........this is a blog entry after a long absence. Why that is I'm not sure.
Perhaps just laziness or maybe all the days just seem so routine so what's there to write about other than myself and who the hell wants to hear about the mundane pace of my life. I'll try then to focus on Cambodia and the Khmers, remember I said "try".
It's Monday early afternoon and I just finished teaching at an orphanage/school. I started there a few weeks ago teaching the teachers about child development etc.... It's a well respected Italian NGO in Siem Reap, been here 10 years. So every Monday I bike out there, a 40 minute easy ride. I have been enjoying the sessions there, it's a wonderful setting. Lots of space and well maintained. And the teachers have been great. Most do not speak English, so I apologize to them for not being able to speak Khmer. The translator is very good. I invite them to ask questions at any point during the teaching. I also tell them they can ask me anything about the USA. They surprise me with their level of participation and their questions.
The questions concerning children and their development were very similar to what I've heard asked in the US. I guess shouldn't be surprising as all parents face the same challenges worldwide. The questions about life in America are more challenging. I was asked if people who live in the countryside all have cars. I said that most do have a vehicle. One of the teachers stated that her belief was that a every family in the US has at least one car. I had to explain that there is a level of poverty in the US. Not comparable to Cambodia of course but that there are homeless people. I was asked if children have to beg for food in order to eat. How does one explain the disparity between the very wealthy, the middle/working class and the very poor. It's true that it's a rarity for a child to die of starvation. I explained that there are places that the poor can get food (food shelves, soup kitchens etc...). Then to explain our healthcare system, this has been a challenge to explain to anyone outside the US. So I explained: "Well let's see if you are rich you can pay, if you're very poor the govt. pays, but if you work you have to pay and it is very expensive and sometimes working people can not afford to go to the doctor". Yes challenging questions but I look forward to more. The teachers truly want to learn and do a good job with the children and are willing to listen to the old barang and his crazy ideas about kids.
After I leave there I bike to the hotel where I play tennis, about a 30 minute ride. However I have made it a habit to stop at a little Khmer place for lunch on the way. The place has very limited choices, usually a fish soup and maybe a meat and greens dish, sometimes grilled or dried fish. Oh and of course steamed rice. All quite tasty and free tea. I usually have a beer also. Hey it's almost noon, it's hot and I don't play tennis for at least 2 hours. Total bill is 6000 riel (1.5 dollars). I met a guy there who's from Myanmar (Burma) and we've chatted a few times. He's been coming to Cambodia for a few years helping in the construction of a golf course (a Nick Faldo design). They just had a tournament and a Korean- American from Calif. won. We've had some interesting talks on a variety of topics including the "slow changes" happening in his country, Myanmar. Very nice guy and he gave me some tips on where to go and what one can do in Myanmar. I would like to visit there especially now as the country moves through a transition to hopefully more openness and freedom.
After lunch I head off to the hotel for tennis. It's usually a couple of hours till court time. So I take a dip in the pool and grab a lounge chair and often get in a few winks. Most often I will nap but I'll read or prepare lessons also. After a few hours of tennis and a shower I head home around 530-600. Mondays we'll either eat in or go grab dinner somewhere as is the case of course most nights. This particular Monday is a monthly meeting called Casual Collaboration. CC is a time for NGO workers to get together network and share experiences and eat, drink and be merry. The event rotates between restaurants for meetings. It's fun and a great way to meet folks.
That's a typical Monday. So next entry will be my Tuesday day. Enjoy.