Thursday, September 23, 2010


  Ok I underestimated that l'l guy I mentioned in the last posting.  He can walk (he has an odd cast like thing on one leg) and I think he's smart and capable. If anyone one has read the book 'Stumbling on Happiness' you understand that it emphasizes how we project our own experience of what 'happiness' is on others.  We assume if one is lacking what we consider to be essential to being happy, how can one be happy.  But happiness is difficult to define.
  Today I realized I was doing just that, thinking he could not be happy and was miserable.  He has a delightful smile and when I gave him a book of colors to look at (right before class began) he put down the pen he was biting and starting turning the pages.  Later during break I read the book to him and he was talking about every page, of course I didn't know what he was saying but he seemed to have decent language.  He also was playing this game with his sister that all the kids seemed to play with cards, slapping the ground to make them flip. I think he's got some smarts, I am going to include him in the class activities.  I found out he's 4, so he can learn the basics also. Man I have a lot to learn.

Of angels and tongue depressors

   I am really enjoying it here.  After accepting the limitations at 'work' and adapting to those limitations I am having much fun at the school.  I am getting to know the kids' names and pronounce them somewhat correctly.  After not making an effort to learn Khmer, words are coming to me (duh how could that not happen) and now I am trying to learn some words/phrases.  Like quiet and listen in the classroom.  And also numbers. The kids have been fabulous.  Once I had the go ahead to introduce some new ideas/strategies the kids seem to be a bit more attentive.  And I think my fellow Khmer teacher is noticing the change in the kids.  I am probably more animated in the class than I was in recent years at the FR, there were always enough fellow teachers there to take that on.  The Khmer teacher here is picking up on that also and being a bit more 'out there'.  Unusual for teachers here.

  It's amazing what can be done with tongue depressors.  We taught math, shapes, letters and in genreal cooperation/sharing, fine motor and the kids had just plain old fun.  My fellow teacher, Ratha is great.  He's willing to try new things and is coming up with ideas for the materials I bring in to school.  I haven't even brought in playdough or ooblick or used things from nature, lots to look forward to doing. We do sing and read books.  Very interactive songs and books.  Did I mention I'm having fun.  I'm just sorry there is not a class for the younger kids in the afternoon.  I am going to be going in afternoons anyway to help in some of the slightly older kids' classes.  Right now not a lot to do in the restaurant training program, so I might as well help out a bit more if I can.

  It's tough living with an angel, that would be Jessica.  She has been working her a** off.  How could I not put my time in also.  Though her schedule is 3 hours in the morn and 3 in the afternoon she is often doing stuff for work in between and in the evenings.  This is often what she would do at home, but keep in mind she's volunteering here.  No paid vacations to look forward to.  She'll naturally will dispute this but that's why she's an angel and add to that the fact that she puts up with me.

   A few food comments of course.  They have great leeks here and very cheap.  I have been going to a couple of the little food stands I pass on the way to work.  For a few dollars I can get lunch for the 3 of us, we all converge home around 1130 to have lunch together.  There are soups, fish, meat or banana filled pastries (deliciously greasy), stir fries, rice/noodles and baguettes.  And all kind of fruit is readily found, I especially like pomelos, large grapefruit looking but very sweet.

  We had our Khmer cooking on Sunday and Tues was Western cooking.  Marina and I are trading off recipes.  We had a feast Sunday and 2 guests.  Richard the British Doc from the clinic came to learn and Rithy a Khmer friend of the family's and ours also came to help and eat ( his fav. thing to do).  So we cooked morning glory, which I've had and loved but never cooked.  I'll be cooking that a lot as Jess and Jaz like it also.  Eaten quite a lot here and I heard packed w/ protein.  We also had an omlette with these yellow flowers that are in season now.  Two different kinds of fish, (different form last week), and mango salad.  And of course rice.  It was outstanding and we all got stuffed.

