Sunday, 8 May 2011

Teaching in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I have been in Phnom Penh Cambodia for 1 whole month now. This means I have been on the road 6 weeks now. Hardly feels like it! It has flown.
The first week I arrived in Phnom Penh, Olya and Andrey picked me up from the bus station. Funny thing was that I was supposed to arrive at 7pm and arrived at 1030pm. Also, no one ever knows where the bus will drop you and there was a definite language barrier. But I finally figured out (with the help of all 40 passengers gathered around to watch the foreigner make a spectacle of herself) that it would be O'Russy Market.  They found me:D Thankfully, as I didn`t have a phone to call them on.

The Chum People (Live and work on the Mekong River) 
Because it was Khmer New Year, nothing much was opened so I was unable to apply for jobs.
We went to Silky Island, with Olya, Andrey, Erin and John and the kids.  It is this island where they make silk on looms!  I tried my hand at it:D I would hate to do it for a living is all I can say. There was a little boy there who has befriended Erin, named Joe who showed us around his house. They brought out some music and tried to teach me Khmer dancing. Pretty soon the whole village gathered to watch and laugh at our crazy antics.  Also, Joe was very proud of his mango trees that he owned. It was an interesting insight into his life!
The expert weaver

Doing her thang'

The Loom

Banana Tree in Joe's Backyard

Joe's Yard

Joe proudly showing us HIS mango tree. He is very entrepreneurial and sells the fruit from his tree.

Hanging out in the Mango Tree

To the amusement of all I try my hand at weaving

Well, I now know what I DON'T want to do when I grow up. 

The audience

The crowd that gathered when they heard there were foreigners about

The following Monday, my trusty chauffeur and receptionist Olya, drove me around dropping off resume`s like crazy. Nothing much is done here via internet, it is all in person. Within 2 days I had an interview. The following Monday, I started my new job teaching English at Western International School. I teach grade 5 in the morning (two classes) and kindergarten in the afternoon.  On my first day, I loved my grade fives, but the kinders freaked me out. I told Western I didn`t want to teach the kinders, and they were bummed out and tried to talk me into it. I had another interview, but it turned out I didn`t want the job and so went back to kinder for the week just to help them out till I found something better. In that time I found out that I could do whatever I wanted with them, with only a little book work. Well, that was a different story, and so now I have fun with them. We sing, play games, do the hokey pokey and colour and play some more. It`s great fun. I walk into the classroom and they swarm me like bees and honey. It is so cute, but on the especially hot days they are so sweaty and I am so sweaty it isn`t that pleasant. So I have them trained to hug me once I am inside the air high maintenance eh?!

 The days are long. I start at 830am and end at 7pm. My classes aren't close together and so the 5.5 hour day is spread across 11 hours. I do so much work outside of class time (unpaid of course) that is isn't even funny. It will pay enough for me to live and buy a ticket to the next place but I won't get too much travelling out of it.

I get up at 7 am and leave my house by about 8am to be at school for 830. The bell rings at 840 and i waltz into class where the children (usually between 10-20 students) all rush to their places and chant in unison "Good morning teacher Becca." 
Where I respond "Good Morning class, how are you guys?" 
They say "I am fine. Thank you teacher and you" and I say something different every morning like "I am peachy keen" or "I am just swell" followed by "Thank you class, you may be seated".    
And so I start my day with a big grin. They are really nice and respectful students. I have a favourite in each of my grade 5 classes. Arun and from each class. My kinders I can't tell apart because they are all so no favourites there yet.  I think it is obvious which is my faves. because I was marking their exams and one of the students noticed that I marked Arun's paper right when actually the question was wrong. This kid had the same answer and I had marked it wrong. Oopsies! It is sub-conscious though as I try not to look at who the paper belongs to. Arun isn't a strong student, so I think I am trying to help him out! 
 I do have a teacher's assistant in the class who help with disciplinary actions. Mostly they just cause more hassles. Like one time, i was giving a quiz, and i have a strict no talking policy. I left the room for 60 sec. to grab some water, i came back. Everyone was talking including the TA. I scowled and said " I said NO TALKING" and they shut up really fast. Kinda funny!
The crazy thing is that in the kinder class one of the TA's whack the kids. It is so sad. The children are afraid of her...poor little tykes. 
At 940 I go to the next class and teach the exact same thing. At 1030, i go to the teachers room and mark and enter the grades. Make up tests and prepare lesson plans etc. 1130 I go eat in the school cafeteria with some of the other teachers for 1.50$. (Usually vegetables, rice sometimes a little meat!)

 Then I head over to the next campus to teach kindergarten. I chat with the other teachers for a bit. Then enter the little class. The kids stand and do the same adorable chant! Except my kinders think my name is Teacher Beckham:D
 Then I usually sing songs and do a worksheet and colour and play games. More exhausting than the grade 5's if you can believe that. At 2:30pm I hop over to the other kindergarten class and do the same thing. Then I kill one hour, then head to town to the next campus 1/2 hour away. Beltei International Institute. I teach level 7 General English Program (GEP). The ages ranges from 12 - 23 years old (and there are only 6-7 students in this class!). But their level of English is quite it is challenging.  I finish at 7:00 and am home by 7:30pm. Through the 11 hour day, I only work 5.5 hours....they say I will be getting more hours in the next 2 weeks which i am looking forward to.  
I live about 1/2 hour away from work, but this is because I am staying with the missionaries way out of the way. They are being very kind to me. When I come home from work they sometimes have dinner all made for me! I am getting spoiled!
In order to get around, I stand on the side of the road and hail a "motodop". Basically i just start walking in the direction I want to go. I never wait more than a few minutes and some dude puts his finger up, if i nod in response or put my finger up too, he comes over. I tell him wher I want to go (usually i have it written down as english is limited) and ask how much (in Khmer)... We barter ( I know how to say "how much" and " too expensive, please go lower" and my numbers of course), and once we settle on a price, i swing onto the back of his motorbike and away we go. I know my directions too "turn right", "turn left" and "go straight" as well as "stop stop!", so we get along magnificently. He drops me off where i want to go (it's usually not this straightforward, 70% of the time he gets lost). Anyway, once i get to my destination, I pay him and we part ways with a chirpy "akun cheran" (thank you very much!). It is quite convenient as the motodops are faster than any other mode of transport and cheapest. Next week i will start renting my own motorbike monthly, this should be interesting as I don't know my way around quite yet, so let the adventure begin!
Also, I just found a flat I will be moving into next week. It is near the riverfront, and a safe (expensive) area:D My roommate is a French girl doing an internship at the French Embassy. We met and got along I am excited to move into my own place. Erin, the missionary is an amazing decorator. She said she would take me to the markets and we can make the room homey for 20$. So this is what we will do!  Brighten it up a little...
Also, just as a side note, auto accidents are insane here. I see a body a week on the side of the road with a crowd gathered around. As a foreigner if you happen upon an accident, you turn and run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. If you try to stick around and help they blame you (even if you just arrived) and make you pay a stack of money.  It is just not a situation you want to get yourself into, and then the police arrive, and it isn't pretty!  It sucks, because you feel so helpless and want to do something, but you simply can't.  The other week, I was walking to get a motodop and I heard a smash!, looked up and there had been an accident between a scooter and a bicycle...the bicycle guy was lying motionless on the ground. Immediately a crowd gathers and no one does anything. I talked to a Khmer girl and she said that because the Khmer believe whole-heartedly in Karma, that they don't help because "that person must have done something bad and deserved it". So no one much cares. Different mentality.
I think this is the latest update. All I have to say really! 

No comments:

Post a Comment