Yesterday, we donated 100 notebooks and 150 pens to Save Children and Communities Development Organisation(SCCDO). Due to official teacher meeting at scholl, there was no class yesterday. So all 30 kids were at the placement. We arranged them in five short row, told them how important is to take note while we are studying and gave three notebooks and 2 pens to each of them. Finally, we adviced them to try to study and pay more attention in class.
The remained notebooks and pens were given to the Director in reserve for students when they need it.
SCCDPO's director thanked to Projects Abroad and its team for all the support.
We would like to thank to our two volunteers who helped giving the books to the kids.
Kylie and Rylie was volunteer in Cambodia for two weeks, they are mother and son. And I would say, Rylie is the youngest volunteer for Projects Abroad in Cambodia he is not only lovely but a good son, everyone likes him so much.
Today is their departure day to home, they are so sad to good bye to the kids at VCAO and eveyone. But they have a good time here even it is two weeks. Kylie said to me to thank all the team member for their help during her and her son staying in Cambodia.
Kylie, before leaving, went to market to buy a small tree and gave it to the cook to take care of it. That is fantastic.
We really appreciated for your help in Cambodia and thanks for everything you have done here. Wish you a safe flight to home.
Last night, with 13 volunteers, 3 of them just one day arrived in Cambodia, we went out for dinner at a local restaurant called ROMDENG which all the foods and drinks are made by the orphan of their organization.
I got an information that there was a new restaurant celebrate the Grand Opening day on 07th Oct and they invited everyone to join. They arranged food and drink for guest and it was for free.
A group of volunteers and staff was waiting to see how it was. That was fun and good but the worst was that we were are the top roof(5th floor) of the restaurant but the food place on the groud floor. So we needed to step up and down hardly.
So it’s October already and today I’ve been here 3 weeks........in reality, it feels like I’ve been here for more like 5 or 6 weeks.....wow. Every day is jammed packed with things happening and each week is full to the brim, so days and weeks feel long (in a good way), but on the other hand, it feels like time is racing by and I cannot believe that I only have 6 weeks left in Phnom Penh – two months felt like such a long time at the start. I also cannot comprehend that I was in Brisbane just over 3 weeks ago – it seems like another lifetime ago.
We were talking on Friday night about the fact that you never quite relax here......oddly though I feel chilled out – it’s just that you never do anything automatically. You have to plan and work out a strategy for everything you do. In nearly every conversation you have you are consciously choosing the right words so that you can be understood, and if you fail, you search your brain for another word or paragraph that the person might understand. Then there’s the getting around – you don’t just jump into your car and head off .......you have to search everything out on a map (and have I told you just how useless maps are in PP?), then negotiate a price with the tuk tuk driver which is always funny because we both know what price we’ll end up at, but you have to play the game first. Being a Westerner, you are always considered a tourist, so you can NEVER just walk down a street. You are always being hassled by someone, be it for a moto, tuk tuk, and if you’re in the tourist area of riverside.... “you buy a book madam”, “you want a t-shirt lady”, or having someone with a drugged up baby under their arm, begging. If you say no, some of the kids are very good at laying the guilt trip on you.....and have whining down to a fine art. I would rather the kids be at school learning, than hawking books, and I’m less than impressed with the women that hire babies, then sedate them so that they look almost lifeless, in order to pull at the heart strings of tourists to get money. I know poverty is rife here, but there are programs in place by many NGOs to give people a hand at getting their lives together, even so far as to start small businesses etc in many cases. There is no pension or social security though, but I’ve learnt from working at the school in the slums, that alcohol and drugs are an issue here, so it makes it harder for many families.
Re the maps – most streets don’t have names, just numbers. For example, our street is simply Str 112. The odd numbers run one way, the evens the other.......sounds like a great system, right? Well it would be if the numbers were in sequence, but they’re often not. So the street next to ours might very well be Str 134 for example, which makes following a map mighty tough going. One map that I have even goes so far as to colour code the street numbers to make it easy for me...........but in true Cambodian style, the colour system is the opposite to what they state.....you just have to grin and do your best to find the place you’re meant to be going to.
