Hi All, hope you have all had a good week and are fit and healthy.
I have had a very interesting one, lots of different things have happened and the weather has been changeable to say the least. Fortunately, we only had the tail end of the typhoon which struck Vietnam, but that did bring torrential rain for about 20 hrs, so water levels have risen yet again and there is much flooding about. The following day the temp rose to 49 degrees with humidity of 80%, it was hell and we all struggled to function and felt extremely drained. Twice this week I've got drenched cycling to school, I hadn't anticipated rain, once I had the foresight to take dry clothes with me, the other I hadn't, but luckily for me the sun came out and I quickly dried off and warmed up. Fri I did spend the enormous sum of 30p and bought myself a rain poncho in readiness for the wet morning ride to school. We have had dramatic thunder and lightning storms most nights, so sleep has been interrupted.
The children have worked really well this week and it has been a pleasure teaching them. Although I hated the the two art lessons I am very pleased with the results - I photographed every child, a shop printed them on to A4 paper for me, I cut the face in half vertically, stuck it onto another piece of A4 and the child completed their own portrait in pencil. They are now mounted on the sides of the classroom and look verry effective, the children are constantly talking about their different features and how well they have been done. On 7th Nov it is Grace House's 5th birthday, so we are inviting the parents to come and look at the children's work, hear them sing a song (my next headache). I know it will be very different from the UK, but I still find it stressful. This week, I have also begun my conversation classes with Sopheak and Mom, next week Saran joins us after his week off for the birth of his son. They really want to improve their spoken English and are trying very hard, neither of them are well educated but want to be able to converse in English to help them improve how they work at GH.
An English vol here has been helping at a school run by Khmers by each evening from 6 - 7pm and has been asking my advice about various things, so I asked if I cold go out and see what happens there. So I agreed to go on Wed with him. A Khmer guy very kindly offered to collect us and take us on his moto, you know my size, Hugh is over 6 ft, so three on the moto seemed a bit much. However, somehow we fitted on, nowhere for feet, and where on earth does one put her hands? It was both hilarious and terrifying because we left at the busuest time of day when everyone is trying to get home, in the shortest amount of time, and without obeying any road rules. Also the peak on my cycle helmet kept hitting the guy in front and the piece behind hiiting too. Unfortunately, the place where past where I work, and the flood water had risen considerably since I had left at 4pm. With great skill he negotiated the water, traffic and potholes so that we didn't get wet or fall off. The school was quite an eye opener, it was just a palm leaf roof over some very basic tables on an earth floor dvided into three sections, so three classrooms and each one had just one long life bulb for light. There were about 40 kids in each room who had come to learn English for free. The same number but of younger children also come from 5 - 6pm. I assumed that I would just nosy around and possiblly help in one of the rooms, but no, I was given a class to teach - a mixture of boys and girls with ages varying from 11 to 16yrs. Nobody could tell me what English they already knew or give me any suggestions, so blindly I set forth. I decided to do Days of the week, yesterday, today and tomorrow plus the months of the year and this month is..., next month will be.. and this month is.... The children found the participation I expected from difficult but as the time went on became more relaxed about speaking and moving about. The hr went reasonably quickly, but the mossies ate me alive, and by the end I was knackered. I was asked to go every night, but had to turn them down as I coudn't teach all day and into the evening too, but when I was asked to help them set up a curriculum I agreed to meet with them. Yesterday pm was our first session, they made copious notes,, as we discussed various things they needed to address to enable them to progress, so I expect next Sat will be the follow up meeting.
I have had three very long cycle rides this week, one last Sun when I went out by myself to investigate in the countryside a bit and around the area where Globalteer House was. An enjoyable ride, but as I was on my town bike I couldn't go as far or travel quickly. I stopped to take a photo outside the 'done up' Globalteer House, now a guest house. The owner asked me what I was doing and after I had told him he asked me in for a drink and then showed me around. Although it was basically the same as before they have improved it tremendously and made it very welcoming. He is keen to offer a good price to long term guests so I would consider staying there in the future. Then I walked across the road to talk to a guy I've known since my first visit, he is a landmine victim, has only one leg and sells flip flops for a living, I bought a pair at local price - 80p, but I suspect that was a lot more than they pay. His English is pretty good and he likes to talk about English football and he was really pleased to see me again.
