Several weeks ago, the deputy head of our practice school came to ask if I would do something for International Children's Day. As other volunteers were thinking of story telling I suggested I could tell a story. 'In khmer?' he asked and I confidently agreed!!
Sokha prepared a translation of The Very Hungry Caterpillar which I wrote in Roman script and practised but as the time drew near I began to have doubts about a story being suitable for such an exciting occasion. I tried to back out saying I'd do ball games instead but the school was already looking forward to the story.
Wednesday 1st June, the celebrations were due to start at 8.00. The staffroom was busy with teachers sorting out prizes and final rehearsals for the girls making speeches. Children waited patiently around a wooden platform that had been erected for the occasion. It had big holes in it, a huge health and safety hazard, but it somehow made the day seem special.
At 8.30 we filed out and I found that I was on the top table with the Headmaster and Head Girl. The Headmaster made a speech about the history of International Children's Day and what it means then introduced me to make mine. I had expected this and had prepared a few words in khmer but it didn't seem enough so I continued in English and Sokha translated. People were bemused at first to hear the English but then responded with cheers and applause so all was good. Prizes were given to those children who have performed well and to the needy students, it was one way of ensuring they have exercise books and pencils for the next term. I felt honoured to be asked to present them.
Then the games began. First was musical chairs. I was impressed by the way the majority of children were sat watching and cheering as a small group participated. My story was next and I was handed a microphone. It started well, children listened and could obviously understand as they joined in with the counting and called out the fruit names. Then over excitement kicked in as I was giving children pictures of the fruits to hold and they all wanted one – I was mobbed and had to call on Sokha for crowd control!
|Crowd listening to story|
|Sokha - Help! (notice that he took the photo first!! )|
All was peaceful again and I finished with an activity sorting the children with food pictures into groups, healthy foods and those that are not healthy. This worked really well with the whole crowd joining in yelling 'laor' (good) or 'ot' (not) for each item in the Hungry Caterpillar's diet.
|Is too much of this bad for you?|
The morning continued like a game show. Groups of children competing whilst the rest looked on, the atmosphere was amazing, full of fun and laughter. I've labelled the photos to let you know about the other games. Once they were over, I took the children for some team races while the staff cleared away the stage, not even one child having fallen down a hole!
|Pairs of children burst balloons by squeezing them between their bodies.|
|This was hilarious. Blindfold, children had to peel a banana and feed it to their partner.|
|Younger children blew the flour away to get at a hidden sweet.|
|First to get the sweet was the winner but all got a sweet.|
|More balloon bursting, this time by blowing it up too much. Ouch!|
|This is a bit like conkers. An egg in a bag is tied round each child's waist with string. The idea is to swing the bag and hit your opponents egg. first one to break the egg is the winner.|
Finally there was dancing. A young girl proudly placed an arrangement of paper flowers on a log in the middle of the 'dance floor'. She turned to me and said – in English – 'My class make this'. I was very surprised, she told me she goes for private lessons.
To finish the morning I was invited for lunch with the staff. Sokha had already gone, it is a national holiday, so the Head said he would take me to the café. I was wearing a skirt so had to go side saddle, like the khmer girls. My helmet again gained a lot of attention for being so big. Few khmers wear a helmet at all, let alone a full face one. Everyone was so friendly that I'm really beginning to feel part of the community.