As I mentioned in my blog earlier this week, there has been quite a bit of change this week in ranks of the volunteers. We’ve farewelled a few and welcomed quite a few.....this week we’ve largely had people coming in for the Conservation/Diving program, so they normally just stay one night before catching a bus and boat to their island (about 7 – 8 hours away). Judging by some of the people that have passed through this week , it will be an interesting time on the island for sure. Couple of young, brash, opinionated US guys, both fine in small doses, but on a smallish island, hmmmm, will make for some interesting stories I’m sure.....a French guy heading down tomorrow that barely speaks English - I think he will have to learn very quickly otherwise it might be a fairly silent time....a Japanese girl that is lovely (Yumiko, more about her later).......and also a really nice Norwegian girl - I’m sure she’ll enjoy her time there. I think the island would be too isolated for me....I’m pretty sure that the facilities are fairly limited and I understand they don’t have internet access, and can only leave the island on the weekend (for the mainland) to catch up with friends and family via the net etc .....mind you, the boat ride is 2+ hours back, and in the current weather, I don’t think that would be too comfy.
Yumiko arrived the other day and didn’t leave for the island until the next day. So she asked if she could come along with me to school for the day............all approvals were sought and given, so we jumped on the back on my regular moto and headed off to school. Bad traffic day, so poor Chann (my moto driver) had a few hairy, sudden stops with 3 of us on his tiny moto.... The kids at school were awesome and welcomed Yumiko as if they’d known her for ages. At break time she brought her camera out to take some photos of the kids, and she was instantly “Miss Popular”....as they just LOVE cameras – both being photographed and taking photographs. So we both spent the break taking dozens of pics. She also loved seeing parts of Phnom Penh that she would have missed had she gone straight to the island, but as it was her first time on the back of a moto (motorbike) she found it a tad challenging. It was also an eye opener for her, going into the slums to the school, and I think she was amazed at just how happy the kids are, considering their home lives. Personally, I enjoyed having her company for the day.
I had my first major “cheesed off with Cambodia” moment on Friday morning. I’ve told you all about the karaoke/brothel next door....but not in a lot of detail. Well, it generally starts up around 5.30pm with the music (loud, really loud), and then from about 7pm onwards the punters start arriving and singing up a storm – seriously, do they not realise that they’re not whichever famous Khmer singing sensation that they’re imitating?? By 5.30pm, the hostesses (who are we kidding? Prostitutes) are nicely lined up at the door of the bar, waiting for the sleaze-bags to arrive (am I being too judgemental here?). By 7pm, some of the more affluent customers start pulling up in front of the bar and that means pretty much in front of our apartment, and blasting their horns for “service . If someone doesn’t race out within 30 seconds (and I’m not lying), they sit with their hands on the horn and blast until someone arrives.....it’s a truly charming/delightful/endearing behaviour – NOT. This goes on until, hmmm, let’s see, 1am, sometimes later. We love it....again, NOT. But mostly we suck it up and get on with life. However, Friday morning they partied on and we had techno crap playing until 6am.....no sleep at all that night. The “music” was so loud, our walls were vibrating. I spoke to Projects Abroad and explained that I’m a human, not a robot, and need sleep if I’m to get up and teach each day.
So, Pises, the director up here, visited the bar/brothel on Friday night and explained the very simple fact that we would like to sleep and that the noise was just a tad INCONSIDERATE........and all I can say is, he’s a mighty powerful man because for the last 2 nights it’s been mighty quiet around here and we’re loving it. Thanks Pises, we owe you...
Friday night, Seang (social co-ordinator for Projects Abroad) invited us to an opening of a new guest house and bar near riverside. Free food, free drinks, so we were there. Nice guest house with odd named rooms, ie Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.......and a great terrace on the roof - was it 5 or 6 floors up? Can’t remember but it was like climbing Mt Warning I can tell you – they have The Steepest Staircases in the world here !! The food was great and all the Aussies agreed that it was like being at home at a bbq – they had the best potato salad and really nice roast beef. After that, a group of us went to the night market – interesting place, they had a talent quest happening so we got to hear some talented and not so talented singers, and witnessed some amusing rap dancing by 3 teenage guys decked out in baggy jeans, American-style t-shirts, and back-turned baseball caps. Didn’t do much shopping, but did pick up a snow globe for Sally as promised....over here they’re glitter globes as I’m pretty sure they have no idea what snow is, so can't replicate it. Oh, side thought, talking snow, I saw a street vendor selling Milo snow cones the other day !!! We don’t even have those at home.
Saturday, was an interesting day. My morning was good in that I went for a huge walk, and did some shopping, got toenails painted - with pretty flowers etc, and then after lunch a group of us went to a sanctuary for rescued animals – monkeys, gibbons, tigers, lions, crocodiles, dear, bears, slow loris’, snakes, birds etc. It was great, and sad at the same time. These animals have been mostly mistreated by the people that owned them, and some have been injured etc. But it was also great to see them up close and to have a guided tour, and to know that they are now safe and well looked after.
