Half term and half-dead....
03.04.2012 - 12.04.2012 43 °C
"It's an ugly planet; a Bug Planet!"
"It's an ugly planet; a Bug Planet!"
- Starship Troopers
The second week of teaching went well, teaching my Young Ones class more animal names and the first stages of teaching them proper phonics, pronouncing diphthongs correctly and my personal favourite, the phonetic alphabet. Srey Aiy, one of the girls in my class, has emerged as the clear star pupil despite a minor Diva Complex at times, with the ever adorable Strawberry Bag a close second. I must also focus on the less able ones so that they don't fall behind, so have devised some homework for all levels. I have also taught my class to say "excuse me please" instead of shouting out "tee-chah-tee-chah!"(sic) at me whenever they want something. The weekend was spent giving David a good 20th Birthday party, which involved lots of beer, a large cigar and a cake Jason bought from the capital consisting of some seriously weapons-grade sponge. It was delicious but I cannot stress enough how much the country seems to have a collective sweet tooth the size of Jupiter. We also had another volunteer arrive, the rather loud 19 year-old Joelle from Kent.
There were few lessons the next week. The Approach of Khmer New Year meant that many children were tied up with visiting relatives and we were all stuck back at the school with not much to do for a couple of weeks. Laura, a teaching assistant a couple of years younger than me arrived in time for the final lesson before our "Half Term" equivalent: a frantic, shouted game of Pictionary for the older classes.
On the 11th April I went to show Sylvia and Erika the circular walk I had found around Bak Kod and we ended up being followed by the gnome-like Strawberry Bag and his big sister, Ratta. Sylvia cooked in the sun, turning red quite quickly; I thought I was fine until a few hours later when I came over in a cold sweat, alternating between burning up and shivering in my bed.
The temperature has really gone up and liquids now dry up in a matter of seconds. Great for drying clothes; not so great for anything else. Apparently I was groaning insensate and shaking a bit. I just remember feeling my skin prickling all over and my forehead boiling red. Sun-stroke compounded the bad feeling in my glands from earlier and I felt miserable all night, to the point where I was unable even to properly welcome the newest arrival: 40 year-old trainee Blacksmith Steve, from the Midlands. Even the luxurious bucket shower only gave me cold shivers (more than usual). Even in the morning I was still feeling hideous, but Jason had returned with the boys and another volunteer: Sadhu, 24, from Kingston. A big, tattooed London lad who's managed to spring back from a wayward past, he seemed good fun and committed to completing his qualification as a personal trainer when he gets back home.
There are now a lot of volunteers and many of us are voicing our concerns over how 5 classes a day are going to be cohesively taught whilst allowing 12-15 volunteers the chance to do lessons. I suppose it's better than not having enough, but we'll see how it pans out. Slightly concerned too that I am the only volunteer without any tattoos, piercings or pending designs....
One of the Khmer classroom assistants/translators, Rain, left for a temporary contract job today. He will be back in a few months, but it is a shame to see him go as I have been working closely with him and his gentle, tolerant nature will be missed by all the volunteers. Before he left however, he had one final surprise. After dinner he appeared with a wide grin and holding pinched between his fingers possibly the largest, most hideous grasshopper/locust creature I have ever seen. A vulgar bright green, it dwarfed most small mammals and looked capable of devouring a hamster. Rain had it by the wing case and this clearly enraged it as the monster's mandibles thrashed out visibly in the air until a large leaf was found, which it summarily annihilated with large, frenzied bites. I love interesting and exotic creatures, but even I was put off a little. Some of the others may have actually wet themselves. It was in this moment that the lizards and frogs that invade the dorms every night suddenly seemed cuddly, even cute when compared to this oversized crop-devastator.
A spider also tried to attack my food earlier. As a very general rule, the spiders here are not very bad and are generally very small; of the "jumping/wolf" shape in the fields or spindly web-loiterers in tall ceiling corners trapping the mozzie menace. Oh, and several large Stag and Jewel-type beetles have also taken to flying into poor Sylvia's face and top in the evenings as we play cards. I am almost getting used to the light tap followed by the customary scream. Why do they favour her so much? Are they anti-Welsh? I reckon it's down to the white, clothing picking up the light of the bulb that they fly toward. Some nights the mozzies and other critters darken the light from the bulbs, such is the intensity. I am running out of repellent fast, which isn't really an option out here by the village!
As I lay in bed that night still languishing from my illness I noticed a slender mosquito on my side of the mesh, despite my earlier efforts to keep the little buggers out. Scuttling along, It wove in-out-in-out of the net several times with what can only be described as arrogance (I could imagine a magnified view revealing a mocking mosquito smile). So much for insect protection from the net! I tapped the net, and it was with grim satisfaction that I saw it plummet off the bed without a wing into an obscure end on the floor.
The next morning I awoke feeling a lot better, but with a new bite on my foot. Could it be that the rude mosquito from the night before had survived and taken its revenge?, I wondered. Do I really care? Looking out from the veranda, I saw Jason standing over by the worn grass at the front of Hope Agency. Noticing me, he called me over to what seemed at first to be a discoloured patch of dirt underneath the stilt-mounted lightbulb. I'd taken a few steps in before I realised that the ground beneath me was moving; seething with a dull brown swarm of giant, winged ants. I saw them crest the edges of my sandles and felt them crawling over my toes and ankles and leapt backwards with a start - can I please just have ONE DAY without being bothered by some biting creature?!