Sua S’dei Chnam Tmey or “Hello Year New”
Hope you had a very Merry Christmas and a festive New Year surrounded by all kinds of family, friends and food. Events here were amazing and had an incredible swing between the traditional and… well…. for me a little non-traditional. Wearing shorts and a T-shirt, looking at our office Christmas tree and then through the window to the yard filled with banana trees and dragon fruit is not exactly my usual Christmas set up. Santa must carry a change of clothes and be prepared for a glass of coconut milk on his deliveries to this side of the globe.
December 23rd, Christmas at the Training Center: Now this was amazing, the day started around 9:00am. Greeters (our kids) at the gate fully decked out in traditional clothes welcomed about 3000 friends, family and local residents to our Christmas Celebration. Food, traditional songs, dances, and nativity stories were provided or performed over about four hours. Then there was an afternoon break. You know you need a little nap to prepare for the evening’s line up. Festivities kicked off again around 5:00 with more singing, dancing, comedy skits and even a fashion show. The fun continued until…. well…I’m not sure….I packed up my dancing shoes around 11:00. What an great day.
Christmas Day(s): This day/time couldn’t, I don’t think, have been further from traditional. It started with siphoning gas for our trucks that would carry the 15 of us on our twelve hour drive to Balong near the Thai border. The mission was to catch fish, actually harvest fish, because we ultimately built a dam, drained a pond, and netted, basketed or bare handed as many fish as we could manage. We slept in a rice field and ate boiled, smoked, and deep fried fish along with a little rice wine. By the end of the four-day trip we had caught, cleaned, and prepared about 500 pounds of fish for ‘prohok’ – a fermented fish dish (mmmmm…. enjoy the aroma) that will be used at a conference in February. This was NOT exactly my usual Christmas with family that includes countless cinnamon rolls and a bottomless cup of coffee, BUT this trip was an unforgettable gift!
What’s up with the EVT (English and Vocational Training) program:
Well, our school floor space has been measured, plans drawn up for how to configure the classrooms and office space, and drawings are completed for how to construct the movable walls. The walls will roll so rooms can be configured as needed and growth happens. It also allows us to open the space during conferences. We will start our first classes in our EVT school next Monday, but I hope to have our walls within the next two weeks. I am also getting up to speed on our Rosetta Stone language software, and am training three Cambodian teachers to run classes using the program. The program provides a chance for the kids to learn both language and computer skills. They love it and it’s a great confidence booster that carries into our separate conversations classes. On the vocation training side, I have been working with Chavvy, who is one of our Caregivers and tailor with 15 years of experience. She makes the elaborate traditional costumes that the kids wear for their music and dance performances. The goal is to provide a tailor training program and develop a line of custom products. I’ll keep you posted on progress and support we may need. Can you hear the zzzzziiiiiipppppp of the machines now? I also have relationships with three hotels, two restaurants, an upscale boutique and art gallery as well as unbelievable chocolate shop. All are hands on training grounds and employment opportunities for our EVT students. Wooooo Hooooo….
I’ve heard the great news of a couple more boxes of books on the way to Warm Blankets, which should put us at around 500 books and our half way point of 1000 by June. The kids are busy with school now, but always asking about the library and excited to pick up a book. This summer, when the kids are free, the library will provide a world of entertainment. Please consider adding to their possible adventures.
Here’s how to do it:
Collect new or ‘like new’ kids’ books for ages 3 – 13 (Dr. Seuss, Clifford are all good, they’re not ready for Shakespeare, yet.)
Put together a 20-30 pound box.
Send it MEDIA RATE (20lbs. is $8.59, 25lbs. is 10.29, 30lbs is $11.99)
On one side of the box please write: a) Kids Books b) the number of books c) the box weight
Send it to: Kris Warner/Kids’ Library
c/o Warm Blankets Orphan Care
5105 Tollview Drive Suite 155
Rolling Meadows, IL 60008
Things seen and learned this month:
Geckos are both hooked on phonics and hooked on caffeine. Every-time I pick up my books to head to class a gecko sides off or out of my Pronunciation Exercises book. And a couple weeks back, as I went to make my morning coffee, a gecko poured out with the bit left over from the previous day. He sat stunned in the sink and then ran up the wall and behind a light. He sure had to work to get in there because the only way was through the tiny pour spout. I understand his eagerness though. I just hope the caffeine boost helped him catch a few more mosquitoes.
It takes three smacks with a flip flop to ah…..take care of a scorpion traipsing across your bedroom floor.
You can get some pretty amazing handmade Belgian chocolates as well as a very good burrito here in Phnom Penh.
The kids here have an incredible sense of community and a unbelievable desire to contribute. If there is rice to be carried, a baby to be watched, or younger kids to be trained on the computer they jump into every job with an excitement to help and be an active part of the family.
Hope your 2008 is filled with family, friends and fun new adventures. Well, maybe you don’t need a gecko in your coffee.