Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays!

   I want to wish a Happy Holiday Season to all!

   It's Xmas eve morning and it could not feel any different than it does here in Cambodia.  It will be the 1st time in forever that I've worked and haven't been thinking about the 7 course, 10 hour seafood fest that I should prepare, (it's an Italian thing).  I'd be anxiously waiting for the arrival of friends and family.  In fact I'd be anxious for days, planning with family, especially Billy, what we should prepare.  Not to be this year as the weather is warm and there is lack of family and old friends. 

   I am always thinking of my family and good friends and especially today.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!   (please pass my holiday wishes on).   Love, Steve


Friday, December 10, 2010

A few more pics

Gifts and tennis

   This past week was exciting for at least 2 reasons.  We received a few boxes from home filled with needed and desirable items.  Some great books, blocks and other needed supplies for the kids in my class. They have already enjoyed them within a day of getting them.  And also 'tons' of chocolate which is expensive here.  And some household items etc...  THANKS to all the parties involved.  And I understand more kid stuff is coming probably by next week from FR folks.  I'm so excited!!  MUCHAS GRACIAS.

  And I think I played tennis 3 days last week.  And with 2 challenging players on a regulation very nice court.  And under the lights too.  I feel a bit decadent having a membership at this fancy expensive hotel.  But I got a good deal, much cheaper than what I would pay in the States, and I rationalize/justify the expense, "it's for my mental and physical health".  It also has a great pool, though I haven't even dipped a foot in yet, a workout room and I discovered steam and sauna rooms.  I am hoping Jess can cruise in with me sometime to swim.

  So here I am playing tennis as I did at home, for all you skeptics who doubted I'd find a court 'where there's a will there's a way'.  Always liked that saying.  Jaz thinks it's funny that we have fallen into familiar activities recreating what we did at home.  She walked into the kitchen as I was cooking and listening to NPR on the computer.  She commented it was just like at home in the USA.  And as I did at home I was sipping a little whiskey (sometimes I indulge in the hard stuff) given to me for my B'day by a new friend here who's from Hungary.  It's a Cambodian spirit and reminds me of Bourbon, which is what I'd be having at home.

   Jess and I both have commented more than once how we sometimes feel we've changed locations but not our familiar life so to speak.  That's somewhat true but also of course not entirely the truth.  Some things I am doing different follows.  I ride a bike every day.  Back home it seemed like every Summer and Fall we would say that we needed to get out on our bikes more.  We hardly ever if ever rode them.  I cook different kinds of food.  And I believe I eat fresher foods and more fruit.   Right now at least I only work half a day.  So I read more and cook more.  We're meeting folks from different parts of the world on a weekly basis.  And adjusting to the prevailing culture here.  I'm playing tennis outside in the Winter.  Let's face just living here is very different.  And perhaps I'm already getting so used to it I can't think of what else to mention.

  And I'm living outside most of my waking hours, we've stated before that we 'live on the balcony'.   Which of course is where I am now waiting for another exciting thing that has happened this week.  We met an American family that will be here for 5 months and they are coming over for a drink and then we'll go out for a bite with them.  They are from Portland, Oregon perhaps living blocks from Skyler, my son.  Jess and I have talked a bit about moving to Portland some day, a great city, who knows maybe.  In any case Dad is a Doc and will be working at Jess's former Clinic workplace, mom most likely will work in Outreach there as a health educator.  Their 13 yr. old daughter has already worked with me and the kids.  And their 18 yr. old son will be doing some environmental work I believe.  They seem like very down to Earth lovely folks.  Funny how we crave some American contacts.  Jaz is excited to meet the teen boy, a potential American friend!  So looking forward to getting to know them.

  Here's some pics of the kids exploring the new 'stuff'.   

pic from 3 bright kids in my class

Monday, November 29, 2010

That Holiday Feeling....well no.

