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 ~

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

In Memory

What a lovely day. My college Director invited all staff to share in a memorial for her mother who died 10 years ago. Families remember their relatives every year but only hold a celebration if it's a special anniversary and they can afford it. I was told that 12.12.12 being the 10th year and the Year of the Dragon made this special.
Eight of us (inc driver) piled into a car and we drove to the pagoda in a nearby village. The men travelled by motorbike. We were early but what a beautiful place to sit around. The sky was blue, sun shining but there was a breeze. Butterflies of every colour fluttered around as we fed the fish in the river. That might sound like a strange thing to do but these fish are special. Monks protect this part of the river and no fishing is allowed. Consequently the fish are huge.
Ladies selling bread and pellets to feed the fish

Feeding the fish. You can see the large splash as a fish jumped.
A beautiful spot
 Monks could be heard chanting as the family remembered their ancestor. Once the service was over the Director was very pleased to see us all and showed us to our seats where delicious food awaited. Fish, chicken, pork and vietnamese soup - quite an assortment - served, of course, with rice.
Ready to eat
 Later we went to the house where the family grew up. I met brothers and inlaws and was shown photographs of the ancestors and family in much younger days. Everyone was very welcoming and I felt quite relaxed.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Sundays in Sisophon

Sundays are very relaxing. I often go for a ride on my bicycle and there are always opportunities to see or do interesting things. These are a few photos from past weeks.

 Some friends took me swimming in a nice, quiet, clean(ish) ricefield. Anna had prepared a very tasty barbecue.
Swimming in a ricefield

Ditches dug for irrigation make good pools for swimming. We enjoyed ourselves a short distance from the busy resort where Cambodians go to swim.
The centre of Sisophon is fairly developed. Some of the roads are quite good and not too busy on a Sunday.
Exercise to music in the park
  The Watika (park) is very lively at weekends with exercise sessions, fairground rides, loud music and food stalls.
On the other side of the river however it's a different story. The main bridge is next to the college where I work.
These kids spend their time collecting plastic bottles and cans for recycling.
Traffic hazards include cattle, goats, chickens and, when it rains, frogs!
Here the roads are not surfaced and it's much quieter. The views are beautiful especially at sunset. I love the lotus flowers and the way that everyone greets me. People appreciate the fact that I know some khmer and I often get invited to join families for a drink and a chat.
The lotus flower raises its lovely head above the dirty water

Not all the views are beautiful. Poor people live along the riverbank making their living by fishing. Their homes are in a very poor state of repair, suffering annually from flooding. You will still always see them smiling though.
Riverside homes
Sometimes I visit nearby districts. Here, on the way to Svay Cheik, we stopped to buy peanuts. These ladies are harvesting them by hand.
I was amused to see these huge pigs at the pagoda. They look very well fed! The light was very bright so it was hard to get a good photo.

Last weekend, Japanese volunteers hosted a range of Japanese cultural activities from Aikido to origami at the local University. I dressed in Japanese costume and had a lesson in Japanese writing. I have two Japanese colleagues at PTTC.
 These two young boys made their own entertainment for a Sunday afternoon. Their home made go-carts  use Nestle milk cans for wheels. They didn't go very fast but the lads had a great time with them.

Finally, if I stay at home, my neighbours children like to pay a visit and do some drawing or colouring. They were initially quite wild but have settled down. My khmer teacher provided me with all the right vocabulary 'Please play nicely in my house' :-)
Drawing and colouring
On that day the crash helmet was firmly fixed to his head!!!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Something different

A friend of mine has been teaching English at the prison for several years. Some of his students speak good English now. He came to me with an idea. Some of the men will be released in one or two years and would like to teach English as a way to make a new start in life. He wanted me to help them with some teaching methods.

I had been to the prison a couple of times, once to teach English to a group of women as cover for an absent colleague and the other to a party as a Peace Corps volunteer was leaving. My first visit was daunting as I did not know what to expect. I needn't have worried. Cambodian people are friendly wherever they are and always know how to make the best of a bad situation.

So... first I went to meet the group, get to know them and talk with them about the responsibilities that go with being a teacher. It was interesting. The men are very open and keen to learn, their situations are very different.

Last week I delivered the first session about the way people learn and the 4 skills. The drive there was the worst bit! The road to the prison is flooded! I rode pillion on a motorbike as my friend negotiated a route through. In the middle of all the water a street seller had set up his stall. People were taking the opportunity to earn money by transporting visitors to the prison by boat. Others were just paddling through. Sandbags line the entrance but inside the prison is dry.