The trip out was long.......very long (1.5 hrs there & 2 hrs backs), especially in a tuk tuk that in Western terms only seats 4 people comfortably, and we had 6 of us crammed in. It was dry, dusty, cramped, but we saw some amazing sights along the way. It’s funny being the odd ones out, and having people stare at us.....often from their mini vans that had maybe 12 people crowded in, oh and that’s on top of the shopping supplies, spare motos etc etc. So many kids call out from the side of the road – “hello” – and get really excited when you smile and wave back ...Another tuk tuk was loaded to the roof with traditional Khmer farmers and they were pointing at us and checking us all out.....they were delighted when we waved and said hello to them, and were all smiles and giggles. I never cease to be amazed at how friendly most people are here, and how tough their lives appear to be............and what they carry on the back of motos and tuk tuks etc. I wish I had more photos to share, but I don’t always have the camera in my hand when they wiz past. I saw one lady the other day, bottle feeding her young baby on the back of the moto....hubby driving, then baby cradled in the middle in mom’s arms as she fed it....
Just prior to heading back to PP, a huge thunderstorm developed – lots of thunder and lightning. It hit just as we were leaving. Now, as most Queenslanders would know, it’s scary enough being on the road in a car during a thunderstorm, let alone being in a tiny tuk tuk, with canvas sides that shield you from absolutely nothing – ie lightning, other vehicles, torrential rain etc . Water was coming at us via a hole in the roof, from the front, sides and back of the tuk tuk.......and the traffic was horrendous....cars, bikes, trucks and tuk tuks going in all directions, with mud and crap flying up from the road. One of the girls ended up putting her umbrella up to shield her from the rain coming in....was very funny, but at the time she was cold, wet and not so impressed (said with Danish accent). As we got closer to PP, the storm got worse and the city started to flood in places (combo of a huge amount of water and poor drainage – you should the rubbish that gets dumped into the gutters). Our tuk tuk’s engine stalled so many times that we lost count.....and I’m sure Noah was knocking and asking to be let into the relatively dry confines of our tuk tuk. The traffic was chaotic, to say the least, and in the really deeply flooded areas, kids were being kids, and splashing around and swimming in the streets – the water was filthy, but as I said, kids do kid things. I was supposed to catch up with Tim after dinner but there was so much flooding around town that we figured we’d take a raincheck (pardon the pun) and catch up later in the week. About 9 of us ended heading to Greetings cafe (end of our street, and not a brothel – amazing) for coffee shakes and free WiFi....we know how to party here on a Saturday night !!!
It’s been a great week being back with the kids at school and it was fantastic on Friday when I reviewed the lessons with the senior class and realised that they’ve learnt a lot from me and retained quite a large amount of worthwhile information. They told the teacher to let me know that they’re happy with my lessons, and said some of them are hard, some are easy, but they’re enjoying them.....wooohoo. I’ve also had some great success with the slower learners in the junior class – they can say their ABCs but really struggle to write them, so we practiced a lot of writing this week, and I’ve seen a great improvement. In Khmer, words in sentences are written all together – ie no spaces between the words ....so I’m having to break that cycle when it comes to writing English and it’s a hard habit for them to break...but we’ll get there – the kids are bright and oh so keen to learn.
Friday from 10am – 11am is cartoon time, supposedly to learn English. When I was at the Russian market last week I bought a Wiggles DVD, thinking that the kids might enjoy it. The teacher played it on Friday and the kids hated it. After 15 mins she asked me if I minded if she stopped it and I was fine for that....and when the teacher suggested stopping it, to the kids, they all cheered. Seems The Wiggles are just an Aussie thing. We ended up watching some of Monsters Inc, so I was happy with that – love that movie, as do the kids.
Talking about the kids, one of their favourite games to play in the classroom is “Slap the Board”. It’s a word search game, where you write lots of English words on the board, two students stand in front of the class with backs to the board........I then call out a word and they compete to find it. When I first started here, that was basically idea of the game, so I’ve introduced new rules where they have to say the word, spell it and say it again....the teacher and the kids love it. Anyway, the other day we had a game and it was girls against the boys.............have no idea where I learnt it, but when the girls were winning I started this stupid thing of standing up, doing a stupid dance of swivelling my hips and doing a stirring motion with arms/hands and chanting “go girl, go girl” (seriously what stupid show on tv did I pick this up from???). Anyway the kids loved it, and it’s become the thing to do.....even the boys do it. So the next day I introduced “woohoo” for the boys as they punch the air.... Even the teacher is in on the silly dance, and when I leave school, I often hear someone giggling behind me, and then the familiar “go girl, go girl”.... They are so much fun !!! I was hoping for a more inspirational legacy to leave the kids, but I fear it will be “go girl”.