  Thanksgiving has come and gone and I was sorry we didn't search out a Turkey Day dinner, we did hear you can find one.  There is a possibility that we can find a place tonight that serves one.  Although it's not ever as satisfying to celebrate a holiday on the day that is not actually 'the' day.  And it is difficult to 'get in the spirit' here anyway.  We did have a great time on T-Day however, saying goodbye to 2 Dutch nurses that worked at the clinic.  We bid farewell at a Cambodian BBQ place.

   (We did not have a Turkey dinner.)

  I imagine most folks know that Jess is having some challenges at 'work'.  Jess says at times I am the master of understatement, that was an example.  If you are signed up as a 'follower' you know the gritty details of her struggles as she inadvertently sent email drafts of her thoughts to all 'followers'.  In any case the whole mess has colored the last couple of weeks and that color is uncertainty.  I feel very bad for Jess. She at 1st didn't seem that upset,  (angry, sad, frustrated, furious, confused), about how she's been treated, but now I think it's getting to her.  Not surprisingly considering how much time and effort she devoted to the clinic, not just there but on her off hours too.  She loved the work and the people of the village and was seeing progress.  All this done strictly as a volunteer and I know some out of pocket money.  I think I'm more pissed off than she is.  Fortunately I know Jess will 'land on her feet'.

  And I have had the same thoughts Jess has had to face.  Are the kids better off with me there or am just enabling a bad situation?  I don't know.  Or is it really all about me because I very much like what I am doing, I'm having fun and love those kids.  And I do feel like they are learning and having fun, I do see progress.  But I have more freedom than Jess has/had.  I've been given somewhat free rein on what I can do with the children and I've taken advantage of that.  Jess didn't mention the following because she's very kind.  When she was getting her one of her 2 'poundings' (as an Aussie put it) it was emphasized what a good volunteer I am.  I don't remember exactly what was said but clearly I 'tow the line' so to speak and don't make waves.  Perhaps that's true in a sense mainly because I got my way and we haven't had our weekly teachers' meeting in well over a month.  I really don't know how it's going to feel working there once Jess is done.

  Jess and I have had discussions and she has stated often the question: why are we here?   There are many reasons for me: the desire to live in another country/culture, the need to work directly with children again, the weather, the need for change and lastly to play tennis outdoors in January are among the reasons.   I have somewhat found that I think.    Jess seems to be still asking herself that question, I sometimes also, but she is clear about at least one reason.  And that is to immerse herself in the culture as much as possible and get to know the people here on a personal level as much as possible.  Yes this is a lot cooler than wanting to hit a little yellow ball around.

  That is why Jess has made an extra effort to realize her above desires and in a relatively short 3 months she has been I think very successful.  You may have noticed that I have not joined her for some of these experiences, my loss of course.  This is partly due to being kinda sick for all of Oct. but also because I don't seem to have that social energy that I had at home in the states.  And Jess seems to possess the energy that I lack.  This is a switch from how things were in the states.  I often wanted to go out and socialize and Jess's arm had to be twisted a bit to go out.  But this I guess goes back to why Jess is here and also perhaps my aging body.  She is a youngster after all.  I am sorry I missed some of her experiences and have told myself to get off my ass.

  Random thoughts following.

   The father of one of the Dutch nurses that Jess worked with came to Siem Reap in her final days here.  We had many conversations on a variety of topics, very nice and interesting guy, I liked him.  We're about the same age.  On our last get together with them he said unsolicited that he had not met many Americans but now he can say the Americans he met in Cambodia were very nice and pleasant people.  I was very happy to hear this as I know Americans are not always seen in a favorable light by folks around the globe.  I do see myself as being conscious of this and make an effort to change opinions.  It was funny though when I first met him and asked him if he has visited the states he said no and he had no desire to visit.  I never did press him about why.  Next time.

  I saw a strange sport on tv: a 3 man or woman team and a small 'volleyball' and net and they were using only their feet to serve and hit the ball.  Soccer volleyball?!   I pretty much only watch sports and news on tv.  Lots of tennis and soccer, occasionally football.  But I briefly checked out badminton and that is serious over here, they slam that birdie.  I have seen another odd sport: it involved a basketball type court but a smaller ball and the goals were made by shooting or bouncing the ball into a field hockey like net.  Yeah I know??!!  I feel I've seen other odd sports too.

