They’re the unusual couple: she being a life coach and relationship mentor who worked on an Australian aboriginal stolen generation healing programme, and he once being a plumber and now the creator of the Water Egg, an artistic approach to improving water storage and quality, and saving the world from plastic.
Beth and James McLaughlan arrived in Siem Reap in December 2013 and within days they realised that Temple Town was where they wanted to be.
“We’d lived for six months in Hoi An, which was great but wasn’t hitting the spot for us,” says Beth.
“Coming here was based on not much more than a friend who’d visited her sister in Siem Reap saying she thought we’d like it.
“A Skype chat with our friend’s sister ticked some boxes and we booked tickets. Within two days of being here it simply felt very right to be here, and we both felt a sense of home. And so it has been since.”
During her time in Siem Reap, Beth has built a reputation as a sought-after relationship mentor cum life coach.
“I’m probably a pretty eclectic coach/counselor in terms of methodologies and strategies to assist people,” she says.
“That’s partly my nature, and also, because working within a smaller community, I need to be flexible and cover the diversity of issues that arise. We all get stuck from time to time and need some help moving forwards.
“I coached a young woman some years ago who had just started her own business. She had the energy, a great idea and loads of potential, plenty of competition but she was playing small.
“After some coaching she went from strength to strength and has now grown her business so well she has to move premises to cater for the growth. The biggest thing getting in her way was an underlying belief of not feeling good enough even though she presented as a highly confident and intelligent woman – she felt like a fraud.
“It’s pretty much always old stories and patterns that are getting in the way of what you want to achieve or simply creating peace of mind and contentment.”
Beth also has her secret to what makes a good relationship – the secret being there is no one secret.
She says a relationship in many ways is like a business. “When it first starts, it’s exciting and new and stimulating, and then comes the work of maintaining and growing your business,” she explains.
“If you don’t have a plan and dreams and goals for your business it will get stale pretty quickly, not grow and quite likely die a slow and painful death. It’s the same in a relationship. It’s not a static thing and neither are the people in it.
“Having a vision, clear values, understanding each other’s needs, learning to give your lover what they need rather than what you think they need. Make the health of your intimate relationship a priority.”
Meanwhile partner James, happily ensconced in a relationship that allows him to explore his artistic aspirations in the quest to create an even better Water Egg, is in India seeking materials for his creations.
“I’m travelling making connections with suppliers sourcing some rare and beautiful materials to be included in the next round of Water Eggs,” he says. “And again I am witnessing widespread plastic pollution because we are reusing and recycling so little. We are not making products to last.”
James’ amazing water egg is a series of water dispensers, mostly replacing the plastic 20-liter drinking water containers that are a staple in most Asian resorts, homes, and offices, and mostly marketed to hotel and resort general managers.
“I am offering the hospitality industry beautiful ways of presenting their guest water either from water dispensers or water bottles / carafes instead of those uncouth plastic bottles,” he says.
James has a small studio in Siem Reap, producing the water bottles finished mostly in copper, silver, gold and enamel.
He calls his work “functional art,” and claims the gold, copper and silver “has a positive influence on the water stored inside the water bottles that is beneficial for health.”
He says silver and copper are renowned for their ability to sanitise water in a matter of hours from bacteria that can cause stomach upsets, and render the water odour free.
“Copper and silver had also been used by ancient cultures to preserve water and now the use of copper and silver is widely accepted in medicine and hospitals to maintain sterile environments,” he says.
While proselytising about the profusion of plastic in our lives, he also urges for a better understanding of water.
“I love my art because I like to think it moves people to think about their water,” he says, “there is so much more to know about water than the beige description given of it being a clear odourless chemical.”
He points out that here has been an elevated interest in the scientific community now as clean water resources are diminishing.
“Water is our common link, carrier of consciousness and the source and facilitator of life,” he says, “We are water having a conscious experience.”