  Tuesday Marina came over to learn how to make sandwiches, grilled/sauteed chix, chix salad, tuna fish and a potato/leek/garlic soup.  Like me when I learned some Khmer cooking she said "easy".  She seemed to especially like the soup and I must say it came out pretty good. Like I said the leeks are great here and for some reason they don't seem to be so dirt laden as the ones at home.  I believe we'll have another session Sunday, perhaps a curry and/or fish amok which is a traditional dish here.  I'm told everybody makes it a bit different, like Lori says it's comparable to chili in Texas, every corner a different taste. And for Tuesday I'll have to think of some Western dishes.  Any suggestions?

  There is much I like about being here and there are the small things.  Like no fruit flies and no earwigs.  It's hot here so I don't get it but I always hated those little buggers back home.  And then there's the fact that our fridge closes without having to make sure it's closed, so I don't hear that reminder beep beep.  It's great as I ride my bike and kids of all ages are saying "hello" and sometimes "what's your name?"  I like that the grandma downstairs stopped me and pointed at a trail of l'l red ants marching up the wall.  As I said "oh many" (of course she has l'l or no English) she made a motion of eating them, ah red ant sauce.  Jaz has but I haven't tried that yet.  I like the fact that when riding if one accidentally cuts another off or gets cut off, (moto, tuk tuk or bike), no one yells they just smile and wave.  You would think the way that people ride/drive here that road rage would be happening constantly.  Haven't heard it yet.  I like that I can pretty much trust people not to rip me off.  I'm getting the money thing down and the cost of things/food.  But I could be charged double and that is not happening.  I pay 4000 Riel for 2 delicious soups and 2000 for a nice piece of fried fish.  3000 Riel equals 75 cents.  I probably wouldn't blink an eye at twice that.  I like that at the markets and food stalls you almost always get great little red chilis thrown in complimentary.  I eat them all the time and only bought them once.  
  I did go to the afternoon class midway through writing this and pretty much was given the reins to the class.  Odd as I thought I was just going to check it out and perhaps help out a bit.  Nevertheless I had fun and taught the kids and the Khmer teacher a few new songs.  Going back today with some materials and books to read.  I also ended up today in a new class because the Khmer and the Western teachers did not show up.  I had a blast though the kids were much larger than what I'm used to working with.  They certainly seemed to have more concepts down but were a little shakey on colors and vocabulary.  They seemed to get a kick out of me moving around the room and having them get up to 'open' and 'close' the door and yelling to learn 'loud' and being 'quiet' to learn that word.  Who would have guessed I could have fun with BIG kids.
   I have to mention there was a little kid, maybe 3, who was with his older sister in the afternoon class.  One arm was deformed with only a thumb and it looked like rubber bands had been wrapped around 2 parts of his arm.  Jess said it was something that happens in the womb.  And one leg had no foot.  But his sis kept him in a chair and he looked sometimes ok and sometimes bored, small wonder.  At break he sat there with his head down as kids left the room.  I sat with him but I wish I had a book, I will today.  He did brighten when we sang songs.  It tears my heart out.  He left with his sis on a big bike, she is only 7 or so, he was on the back carrier holding on with his good hand.  How he doesn't fall on the bumpy, rock and garbage strewn road is amazing.  I hope the volunteer who's a pediatric P.T. can give him some help.  I wish I could help more.  Thank your lucky stars daily, I'm glad I was born under one.    


Thursday, September 16, 2010

kids' songs and food

Well it's been a fun week.  We had a great kickoff for the week on Sat.  We went to 60 Road, 1st time for me.  Picture a stretch of highway with a median, jam packed with people, vehicles, people cooking cows on spits.  Actually it's quite hard to picture and even explain but I'll try.  Background 1st.  We decided to take some of the Cambodian staff from the guest house, tuk tuk guys, drivers etc..and their families and Jaz of course. They are Jaz's friends also.  So all came to our house to meet, 4 guys 3 wifes and 5 little kids.  Had a quick beer, only the guys of course and off to 60 Road in two tuk tuks and a moto.


