Friday, 11 January 2013

Wandering in the 'Kingdom of Wonder' #6

Being the naive and easily excitable teacher that I am, I was very excited when Tuesday rolled around and it was time for school to start! Of course, three weeks off school is enough time to forget how exhausting and busy school is and after the first day I was very grateful to collapse on my bed. I have been helping with the kindy class in the mornings-16 3-5 year olds is challenging at the best of times, let alone when you speak a different language! Instruction giving and discipline are especially difficult, but the children are so cute and enthusiastic that it is hard not to laugh and just cuddle them. I have loved working with the kids and watching them as they learn how to interact and mimic the English words that we say to them. One of the big challenges is that the children are at very different levels (there is a big difference between a 3 year old and a 5 year old!) and they really need another teacher to be able to split the class to cater for the students' needs.
We have a much-needed break over lunch time and then in the afternoons there are adults and primary school age classes. We have been rotating around to each class and helping with conversational English as well as running some games and activities. I have been teaching a bit too which has been stretching, but good- these students are generally so motivated and well-behaved!! They are open to learning and have lots of questions (and I don't know all the answers!). The staff at the school have built very positive relationships with the students which makes it easy for us as a team because they already trust the staff. As an English teacher I have really enjoyed working with students who are eager to learn and are excited to be in class.
There are only a few days are left before we begin trekking home... It will be sad to leave to school but I am hoping that the experience of us being at the school is as positive for the students as it has been for me. On Saturday we are going to a Cambodian wedding, so stay tuned for that as I'm sure it will be quite the experience!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Wandering in the 'Kingdom of Wonder' #5

The adventures never end and life is never dull here! From painting walls one day (with a range of ingenious painting implements that allowed us to reach very high corners) to driving out to a little village school and then watching a sunset over the ocean; 'boredom' has disappeared from my vocabulary!
The village school trip was an experience I hope to never forget. The trip out required a bulldozer and grader to drive in front of us to make the road easily passable and as we rocked back and forth on the potholed/ nonexistent roads, picturesque scenery bobbed and dipped in perfect unison.
Upon arriving at the little school, we first toured the premises, consisting of 5 rooms, one of which was where the teachers (all 4 of them) lived. If teachers in Australia complain, they know nothing of the hard life of being a dedicated teacher- the teachers here earn half of the minimum wage, sitting them almost at the poverty line and they live at the school in very poor conditions- now that's dedication!! The children are so respectful of their teachers though and it is a respectable position within the community. Kamai (Cambodian language) is incredibly difficult (we have had a lesson and it is very hard!!) but the children were so enthusiastic as they recited their alphabet and read the characters. We tried to teach some of them the English alphabet and then we played tunnel ball and another game which I didn't understand the rules of- it looked like a combination if volleyball, soccer, basketball and rugby- essentially it was one group of kids chasing another group with lots
of squealing and laughing! A group of students from the Milk and Honey school organised the trip and ran most of it which was really good to see, I enjoyed standing back and taking photos of the kids and making friends with them. At first they were very shy, but they quickly warmed up to us and loved seeing photos of themselves!! The smiles of those children are probably my highlight thus far.
On the way back from the village we stopped for lunch with a twist- we had to go fishing to catch our own lunch!! I wasn't too keen on the idea of fishing (being a vegetarian and all) but it was too hard to mime that I didn't eat meat so I dangled a pole in the water and of course, Murphy's Law, when you don't want to catch anything, something bites!! I squealed and screamed as the poor little fish writhed until thankfully I was rescued and could bow out of the fishing exercise with a small amount of dignity intact! Although our fish was served for lunch, vegetables and rice were also served so I was saved from having to face the fish again!
We came back into town to run a few errands- sorting out some uniforms for the kindy kids at the Milk and Honey school, getting some meat for all the non-vegetarians and braving the town traffic provided ample entertainment until it was dinner time. Tonight we were in for a treat with watching the sun set over the ocean while we ate, with the sounds of waves lapping on the shore.
The drive home from dinner was a little more challenging as we went through some of the more dangerous and seedy parts of town- this area has one of the highest percentages of child trafficking in this part of the world and the contrast between the beautiful beaches and islands and the degradation of humanity is sickening.
Yet again I have rambled on, and all of this was just one day!! I will never be able to settle into 'normal' life at the rate I'm going here. This place has a way of getting under your skin and grabbing your heart- I have a feeling I'm going to find it hard to leave when the time comes, but for now, I intend to keep my eyes open and learn and grow as much as possible.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Wandering in the 'Kingdom of Wonder' #4

A brief stop in Pnomh Penh gave us enough time for some Cambodian history lessons as we went to the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum where thousands of Cambodians were brutally murdered in the biggest genocide since WW2. It was very emotional and difficult to see the truth of what happened here but more than anything it makes me determined to fight to ensure that such a tragedy never occurs again. We don't realise how fortunate we are in Australia until you see what has happened in other places.
Arriving at the school felt like coming home. It's nice to be able to unpack a bit and not have to repack too soon! I am very much looking forward to a hot shower when I get home though, as we only have a cold shower and a toilet that doesn't really flush- it's the little things we take for granted that I am learning to appreciate!
The school is larger than I had expected and there are lots of walls for us to paint- as I write this I am speckled in white paint-my painting clothes will remain as painting clothes as I don't think it will ever come off! We have explored quite a bit of the town (it's fairly small) and have been to the markets, at which you can buy everything- including a kitchen sink! The fruit and veg here is so fresh and lovely and in plentiful supply (and very cheap)- I don't think I can justify buying it in Australia when a big bag of mixed veggies costs $3 and you can eat a meal out, including a drink, for $4. As a team we are sharing the cooking so we each get a turn to go to the market to get our veggies for the day (although we have to go everywhere in small groups as it is unsafe to go alone). So far we have been doing work at the school (cleaning and painting and getting books ready for the library) but its not all work and no play- yesterday we went on a boat out to some islands which w
as beautiful (and I didn't get sunburned!!). Tomorrow we are going out to a village with some of the students from the school so that will be an exciting day and then school classes resume next week so we will be helping with the classes as well as continuing some of our work around the school.
So much has happened that it is hard to know where to start in writing about it; I apologise for the rambling train of thought in my writing, I shall try to think more clearly next time.

(On a side note, most of the team has been coming down with various gastro bugs and other ailments-please pray for us all to recover and stay well)