Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hot dogs and pizza party

On Friday, after teaching at Lighthouse I went to a party at CCH. Brian (my TEFL course teacher friend) ad put on food for the children and so they were putting on music in return. Live singing and instrument playing. It was nice to go back after a week or so away. The children picked flowers from the garden for my hair (no pictures will be posted here - I look ridiculous) Here are some other pictures....

This is the girl who was carrying my bag in one of the earlier pictures - she has had her head shaved due to hacking off massive portions of her own hair and also having so many head lice. Poor thing.

New shoes

My hand made shoes... ahhhh how beautiful. I have placed another order!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Waterpark madness!

Yesterday I went with 75 kids from the Lighthouse Orphanage to Phnom Penh's water park. The water park is on the road to the airport and so I have driven past it many times - its hard to miss as its not exactly a traditional Cambodian looking place. Given that the entrance is $2 per person - more than the average Cambodian daily wage - its surprising the place is there at all...

The day started with my regular moto driver, Sokorn, picking mr up from the flat and taking me to the orphanage. All the kids were not in their usual clothing but had clearly dressed for the occassion wearing their best (probably only)shoes and clothes rather than the barefoot and grubby-ness I see on a daily basis. The boys had even gelled their hair! 3 buses transported us across town. The visit to the park was a result of Penny. Penny is an English woman who now lives in the States. She cam to Phnom Penh years ago and spent time at the orphanage but when she decided she wanted to come back for a holiday she hassled her finance firm in New York to give her some money and they came up with a substantial amount of cash. Nice. Penny had also bought the gel as part of a mass toiletries purchase!

Anyway, we set off. On the way Mr Long the director asked me for a dollar to get bags. He seemed to be telling me he wanted to get bags (sandwich type bags) to put drink in. This is not unusual as Cambodians do drink out of such bags so I handed over the dollar and he got the bags and some tiger balm (both absolutely crucial as I found out - more below!).

The children lined up very beautifully at the park - in age/height order. It appears they are trained to do this. Very "Sound of Music".

I got out my sun block and thought given that Khmers actually want to be pale skinned the kids may want some. Oh yes. I went up and down the line giving 5 squirts to each kid for their face. This was repeated at lunch!!
Then off they went - zooming on the slides and wave pool. The park was quite good by Cambodian standards. A real swimming pool, a kid's fountain pool x2, pool with 3 large slides (the main attraction), a set of about 6 slides (not as appealing but also good) and a separate wave pool (quite rough - I'm surprised no kids drowned). There is also a large stream running around the whole park which you float around.

So the kids ran riot for a couple of hours then Penny's food she had ordered for the kids arrived. The children were delighted with their treats, cola, water, rice with prawns (a rare treat), fried chicken, vegatables, cakes, crackers, bananas........ their eyes were popping out of their heads. Apparently, they tried a lot of food they had never had before.

After lunch I gave in and entered the pools (fully dressed of course this is Cambodia). The children kept shouting "teacher teacher one more one more" I went down the slides with one of them. After a few "goes" I worked out the correct weight to make the sliding almost deathly. Me plus one kid on lap on large inflatable ring pulling one child on inflatable ring behind. I am surprised I still have my left arm attached to my body as this combination of passengers would cause me the the kids half way down the slide to fly up the side of the slide, flip in the ring and crash in an very painful but adrenalin inducing way. If this did not happen the children loved how fast we could go- "teacher teacher one more one more" .... There were quite a few steps up to the slide and I must have done at least 100 slides so I am thinking I did exercise yesterday!

The wave pool was very funny. The siren would sound to indicate the waves were starting and then the children would run to the area to practically down themselves. Children were floating in rings on water 4 times their height!

My concern at about 2pm was that I realised that none of the children had been to the toilet - well I mean they had not "gone to the toilet block" - I am sure they had been. I made sure my mouth was very firmly shut when landing in the water. Ugh!

The children had more snacks and ice cream before more zooming, running and screaming. The disaster - one of the children who I teach hurt her finger. So much so it was floppy and she could not bend it. I was convinced it was broken and demanded that the director stop pulling it back into place (or trying to) as the child was clearly in agony. The Khmer's said there was a "hospital over there". Great I thought a hospital right by the water park how convenient! - So dripping wet we go towards the hospital. Ahhhh - Hospital??? They meant first aid room! The first aid man pulled the finger, rubbed tiger balm on it and hey presto she could bend it.... tiger balm - miracle cure. Her hand was put on a piece of card (split) and wrapped in a bandage.

