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MY CAMBODIAN ADVENTURE - From London to Cambodia: just 30 hr

Travel Blogs are completely new to me so this will be a learning experience, unless I don't learn!

DAY 1 OF MY CAMBODIAN ADVENTURE
FRIDAY, JANUARY 4TH

It is early Friday in London, and we are driving with a German driver who just left the continent (driving on the right) driving with a car with left hand side steering (like at home, but opposite in the U.K.) and everyone here drives on the left. “Roundabouts” are a bit tricky, but we arrive at the airport by 6:45. The usual little blips in the plans, and first husband and favourite son head back home to Nfld and I am off, flying east. I will arrive in Cambodia 30 hours later by the calendar, and what is 10 ½ hours earlier in Nfld + 1 day.

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Posted by Sue McNicholas 09.01.2013 12:46 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged airline Comments (0)

MY CAMBODIAN ADVENTURE - If you can't be smart, be lucky!

sunny 34 °C

DAY 2, SATURDAY, January 5th

Arrival (10:20 a.m. local time – 10 to midnight, Friday in Nfld) in Siem Reap, Cambodia, should have meant that I’d be met at the airport. But apparently the co-founder of the orphanage sometimes forgets. To be honest, he is wearing several hats, and I often forget who dealt last in a bridge game! I had 2 U.S. bucks, which is just the right amount for a ride into town on a motorbike with my suitcase balanced in front of my driver. I didn’t know the name of the hotel, but we rode ‘past the river’, slowing when things became familiar, and found Siem Reap Riverside Hotel –thereafter referred to as “home”. As luck would have it, someone was checking out and there was a room for me for the next 3 days. A person phoning while I was checking in was told that the last room had just been taken. Seems that January is very high season and most places are booked.

Happy greetings at my hotel (taken last year, but Kamara remembered me)

Happy greetings at my hotel (taken last year, but Kamara remembered me)

Posted by Sue McNicholas 09.01.2013 13:16 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

MY CAMBODIAN ADVENTURE - My new home for the next month

sunny 30 °C

DAY 3, SUNDAY (January 6th)

No school today, so I sat on the terrace for breakfast overlooking a lazy muddy river and a roadway busy with motorbikes and bicycles, cars and pedestrians and tuc-tucs (rickshaws pulled by motorbikes). I asked a lone breakfaster if he was the hotel guest volunteering at ACODO. He wasn’t but we chatted for a short while; he’s a restauranteur, doing some mentoring with young people in Siem Reap. The ACODO table “fessed up” and I was invited to join them. I got helpful tips about teaching at the orphanage from Glenn, Kirsty and their two teens. We planned to meet with another volunteer at supper on Tuesday, as it was their last night.

Sunday morning on the terrace(Last year's photo, but still the same beautirul place)

Sunday morning on the terrace(Last year's photo, but still the same beautirul place)


I checked out the pool, met some of the staff- (sorry if I slip and say family!), and decided to wander the town to visit the market. With 2 hours walking in, I sat for a cold draft beer + wi-fi for 50 cents. A bit more walking developed an appetite for ‘street food’, then time to try to rest off that jet lag.

This is Sona, a wonderful friendly person and the owner of the hotel.

This is Sona, a wonderful friendly person and the owner of the hotel.

Posted by Sue McNicholas 16.01.2013 15:24 Tagged welcome Comments (0)

MY CAMBODIAN ADVENTURE - A long walk around Siem Reap.

sunny

DAY 4, MONDAY

Prepared for an early start and teaching, I was at the orphanage at 7 a.m. Several kids came over to greet me. They knew that someone was coming from Canada, but the day was a holiday to remember those killed in their recent turmoil (Khmer Rouge forces surrendered in 1998: “the killing fields”). Soon Veasna (co-founder) turned up and we talked. He showed me around, gave me the volunteer’s orange T-shirt and asked if I could be there at 7 the next morning. A lucky break for me meant that I could go for breakfast at the hotel, which is included with the twenty-dollar room.

Again I bumped into the restauranteur, Michael, and I got to hear about his work here with older kids trying to learn skills to become more employable in the restaurant business. We decided to hit the town and I racked up 16 k’s walking about the town at 35 degrees. I bet you I’ll lose a pound or two!

My Classroom. Next classroom picture will show some of the wonderful kids.

My Classroom. Next classroom picture will show some of the wonderful kids.

