Sept. 2008

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Arun Sua s’dei,

How is all at home? Here it feels we have moved from soaking in the sink to cooking in the toaster; the rains have been turned off and the heat switched on. But, aside from weather changes September had the school bell ringing over here again, and I’m back at the whiteboard on a regular basis. Not only do I love being back in class, I love that we now have four new instructors teaching. The four are kids from Chom Chau (the Center) who attended the Teacher Training Program in the summer. So, it is now very fun to see them off and running with their own classes. Abraham has the 5 to 7 year olds; Sophoan the 8 to 12 year olds; Siem Reap the 13 to 15 year olds; and Thany is teaching the 16 to 18 year olds. I’ve got staff classes here at the house from 9:00 to 10:00 in the morning, and staff, high school and an advanced writing and speaking class out at Chom Chau from 6:00 to 9:00 in the evening. So, school is hopping.

The end of September also had the P’Chumban holiday, one of Cambodia’s gazillion holidays. Holidays work rather interestingly here. As the vacation concept is not really recognized, holidays listed as one or two days on the calendar can often get creatively stretched and pulled into a week or more. And, when holidays are here everyone gets into the act, buses are brimming, bags are bound to anything that rolls, and the roads are soon busy, busy, busy. The two lane road quickly becomes the six or eight lane road as drivers jockey to create their own diamond lane, which is quite often literally through a rice field. That fast lane idea usually only works for about 10 feet until tires are bogged down in mud or the truck stuck behind a palm tree. Fortunately, nobody seems to get too upset as they wait for traffic to untangle itself. It’s P’Chumban! It’s a holiday! This year I joined the caravan in my little red Hyundai with Sothearat and Vuthy(friends from Phnom Penh), and we bounced along the road to Kampot to visit their family of ten. We had three days and each one was filled with traveling from neighbor to neighbor, relative to relative. At every stop there were laughs, family stories, and a ridiculous amount of delicious food. However, it was not all fun and games, there was also work to be done and I learned how to wrap and tie sticky rice into a banana leaf (Nom Onsom Chirop). Okay, so maybe it wasn’t heavy lifting work or a life saving skill, but it did help my Cambodian as we sat talking and tying these little bundles of goodness.

What’s up with the EVT (English and Vocational Training) program:

Well, it’s still early but plans are in the works for a “skills training” missions team to come over.

Generally, teams come over and head out to the provinces to work on the Orphan Homes, repairing roofs, and building fences or new kitchen facilities. This team will serve at the Center and do training sessions on a variety of topics primarily focused on IT and computer software, which are hot subjects for the kids and sought-after skills. We are also working on details for the next phase in jewelry making, as well as new sewing classes. In their free-time, the kids will be able to use their creativity to develop their own line of jewelry or bags, which will expand the variety of items we sell in our shop and serve to grow a personal education fund for after they graduate from high school.

Kids’ Library:

Woo Hooo… we did it. The books are all in there places and the shelves are packed. Myself and a crew of four (Vannak, Karona, Meta, and Dany) worked each afternoon, somedays categorizing and labeling and other days shelving. We had the pop music going so there was singing (not good on my part) and therefore laughing, as well as breaks to read a story or three.

Just today, Joyce from Warm Blankets in Chicago sent an email saying the 30 boxes of books and teaching materials had been loaded on a truck and were heading for the container that will be shipped here this month. So, it looks like we’re going to have to up the size of the crew and maybe start paying overtime. Fortunately, payment comes through reading stories and playing board games.

Things learned:

  1. We have a peeping Tom! As I prepared dinner one night after class, I looked out the kitchen window and had two beady eyes peering in at me over a big crooked beak. One of our turkeys, maybe a 12 pounder, decided to perch on the water tank outside to check out the activity going on in the kitchen. I think we were both a little surprised to catch each other.

  2. When you think the rain has stopped, guess again.

  3. If you need to wash your car, consider bringing it here…then again that might be a bit much but… Here they pull your car up on a raised platform and 3 to 4 guys with high pressure hoses start blasting away at it from all angles for about 45 minutes. Something like a Water-pick getting every nook and cranny. It’s amazing though, they always find one more spot where another pocket or bucket of mud pours out. A great service for only $1.25


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