 On the bug front: after a rain last week these funny looking inch long worm/snail type things were coming in the back door.  It was an invasion, they didn't move fast so it was easy to sweep.  Weird and yucky.
a different bug

  I've been trying to cook more, both Khmer and Western food.  I made pasta and meatballs, stir fry pumpkin curry, pork ribs with ginger that were just hanging in the open air market, ( no, no one got sick).  Jess says we'd more likely to get something form a meat factory than from the pig that was killed most likely that morning.  I made quesadillas.  Can't seem to find good avocados here. ?  I make morning glory occasionally, still perfecting w/o overcooking it.  I've always loved greens and morning glory is becoming a favorite.  Fish cakes are delicious also, that's ground up fish cooked like a pancake.
And I finally made pesto pasta, there is great sweet basil here so I don't know why it took me so long to make. I had to use almonds, didn't think I could find pine nuts.  I have to say as I write this I realize we are for a large  majority of the time eating fresh local foods.  I especially love the bread lady who comes by on her bike every morn selling warm baguettes.  We are lucky.

  Last night a Khmer family Jaz became friends with on her rides to Chey school came over for dinner, a Western dinner they requested.  We've been to their home for a meal, previous post with pics and text, it's the coconut family.  Jaz bought coconut drinks from their store.  Anyway I made garlic bread, penne Bolognese and green beans w/shallots & garlic.  They did eat the meal but only after they added fish sauce, spicy type catsup and maybe oyster sauce.  They did seem to like the bread.  It was a fun evening in spite of the fact that the mom and youngest daughter, 8y.o., speak very little English.  Dad's English was limited, fortunately the older daughter, 10 y.o., speaks excellent English.  Very bright kid. And Sovann was there also.

  So for at least 2 hours we had interpreted conversations on a variety of topics but mainly the weather at our home in America.  The dad especially wanted to know about living in snow.  How do we walk in it, how do you stay warm and your ears especially?  He asked if we had 'warm conditioning'?  My explanation of burning oil in a furnace elicited perplexed looks.  When we showed them photos of Vt. during the various seasons they asked interesting questions, for example do the colored leaves stay on the trees.  A very lovely family.  

  Tennis wise I am bummed.  A woman I play tennis with thought we could get a couples membership at 'the' fancy hotel, Raffles, at a discount because we work at NGO's.  She knows the children's hospital employees get a discount and thought we could also.  They have 2 great courts w/ lights!  It was not to be.  Well not giving up yet.  It gives me more incentive to volunteer at the hospital, ha ha.  Well we'll keep playing on the one court that has limited space from the baseline to the fence , not to mention potted plants at the fence also.  Weird but better than nothing.     Well.........never mind while writing got a call and the tennis place changed their mind, it's a 'Khmer thing'.

  I have to mention the kids again.  I colored some elbow macaroni so the kids can make necklaces.  Unfortunately, or fortunately as you will see, it was difficult to string them because the holes were rather small.  Almost impossible.  I did bring some penne too, but not a lot, which was much easier.  However that did not stop the kids from trying...........and being successful.  At first they persevered with some success but then a little girl used a tiny stick to push the string through.  Pretty soon the kids were using the same method and voila, necklaces.  The perseverance and ingenuity/creativeness of the kids continues to amaze me.

   When I'm riding my bike or we're out and about there are many interesting sights and happenings I want to relate to folks.  But I forget so maybe I need to carry a little notebook with me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Morning musings

  Friday morn and I have the day off.  Once a month is Rice Drop day, sponsored families get free rice and it happens at the school.  There does seem to be a lot of 4 day weeks for one reason or another, though Dec I'm told no holidays so we'll see.  I woke this morning knowing no school and I felt bummed that I wouldn't see the kids today.  I miss them.  This is a good sign, I enjoy my 'job' apparently.  I have been having fun with the kids and though there are 45-50 now and I'm struggling to keep up with their names and ascertain who needs extra encouragement things are going well.  We split up the kids now with some outside mat time and some class/hut time and then all together time with mats in the hut (not enough room or table and chairs for all).