Posted by Sue McNicholas 16.01.2013 15:36 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

MY CAMBODIAN ADVENTURE - My first day at school

sunny

DAY 5, TUESDAY (January 8th)
MY FIRST DAY TEACHING

The school is pretty happy at 7 a.m. I arrived and there were several kids swinging and others scuffing feet ready for classes. Savon, our school organizer soon arrived and looked for class books for me. He rang the buzzer, showed me my classroom and several kindergarten kids wandered in. After a few minutes they stood up and recited “Good morning teacher, how are you?” I responded, then they recited “I am fine, too” and sat quietly, pulling out workbooks and pencils.
I told them my name and wrote it on the board, then asked each child to write their name on the board. (Their English name.) Khmer alphabet looks like Persian or Arab script, so that is out for most Westerners. The name writing is MY first assignment – pronunciation and associating a face to each name. The class: some reading, asking questions (English practice) and pointing out on a map where Canada is compared to Cambodia. Enjoyable class.

Hour two: I changed classrooms - there are two - and met 2 boys Kyo and Rau, and a girl, Chunny - fairly quiet and confident 11(+/-) year olds. We did names as before and where from. Then I asked each to read from their workbook. They read well, but sometimes leave out endings or middles of words. I showed them to break down words and see that each part had a vowel, then pronounce the problem word in parts. I said that it was better to say the words slowly and correctly – I showed them how reading fast sounds. They found that really funny! …and said that slowly is best at first. I looked forward to teaching them again tomorrow. At the 9 am buzzer, each said: “Thank you for teaching us. Goodbye teacher. See you tomorrow.”

Then the 1 hour break – I spoke with the other volunteer teacher, Jeff, from Austria. A pointer or two were exchanged. An older boy in his rambunctious kindergarten class of 8; I suggested he could be in with my 3, even if he is on a much lower level. The numbers work there.

The classes of 2-8 students are chosen according to schooling level. All students have joined the orphanage over 4 years. Many have had little or no education, so 12 and 6 year olds can be at the same education level and therefore in the same class.

One more class, then midday break from 11 to 3. I went home and showered and napped. The afternoon classes are particularly enjoyable, as these are for older students, who are getting more serious about perfecting their English and other skills, in order to enter the workplace. They are very respectful and appreciate that they are being helped. These kids are orphans, kids from large and poor families, disabled or children taken from risky situations – streets, drugs, and sexual exploitation. This is truly a special place.

While I was finishing teaching this afternoon Tasha and Sandor, a couple that had previously taught here, came to visit. There was much excitement and fondness on the part of many kids. They planned to stay on for supper and the evening’s performance, so I chose to do the same. Later we lined up after the older kids - littlest first, and were served white rice and very spicy, tasty veggies on a tin plate. I chose a table with 5-6 girls and enjoyed their company. They chatted quietly in Khmer and peppered the air with questions and remarks in English. There was concern that I didn’t have dessert, so some was shared off one’s plate – sweet bananas in something…Yummy!

Then Savon stepped between the tables, reading names. This was the announcement of dancers for the evening. This began a little ripple of excitement. Soon dishes were gone and the costumes were being donned – bigger kids helping others with dressing. A monkey tail must be twisted from a long cloth of a costume for it to perform well.

Costuming for the "Monkey Dance", ACODO Orphanage, Siem Reap

Costuming for the "Monkey Dance", ACODO Orphanage, Siem Reap

Monkey tails must be rolled...

Monkey tails must be rolled...

...and tucked in just right.

...and tucked in just right.

Now there are a few minutes for play....

Now there are a few minutes for play....

...before the dances begin.

...before the dances begin.


Most of the other students sat in chairs beside the stage, plus Tash and Sandor at the kid’s insistence. Jeff too. I stayed in the front seating, as a couple from Paris had arrived to see the show, and I thought it would make them more comfortable. The performance began – very professional, enthusiastic and not apparently suffering from having to show for a small audience. Videotape played between the 3 traditional dance performances: shell dance, monkey dance and peacock dance. The video gave a short history of the orphanage and its plans to become self sufficient- a fascinating and moving story that is just 4 years old. When the performance finished, the children leisurely sought each other and visiting volunteers and guests. I know the guests will probably contribute, but they have seen one of the best sights of Siem Reap. I class it way up there along with the ancient temple, Angor Wat, and Ta Prohm.

I walked the 6 minutes home (my hotel is truly “home”) along the dark rural street of kids and dogs playing in courtyards, local street food- chickens plus other stuff roasting on open fires, and seating under tarps where you could have a cold drink or a beer with the locals for 50c a go. Home again, home again to try to match up some of the names with faces - the end of a wonderful day.

Have a look: www.acodo.org SORRY: I gave wrong info before. ACODO

Posted by Sue McNicholas 15:40 Comments (0)

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