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Soksabay from Phnom Penh. I can’t believe December is ending soon! Where did the time go? Next month I leave beautiful Cambodia and it feels that there is still so much work to do here. I’m not sure why I am not inspired to write while living in Phnom Penh. So many experiences in such little time and I don’t want to forget about any of them yet I don’t feel the urgency to document them.

I still teach daily at the head office located in the heart of Phnom Penh. It’s the travel to the communities that I enjoy most. I’ve been teaching in two of the slum communities for CVCD twice a week. The two classes from 8:30-10:30 am go by quickly. I will travel with a staff member or teacher by moto to the classroom for about 30 minutes from the city. The kids look much younger than they really are because of malnutrition. The 14-year olds look like they are only eight. But they have the same laughter and enthusiasm as any child I know. Some kids will ask me to write down the word for them but I encourage them to watch me as I write the words on the white board. At the other end of that spectrum are some kids who refuse help. They really are independent and prefer to do the work on their own.

Yesterday, Mr. Pheak and I drove to a slum community by the railroad tracks near our head office, crossing the bridge on Russian Boulevard. The Khmer teacher who teaches there sat and became our student as we, Mr. Pheak and I, co-taught English for an hour. The classroom was not designed to fit the 30+ kids that attend. I watched as they brought in stools from their homes to sit in the back. Parents and young kids crowded each other in the doorway and window to watch. A man came in drunk and asked us for $2 but we asked him to leave and we locked the wooden door by lowering the tiny wooden latch. We asked some kids to come to the front of the classroom and they practiced simple conversation. How are you? What is your name? How old are you? For some kids this was a difficult exercise in pronunciation so it was good practice. As a game, I wrote the phrase on the board and called out words such as “name” and “what” to see who would be the first one to point the word out. Lots of volunteers for that exercise.

As we left the community, I saw a few of the same kids helping their parents selling used clothing or petrol in pepsi bottles on the side of the road.

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kids

Missing from this photo: B, H, A

This time every year I’m usually preparing for my religious ed class which runs from October through May. Sadly, I won’t be teaching this year since I’m taking a break to work at a school in Cambodia.

I wanted to share a letter I received from one of my students:

Thank you for teaching me.  I really loved all the times in your class from prayer until the end of class.  You put a whole new meaning to my faith.  Really, you did.  No homework, a few worksheets and videos and all talk (very good talk).  I really like prayer and going to God and spending time with him.  I will miss you along with everyone else.  I cherished the times of being in your class, you know?  Just to be close to Jesus, to have religion, just something to hold on in tough times, I look to God.  On some Tuesdays my Dad and me would come to the chapel.  Its atmosphere really calms me.  Being in class has brought me even closer to God.  Whenever I felt bad, I’d go to class and feel better.  I won’t miss waking up early but I’ll miss something to look forward to on the weekend.  These past four years of being with you, it’s hard to forget all the times in we had.  All of us would be very sad that you’re not teaching next year.  I will remember Christmas and the times at your house.  You were really fun.  I hope you will be safe wherever you go.  God bless you.  With love.

For my students, even though we won’t see each other you’re still in my thoughts and in my heart.  I wish you luck on your first year of high school this fall.  God bless all of you!  P.S.  I hope you continue with religious ed classes so you can tell me all about it next year 🙂

kids in kandal province  Kids in Kandal Province

How do I begin?  I’ve been thinking about returning to Cambodia to teach ever since returning last November.  I was forever affected by my experience there in a way I would have never expected.  It’s different to hear about poverty than it is to see it.  

 

home in kandal province

Home

I visited Kandal Province, which is less than an hour by ferry boat from Phnom Penh.  Many homes sit on stilts with no running water or electricity.   

 

Kandal Province Games

Games

The children don’t beg for money here like they do in Siem Reap because it’s a road not often traveled by tourists.  Instead I observed lots of kids laughing and playing with paper cups and stones and kicking their rubber slippers about as if their slippers were rubber balls.  My friend explained to me that it was a traditional Khmer game but I don’t remember the rules of it. I’ll have to ask about it when I return.    

I don’t really know how to explain it but something about this place calls me to share what I know with them.  I’d like to teach English and computer skills to students who are willing to learn from me.

I researched quite a few NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organizations) and have found the CVCD (Cambodian Volunteers for Community Development) to be very reputable.  It’s a volunteer position so it does not pay.  Some NGO’s supply a bicycle to help you commute from your local home to the classroom. 

Going back to the philosophy: It does not hurt to ask. I asked my boss last week if it would be okay if I took time off to return to Cambodia so I could teach.  For how long she asked?  From October to January for four months.  She said she would be okay with it as long as my work got done (some of this I can still do online) and if Human Resources approved it (since it’s not health-related).

Amazingly I got the request approved!  I’ll be on leave from work without pay or benefits for four months. As for health insurance?  I’ll be paying my employer’s portion so I don’t lose coverage.  In this case it didn’t hurt to ask but I was prepared for my boss to say no.

I have savings that will allow me to leave my job for about four months.  

I’ve written the One Laptop Per Child organization in hopes of a donation for some laptops but they will only match a donation of several hundred laptops, not just a few laptops as I inquired.

I look forward to working for a short time in Cambodia.  Even with all that has happened in Cambodia’s past, this beautiful country seems to be waking up, catching up with the rest of the world, one step at a time.

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