The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own. [ or hers :) ] ~Benjamin Disraeli ~

Monday, 28 March 2011


At the end of a long bus journey I have to admit that my first impression of Sisophon town was not good. It's hot, dusty and very busy with many motorbikes and carts but after exploring for a few days and meeting people I am already beginning to like the place.

Provincial Teacher Training College
A large market at the centre of the town sells everything I could possibly need - and much more that I would not want! The Teacher Training College is close to the centre and I've found a house just round the corner. From the front it looks like a garage but inside it has a character of it's own. As yet it's not furnished but should be ready by the time I return from Khmer part 2. My neighbours are very friendly so I think I will be happy there.

Interviewing candidates for the job as my translator was quite stressful as the job meant so much to the interviewees. It was hard knowing I would disappoint four of them. Socha, my new VA (Volunteer Assistant) is a lovely young man who will take me out to schools and workshops on his motorbike and translate for me.
Pre School class
Much of my work will be in a group of schools used by the college for teaching practice. I visited two of these and was impressed by the lovely atmosphere. On the photo you see a young girl concentrating on her sums using drinking straws for counting. I asked what other maths resources they had. The headteacher looked confused for a moment than said 'Oh yes! Stones'. I'm really looking forward to beginning work here but know that I have to work hard on learning the language to do a good job. 
P'teah knyum - My house

 So now it's back to Kampong Cham and more Khmer lessons. The language is not as hard as I imagined. There are no tenses and no plurals, the difficult thing is learning the vocabulary and getting your tongue round the seemingly unpronounceable words. Sentences are like tongue twisters.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Language Training

Last Sunday our group of seven travelled to Kampong Cham for Khmer lessons. We are based in a hotel by the Mekong River. Most local people live off the land or fish in the river but the town is bustling with shops and restaurants.
After 4 days my khmai vocabulary is over 100 words. Dara, the teacher is very good but moves fast and gives lots of homework! We get some practice in the university cafe where the menu is in Khmer script and the staff speak no english.
Lessons are in the morning and afternoons are too hot to do much other than rest and study. Evenings are cooler and an ideal time to explore the town. One evening we cycled across a bamboo bridge to a river island. Each year this bridge is washed away by floods and subsequently rebuilt. My heart was pounding when I reached the other side as it's a narrow bridge with no sides and 2 way traffic. The bamboo is soft and noisy as you pedal across. 

Next week will be exciting as I travel to Banteay Meanchey to meet my work colleagues, find a house and appoint a translator.
More to follow....

Sunday, 6 March 2011

First Impressions

Cyclo - the way to travel!
Welcome to my first blog from Cambodia. My first impression was  of crazy roads full of motorbikes and their adaptations. Cars and bikes travelled the wrong way up the dual carriageway, I'm glad I wont be driving here!

I am staying in a room at VSO office in Phnom Penh  and it's lovely to be together with other volunteers. In Country training began on Friday, we'll be here in the city for a week before moving to another destination for language training.

Our first real view of Phnom Penh was on Saturday with an exciting tour of Phnom Penh on cyclos. These are tricycles with a large seat at the front for a passenger. Attractions included the Royal Palace by Tonle Sap River, markets, pagodas and other monuments. The cyclo drivers really knew what they were doing as they negotiated the busy roads, weaving in and out of other cyclists and motorbikes.

Feeling a little more confident of our surroundings, three of us set out today in search of surge protectors for our laptops. Electricity supply is good but there have already been two cuts today – not for long though. My Khmer is limited at the moment to greetings so it's quite frustrating but enough to gain smiles and to interact a little with locals. We easily found what we were looking for at a market, there's not much that cannot be bought in the city. It will be a different story when I reach my workplace in a much more rural area. Sights along the way were very interesting such as  a small boy cooking fish on a small fire on the pavement. Colourful stalls of exotic fruit and vegetables line the streets. One lady offered to let us taste the fruits before buying which was really kind but to her advantage in the end when we made our purchases. Chicken is often sold live as is much of the fish, wriggling to escape the basket.

At this stage I feel a bit more like a tourist than a volunteer, wandering around with a group exploring the city and eating at nice restaurants. It is important though, to learn as much as we can about the country in order to understand the needs of those we will be working with. It's fun too.
This little boy is cooking fish for the family on a fire in a hole in the pavement
The Royal Palace , Phnom Penh