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
Monkey tails must be rolled...
...and tucked in just right.
Now there are a few minutes for play....
...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