  Wow when we got there, all kinds of roadside activity,  makeshift 'restaurants' (using that term loosely), motos, bikes, tuk tuks, cars, kids and in the short distance a ferris wheel.  Yes there is some sort of fair/amusement thing going on, didn't visit that, though I believe Jess and Jaz have in the past.  So we put together a long table and the guys start ordering food and beer.  Pretty soon food starts arriving, 1st plates of the condiments:  greens, basil, hot peppers, a sauce and more.  Then plates of beef, cut into bite size pieces.  I follow the lead of Chamnan, our main man.  Get the sauce in a bowl add the greens etc.. and then the beef.  Oh did I mention rice, it's at every meal.  It was delicious and then the beer pitchers arrived.  So we are eating, drinking, laughing, talking and not always understanding each other.  It was great, I got to know the guys better and even got to talk to the wives a bit.  And a couple of their friends also joined us intermittendly so we got to meet and talk with more Khmer folk.

   Food and beer just kept coming.  At one point Rithy asked me if I like tripe.  I said yes because when I was growing up an Italian pizza joint used to serve it in a spicy tomato sauce, loved it.  And though no tomatoes it was good.  Now there was something else on the plate that didn't look like tripe and as Jess was eating it Rithy told her it was colon.  Well that tasted good also, whether it was colon or not I don't want to know.  Every time I thought that was the last pitcher of beer another would arrive and I can't tell you how many times we clicked glasses and said "cha moi" or something like that.  It's a good thing everyone drives slow in this town.  It was a wonderful time and the 'whopping' bill for all of us was $46.  I'm sure the woman was thrilled when Jess gave her a 50 and indicated she keep it.  

  Ok I'm not done with food talk.  I have a new favorite beer snack, fried crickets, they are tasty.  Yes I was originally foolishly fearful to try them but now I have to search them out.  And I very much like sauteed morning glory.  Both items I tried at the training restaurant. I also am excited because they sell leeks here and they are so cheap, 75 cents for about 1/2 dozen, not as thick as ones I grew but very decent.  And the little green/white golf ball size eggplants are so much better looking/tasting than what I found at home.  I'll be searching for more and different veggies/greens!
along with the crickets there's eel and snake

   This week I cooked with Marina, a sister from the guest house family.  Sunday we cooked Asian food and Tuesday we cooked Western food.  Actually Sunday I showed her how to make a hamburger.  It was interesting because she brought over a small slab of beef, not ground.  How would she know?  So we chopped it until it was ground beef.  And after we cooked it she said "that's easy".  I had the same thought when she showed me how to cook Khmer fish cakes, and fish soup, should have known.  What was great though is that she took me to the Khmer 'farmers market' Sunday.  I have always been a bit overwhelmed there.

  But she showed me the foods, introduced me to the folks she goes to and told me what certain foods were.  Like these mounds of fish, kinda like ground beef, ground fish I guess.  She bought some, there are many varieties.  And we used them in the soup, little fish balls, and made these delicious fish cakes.  They are a bit salted and herbed but she added to the fish cakes a lemongrass mixture she bought.  All was very good.
ground fish

  So besides the burger the Western food included mushroom risotto, (oh they have some great looking 'shrooms!) and garlic shrimp pasta.  And there are many sizes of shrimp and some good looking, fresh calamari.  Oh yeah Marina also bought 2 different kinds of fish and fried them up.  Yum!  I ventured to the market myself and bought the shrimp and some veggies from the sellers I met.  One woman threw in some chilis for free.  Got to know your market people.  Needless to say I am looking forward to diving into some culinary delights.
the shrimp/calamari lady

  I have to mention the conversation about hamburgers and sandwiches with Marina.  She wanted to know what kind of bread to use and what can be put on them.  Hmmm burgers, I told her the basics lettuce, tomato , onion, cheese (of course melted on at the last minute) and "I like mustard, but Jess likes mustard and ketchup and some people like mayonaise".   But nowadays people put anything on it , bacon, avocado, salsa, the list goes on. And chicken sandwich, "chop it like the beef?"  "Well no", just a thick breast slice and grill or cold in diced chunks and mix w/ mayo.  "And the same to put on as burgers?"   "Well kinda the same."  Whew who knew sandwiches are so complicated.  We'll visit the market and be cooking again Sunday and with the young British doctor Jess works with.  Should be interesting.