A year ago I taught the women under a tatty wooden shelter. Since then, some organisations got together to build a nice room and library. It was here that we worked. It was very noisy as we were behind the visiting room. A man sat at the other side of the room knotting a fishing net. Small children were colouring in pictures and other prisoners were just sitting around watching. My students joined in enthusiastically as we sang a song, held discussions and carried out activities. 
I asked my students to order the four cards (speaking, listening, reading and writing) and then give reasons. For some, this was not easy, these guys are not used to thinking for themselves, prison life is very dull. Each group came up with a different answer though so it was a good discussion. They also appreciated how the cards were more flexible than a written list.

A bell rings. Ten minute warning to return to cells. A reminder that this is no ordinary class. Everyone is very grateful for my time, the atmosphere is very relaxed. The doors were locked behind us as we left to negotiate the floods once more.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

English Teaching

Although it's not part of my job, since I came to Cambodia I've been teaching English to trainees. It's part of their curriculum and I've been training trainers at the same time. For me it's the only way I can model effective teaching methods properly as all other lessons are in khmer.

Up to now, English has not been a subject in Primary Schools but with increased pressure from ASEAN to improve the level of English spoken in Cambodia, the Ministry have decided to introduce it. About 5 years ago, a VSO volunteer wrote a scheme for teaching English. She was invited back to update it and we now have the job of supporting its introduction in the schools.

This is a pilot project and will begin initially in Grade 4. In August I went to Phnom Penh with 3 trainers from PTTC to participate in training them how to use the new books. Phonics are used and many interactive teaching methods, games and songs. In September we ran a 3 day workshop for 50 teachers from the pilot schools plus Directors of Education from the districts in our province. Organisation was frought with difficulties as schools were closed, the official letter only arrived 2 days before the training, the materials also just arrived in time for us to sort them out the day before. Despite all this, the teachers turned up and were immediately enthusiastic. Some came from rural areas so had to stay in town, others were from the schools used by the college for Teaching Practice. Some teachers spoke good English, most only a little and a few hardly any.
What is this?
On Day 1, teachers were a bit nervous, especially of the phonic pronunciation of c, a, t. The activities helped put them at ease.Concerns were voiced about the amount to learn. Once it was pointed out that each day of the workshop covers a months lessons in school, teachers relaxed a bit!! We split into 2 groups as there were so many participants. I worked with one trainer in one group whilst the other 2 trainers worked with another volunteer in the other group. Considering this was new to the trainers they did really well and this was a great motivation to the teachers.

Is this a bat?

Teachers were given copies of the flash cards and practised using them. Small chalk boards also play a big role in the teaching methods used.

He has a bag.

Write pen. 
Say n,e, t, net.
Word Shapes
 By the end of the three days, teachers were mostly feeling quite confident to teach. School started on 1st October. Unfortunately the books have not yet arrived so the introduction is delayed. Some schools are not yet open due to floods. I took this photo at one school. The two little girls have their new uniforms and new bags but cannot start school yet ...
Hopefully teaching will start in a couple of weeks and I'll be able to report on the progress. I'm looking forward to supporting the teachers and assisting them with some of the activities and songs.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Day Trip to Siem Reap

It's the end of another college year and to celebrate we all went to Siem Reap. This year we were unable to go in large buses as a visit to Phnom Kulen was included. Phnom means mountain and this one is too steep for a bus.

8 minibuses set off from the college at 4.30 am. Trainees had little sleep due to excitement and being up at 2.00 to prepare the picnic. Some had never been to Siem Reap before so this was a very special day for them.

Phnom Kulen was beautiful. Such a memorable experience to swim under the waterfall. It's something I've always wanted to do. The current was strong, hard to swim against (especially in clothes) and I was nervous at first because the spray makes it hard to breathe. Sitting under the fall with the water pounding on my back like a natural massage was amazing. The laughter of trainees having fun all around me was very special.
I am smiling but those rocks are very slippery!

Trainees dressed as indigenous people, an attraction for tourists

Lunch followed and then a walk up to the pagoda and sleeping Buddah. The view was incredible.
over the rickety bridge
Lunch. Rice with a variety of dishes
Coconut seller. This drink was very refreshing on such a hot day
Sleeping Buddah

Banteay Srey temple was our next stop. Famed for it's carvings, this is a really beautiful temple as you can see from the photos.
Victims of landmine accidents make music to earn money

Back on the buses for a visit to Angkor Wat. It was great to walk round with trainees as those who have been there on school trips know a lot about the towers and carvings.
So happy on his first visit to Angkor Wat - a dream come true.
Enjoying being a tourist - first time ever on a horse

Singing and laughter on the return journey was a reflection of how much everyone had enjoyed the day. On the way back, we stopped at a village renowned for it's cakes. Trainees and trainers stocked up on gifts for their families.
Plastic bottles provide the percussion to accompany the songs
Take my word for it - this is a cake shop - a very popular one!