Well, this has been a bit of a culture shock after the modern metropolis of Shanghai! The embassy in London said I could get a visa on arrival, but I noticed everyone else on the plane seemed to have one, so was slightly worried, but I got one within what seemed to be 5 minutes - was all very relaxed in the customs/visa section compared to the Chinese military :). I arrived late at night so was pleased to find a driver there to pick me up in a tuk tuk - and I was then introduced to the pleasures of the Siem Reap roads - ie pothole city! Arrived at my guesthouse and couldnt really see the surrounding area, but the room is basic but has air con and English tv - yipeee!! I got a bit of a surprise when the New Hope rep told me that we would meet for breakfast at 630 as we all left together at 730 for New Hope. Next morning I made the classic mistake of waking up, looking at my watch, thinking the alarm hadnt worked and jumping out of bed - as predicted I forgot to reset my watch and so got up at 5am after around 2 hours sleep - doh!! We arrived at the school and were taken on an orientation of the school, clinic and restaurant. Im not really sure how I feel about it at the moment, think I was tired, but felt pretty upset when I saw some of the people in the clinic and the stories they were telling us about how the people live and the social, medical and educational issues they have to deal on a daily basis. That said, it was really inspirational to see how much good New Hope have done mostly through sponsorship since they opened only three years ago - most of the kids wouldnt go to school at all, there is not much in the way of medical care and there is no social security to assist the old or if you are sick and cant work. New Hope is really helping the people with their problems now and also ensuring they have a better future ahead by providing free education from kindergarten to teenagers, I was surprised to learn that there are huge alcohol related issues and the Government dont provide any education at all on alcohol - not even drink driving. New Hope are trying their best to educate the people in this regard so we have been well warned that we are not to be seen drinking around town with our New Hope badges or t shirts on and certainly never to take any of the staff out drinking. Anyway, once the tour was over, we were allocated our classroom - I asked for kindergarten as I thought they would be cute....The new 'teachers' were a novelty at first and I got on okay while they were doing maths and English - however when the activity section came along I was supposed to be doing puzzles with them - they started throwing bits of puzzle at each other, which wasnt really the point and they all started tipping them out etc. and chaos ensued...:) The real teacher came along and shouted something in Khmer and we got back on track - its been sometime since I helped out at a nursery and have obviously lost my touch! I had a class of older students in the afternoon for English pronunciation and I got on better there, so hopefully I will get there ...:(. We got our bikes to cycle home and that was a totally stressful experience - between trying to work out where to go, avoid the potholes and avoid the other bikes, tuk tuks and cars, it was pretty hairy - there was 5 of us and we ended up going up a one way street - but funnily enough no-one got mad at us. Theres no honking of horns or getting annoyed here - everyone is so laid back and so lovely! The next day was a holiday of some kind so I decided to take part in a sunrise tour (430am!!) to Angker Wat - which is third on my list 'must sees'- it was amazing and totally chuffed to finally see it. Our tour guide took us to his village for a visit where we were lucky enough to be there while a wedding was going on - they invited us in, which shows how lovely they are. The village was a semi-good one I think although no running water etc, the people seemed pretty well set up and healthy. I can understand why the Lonely Planet names 'the people 'as one of the reasons to visit Cambodia. We are apparently going to see the village where our kids come from on Thursday and most of the volunteers say it is a real eye opener, so that may be a difficult day, but thats what I came here for after all, so Id better not chicken out now. So tomorrow I am back in school and hope I can improve my skills slightly - turned down the offer of a trip to the orphanage tonight as I think I need to ease myself in gradually, am going to get some sleep before I tackle any more challenging issues!
Free internet here, so chuffed that I will be able to keep in touch - speak soon xx