  I have had a great week at the school.  We got more tables and chairs and the kids are a bit more manageable.  I wasn't able to bring some of the less knowledgeable kids out of the classroom.  I tried but was told it would look bad to govt. people that there is not enough classroom space for all the kids.  Ok I don't know the politics so well, so I will work with the limitations.  The Khmer teacher (Retha) is great he is patient and we are able to work well together. I am lucky his English is good.  We checked today which kids can count to ten in English, probably half at best , maybe closer to a third.   So we know what we're working with.  We're doing colors this week, to learn them and to improve English.  We used clay I brought in and the kids seemed to love it. Well the reality is they would like anything to play with.  The kids are bright and energetic, I love it.
the 'classroom' aka as a hut

 I introduced some new songs.  They seem to like Wheels on the Bus and to especially like Open Shut Them, asking by holding their palms out to sing it.  They giggle and scream with laughter at the last part, "but do not let them in" though they know what's coming now.  We did math by adding and subtracting kids.  Yes I know they can't count but Retha likes to stick to the schedule and it was better than him trying to get them to add 30 and 5.  Retha does a great job translating, the songs/rhymes, book reading etc...  Man are they hungry for books/stories.   Today toys was on the schedule.  I asked what that meant since we barely have pencils or anything really.  He told me they have some in the office.  What we had were large legos and that was it and not many for 28 kids.  So we passed those out, and the kids went nuts for them.  Of course they could only build so much.  So I suggested to Retha that after a few minutes we'll have some of the kids give theirs to other kids and they can play with the clay I brought.  This worked out as kids were able to build bigger, more creatively and the clay kids were happy with this interesting stuff we gave them.  The work has been challenging and of course much more has happened than what I've talked about.  But it's making me really think and I am so looking forward to working with these kids.
wow! rapt attention, oh yeah they're watching a cartoon

  The restaurant training program is fun but at this point I'm not doing much.  I'll eventually do what Ron the Aussie bloke does, manage and talk up New Hope with the tourists who come for the meal.  He needs breaks and will be gone for a bit in a month or two.  I am going out on a home visit tomorrow to observe what that entails. I am hoping this will lead to more of that type of work in their outreach program.

  There is other stuff to talk about like the family who invited us to lunch, the 'coconut family'.  Jaz used to stop and get their coconut drink when she was teaching at Chey school.  It was fabulous, the food and the family, esp. the kids.  And I've only blathered on about what I'm doing when there is so much to say about the people here and the difference in sensibilities.  And even the noodle stands and restaurants.  Perhaps next time.
lunch w/ the 'coconut family'

  Otherwise we are just enjoying life here and living on the balcony.

Friday, September 10, 2010

'Work' and Play

    Well it’s been a week since I last posted though it seems much longer.   I feel like I’ve been busy.  We’re still buying some things for our home however it does feel like we’re settled in.  Settled in enough where I’ve been able to cook a few meals.  Nothing unusual yet:  risotto, homemade salsa and Asian stirfry w/ familiar ingredients.  I did try fried crickets at the training restaurant where I’m putting some time in.  Oh yes I’ll get to that.  They were very good I will certainly not be shy about eating them again. 

  Jess and I went this past Tuesday to talk to the folks at New Hope   The website explains who they are and all that they do. Actually not all as just 2 months ago they started a training restaurant. So after talking to the Kim Sour a 29 yr. old Khmer man who started the organization and the Australian woman, Kerry, who came on shortly after the start-up, we decided it would be a good fit for us to volunteer for them.   Jess will be doing what she does best coordinating/organizing the services at the medical clinic including at least some hands on work.  And I will be working in the young children’s program, more on that to come.  I’ll also be helping in their new restaurant training venture, mostly the front of the house but maybe the kitchen also.  Hmmm isn’t that very similar to what we did at home?  Well yes it is.  No wonder there is this feeling of familiarity here and not such a feeling of a dramatic shift to an exotic place.  But of course in many ways our work looks very different. 

