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First Week of Teaching

A Snake and a Strawberry Bag

sunny 37 °C
View Cambodia on Jamie V's travel map.

The next day I awoke to the now standard all-over sweat bath and made my way to a breakfast of rubbery egg and lettuce sandwiches and small sponges that the others call "cambodia cake". The latter aren't so bad and if you pick a good one it will have less sediment in it than the bread. I discovered that there is a small sickly-thin kitten here called Yoda who tries to steal food and jump around the tables. The dogs follow it intently wherever it goes and bite at it, so I wouldn't bet on the tragic little runt surviving very long.
Today's task was to shadow David with the three main age groups throughout the day's lessons. Just after midday, the first children arrived for the Babies/Young Ones group at 1:30pm. Ranging from sweet, plodding 4 year-olds to energetic 7/8 year-olds, all the kids seemed to really want to be here, which was encouraging.
I won't rose-tint the overview of my new charges - kids will be kids and some are little monsters just like back home in Britain. There is Lee Heng, a 4 year-old who arrived in a VERY unwashed shirt and enjoys hitting other children, animals and the volunteers. Apparently he has no family other than his grandfather (who is rumoured to beat him), so whilst we have to be firm we also have to be quite forgiving. There is also the aptly-named Mao, who loves to snatch and gets very upset if he doesn't get his own way. That said, he is incredibly small and is probably just trying to compensate. Perhaps the cutest kid so far is the one known as Strawberry Bag, due to his fruit-shaped shoulder bag that he carries his book and pencil in. A small, wide-eyed creature with rotten stumps for teeth (oral hygiene is a serious problem in Cambodia), he proved incredibly enthusiastic and capable during the first class on animals: I can still hear him belting out "Snake I spell - S! N! A! K! E! SNAKE!" (well done, Strawberry) "Thank-you-tee-chah!" (sic).
Young Ones in Class

Young Ones in Class

The Middle group directly afterwards were slightly older, with ages ranging from about 6 to 13 years-old. They are slightly better at English, a little better clad - and know a few more basic words. They spent the class period learning occupations such as baker, policeman and hairdresser. We gave them a team challenge at the end of the lesson to race to fill in the blanks for each job on the two whiteboards, which went down very well (as my team snatched a close victory in the final round).

The final Group were the Older Ones, who arrived for 5:30pm after they had been to regular Khmer school. Some were as young as 12; the eldest were 19. Some of the teenage boys here were keen to show off the local style: fitted, "disco-style" shirts with tall, fluffed-up hair, black trousers and flip-flops seemed to be what the cool kids go for out here. Oddly enough, the girls seemed to be content with whatever they could find, fashion-wise. In this lesson, they were being taught the difference between Nouns, Adjectives and Verbs with examples with varying degrees of success.

That day we had 3 new arrivals. Sylvia, a Welsh lady in her late 40s who had recently finished her HR job in the Police to come and volunteer across South East Asia. In the afternoon we had Carla, a former waitress from Nottingham; Janki & Fulya, two fashion and marketing students travelling between semesters.
I decided that evening that I enjoyed working the Young Ones the most, so I will be teaching that class with Alex, one of the other recent arrivals.

The Animal Game

The Animal Game

The next day I continued with the Young Ones at the 1:30pm time slot, planning a lesson where they would learn more animals and try and complete the names of each creature on the whiteboard. Although they all seemed to know "snake", they were unsure of some of the other animals; I may need to go back to basics with them soon. Talking of snakes, the Three Lets managed to slay a python that wandered too close to the school today. Later that evening they went over to another hut and roughed another dog up (it is becoming apparent that they are the local dog Mafia and this doesn't bode well for the sick Yoda), but as long as they keep killing the snakes I'm prepared to turn a blind eye to it all!
Snake at hope

Snake at hope

Mid-week we all went to Ang Pasom (pronounced "Ankar Zam") Market for essential supplies. I could not find any watch batteries, but we managed to get some strong beer to while away the evening at a rate of $2.2USD/4xcan and I think they were selling cigarettes at 500 Cambodian Riel (roughly 1/8th of a Dollar) per 20 Pack.

That night the majority of us had decided to go to Siem Riep for a long weekend. Although I plan to travel around and see the Temples of Angkor proper at the end of my time teaching here I was keen to get an initial impression of a few of the main sites and experience the hustle and bustle of the backpacker cities. Even so, a highly unpleasant surprise was waiting around the corner..

Posted by Jamie V 04:30 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia teaching nasties

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Hi Jamie. Your mum gave me the link to your blog which I will follow with great interest. You write brilliantly, I'm so impressed....you must consider publishing your experiences. Can't wait for the next installments. Xx

by Lyn Harwood

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