  On the mats I've been able to set up 3 separate choices for the kids: water colors, books, and 'blocks' (which mostly consist of empty plastic medicine containers from the clinic).  Oh and if needed I pull out a few frisbees to encourage cooperative play.  I love seeing the kids pour over the books, talking to each other about the pictures.  One little guy, Soth, opens one book and starts naming the colors to me, in English, yes!  Other kids make designs and explore the water colors taking pride in their drawings.  The block builders call me over to show me their towers.  They move between the mats and couple kids get bored so we play frisbe, I'm amazed at how quickly and well they learn to throw and catch.  The Khmer teacher also likes the water colors, once coloring a kid's face and another time doing his own 'painting'.  He's young @ 20 and perhaps never touched water colors.
clever kids

the Bros'

Soth in Yellow

  After outdoor mat play we go to the hut and the other group switches to the mats.  Luckily there are some great volunteers who are able to help.  In the hut we'll sing the alphabet song, often.  Then we'll generally  work on making letters with whatever works:  paper/pencils, pipe cleaners, clay, playdough, string, tongue depressors.  We'll do the same regarding shapes or numbers.  When we all come together and the kids are on the mats we sing, read books, work on learning colors in a variety of ways.    

  If it sounds like I'm in a groove and feeling good about being at the school it's true.  I have other ideas      about what to do with the kids (paints next week!).  This is thanks to my memories of my former workmates at the FR, they are imaginative and creative in their work with kids.  I dig up those memories and think 'what would so and so do'.  The internet is helpful also but inspiration comes from the FR.  Thanks, I miss you all.  I am hoping to find some more 'work' as I don't go in the school in the afternoon.  It looks like I may be able to volunteer at the Angkor Hospital for Children.  There is a Vt. doctor who has contacts there, so I'm excited at the possibilities.

  Ok you snowbound people don't want to hear this but it is so pleasant here right now weatherwise.  Mid seventies with 'cool' breezes.  It does get in the eighties but not humid.  I hope this lasts a while.  It's great weather for bike riding, so Jess and I did take a 2-3 hour bike ride a few days ago to explore other parts of Siem Reap.  I find the different homes that people live in very interesting.  You have the thatched huts, wooden structures and concrete homes among others.  Some of the homes look like cute cottage type homes and some places actually have lawns.  And the above are interspersed amongst each other.  Some places are neatly kept and others seem to collect garbage.  No matter what kind of home as you pass people often they smile and say hello, especially the kids of course.   Jess and I went to a different area with shops mostly frequented by Khmers.  I may be wrong but it seems like a middle-class area.  Interesting, and there were also small outdoor food markets.  It's great to have good, fresh local foods so available.
an apparently abandoned temple/pagoda? we came across

Dragon boat getting ready for the Water Festival

  I finally tried to make a curry from scratch, which means the mortar and pestle routine with fresh tumeric, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal and more.  It's in the fridge and I will attempt a dish soon, maybe with squid and pumpkin.  I did make a pumpkin ( it's a greenish looking one yet orange inside) stir fry which Jess and Jaz said was good but I wasn't entirely satisfied with.  Especially after Jaz's Khmer teacher Yeaun said it was good and I asked if it tasted like a Cambodian dish and he said "no".   Gotta love the honesty here sometimes.  I have to start buying and making some fresh fish.  Most often I buy it cooked for lunch.  It's delicious and cheap.  I have made what I call fish cakes.  Which is ground up fish, fried into pancakes.  But I will add maybe ginger or something else to give it a different flavor.  Many possibilities to explore with the foods here and hopefully I will.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Culture shock and a cool 74 degrees

    Ha ha don't know why I titled this the way I did.  I guess I'm blaming being hit with pink eyes on Oct 1 (my b'day), followed by a fever, cold, bad congestion and general body aches for the month on culture shock.  At home in the states I rarely got ill with anything.  So I am not used to being incapacitated.  I felt like I had no energy, therefore I couldn't cook, didn't feel like going out, didn't work at the school in the afternoons (only missed one morning), couldn't blog and was generally miserable.  I was beginning to think Cambodia and I don't mix well.  And I was losing faith that Jess had any nursing skills.  Try as she did nothing she recommended was working.  Finally she gave me some allergy med a few days ago, perhaps it was this med or the timing of it was right but I'm feeling 95 % better.  The month of Oct, usually my favorite month, well sucked.  She and Jaz were very kind putting up with this miserable wretch, thanks.