At 4pm the kids dried off, ate burgers, cake, toasted sandwiches.... and then we put them on the funfair outside for half an hour of non stop rides. Suffice to say, there was a fair few children being sick (nice) and even a few so tired they were falling asleep on the rides! The director was handing out tiger balm left right and centre. It had been used earlier in the day as a remedy for headaches, sunblock.....

As the children were getting in the bus the director started to hand out the bags. "what are they for", "the children they be sick on bus" - oh yes.... and sure enough those that were not sleeping were puking. Khmers do not travel well anyway, never mind when they are full of ice cream, coke and been on a big wheel, toy train, roundabouts and an octapus/waltzer thing! We got 10 more pots of tiger balm on the way back............ and I saw a 3 legged rat.

Sadly my camera ran out of battery so you will have to wait for better photos that Penny took!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

cambo signage

But I bought my AK47 to the bank. Now where shall I put it?

Thank goodness. The left weapons department.

No eating by the side of the road? - But I am hungreeeee!!!!!

Please keep everything by yourself.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Defying death!

Friday - Finishing off learning about the Kemp/Chapple family.... my upper children display with pride!

Shortly after my last post the school where I got the job told me they wanted me to sign a contract to May 2009.... Although I have faith that Cambodian law is generally non existent and unenforceable anywhere I decided to be honourable and negotiate the term that I really wanted (to October). The school were very nice and agreed to this immediately which is excellent. However, an even better bit of luck is that I will start part time and then go full time in August. This lets me carry on teaching the children at the orphanage for another 2 months which is great for them and stops me feeling so bad! Perfect.

This weekend I went to the beach with some volunteer friends. No big exciting news - just deserted beaches and the usual coconut sipping, rice eating, swimming etc etc. However, a very different experience was the journey back from the "desert island" to the mainland by the tiny boat. It is the wet season here at the moment and so there is usually a massive storm/rain at about 4pm. At 3pm we could see a massive cloud coming over the sea and the rain in the distance - so we decided to leave before the storm hit the island. Big mistake! We summoned the boat and began the 30 minute journey. The waves were larger than normal and after about 5 minutes the waves were coming into the boat and soaking all of us. A further 5 minutes and we were in the storm itself. The rain was pelting down the boat was swaying so that we were almost turning over. At that point life jackets were put on! I honestly thought we were all going to end up in the water. I think my constant laughing was either because I was petrified or because it was truly hilarious. A bit of both I think. Anyway, we lived and the boat made it to the shore. We all climbed out looking like drowned rats much to the amusement of anyone nearby. An experience but not one I am likely to want to repeat in a hurry!
Here are some pictures:

The boat going to the island - nice weather, no concerns about the low edges/failing engine of the boat.. etc

Island life - coconuts for me and my scabby canine friend

Storm in the (not so distant) distance

Cambo countryside - taken on the 4 hour death defying minibus journey home - I lost count of the near fatalities. The most dangerous driving observed yet!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Good v The Bad!!

The exciting news this week is that I now am employed full time with a salary! I managed to get a job as an international school as a primary school teacher - God knows how that happened!
After Hamming up my experience with kids (thanks to various institutions in the past) on my CV and sending it in with my most attractive photo I was invited to interview in the School just a few blocks from where I live.

I was initally a bit concerned because the school quotes parts of the bible on its website - but I was assured that it was just "Christian values" I was expected to teach ... that set the mind at risk, a bit. Apparently this involves teaching the students to respect others and saying please and thank you. Seems sensible enought but I am not sure why buddists beliefs do not teach that either and why Jesus has to teach those things but then the subject becomes a bit deep... and as religious debate is a personal favourite of mine I am sure the school will mean a few bitten tounges... that said the kids are cute and pay great...!!!!

Of course because the pay is great the kids have to be rich (to pay me!) - This brings us on to the next moral problem - Do I stop teaching the orphans to earn big salary as a full time teacher full time? The other issue to take into consideration as to whether I can consider part time is the fact that I am a (self confessed) control freak!! - How can I go part time and leave OTHER(!!) people to look after MY children!!! Surely they will not be as good as me - or worse they may be better than me and the kids cry when they leave and I arrive!!!.... I am still battling with the issue but I think it will end up with me being full time at the new place!! Afterall, the new place even has a swimming pool for the children - unlike the orphanages that do not have a pen to write on the board with.

