans who also lived through the Khmer Rouge, but stayed in Cambodia and his struggles to make a life for himself and his family in an economy devastated by war, even with an education.

The idea of weaving together the three stories, Grossman says, was to bring Cambodia’s troubled past, including enduring U.S. bombings in the late 1960s and early 1970s, to a mainstream audience.

Her inspiration came when she brought her new son home to the mountains of Wyoming in late 2001.

“I was shocked and amazed that nobody around me seemed to know anything about what had happened in Cambodia,” she said, referring to four years in the 1970s when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. Anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 million Cambodians died or disappeared during the brutal reign.

“Bones that Float” is on the shelves at both Weber’s Books and Hamlet’s Book Shoppe in Breckenridge, and has sold well.

Courtney Phillips, manager at Weber’s, just placed in a second order of 15 books after the first six copies sold out.

“People really generally love it,” she said. “They’re comparing it to (Greg Mortenson’s) ‘Three Cups of Tea’ as far as tone and the way it made them feel. It’s just really giving people some hope in a time when those kinds of feelings are few and far between for most of us.”

Similar to Mortenson, who began building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan after a failed K2 bid in 1993, the Grossmans quickly recognized the need for education in Cambodia.

Shortly after adopting Eric, Grossman and her husband sponsored the Grady Grossman School in the village of Chrauk Tiek in the Kampong Speu province near the Cardamom Mountains.

It started with 50 kids studying on a dirt floor under a dilapidated thatched roof. The school now serves 10 times the number of students and includes a teacher’s residence so educators can afford to instruct the kids.

With government salaries hovering around $25 a month, many instructors have traditionally made teaching a second priority to other odd jobs that paid the bills.
“In many new buildings, there’s no education going on because the teachers don’t make enough money to live so they don’t show up to work,” Grossman said.

Supporting teachers with a food stipend and residence enabled more teachers to educate full-time and therefore more kids to attend school.

Grossman, who visits Cambodia every year, is now aiming to develop a lifeskills training center at the school to equip students with crafts that can provide a means of income.

For instance, teaching students how to grow agriculture or developing cooking fuels alternatives to wood to help curb illegal logging in the forest — a huge problem near Chrauk Tiek.

Eventually she hopes the life skills model can spread to other schools in Cambodia.
“What I envision is not building more schools. It’s making the schools already built function independent of the government and self-sustaining,” Grossman said.

A quarter of all the profits from “Bones that Float” go to the Friends of the Grady Grossman School. For more information, visit http://www.gradygrossmanschool.orp/.

Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at

Event and book signing
Kari Grady Grossman will have a booth on Breckenridge Main Street during the Mountain 2 Mountain Race for the Mountains on June 24. Also on June 24, she will sign copies of the book at Weber’s Books in Breckenridge from 4-6 p.m
She’ll be back at Hamlet’s Book Shoppe for a book signing at the end of August.
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Vietnamese to poise Cambodian children forgeting its Crocodile jaws

Cambodian children are the civilization of Ankor, for century, Ankorcivilization had never forgotten the past experience with Vietnamese (the nation with full of hatred toward Cambodian people). The history of bitter relationship, massacre and destroying Cambodia.

And now Vietnam is trying to lure Cambodian children into a sweet relationship which is not nowaday. Every Cambodian knew what Yuons are, Yuon should stop pretending that they are innocent friendship; it is a waste of time, Hun Sen government is wasting money for Cambodian Youth organization to go along with Yuon youth organization.

Party leader backs greater Vietnam-Cambodia youth ties

Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh said that Vietnam would fully back efforts and programmes that bring the Vietnamese and Cambodian public and in particular youth closer together.

The statement came in the form of a letter sent by the Party leader to participants at the Vietnam-Cambodia Youth Friendship Meeting, which runs from June 16-22 in Vietnam.

Vietnam will always “support and create conditions for Vietnam and Cambodia’s young generations to increase their mutual co-operation, understanding and assistance for the benefit of all,” the party leader said.

He spoke highly of the initiative to organise the meeting on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Vietnam and Cambodia, an event that holds great significance for the relationship framework of the two nations.

President of the Cambodian People’s Party Samdec Chea Sim also sent a letter to the meeting, describing the event a reflection of the development of ties between the two countries. (VNA)
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