  So I still like Cambodia and do love being here.  It was really the kids that kept me from jumping on a plane.  Of course where would I have gone?  The comfort of my home and wonderfully comfortable bed is being enjoyed by Jess's brother.  And could I have imposed myself on my kids in Portland?  To do what?  These thoughts did cross my mind, but as always little kids I work with pull me out of those weak emotional moments.  These past few weeks those kids helped me more than I them.

   Ahh the school, the hut, the teaching, what an experience.  I was feeling bad physically but I was feeling good about the progress I saw the kids achieve. And felt like I was getting a handle on how best to work with them.  I was getting a little freedom regarding my methods, which is have them have fun and learn at the same time.  The rote-teaching and them parroting what I said without really knowing if they understood anything was not working for me.  I got lucky as usual as a friend of the director returned to the school and we met and talked over dinner.  She turned out to be an educator (teacher/principal) and supported my ideas.  In fact she wants to write a grant so New Hope can start a program for children 0-5.  Whether and when this even happens who knows?  But I did get her ear and she advocated for some outside movement/activity time for the kids and other suggestions I had.

  So we were able to split the class up part of the time and have them be more manageable.  At about the same time Meda, Jess's mom, and friends of hers sent a package with some much needed 'supplies'. Included were new books, the few I had had to be getting boring for the kids.  This was a great help, THANKS.  I saw the kids actually start to learn their colors, begin to recognize the alphabet, cooperate with each other, have a bit more self-control and start to request songs we'd sing.  And foolish me I forgot I'm in Cambodia this would not continue, another challenge would be presented.

  The class has about 25 kids most days sometimes more, not often less.  It was working well to split them up for part of the time and then bring them all back together.  I've tried different things with them and some have worked better than others.  I felt like I was getting on a roll and they were enjoying the ride also.  And I was learning most kids names.  You'd think learning names wouldn't be so difficult but it's not like there's a Mary and a Tommy, familiar names.  It Sokum, Srei Nit, Kvai, Chamda etc...., it's new words to pronounce/remember and attach that to a face.  In any case I was doing pretty well finally getting their names down.

  Here's the challenge:  a slew of new kids from a different village have begun at the school.  By the way the little girl Lea who I mentioned in the last post has returned, yea!  So w/o any warning, no that's wrong we were told the day before they arrived that there would be more kids.  So now the class is pushing 45-50 kids.  Yeah I know why?!!  Ok I can complain that not much forethought was given on the impact of this.  And that there are not enough Khmer teachers to help or sure we have volunteers now but that won't last necessarily.  I can complain that I was getting a system and 'lesson plans' in place that seemed to be working.  Kids who were learning will be set back and the new kids may not get anything of quality either I could complain.   I can complain, complain but I doubt if it will do any good.  So I have been trying to convince myself to think of it as the Family Room's 'drop in' time.  FR had a time when a family with kids could come and play in our space.  We would never know who or how many kids we would have.  I actually liked that..... a lot.  Of course we were set up to deal with that.  Well I better deal with this I guess.  New Hope is very caring and really wants to help folks, but sometimes it's better to help a certain number of people well instead of many more people not that well. I think we even had that challenge at the FR.  So I'll go with the flow and be happy that I have some energy now to perhaps direct the flow a bit.  Whatever that means but I like that I wrote it.  For the record there are some very lovely kids in this new batch , though some look like a deer in the headlights.   Below the class before the infux and the road to school.

