Thursday, May 26, 2011

You asked for it, the next installment

OK!  I know I have got slack and have started letting my Blog get way behind but I really don’t have any excuse.
Lyn’s (the ex Chief of Tassie Scouts) school is starting to grow but unfortunately not as fast as she would like.  Richard, one of her sons has come over from England and is helping with the teaching by taking the very young children.  Lyn has decided to work with school children starting at 6 years old and upwards and he is doing a great job.  He is becoming more confident by the day.  Unfortunately, Lyn still is having difficulty getting Volunteers although there is a young Venturer coming from Tassie next month to spend a month or so which will give Lyn  a but of a break.  Lyn is living about 30 minutes from the centre of Siem Reap which seems to be a bit of a problem with volunteers but there is a market just down the road and at the other end is the local swimming area.  Lyn currently has over 50 students but she needs to double that number to cover costs, I know that it will happen as the students enjoy coming and it is only $5 per month.  I have attached a number of pictures of the classroom and the surrounds are really lovely.  You are woken up in the morning at 4am by the neighbouring Monks chanting and then the next sound is the next door neighbour boy hammering in the rope that holds the two cows that graze in Lyn’s rice paddy.  I have spent a lot of time staying with Lyn over the last few months as we have had a heap of holidays lately.

Khmer New Year was not quite what I thought it would be.  We had nine days off work and four of the teachers went to Bangkok, Lis’ parents were here and I went in search of parties that I couldn’t find.  Lyn, Richard and I stayed in one of the local guesthouses for 3 days and that was nice but the whole town was very quiet as most people go home to their families in their home provinces.  It was a little disappointing as I thought that there would be parties and had dropped a number of hints for invites to parties but the only ones involved a long bus trip to go home with the students and after my travels a few weeks before, I was not ready for another bus trip.
The students started trickling back and by the end of the week, my classroom looked full again.  All in all I thing we lost over 10 days teaching.
John, Nathan, Gillian, Renee and Aaron decided to go back to Vietnam making the most of the Easter and ANZAC break and they arrived in HCMC (Saigon) on the 21st   April and spent some time in NahTrang and then travelled to Vung Tou to take part in the ANZAC Day celebrations.  Unfortunately, they were unable to go to the Dawn Service but spent the rest of the day driving around the area.  They had a memorable time and were glad to have the opportunity to be there for that special day.  They then went back to HCMC to spend many hours in the tattoo parlour.  (See pictures)  All four of them are proudly wearing new markings.  I didn’t get a picture of them all.  No I didn’t get another one.
I joined the family for their last weekend flying into HCMC lunch time on Friday as I managed to find someone to take my Friday classes and flew out the next Monday which was the same day that the family few back to Darwin.  It was lovely seeing them again and to catch up with all the news.  I didn’t realise how lonely I was until I spent time with them and realised how much I miss everyone.  It was hard to say goodbye especially knowing that I would not be seeing them again until December.



The new teachers are well and truly settled in and are certainly doing a great job.  Paul, Gayl, Chloe, Bronwyn, Clare and Riannan are the new teachers and they are quite a lot younger than the previous teachers and they go out at 10pm and come home in the early hours most nights.  Paul and Riannan are staying on for the next term along with Lis and myself.  We are getting a second male next term which will be company for Paul and some older ladies as well.  The new teachers are certainly finding life here a lot better as Mel the Director is providing more resources, great reading books and even lesson plans.