Nevertheless, my justification is that these children are the futures of this corrupt country and if schools like this can teach morals and values (they specifically are anti corruption) then a new generation may eventually be in place ... it is some way but I can be a pioneer! So, now I am just waiting for the contract and to have confirmation of the ages I will teach and the start date. Agh! Meanwhile, so I can continue to feel like I am doing proper hard core volunteering here are some pictures from th orphanage today.

In my lower intermediate class they learnt about families. Donna, Martin, Richard and Emily (my family for those not with the knowledge) were stars in a piece of text and subsequent dictation on the board about "the family". Mum you will be pleased to know that the children thought you were 18. Richard less pleased to hear they thought you were Martin and were aged 50+. That said these children also thought a picture of Hereford was in Japan (they should definately put that in the tourist brochure!.. "some people have even commented that the centre is just like Japan"), that the Sydney Opera House was in China and that Big Ben was in America (awwww!) ... so their powers of identification are not all that hot. The terrible country identification came from a small "movie" I put together of iamges around the world with naff music and showed them on my laptop today.

Awww the famous English family whose picture is now stuck in the books of all great students!! Another question was a concern that Emily was a little short!!! Explaining she was on a step at the time of the picture took patience and time.

Here they are copying the text about the world famous family... with the picture stuuck on the board - beautiful.

This mismatch of countries just proved to me that it was truely stupid to be teaching these children using the standard textbooks available for ESL teachers from the West. I teach using books which teach children using Western ideals - My feeling is they are for Italian/Spanish/French schools - For instance, to teach "his/her name is" there is a picture of Tony Blair or some famous tennis/football player and they children are supposed to identify the pictures with the phrases/names. E.g "His name is Tony Blair" - impossible! These children could not identify their own head of state let alone some white guy from a country they cannot find on a map. Suffice to say I use the book in the loosest possible way and like to instead include my Cambodian favourites such as the pop star "Mr James" or Preap Sovath who provide "quality" pop music here. A picture of the pyramids today took us in the children's minds to Turkey (not bad I suppose) but proved beyond all doubt the book was wrong - I categorically should not be teaching plurals using the pyramids as an example as the book suggested!!
My students have all adopted new characters to practice asking questions (name, job, age, come from, married)- This has been quite funny as a number of you have been present in my classes without you even knowing... lawyers, teachers, doctors, consultants, businessmen/women from around the globe but in the form of 11 year old children!

Saturday, May 17, 2008


I taught at the Lighthouse orphanage again on Friday... and then headed across town to CCH orphanage to see the children there for the usual Friday night party. However, unlike last week yesterday it is was POURING rain. So I had to wear my delightful purple plastic poncho and the driver had to get his moped through 2 foot of water at various points. On arrival at CCH the whole of the front entrance to the orphange was flooded too so I had to wade through trying hard to not think about rats and other nasties given that the orphanage is so close to a massive rubbish dump! Anyway, because of the rain or because of something else the children were not partying but studying English! One of the students has just won a 2 year scholarship to Canada so he was teaching the younger children English to help them. I just couldn't imagine a group of children aged 8 to 18 sitting around in England studying a foreign language at 7.30pm on a Friday night!! The demolished the fruit bought for them and then I headed off - back through the flood in the night on my moto to town...!

Friday, May 16, 2008

The King's birthday break (next week we have a day off for the Royal Ploughing Ceremony(!!?)

On Monday I started to work at a different Orphanage "Lighthouse". The lessons here are more stuctured and I teach 3 classes of just under an hour each every day now. Total beginners, beginners and intermediate. The children are very well behaved and eager to learn - as ever.

(one of my students and the display of the pictures we made for the class room)

My first class took me by surprise when I introduced myself they all stood up and together chorused something like "Hello teacher. Thank you for coming to teach us English".... then did a traditional Khmer bow. I was a bit taken back but even more so when I told them to sit down they said loudly together "thank you teacher" - scary! Anyway, the lessons were good and I am going back there this afternoon (Friday) for another session.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were bank holidays - the King's birthday - and so I went to the beach again in Shihanoukville. Not very much to report as it rained heavily for all of the days! This resulted in eating, drinking and reading - a short swim but as the waves were getting bigger and bigger and the rain heavier and heavier and the lightening nearer and nearer - I thought it best not to stay in the sea too long!!

This evening I am going back to CCH orphanage for another Friday night dance party!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Friday night party!