  One thing that was ok when I was sick was that I still pretty much had my appetite.  So I was still eating well and I did try something different, dog.   Don't know what to say about it I only had a bite, and it was sauce laden.  But it was good though I won't go seeking it out.  Jaz said she had to go to a shakey part of town to get it.  I hope to start cooking again and I did still do a bit of cooking but can't remember anything except the usual morning glory that we all love.

  The cool 74 degrees refers to the weather here.  It has cooled to the 70's.  It has been extremely pleasant.  Sorry cold weather folks but not really missing the cold, rainy/snowy weather.  And it is odd but as I came out on the balcony to write this there was a breeze and I went back in to put on long pants and a shirt, our temp said 78.  Weird to me too that that can feel cool.

  I hope to post more pics soon.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hokey Pokey and what is it all about?

  I have a new and deeper respect for teachers of older children.  By older I mean above age 5 as my experience has almost always been with infants to 5 years old.  I know it's complicated by the fact that I don't speak their language, I do work with a Khmer teacher.  Well he's never really taught and his English is not that great.  You may recall I was working with a Khmer who had good English and some experience.  This is the morning class I'm speaking of now.  The biggest challenge is to get the kid's undivided attention or at at least their divided attention.  They like to talk, poke, play and stare off in any direction but the teachers'.  And they like to leave their seats.  I am trying through my fellow teacher to impose some rules and to have rewards for appropriate behavior.  I think I'm having some success but I am impatient and want results quickly.  I have to chill out and realize the morning kids have most likely not been in a classroom ever or been to a daycare/preschool where they could have experienced some structure.  Add to that that there seems to be a new kid every other day and kids gone from one day to the next.

   It sounds like I'm complaining and not adjusting and not enjoying my experience.  It's certainly frustrating at times and challenging me in new ways.  I feel stymied and confused often and keep trying to figure out what approach I should use but I am enjoying the experience as a whole.  And the kids are what keep me going back, because I do wholly enjoy them and they seem to eat up the classroom experiences once I get their attention.  I do see progress in what we're teaching, I do see they are learning.

  What is most difficult is when kids who we've worked with and you can see progress happening, suddenly they are not in class anymore.  One particular girl, Lea, who came out of her shell is gone.  What happened to her, where is she I wonder?

  So now I am struggling with how to make learning fun for them and make sure they are actually learning.  And as they are learning how do I teach them social skills and build in them those characteristics that will benefit them in the long run.  Yes FR folks I'm talking Heartstart, others can google Heartstart to know what I'm referring to.  I'll get there and keep telling myself that patience is a virtue.

  I have to say I am doing what I hoped I could which was work more directly with young children.  In my job in the states I got away from that a bit by doing more managerial work and group work for the past several years.  I enjoyed doing that and glad I did but I did miss the more direct, sustained contact with children.  So I've been introducing and singing many different songs with the kids.  I think it's a great way to learn English.  And the kids remember the songs requesting them in both the morning and afternoon classes.  Hokey Pokey is a favorite and the Khmer teachers seem to get a kick out of it also.  It always makes me think of my FR workmate Sarah who had a bumper sticker that said  'What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's all about?'  And the kids love books read to them, I just don't have enough.  Hey FR you've got tons!  Can you spare some Eric Carle type books?  

   So I've been preoccupied somewhat with my 'job' at the school but we certainly get social time with folks here, both Cambodians and expats from different places around the world.  I feel lucky and am still excited and loving being here.   I am also eating well but unfortunately no tennis playing, I played once and did find a cheap place to play.  I just have to light fires under the folks here who have said they wanted to get on a court.  I guess I'm back at telling myself  'patience my son'.



Wednesday, October 6, 2010

sticky rice

   I'd like to post something but I'm a little unclear of what.  I could write about my struggles with pink eye(s), but not really very exciting.  When I don't feel well I can get whiney and have a low frustration level.  Jess tolerated me and left town.  Hmmm.  Suffice to say I'm recovering (been a week) but it's still hanging on ever so slightly.  So it seemed like a lot of time went by when in fact I only missed one day of school.  But I didn't go out much.  Jaz and Jess got the pink eye also but my seemed more severe or maybe I just whined the most.  I'm just not used to being 'sick'.