      We started the next day.  Jess  is working with an English doctor who has been here a few months, very nice dedicated young guy.  He seemed thrilled to have someone to start putting systems in place and organize the clinic.  Actually when we first started talking to him he seemed overwhelmed and frustrated and stated he didn’t know how much longer he could stay on.  Personally after a couple days with Jess I think he wants to see it through a bit longer as they  seemed to be on the same page as to what should be in place.  (Ahh I was correct after I wrote the previous sentence I found out the Doc told Jess he is only staying on because she came on board).  Jess has already visited the hospital and worked ‘overtime’ because the need was so great yesterday.  But I know Jess in this short time is really loving it.  She is Ms. Organization after all and what a great opportunity to put those skills to work.   

  And I am still getting my feet wet with the young children.  I am working with the youngest  group of children.  My guess is 4-6yr olds, I know a little old for what I normally prefer but they grow them small here.  It’s a beautiful group of about 25-30 kids.  I work with a 25 year old guy, Ritha, who I like a lot.  His English is good and he’s a nice mellow guy.  Of course he’s never worked with such young children, I think for a short time he worked teaching older kids.  He’s a student and was a waiter for a few months till they screwed him on his pay, apparently a common occurrance.  He actually works as one in the training restaurant for lunches and is in school evenings I believe. 

  I don’t want to come off as a Westerner, in Jess’s case too, as know it alls and are going to implement  our ways of doing things because we know better.   I’m trying to be culturally sensitive and at the same time offer suggestions.  The class has only been up and running for 2 months, and honestly I don’t know how Ritha has managed w/o being totally frustrated.  He’s done well.  Here’s the reasons.  The classroom is a hut, which is fine except that it’s too small for so many kids.  There are some plastic tables and chairs but mostly mats.  So if you want to walk around the classroom you have to be careful not to step on any children.  Not a surprise that supplies are limited, and Ritha told me kids/students? come in and take them from the unlocked cabinet.  And by supplies I just mean paper and crayons/pencils.   And the skill levels of the kids vary not surprisingly because of the age differences and the instruction some of them have received already.  So as Ritha is trying to get the kids to pay attention, some do, many are up and down, poking their close quarters neighbors and talking.  It’s quite the scene, I am used to chaos but at the Family Room it was organized chaos. 

  So academics (English, math) are taught w/ worksheets (not enough) and clearly some kids have no clue about #’s, colors, letters.  There is time for songs/rhymes and drawing w/ a tub of badly broken crayons .  Of course this is the most fun for the kids and when they pretty much pay attention.   Ritha also had a lesson where he was teaching them, “morals”.  Which turned out to be about politeness, ‘please, thank you, sorry etc…..  In Khmer of course and he did well.  Yet it is a constant challenge to get kids to sit and listen.  It’s just a morning class 5 days a week.  So after a day and a half I had ideas/suggestions.   After I wrote this I found out more.  (Again this is what happens when I write and don’t post and more info is found out.)  

    The reason the class is such a mix is because a class above this one had too many kids so they put them in this class.  And the reason there was an excess of kids is because public school is out and some of those kids came to the school.  The public school starts in Oct.  So perhaps there is a chance the challenges will be lessened.  In any case I did talk to Ritha about splitting the kids up by ability and of course I will take the younger less skilled kids.  So I made playdough, which Jaz will bring into her class also.  Her and I also bought crayons, paper, clay and chalk.  The Khmer teacher was fine with my suggestions and agreed it will make it easier all around and the kids will hopefully learn better. 

    Oh I didn’t mention that the second day I introduced a couple of new songs including ‘wheels on the bus’ (they know ‘when you’re happy….’ and twinkle….l’l star’) and Ritha translated.  We had the kids attention and they got quite a kick out of the teacher (me ) being so animated.  Khmer teachers really don’t get too silly.  I also brought in some story books which I read and Ritha translated them also.  It was  good day.  Looking forward to Monday!

  The restaurant is just getting off the ground and right now it’s just for the tour groups of @ 15 people and a set menu.  So there is some training I could do and there was talk about having an Italian and/or Mex night and invite other NGO folks to generate a little cash.  The cook is very good but I believe is only versed in Asian cooking,  She’s is talented so I could be wrong.  Really nice young woman.    We’ll see what happens.  I also hope and I think it’s a real possibility that I can do some outreach.  Looking forward to all the possibilities. 

