Sunday, February 6, 2011

Belated Happy Chinese New Year!

   Time seems to be going by quickly, yeah what's new?  It was a good month at the school I would say mostly because of some key volunteers.  One was Eli the 13 yr. old daughter of a Portland, Oregon family who will be here till April and we had an actual kindergarten teacher from Australia, Jacqui, who was here for 3 weeks.  A woman Jan, Australian, has been great to have part of the class also.  Adding to the goodness are Care packages sent from home and from a former volunteer, Carol, from Australia.  The Portland family who've we've gotten to know, are like minded folks.  It's been wonderful to hang out with them, it feels like they're old friends.
  The family is here volunteering.  The dad is a Doc who is working at New Hope clinic part time and also doing some work with I believe a women's health organization.  Mom is doing some outreach work as a public health education advocate.  Their 18 yr. old son is working with an NGO installing wells.  Both kids are bright and mature.  And I've played tennis with dad!  What a bonus.  They live just blocks from Skyler in Portland, so when we live there we'll have some ready made friends.  Lovely folks.

  It was so good to have a K. teacher who fully understood what my philosophy is, play-based, and what the work with the kids is all about.  And she had some wonderful ideas that we were able to implement.  Specifically an assessment of the kid's skill levels was done.  Eli as well as the Khmer teachers, Srei Mien and Chenda, were up to the task, long overdue.  I feel I should have done this earlier but just didn't have the support I thought I needed.  You would think the admin./mngmnt. folks would take the lead on this, not some lowly volunteers.  But alas it's not what happens here.  In any case we now have 2 groups almost evenly divided.  We'll be able to concentrate on each group's abilities and have more appropriate activities and lessons for each group.  Always challenging and fun but now more manageable.

  That's what I do mornings, M-F.  In the afternoons now I go to the Angkor Hospital for Children and help the kids relieve the boredom of waiting.  It's fairly easy, mostly the kids color pictures I trace.  I also bring in some small manipulatives and books.  I love it as there are obviously new kids/parents every day.  Some kids I see repeatedly as they are in in-patient care I guess. Few kids or parents know English and my Khmer is much less than minimal.  So I mostly communicate through gestures etc... I realized I am somewhat used to that after working so many years with pre-verbal kids and new-English speaking refugees in Vt.  So I have met some wonderful kids and parents.  And some do have English.  One particular girl,10, had great English and helped me communicate with kids and parents.  An incredibly bright girl.  I hope that brightness brings her a good life.  It's hard not to think about lost potential of so many kids I interact with here.  The barriers and lack of resources for kids to succeed are enormous.  Such a shame.

  I've also met parents at the hospital and that's always fun.  The conversations often include questions of where I'm from, how long I'm here for and a thank you for being friendly and talking to them.  I ask them about their home province, their family and thank them for talking to me. It's all so interesting and fascinating.  I wish I could articulate better the interactions I have.  I love it.

  There is a chance also of doing some Social Work at the hospital too, a doctor/tennis partner friend told me last week that the head honcho, an American, wants to talk to me about some work in that area. We'll see what happens. I think it would be great to see if there is a possibility to do some parenting education.  That's quite a fantasy I know but as they say 'you never know'.   I've met several dads at the hospital and school and of course I can't help but fantasize about a group for dads, yeah crazy thoughts.  But.....

   The weather here has just been wonderful lately low 80's and breezy during the day with low humidity and no rain.  Mornings and nighttimes are cool, low 70's.  Sorry Vt and whereever else the weather is bad.  We are still meeting folks both Khmer and Westerners and discovering new places to eat. We seem to cook in and eat out equally.  And I've been finding new foods to cook and fruits to eat.  I've been playing tennis often enough and still am joyous about riding my bike daily.  Jess and I have gotten into riding our bikes out to the countrysides, so much fun seeing new areas of Siem Reap.  Have I mentioned how lucky I feel?

  However I am so looking forward to being in Vt. and seeing folks in May.    PICS:

Whew, most of the kids there I think.
Jan brought balloons. Chenda and Srei Mien

very cool

joint effort ? and Kvai

Theda likes the blocks

Soth has moved up but we have his brother now

Sopal learns fast

Go girls

the white shirt/ blue pants tells me she attends a Khmer school