After graduating from college, Pennsylvanian Sarah St. Vincent explored her newly discovered Web-browsing interest in kiteflying by traveling to Cambodia for a bare bones research trip. The trip was partially funded by the Drachen Foundation. She spent ten months in Phnom Penh, finished off with brief kite research visits to neighboring Vietnam and Laos.
A year after her return and while studying for a graduate degree at Harvard, St. Vincent completed a book manuscript on her memorable Cambodian experience. She titled it The Year of the Singing Kite: Art and Life in Modern Cambodia. “Singing” because many Cambodian kites have a sounding device attached which hums as the kite flies. The book was not what she had first planned. “My original plan was to focus exclusively on kitemakers, interviewing those I could find for several days. I thought I could create a portrait of life in modern Cambodia, using kitemaking as a sort of lens.” She settled instead for efficient daytrips with officials of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, who did the arranging and interpreting. Sim Sarak, a top official in the ministry, served as her host, his wife Cheang Yarin did the interpreting.
St. Vincent interviewed kitemakers in eight different provinces. As she got deeper into the project, her focus changed. From kites she move to the general question: What is life like in Cambodia 25 years after the genocide here?