Wednesaday 15 October
Today is a public for all to remember their much revered King Norodom Sihanouk who died two years ago. it has been frantic activity around the royal palace durung the last week, as giant photos of him have been erected and illumninated. The palcace waals have been sand blasted, the rails freshly painted and the top of of the 4 foot wall has had unprotected light bulbs placed - I haven't seen them lit yet, but I'm amazed that they are not broken. We have worked for half a day cleaning the classrooms - a job I absolutely hate, I cannot describe the filth that accumulates, droppings from many creatures, layers of dust blown in, and general classroom finger prints etc. As I went to cycle past the palace this morning the road was closed off by police and I could see people arriving for what must have been a memorial tribute to him. On my return I noticed many large fresh flower wreaths around his picture which mut have bben laid by the dignatories of the province.
Many of the students came into Grace House today and have spent the morning clearing a large area of land to make into a sports' area - if left to them it will be primarily for football and perhaps a bit of volleyball. How they cleared so much in the heat, had two enormous bonfires and cut grass I do nor t know, but they worked so hard. Two snakes were seen alongside scorpions, millipedes and slowworms. In the classrooms we only dealt with spiders, cockroaches and the myriad of flying insects that the others were disturbing.
As I have no doubt said on many occasions in the past, this country is run by bribes nd corruption. Earlier this year the government announced that "cheating would be allowed when the Year 12 students took their final Grade 12 exams'. That caused great consternation for the authorities, staff and students. G H paid for it's students to have extra lessons, but that would have been the most help that the majority of ordinary Cambodian teenagers would have benefitted from, howver, those from richer families would have been able to buy their or son/daughter's exam grades. Grade C and above in all subjects is needed for further education, government schlarships and as proof that you have been properly educated when applying for jobs in local government, banking etc. However., to the governments dismay last time around more than two-thirds of year 12 students failed their exams amidst a crackdown on cheating - now they're getting a second chance and yesterday was the first of of the days when students could choose to resit. if this link will open it is a wonderful article to read from the Phnom Penh Posthttp://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/big-test-take-two
The other fall out from the exam results is that the State schools are closed for October as they should be offering extra lessons to the Yr 12's who failed, but the schools our children go to arenot offering anything unless the students pay. G H is funding some funding for extra lessons for their students. So children grom Yr 1 upward have had in excess of 3 months holiday so far, they are supposed to go back on the first Monday in Nov but that week is a public holiday for the Water Festival.
In my last blog I think that I mentioned the girls working on the hotel building site - she has now discovered that many of them are aged about 18yrs and are working because they failed their exams - hopefully they haven't given up, but are being supported by different organisations in their rural area.
Three students from G H passed first time and now two of the girls are in Phnom Penh on a three month course, which if they pass, will enable them to go to Medical School and train as Drs and be funded by the government. They are both lovely girls, SreyLesh, I know well but hope that they both achieve what they want. The rest of the students there retake later in the month. The students I'm referring to have had 6 years half day education at G H and half day at a State School.
Last week when I wasn't working I did manage to go out for a walk each afternoon, and it was great just ambling and looking down roads which I don't normally go along, or just speed a long on my bike not looking properly. The first place I discovered was a basket weaving setup, where women were being trained to make beautiful baskets from cane, they are paid for what they do and can take their young children along with them. These initiatives are so important for the womens's self confidence/esteem and independence. They are brought from their rural community every day into good working conditions and all seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely. Further along I saw a sign for Cambolic, although I had heard of it I couldn't remember who the were or what they did, so along I went. Immediately, that I arrived I was welcomed by a Khmer lady who spoke excellent English and she asked me what I knew of the project. Nothing. She explained how all the workers are deaf and from very poor families within Angkor Park. As it was Deaf Awareness Week a worker came to teach each visitor a few signs that explained what they did. It transpired that they made the most exquisite lacquer boxes, using either photographs for top or copied paintings that some of the workers could do. It was humbling and fascinating, but I'm not going to say any more, as some will be coming home as christmas presents. Such a change to find good quality Cambodian made goods.
I've enjoyed being back in class this week and each day teach four classes and one 1 - 1 conversation clas. I do two small group English classes and two 25 classes of children from 9 - 13 for topic. I am slowly coming to grips with the children's names, but it is hard work. Their English ability varies wildly, but they are all keen to learn and are very well behaved.
Eerywhere is very dry and the Siem Reap river has dropped about 2 metres in the two weeks that I have been here - in fact I have never seen it so low. I don't whether the lack of depth will cause any problems for the boats during the river festival, but they are all home made rowing boats, but some highly decorated. As I cycle around I see boats being built, repainted or repaired for the festival, it is a great occasion for the locals and they are all very excited as this will be the first one since 2010. Subsequent ones have been cancelled due to flooding and then the King's death. It will be a new experience for me, but I may only stay for one day of it and then go off somewhere new for the rest of the week.
I need to go and have a shower so that I can go and meet a couple of friends for a wander and then dinner, before I come back and agonise about tomorrow's Art lesson.
Have a good day and rest of the week, take care and love to all, J