Ok, so that’s about it.....I’ve got some lessons to prepare for the coming week, so will go do those, and catch you all later.
Hugs as always from Cambodia...Rob
I'm sure there are certain people who's mind has gone straight to the gutter on reading the headline ....hmmm, what can I say, I got as dirty as you would if you were rolling around in a gutter, but the reality is we went to a school and painted walls.....it was SO much fun and a I feel great. What a rewarding day!!!
We headed off early knowing a little of what to expect, but only a little. The school we went to accommodates 200 kids, in 3 shifts throughout the day....but there are only 4 completed the rooms, the rest are under construction.
Our job today was to paint and decorate the staircase that was recently completed....easy enough in Queensland, but in Cambodia where there is no such thing as workplace health & safety, it's challenging task. I will include photos. Anyway, 12 of us got to work and somehow managed to paint the walls and then decorate them for the kids. Some of the walls were at least 20 - 25 feet high, and all manner of implements were taped to the rollers and paintbrushes in order to reach every nook and cranny. I'll let the photos tell the story of the ladders and "scaffolding" used.
One of the volunteers was from Poland (Ola) and was great fun, and said about 100 times throughout the day "I love it"....she/we really got into the day and had a ball.
Anyway, will leave it to the pictures to tell the story......Oh, by the way, we got VERY DIRTY during the day and I feel fantastic now that I've scrubbed away the paint and grime....
Hugs, Rob, xx
A year was gone and the Pchum Ben Festival was taking place again for fifteen days from 13th Sept to 27th Sep 2011. This special festival is celebrated for Ancestor Spirit who died in the past. It is a belief that dead people become ghosts who are shaped by their actions from when they were alive. If we do good we will go to paradise, and if we do bad things we will not go to paradise. Therefore, this festival is always held in the tenth month of the Khmer calendar. In the Khmer calendar, the tenth month is called Phoatrobot. During this fifteen day, we go to pagoda and at least one pagoda that we have to go to offer food, dessert, rice, fruit, water and some other dried food to the monk, then the monk blesses us, so those items will eventually be offered to our Ancestor’s spirits. No doubt, if we do not go to offer food at pagoda, our ancestors who already died will get nothing during these fifteen days. Then, they will place blame and wish us bad luck in life. So, we have to go at least once.
For the dress code, it is encouraged that Cambodian ladies wear the traditional clothes, in white shirts and silk long skirts. For men, they should wear white shirts and trousers.
We should mention that during the fifteen days some people also go to pagoda in the early morning at 3:00am to offer sticky rice, fruits and water to the spirit who is in deep sin, it believes that if we offer it during day time, they cannot receive what we offer. And when we offer the food to the spirit who is in deep sin, we need to throw the food to the surrounding spaces of the pagoda, otherwise they could not have it. Those spirits who are in deep sin are called Prat. The way we make food for offering to Prat is different from area to area in the country. To conclude, at pagoda, they celebrate this festival for fifteen days and we will never miss it even if there is heavy rain.
This year, the last three days on 26th, 27th and 28th Sep are public holidays, so most Cambodians will visit their relatives where they were born for a family reunion and also for the time to go to pagoda all together. Unluckily, this year, there are floods in some provinces of Cambodia, therefore, it was not easy to travel and some people really did not enjoy it as the flooding blocked the road.
(Erin was painting the wall at VDTO - Dirty Weeekend)
It is my last day in Cambodia, and I'm having one of those distinctly unique Cambodian experiences. I'm sitting in an internet cafe named, "Facebook Net," using my own laptop to download some iTunes TV shows to watch on my interminably long flight tonight. There is a 20-ish years old man in the stall next to me. He has surprisingly good English and has spoken to me a few times. If I had to venture a guess, I'd guess this man is possibly autistic judging by his social behaviors, which is why his excellent English is really throwing me off. He's sitting there freestyle rapping on the computer over top what sounds like Britney Spears. But I'm not up on my Southeast Asian pop stars, so I could be wrong about that. This is truly a peculiar moment.
What would have taken 5 minutes to download at home has taken over an hour to download here. Facebook Net is overrun with World of Warcraft players, and the bandwidth is not stellar in here. But a girl must have something to do on her 21 hour flight, right?
