Hi from a very grey and stormy Sunday morning. I woke to my curtains blowing across the room and the feeling of wetness over my bare legs, the strong wind was blowing the raining in, which is something that rarely happens. Usually the rain comes straight down, so windows don't need to be closed. Although the rain has now stopped it looks threatening. However, it is a relief as yesterday was so hot and humid it was difficult to cope with - 4 showers didn't ease the discomfort and Friday night I found it virtually impossible to sleep!
It has been a busy few days, settling in, hiring a bike, visiting Grace House, and generally reaquainting myself with places and people. At Grace House they treat the time after Pchum Benh as the beginning of their new academic year, so most of the children have moved up a class and 45 new 4 year olds have started in the Chicks and Bees class. So my class will be completely new to me - 50 new names to learn will be a challenge, as will ascertaining their ability to learn and their understanding of English. A challenge that hopefully I'm up for. I will be working with Pheyrom for the third time, so that will be good as she is so supportive and helpful and is very keen to learn from me too.
I cannot believe how many people recognise me and want to say hello, shake hands or give me a welcome back hug. The tuk drivers are so happy when they see someone returning and want to talk even though they probably know I am highly unlikely to use their service, but I was reassured when I met two that I know who work at night - I may be looking for them at some point.
Yesterday was the big cycle ride of the week, I had already offered my services as ride leader the day before when someone had written on their Facebook site that they needed a leader. On my way there I bumped into a Volunter I knew two years ago who is back teaching at an International school, so we will meet for dinner one evening to catch up. As I walked into the cycling shop a Kymer guy ran up to me and hugged me - someone I met in the first year I was here and because of me he came to train as an electrician, with Alan, at Grace House a year later. Since qualifying he went back to Kompong Thom and has worked for Donna at her project - one I visited the first year I was here. Then to my amazement she walked in with a group of Tasmanian volunteers who are visiting and volunteering at her project. They had come to S R for the weekend to view the temples and experience a very different part of Cambodia. All this before 8 am!
Only four of us for the ride, none of whom I'd met before - N Z, US, Aus and me, some of the regulors were away for the weekend, others had moved on, so hopefully I'll catch up with some next week. It was a great ride at a fair speed through the back lanes and villages to Tonle Sap, round Phnom Krom and back via Wat Atwea, the guys did cycle to the top, but Jacqui and I stayed at the bottom - last year I went half way and then stopped - perhaps I'll try again towards the end of my stay when I might be a bit fitter. Whilst we were waiting children appeared and started playing with the bells on our bikes and the pedals and enjoyed posing whist we took their photos. When a guy appeared selling ice lollies she bought the 3 who'd been with us one, immediately about another 10 children appeared and the guy continued to give them out. She refused to pay for more, so he collected them in and put them back in to the ice box - dripping and already licked! When we got back 3 and half hours later I was orange, covered from top to toe in a layer of sweat and red dust. On the same ride, same weekend last year we had had to cycle through a bit of the Tonle Sap, this year it is much further back and everywhere so dry. Perhaps today is the beginning of the rains for this year - Khymer staff at G H believe I bring the rain. The shortage of rain must be so worrying for so many, not least the rice farmers who struggle as it is.
There is building work happening in many places - some houses, even more hotels and international schools - there is a shortage of tourists at the moment, so many who depend on them have no income. I'm not sure who will be able to afford the fees of the all the International schools here - most teachers are untrained - the main requisite is that one speaks English as a first language. Although I can see slight changes in the town here, once you are away from it nothing has changed. Road surfaces very poor and driving dangerous. Apparently t is taking about 9 hrs to get to Phnom Penh from here by bus at the moment because of the road's poor condition. The riches are still limited to a very tiny few and most of those are Korean. There are now far too many hotels for the visitors, so there isn't more employment created and the season is short, although now is a reasonable time the bulk only come between Nov and Feb/March when the temps become too high for most to cope with.
Politically, I think things are a bit quieter, the opposition have now taken their seats in government, but the majority are unhappy with their government.
Must now go and do my washing, buy some food and then go out and about on my bike before coming back and making sure that I'm organised for the week.
Enjoy the resr of your weekend, take care and love to all, J