  So that’s the ‘work’ stuff but we are also having fun.  Eating, drinking,  meeting folks.  We’re having dinner tonight with a friend of Jaz’s from Hungary who works for an NGO at one of the schools that the Ponheary Foundation supports, the family we know.   We’ve met many Aussies, and of course Cambodians.  There is a possibility for tennis also!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  An Australian who volunteers at New Hope, my age plays.   As does a friend of his who is exploring any possibilities.  I also signed up at an expat forum and put out the word ‘tennis anyone?’  I’m crossing my fingers.  In the meantime we ride our bikes everywhere, love it.  And the ride to ‘work’ is 20 minutes one way. 

  We finally got internet hooked up today still waiting on cable tv,  bummer  I’m missing the US Open tennis matches.  Well looking forward to the weekend and getting our place more together.  Till next time

Saturday, September 4, 2010

  It’s 7am and there is a pleasant breeze and it’s raining on and off.  It’s very comfortable.  The morning ritual seems to be to head out to the balcony at the guest house with tea or juice and watch the town come alive.  There is a steady stream of pedestrians, bikes, motos, tuk tuks, vendors w/ carts and all kinds of motor vehicles.  Sometimes I feel I could spend all day just watching this stream ebb and flow.  I have been sleeping well, getting  up just once or twice as I usually do when I’m not at home and traveling.  Actually it can happen at home too, old age.  My dreams have been interesting also, as dreams tend to be.  Some of them have to do with my now ‘old’ job.  For example I dreamt last night that I forgot to turn in a day sheet, which I never did.  Can I still turn that in Danielle?    I love dreams.

  The past couple of days have been filled mostly with finding or trying to find what we need for our new home.  We’re shopping  for everything from bed sheets and towels to wastebaskets and kitchen tools.   It can be overwhelming at the market where they have everything it seems.   So we do it in spurts.  In between of course we eat and drink.  And I did get a haircut and a shave included in that was a short shoulder massage.  I did feel pampered I must say.  And it’s good haircut, of course not as good Jess as the ones you’ve given me for the past 20 years. 
rows and rows of stuff

  Speaking of food as I am prone to do we ate at a Burmese place just down the road from the guesthouse.  Jaz complained that the prices were raised from last year when they opened.  Most dishes shot up from about $1.50 to $3.  I wish we would have taken pictures as the food was absolutely delicious.  We could not stop ooing and ahhhing.  I had a mouth watering curry lentil (yellow) and chicken dish, man it was good!  Jess’s rice, tea leaves and ‘bean’ dish was equally good as was Jaz’s fish dish.  Funny though Jess’s dish listed beans as an ingredient yet it had Spanish nuts and peanuts.  Well legumes in any case.  It didn’t detract form it’s sumptuousness.  They seem to specialize in fritters, we got ‘gourd’ (squash) but I’m told the onion ones are great.  They also sent out a very tasty broth w/ bamboo shoots complimentary.  I told Jess this is at the top of the list for visitors from the states. 
not Burmese but a cheap feast

  So now we’ve been busy unpacking and setting up our place, which means mostly shopping for food (I can start cooking!) and cleaning the place to our liking.  We really like our abode. 

  We of course have had time for meals and spending time with the family and meeting some fellow travelers.  There is an Italian couple who we went out to dinner with to a new Khmer place.  Excellent well prepared food.  Jess got a whole Red Snapper and I got frog thighs, if memory serves me in curry sauce.  Jaz got this very good porkchop with the longest bone I’ve ever seen on a chop.  Lori and Ponheary joined us also.  The Italians are very friendly, young and interesting.  The woman works for the Vatican and he works for Travelocity.  They have traveled quite a bit and been to 26 states! Unfortunately for them not the best one, Vermont.  Last night, their last at the guest house, they cooked for the family a pasta dish with a tomato and tuna sauce.  It was delicious.  Marina also cooked the traditional fish amok dish and fried spring rolls.  Fresh pineapple and Italian chocolates for dessert.  What a combo of flavors!  It’s a tough life here.  A young French woman joined us also, she’s been in Korea for two years translating.  The conversations were great with these folks.  Talking about politics, travel and life in general with folks from other countries has been a goal and we’ve only been here a week.