The real world is waiting at home, and I'm a little bit afraid of it. Bills, interviews, jobs, calls, housework, all that stuff you just don't have to deal with in the developing world. But at the same time, I'm done with my work here and ready to go. Is the real world ready to take me back though? I guess we'll find out in about 24 hours.
Up on the roof of apartment
I've just spent the better part of the past hour doing my laundry Cambodian-style. This involves buckets of soapy water, rinsing things out, moving them back and forth, squatting on the ground, killing your back, and then finally hanging them up on the line. The entire time I did this the sun was beating down on me, and the only happy thought I could come up with was that all that direct sun would help dry my clothes faster.
Naturally, now that I've pulled out my laptop, settled in on the rooftop terrace (also where the clothesline is) and started to relax, it is pouring rain. The kind of inexplicable rain where there are only 2 or 3 puffy clouds in the sky, the sun is still trying to burn me even though I'm sitting in the shade, and yet my clothes 10 feet away are getting drenched.
And yet, in spite of all this, right at this moment I'm living the dream. I'm sitting on a beautiful terrace in an exotic country, just me and my laptop. This is what we all dream about, isn't it? Blogging from foreign locales?
I'm both happy and sad to see my time in Cambodia come to an end so quickly. I've enjoyed the work I was given to do. And I am very grateful that Riverkids chose to work with my talents, rather than just stick me with the children. (There was a great deal of confusion when I first arrived. They thought I was here to teach English. When I had applied with Projects Abroad I made it abundantly clear I did NOT want to do that, hence the upsetting confusion those first few hours.) There would have been nothing wrong with caring for the children or teaching- and there are many volunteers here doing a great job of it. But there is something to be grateful and happy for knowing that you were able to use your best talents to help others. Did I imagine myself coming down here to write marketing plans for a shelter for sex workers? Nope. Pretty much the last thing I pictured! That wasn't what I had signed up for either, but I am very glad that is how things turned out.
I find that the real “trick” in traveling abroad, particularly when it comes to so-called intrepid travel, is to roll with the punches (deal with the traffic, roommates etc), accept things as they are (eat rice and then more rice), and make a difference when and where you can (and accept when you can't). But don't expect society and culture to change just for you.
It was good for me to get back into marketing again. For the few years all I have really known is that I wanted out of marketing as a career and into non-profit work via the Peace Corps. In other words, I wanted to make a difference, and stop marketing products I really didn't care about (ahem, cheap travel, dental x-ray machines, etc.) But being here has helped me see that I can use the talents I am the most familiar and best with to do the things I care the most about. And I think going forward that little lesson I have learned will be invaluable.
You see, I've been harboring a little secret for the past week. The Peace Corps and I may have be coming to an end in the next few weeks. This past week I was supposed to get the big final phone call telling me where I will be going. Instead, the phone call was a huge disappointment. More budget cuts, more program cuts, yada yada yada. I'm still accepted in the PC. But the program I was accepted for is shrinking rapidly. Optimistically, there is a small chance that within the next two weeks I will have that final placement, and have a departure date (which will happen no sooner than April). But? Realistically? Not going to happen. And if it doesn't happen by mid-October, they push me off again until February 2012, at which point ALL of my medical, dental, etc will have expired. I will have to re-do the entire freaking process, and then, in theory, they will not mess up my status again, and I will get a placement any time between June and Sept of next year. That is if they don't put a 3-6 month hold on my account again while re-clearing my medical.
So if it doesn't happen in the next 2 weeks, I'm dropping out. There, I've said it. And it feels good to just say it. I've been in this process for over a year. I never felt right about applying for other jobs, or accepting a full-time position somewhere knowing that I'd be leaving in just a few months. That wouldn't be fair to the company or other qualified job-seekers. But after a year without steady income, I just can't put my life on hold for the Peace Corps anymore. I'm a little too old for this. Way too old actually. I have to get back to a real job, real income, and a real future. I don't know what I will do to achieve my future goals without the Peace Corps, but I do think this is the right thing.
I do still want to join the Peace Corps, and maybe it will still happen in a few years from now. It is all I have thought about for the past 18 months. But I'm an adult with adult decisions and responsibilities to make. And while my career options seem limited to “paper or plastic” in this economy, it is time to get back to working on my future.
Until then, I have 4 days left in Cambodia. And I'm going to make the most of them. You never know how long it will be before another opportunity like this comes up.
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