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Nerd Night in Phnom penh

Nerd Night (sometimes known as Nerd Nite) is an international movement, where people get together for presentations and drinks. Phnom Penh’s Nerd Night is based on the principles of Pecha Kucha presentations. Pecha Kucha presentations are short. Presenters are allowed 20 slides, with 20 seconds for each slide. Phnom Penh’s Nerd Night takes place twice a month and the venue changes each time. Check out the events to see where and when the next Nerd Night will take place.

Nerd Night was founded in Phnom Penh, by Yi Wei, just over one year ago.  I asked Yi about her all-time favourite Nerd Night presentations. She tells me about the time when local artists Chhan Dina, painted ten portraits, during her Nerd Night slot. Another guy wrote a song. He got the lyrics, music and melody from the audience and created a Nerd Night ditty. It seems like there are endless presentation possibilities.

Last Monday (Feb the 20th) Nerd Night took place in Score Sports Bar. This was my first Nerd Night and I was surprised at how packed Score Bar was. It was at it’s capacity with around 200-300 people in the bar. It’s amazing that such a large crowd wants to watch five Phnom Penh residents talk about random topics.

The topics included cadavers, BuckHunger (a children’s soup kitchen), wine, acupuncture, and things expats need to get used to about Cambodia. Yi introduced Mara Harris, who kicks off the proceedings with her presentation on cadavers.  Mara HarrisMara says she isn’t an expert on dead bodies, but she read an interesting book on cadavers and wanted to do a presentation.

Next we move on to Johnny Phillips from BuckHunger, a children’s soup kitchen, who have featured in previous Your Phnom Penh articles. John Schute, then takes to the stage with his presentation – ‘if anyone orders merlot, I’m leaving’.  John organises wine tasting events in Phnom Penh. Then we learn about acupuncture with Kimberly GruberKimberly Gruber,. The audience are given tips, such as relieving pain by rubbing the web of skin between the thumb and finger.

The night finishes with a presentation called ‘things expats need to get used to about Cambodia, because they are not going to change’. This presentation could be an article in itself. Sopheak Hoeun talks about how expats need to accept squat toilets, getting charged more than locals, and weddings taking place on the street. We also need to get used to women wearing pyjamas, as they are light colourful and cheap. The audience laugh a lot, because it’s funny and because we know she’s right.

I caught up with Hoeun after her presentation. She claims to have been nervous, which is hard to believe, as she seemed so confident! Hoeun says ‘The reason I decided to make today’s presentation is because I’ve been hearing these kind of complaints, and words from foreigners, and maybe it’s time to put it in public, so they can use my presentation as a mirror’. Hoeun says we should try to live within the Cambodian framework and culture. But Hoeun didn’t want to tell people off, she wanted to get her message across with humour. It was a funny presentation with a serious point, many expats need to ease up on their complaining about life in Cambodia.

At the end of the night, I ask Yi, (one of the Nerd Night team) why she thinks Nerd Night is so popular. She says that ‘one of the reasons people like it is because it’s your friends and peers in the Phnom Penh community, it’s a small town, and the night brings out a side of people you might not usually see in regular conversation’. We end our chat with Yi saying ‘I can’t emphasise enough how much it’s a community event, people need to sign up and show their nerdiness, without the speakers there isn’t an event’. I’m definitely converted. I’m not sure I’ll have the nerve to speak, but it’s a great way to socialise and learn about strange and unexpected topics.

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