I have to say we revisited the Burmese place at my insistence and were wowed again.  The spicy shrimp would have blown my socks off if I were wearing any and got my endorphins going with the heat.  Jaz got Jess’s last dish and Jess got a chicken, potato curry dish.  We had to get the onion fritters and they again sent out a soup complimentary.  This time a veg soup in broth.  Everything was delicious.  Oh and Jaz got a avocado milkshake which I loved more than she did, it helped to cool the shrimp dish.

  Jaz came home a couple of days ago and was frustrated by her job and struggling with what to do.  You may recall from I believe Jess’s blog about the ‘kindergaten’ Jaz is teaching at.  It’s really 2 and 3 year olds and they are trying to get them to learn as if they were 5 and 6.  Of course it drives me crazy and Jaz suggested I go talk to them.  I said I can’t go in there as the ‘know it all American’ saying I know what’s best.  She said they know somewhat it’s not the way to teach the kids and would welcome some input.  The next day they asked if I could come in the following morning.  So I did and the director (Khmer) is a great guy with good English.  It’s often me that has a hard time with accents, though I got much practice at my old job at the WONDERFUL Family Room.  We talked for a good hour and he was in fact knowledgeable about child development and wants to change the way teaching is happening for the young kids.  As he repeated several times he is up against the parents who pay money so their children learn and not just play.  He certainly seemed to know that children that age learn best through play as all the research and early childhood educators support.  I told him that teachers of young children in the US also often have to be convinced that children benefit most from being able to play.  He suggested that he and I have a meeting with the parents.  He and the co-director said the parents’  expectations are too high.  How true, I was glad to hear that insight from them.  This should prove interesting. 

    The director has 3 daughters,  2, 4 and 10.  I inquired about this and he also told me he was originally from Phnom Penh, but was moved around when he was @ 6 years old during Pol Pot.  As he said ‘slave child labor’ collecting cow dung for compost.  Once again talk about resilience. 

  He did take me around the school.  They have a new and big very colorful plastic playground structure, certainly good for gross motor development.  As we were about to enter the ‘playroom’ where Jaz works with a few Khmer teachers a teacher stopped us.   After she talked  briefly with the director he said we shouldn’t  go in as it smelled because a child or two peed.  I told him “no problem” I’ve changed many a diaper.  There were about twenty or so kids in the ‘playroom’ and I was taken aback at the starkness of it.  The only materials for play were a small set of legos, that was it!  We had talked earlier about room structure/set-up.  I told him no wonder the teachers have a hard time as he stated earlier, there is nothing for the kids to do.  I don’t know how Jaz is surviving this.  I hope the director and I can help the situation for the sake of the children.  I’ll keep you posted. 
   It’s another pleasant morning here and a day to get the house in order.  This coming week we go talk to folks from New Hope, perhaps Jess and I can work together, that would be great.  And perhaps tonight I’ll make risotto con funghi or some type of risotto.  Till next time, Steve   PS   As I was reviewing this a woman came by selling something and Jaz said she said bread, in Khmer.  We bought an Italian looking loaf, still warm, 63 cents.  Ahh  peanut butter and jam on warm fresh bread.  Thank goodness for Jaz.

  I’m very excited that we found a house to rent to make our home.  And we found it in just the 3rd day we were here.  It’s a great find for us in many ways: close to the family at Seven Candles Guest House (good location), they actually know the family whose house it is, the family lives below us (security), it’s upstairs with a large front balcony and small back one ( we like that), green front yard with a mango tree!, good natural light, large bright kitchen (I love to cook), a bdrm for Jaz a bit separate, a guest room w/ air, we’re  almost certain wifi, tile floors as opposed to dark wood, of course each bdrm has it’s own bthrm (a Cambodian given), hot water showers (yeah I know cool showers rule here), AND it’s  cheaper than we expected for such a desirable place (300!)  We’ll be excited to move in and really unpack. 
  We are so excited about this eventual home as Jess and I will be ‘setting up house’ for the 1st time, I moved into her house 20 years ago.   PS 2  i wanted to post more pics but had a problem   next time hopefully