What else have I been doing?  Well I went horse riding a couple of weekends ago.  Lis and I were looking for something to do as we were on yet another public holiday so we decided to go on a 3 hours horse ride.  The horse ranch was really good and certainly better that I thought it would be.   The owner is a Cambodian who had lived in America for 30 years and then came home and set up a horse ranch with locally bred horses.  The local horses are a bit taller than the Vietnamese horses and these have been bred with Arabian horses and the results are very strong horses that are getting higher all the time.  We had a ranch employee with us and she was a young lady from New Zealand who was on holiday here and ended up working for the ranch and has been there for 3 years.  The three of us set off and crossed a busy road and then spent three hours walking through rice fields, around villages, walking around temples and breaking into trots and generally having a great time.  My horse liked rolling in sand and I was told to watch out when there was sand and stop him from rolling over to enjoy the sand, I managed to do so until there was a very big inviting patch and down he went, happily rolling in the sand, having no regard for the person who was sitting in the saddle.  I got off OK but then was faced with the problem of trying to remount.  My leg didn’t seem to be able to reach the stirrups and as you all know, I am not exactly a light weight, served the horse right!!  It was great fun, made more exciting as Lis’s horse didn’t like my horse and every time it came near to my horse, it tried to bit my horse’s butt!  As I mentioned, we did quite a bit of trotting and the next morning I woke up and bounced out of bed only to end up walking around very slowly and sitting down with even more care.  We will be back but perhaps for a shorter ride as three hours is a bit long.  It is amazing how many tourists go for a horse ride.

Sunday 20th saw the arrival of Sue Mitchell for WA, Sue is the ex Chief Commissioner of WA.  It was great to see her as Lyn and I hadn’t seen her since we were in WA for the operations meeting in March 2010.  Sue had just spent 5 days in rural Vietnam where she went with a dental team and saw over 500 children in 5 days doing a large number of extractions and fillings.  It must have been wonderful and certainly an experience.  Sue started Dental Health training when she completed her time as Chief Commissioner of WA and was looking for something to fill in the spare time.  I am sure that this will be the first of many trips.  Sue was introduced to a lady here who organises trips medical trips and dental hygiene is certainly needed here in Cambodia as well.      
Sorry, now I have started I am on a roll and you are getting more information that you want.

I have been spending time with a number of volunteers who help out in a NGO called a Touch of Life.  It is a Singaporean based organisation who provides healthy food for the street kids and others who are unable to provide food for themselves.  I go on a Wednesday morning arriving about 8am and help prepare food for about 150 children and adults which is served from 11.30 for an hour.  The food consists of rices, omelette with carrots and onions, a stir fry of eggplant and oyster sauce and a soup/curry made with vegetables.  They are allowed to come back as many times as they like while the food is there.  It is quite a sight, some of the kids are only 2 years old and they are looked after by their older sisters.  The kids mainly survive by collecting cans and bottles, the adults are either unemployed or the ladies work by sweeping the streets but they are only paid $30per month for a 13 hour day and if they are sick and can not work they are fined $5.  The young Cambodian who is employed is really lovely as are his family who helps out when there are not volunteers available.
On Saturday, 350 meals are prepared and then taken out to some of the poorer people in the villages around Siem Reap.  I helped out last Saturday and will continue to do so when I can.  We used 160 eggs to make the omelettes, cooked 60 kg of rice and made 3 big pots of soup.  There were 6 volunteers on Saturday but sometimes there are none and the poor family take ages to make up the packages.   

We finished cooking about noon and then proceeded to wrap up the food.  We put a bowl full of rice and a slice of omelette on brown paper and wrapped it up with a rubber band around it and then got a plastic bag and poured in the hot soup and secured the soup with a rubber band.  Good fun, believe it or not I didn’t end up with 3rd degree burns.  The packages are then put in bags and put into an open jeep which is provided by two great guys who deliver the food every Saturday.  I went out with them, it was an experience as it had been raining and of course all the dirt roads were either flooded or very muddy.    Carston who is the driver obviously knows no fear as we flew around corners and tilted dangerously and ploughed through the water.   When we pulled up, people came out to the jeep with bowls and we provided the meals, it was like Cambodian Meals-on-Wheels.  We took about 2 hours delivering the food and of course it started to rain and by the time we were finished, we were a little more than wet.  Sit it was a great day and we then went back to Carston’s bar and enjoyed a meal and a couple of drinks.  Lis and I walked home about 11pm that night. 
It was good to get out of the school and meet up with a number of great people who either volunteer here or who have businesses.  There is so much poverty here but there are people helping and caring although unfortunately it is  not the Government.
I have decided to stay on here until December and so will be home for Christmas and for Chris’s 40th birthday.