   I could write about the very kind folk here and sticky rice.  It has been a kind of holiday here the past several days.  Kind of a Day of the Dead type thing,  folks go to the pagodas and give offerings and rememberances to their ancestors.  Often sticky rice is offered. So the folks downstairs gave us some of their sticky rice they were preparing.  And Jess went to Battambang with our friend Rithy, to his family home.  And he gave us some sticky rice also.  It's not Jaz's favorite but I think Jess likes it.  I do like it.  It's sticky rice very tightly wrapped with palm leaves or banana leaves.  With the rice can be banana or beans and I couldn't figure out what else.  In any case Rithy suggested we eat it with banana. The more beany ones I like with a little sweet and spicy sauce.  Very filling.  

  Continuing with food, last night we went to a locals BBQ place, not touristy.  It's Cambodian food that's inexpensive, very good with the added bonus of cheap pitchers of beer.  We started with grilled duck with red ant sauce.  It was very tasty, though I'm kinda glad my eyes were still a bit cloudy with pink eye as it was difficult to see the ants.  We had rice of course though it wasn't just white rice but a veg rice.  And beef salad and veg salad.  I loved the grilled squid, simple but cooked perfect.  Strips of tender beef, still red/pink that gets dipped in a black pepper lime sauce.  Oh and grilled frogs which were also meaty and tasty, mostly the thighs and calfs.  They also served a most interesting corn dish.  Kernals toasted I believe, very good.  Some folks said it reminded them of kettle corn but I didn't think so.  Everyone was well satisfied with food and drink.  I tried to save a dish for my scraps/bones but Jess pointed out the Khmer way was to throw all that under the table.  Couldn't bring myself to do that.  Lest I forget dessert, we had honeycomb fried with bee larvae.  Jess and i seemed to be the only ones who liked it.  Definitely a different kind of taste, good but a watery consistency.  that's the only food pic.  I need to take more food pics.

   I could mention the weather.   The weather here has 'cooled' a bit (low 80's/high 70's) and it doesn't rain every day.  Very pleasant and it does in fact seem cool in the morning at 77 degrees.  I'm surprised myself at this.  We don't always use the fans as there are cooling breezes and rare if we turn the air on, mostly if the humidity is high.

  Perhaps I should talk about my feeling that I haven't changed my life as much as I changed location, in other words have I changed my life or just locations?  Jess and I have talked about how it feels like we've recreated the lives we lived at home.  And did we come here to change our life or to help people in need.  Probably a combo of both and more.  Of course it's very different here and the work we do and the conditions we work in are vastly different.  I don't think we'll understand much and get a handle on our feelings until we are here for much longer period of time.  Well that's my prediction at least.

  I wonder if there is a subtle, gradual change in our thought process, our perceptions.  For example I seem to be aware of the use of certain words/phrases.  When I say I need something, like a middle sized pot, ( I have a lg. and sm.), I don't really 'need' it I want it.  In a world of so much dire need the word's meaning changes.  In a way this kinda gets back to our motivation for moving here.  I and I think Jess wanted to simplify our lives.  Did we simplify or do we 'need' more cushions for the chairs?   Sure we don't have cars and don't have to mow our lawn but we still like the creature comforts.  I guess it's difficult to leave what feels comfortable.

   I could also state that I really miss our good friends and family, and I know Jess does also.  We miss getting together with folks and just talking, bouncing ideas around.  I terribly miss sharing meals and food with friends and family.  I'm already looking forward to getting together with people when we return in May for Dylan's wedding.

  Well we have off for a few days and will have the house to ourselves.  Jaz is going to Battambang with Sovann for a few days.  I hope Jess forgives me for being in a not so good of a mood.  Luckily I don't get sick often or Jess would have 'hit the road' years ago.  She's a very tolerant and loving person.  Ha ha Jess, you reading this?   Hopefully we'll relax and not do too much related to work.  We are going to 'trivia night' tonight with some friends.  And we are also going to Battambang on Sat.  We're taking the slow boat ride there.  We've done that before and it's just a fascinating way to see people who live along the lake and river (Tonle Sap).  We'll meet Sovanns family and return Sunday by bus with Jaz.  A city to the West where they are known for their huge rice production.  It's nice to have some time off.  