The end of a week of work (well Monday was a rest day - as was Thursday morning!) ... teaching 2 lessons of English at CCH per day – One at 10am and the other at 1pm, hanging around with the kids for lunch in between and generally playing. The mid week paints (below) were a success as was the “pin the tail on the elephant” as a way to learn “up, down, left, right” as directions. However, this game just ended up with copious amounts of cheating and as it was Friday afternoon and we were all dusty, filthy and tired so I just let the kids get on with it – not much English being spoken but they were having a good time. The bananas went down a treat as did the other different kinds of fruit I tend to bring as treats as a break from the “candy”. ..

This is lunch time...
"Elephants eat bananas" ... and so do hungry children!

These two boys are always up for a stupid photo.....
Anyway, the main event on Friday was the night time entertainment provided by the children. Apparently every Friday they get out their instruments and sing/dance. I was due there at 5 and had arranged to travel at the last minute out to the suburbs with Brain (my TEFL teacher) and his friend Clare. On the way the thunder, lightning and rain was very dramatic and we dived into Lucky supermarket to get supplies for the children – sweets. When we arrived we were an hour late due to terrible rush hour traffic – my lungs felt like I had smoked 40 a day for every day of my life from the pollution during this journey. Rush hour is complete chaos here and when it rains it is far worse plus I had broken my mask, motorbikes on the pavements, not a single spot of tarmac to be seen (if you are lucky enough to be on a road with tarmac that is)....
Rush hour - drive on the pavement - why not?
Anyway, at 6ish the children were just finishing their burgers (like McDonalds but the Cambo equivalent) which were a special treat from an Italian woman who had just finished spending 3 weeks with the children. I tried to give my sweets to the kitchen so the children could have them in moderate amounts but the person who I gave it to just opened the bags and all of a sudden I had about 70 children screaming teacher “Me moy moy” (me one one). I had them all line up (very English) in a queue and gave out one of each kind to each child (it felt a bit Oliver Twist). The children are exceptionally polite and thankful . They do a traditional thank you by placing their hands together (as if praying) and putting them up to their face and bowing. At the end of giving out 2 to each child there was quite a few left and so I just started giving them to any child who was cheeky enough to ask for more.... soon the rumour spread that this was the case and I then got another queue going. It was a stark contrast to any child in the UK who would complain about having only 3 sweets - but these children were on cloud nine now they had cola, burger and now sweets that were undoubtedly full of E numbers.... then the dancing began. Or rather the music started and I was mobbed for photos. As it was dark, I think the attraction was mainly because the flash on my camera like a strobe as the lens focuses before the picture is taken. To say they were hyper would be an understatement. To think that for a few of these children they had been outside of the dump for only a few weeks and already they were behaving like children again – thankfully not having to shift rubbish for 50 cents a day inhaling toxic methane and standing on goodness knows what (waste/needles etc) with no shoes on. Given that in Phnom Penh’s nightspots you are more likely to get shot than anything else I am sure that I will be heading back to the orphanage on Friday nights for more partying. The children put on their own entertainment, singing, dancing ...causing havoc! And it is great!!

Hyper party kids............. (I look frazzled to say the least!!) .. Pictures are blury because it was dark sorry!

The band
...rounding off the evening with some walking on hands

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


On Wednesday I had my final observed teaching session and am now a qualified TEFL teacher! I taught 2 lessons. The beginners – where I carried on the colour shape theme and after a review and a poem about colours and shape we explored primary and secondary colours before moving on to do shape printing (with washing up sponges I had created!)....

The afternoon was the middle children and I taught about the Town/City – using Hereford as an example of a town (OK I know it is strictly a city) using the postcards I had brought with me – I think the director of education at the orphanage has a distorted view of England now after the postcards showed the Castle Green, Church Street, the Black and White house and a view of the cathedral and old bridge over the river (sorry non- Herefordians for the detail!).... Anyway, it was an extra hot hot day and so the children were pretty un-motivated and wanted just to fold and cut paper! Luckily this is what I had in mind – but with an educational element of course! So, after teaching and playing a game involving the bank, the library, the pharmacy, the cafe etc, the children made 3D models of their business of choice. ... this kept them busy for a good 45 minutes and what was a really moving thing was that Goiey – the girl who is often forgotten or not catered for because of her mental health problem, joined in and cut of the template of the building in such a good way that I was able to glue it together for her and she even attempted to decorate it and was engaged in the process for at least 25 minutes – a real rare moment. That was a really satisfying part of the day and nearly made me cry! .... This was of course unlike Lily.... the sight of England on the postcards was obviously all too much for her and after that point she just slept through the lesson...
... You wil be pleased to know it was another day when I have worked all day!