Tuesday was a public holday to remember the first anniversary of the King's death. Official places were closed, the Royal Residence here was adorned with enormous wreaths and photos of him, and people could go in and pay their respects, but all pomp and ceremony was in Phnom Penh. That afternoon I took Hugh on a 40km + bike ride to show him the rural Cambodia, at one point we got very wet, but then the sun came out and we dried off. The route we took is one that is largely dry, but some of the tracks are very potholed and the sand muddy, so you need your wits about you at all times.
Friday evening most of the GH vols and Bridget and Alan went back to the Victoria Hotel to enjoy some decent drinks and food in very pleasant surroundings, it is relaxing after a busy week. I was able to walk home safely on my own, and just managed it before yet another thunder storm raged.
Yesterday was the ex pat cycling, this week only 6 of us - 3 Americans, an Aus, Swiss girl and me. It was very difficult to know where we could go due to the water levels, but we set off, and a few of us were able to make suggestions as to where we should go. I led the first part - out to GH along to Wat Atwea and back along a very wet, muddy and bumpy track to the ring road, then we decided to try going to the West Baray, the 9/10 century reservoir for capital of the The Angkor Empire, a guy need beautiful red track route there, but the cycling conditions were very difficult, but the rural life and scenery enchanting and beautiful - so calm and serene. Four and half hrs later we arrived back at the start, covered from head to toe in thick red mud, exhausted but having had a great ride. Unfortunately, I only had time to have a quick shower, hair wah and change before I had my curriculum planning meeting. Every other Sat evening a posh hotel has given its grounds for a 'Made in Cambodia" craft fair, GH has a stall there, so after dinner with a volunteer we walked there to have a look round. Shinta Mani have staged it very effectively and I was amazed at how many stalls there were there. Most of the stuff was very good quality, but I'm not too sure how it will appeal to western buyers. Unfortunately, I think GH products looked the most rustic, but they are made by the poorest people with virtually no expertise or budget to buy raw materials. I think they took 100$ last night which I suppose isn't too bad, I hope it covered their costs. I will be on the stall in a fortnight's time.
Today I need to be lazy and a have a ret, but I bet before too long I will be off somewhere on my bike, but s the sun is shining brightly perhaps I should go somewhere for a swim.
On Friday one of the old, toothless weaving ladies was going around all the Khmer staff giving them an envelope, but after she had given Phearom one, she gave one to me too. Inside was a whole page of A4 covered in Khmer character writing which Phearom duly translated for me - next Sat and Sun we are invited to her house to celebrate the life of her mother-in-law who died one year ago. If there is someone from GH I can go with next Sat afternoon I will go for a short while, but of course I have the major problem of what to wear. I hope the colour of my Khmer skirt is suitable, but I foolishly forgot to bring a new white teeshirt with me. I have a white top, but I don't think it covers enough of the top of my arms -I was hoping to attend a wedding!
I have seen Bunlong for the first time this week, apparently he has been ill, he still has the same cheeky and has grown very little in the 3 yrs that I have known him. He is in my class again and it will be interesting to see how many days a week he manages to attend school. Granny does her best, but she really struggles to cope with him, and he very rarely sees his mother who apparently is pregnant again, and no doubt will dump this baby with her old mother too.
Now I must go and decide what to do today, I got up early and did a big pile of handwashing so that is all hanging from my window drip drying in the sun. Another good thing about a sunny day does mean that in the evening there will be some warm water to shower in, but by morning we are back to cold water again. I am slowly getting used to it, but I have to pluck up courage to step under the water.
I have flown on the journey from Vientienne to Pakse, and an Aus vol at GH flew on the same flight as the one that crashed only 4 days earlier, I have heard that some Aussies here know people who were killed on the doomed flight. It seems that it was the tail end wind conditions of the typhoon that caused it to go down.
On that cheerful note I must go and do something. Have a great week and keep well, love to all, J