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rain, tennis and market food

   Ok, like Jess I start a blog and have to pause.  So this is most likely a mish mash, I wonder how that would be translated in Khmer.

   It's 7am and I'm a year older.  That would be 59 or as my very good friend Peter will remind me I'm in my 60th year.   I've always been convinced that I was born under a lucky star and being here further confirms that.  I am indeed lucky, good health, wonderful kids we have and of course there's Jessica.  It's difficult for me to ask for more.  Well actually some building blocks and books for the kids would be great.

  As I was writing this I had a pleasant interruption, my oldest Marissa calling to wish me a Happy Birthday.  Wonderful but I'll have to finish this later, I'm off to the kids.

  Well I did get off to the kids and I couldn't think of a better way to start off my b'day.  I uncharacteristically didn't go in in the afternoon as a torrential downpour was happening.  Fortunately I found out later school was cut short owing to the rain, that is rain in the classroom.  I had a fabulous b'day.  The 7 candles family insisted on coming over and celebrating my day.  How could I refuse, well I couldn't.  They and some other folks came, including our landlord, (the Khmer family from downstairs), Lori and an American young couple here volunteering and a few more Cambodian friends.

   The family brought delicious spring rolls, rice and a cake. Our landlord brought a case of beer!  I made potato/leek/garlic soup (no cream) and tomato bruschetta.  We had a wonderfully interesting time.  We ate , drank, talked and played games.  And the family gave me a cool picture made from bamboo.  I'm lucky.

  A few days ago Marina brought me to a new market, just a few minutes away on the bike.  It's small but packed with fruit, veggies, meat, fish and prepared foods.  I've been there a few times since, both for fresh food but also prepared food.  Oh yes I did buy grilled fish for the b'day party also.  Bargain price as always and yummy.  Ok sorry enough about cheap food, I just can't get over it I guess.  I like this market, smaller, not as hectic and close.

  I had faith that I could find a tennis court to play tennis here, and I did!  I did get on the court and had a great time hitting that little yellow ball around.  The court is not ideal but it's affordable.  The process of finding a  court was interesting.  Jess has a funny bit on her blog about my phone calls once I found the few big hotels that have courts or at least advertise that they do.  So I went to the 3 big, fancy, pricey hotels that I knew had courts.  Two of them were more expensive than my membership in the states, 800-1100 a year.  I lucked out with the 3rd one.  300 a year if I sign up with another person as a couple.  Or 5 dollars each visit with use of the beautiful pool, workout room and 20% off food and drink.  I'm there, there are a few folks here that are ready to play.  Yes I'm excited to get back out there.

   The oppulance in some of these huge hotels amidst the crushing poverty here is mind blowing.  Yet here I am putting money in their coffers.  One of the many inner moral struggles one faces here.

  I am very much enjoying the school.  Unfortunately the Khmer teacher I've been working with, Ratha, is going to be teaching another class.  It's good for him as he likes teaching the older students.  A bummer in the sense that we worked well together and were getting better everyday at it.  The replacement teacher, I'm not sure he's taught before.  I'm told his English is not that good so I would be helping him learn also, hmmm.  He has a sponsor so that he can attend University.  I guess the good thing is it feels like it's my class.  So I can teach how I want to, ah the power of it all.  I better get my shit together though cause with power comes responsibility.  I have to be prepared.  So here comes mistakes, risks, trial and error and hopefully fun and learning.  Wish me luck.

  So that's the morning class, the afternoon class I'm just getting used to.  The teacher a young (21) Khmer, Channa.  She's easygoing and seems to want suggestions from me.  These kids are a bit older and I think we can work well together, her English is very good also.  Looking forward to what develops.

  There is one dark cloud over me now, late on my b'day i got the gift of pink eye, conjunctivitis I believe.  In both eyes, it sucks but at least thru blurry eyes I 'll get this post off.  Till next time.