Saturday, May 19, 2012

TGIF as they say

   Ahhh Fridays, end of the week, start of the weekend!  For a time I had Fridays as a 'catch-up with work at home day'.  But a few months back I started at an NGO teaching teachers at noon on Fridays.  So I played tennis in the morning.  When that noon gig ended I was able to increase my work at the NGO where I work on Monday mornings.  You may recall it's the well run Italian NGO ( been here 10 years).  It's an orphanage/school and I have been teaching the teachers there about childhood development/education.  I very much enjoy my work there, so I was glad to add the day.  Lately I've been teaching about positive discipline the past few weeks as the director there said it was urgently needed.

  So as with Mondays I am up around 6am and leave by 715am.  It's a 40 minute pleasant bicycle ride. There is often still cloud cover and the intense heat of the day has not arrived yet.  And I have yet to face a head wind which bothers me more than the heat.  I am afraid with rainy season starting I may be riding in the rain, well what's a little water and I have a raincoat.  The translator there knows I bike and offered me a ride out, but I truly do enjoy biking out there so I declined.  I think she was perhaps more concerned with my ride back at 11 or so when the heat can be intense.  But I make stops on my way back home and I like the heat.  I stop for lunch usually at the same place.  A friendly little Khmer place where I met a Burmese guy  working on a golf course and a Khmer who works at the International Hospital in SR.  Lunch is just a couple of items, often fish soup served with rice.  Sometimes there are veggies in the soups I don't recognize and sometimes meat I'm not familiar with.  The soup is very tasty though, and today the veg seemed a cross between green beans and okra.  There is always warm tea on the table and they bring a glass of ice for it.  I will have a beer also.  It's quite inexpensive easily less than 2 dollars including the tip I give which is always met with laughter.  I've never seen a Westerner there.

  And to break up the ride further I stop at the hotel where I play tennis.  I lay by the pool (where I am now) after a quick dip to cool off and wait a couple of hours for my tennis partner to show up.  It's the same routine as it is on Mondays I'll read, write and/or nap.  A great way to start and end the week.  And in fact I did just nap but now awake and I am hoping for some clouds to roll in for some shade on the court.

  On one Friday training session I ask the teachers to brainstorm on what they think children need in order to be ready to learn in school, to be successful.  I am looking for skills and characteristics.  I've done this exercise dozens of times in the States with parents as well as pre-school teachers.  I have never gotten the answer one of the Khmer teachers gave me.  She said "enough food to eat".  In fact it was the 1st answer.  It just highlighted for me one of the stark differences it is to be a child in Cambodia compared to the US.  Yes I know there are hungry kids in America but it's rare for a child to die of starvation or be extremely malnourished.  For the most part kids get their basic needs met.  Perhaps that statement can be disputed but I've never seen a child as emaciated  as I did one time when I did some work at the children's hospital.  I've never seen kids dressed in virtual rags as I often see here. The States certainly has it's health care issues and if you've read Jess's blogs it pales in comparison to here.  It makes me realize that although I grew up on welfare, in poverty and that I may have been hungry at times I was never in danger of starvation, I had decent clothes and medical care was readily available if needed.  For children here that danger is a reality.  I've always considered myself lucky not realizing that just being born in America was part of that luck.

  There are times I am shaken here by an experience, shaken out of my comfortable state.  I won't ever get used to people begging, men, women, children, moms with infants, elderly. handicapped it happens daily.  The elderly and handicapped I will try to give to.  There are no or limited safety nets for that population.  Why I give to those folks is a topic that is controversial and I won't address here today.  Recently we were having a late lunch at an outdoor place and a man about my age was limping and begging.  I zoned in on his eyes which seemed sad and telling.  I was hoping he would stop at our table but he did not.  I started thinking if he was my age where was he when he was in his twenties?  When I was protesting the covert bombing of his country and then partying it up afterward was he hiding in the forests, being worked almost to death, witnessing man at his worst, watching people being slaughtered, perhaps he was KR and doing the killing out of fear for his own life, did he see his family members killed or disappear?  When I was worried about finding the right apt. or suffering the loss of love and thinking it was devastating for me was he clinging to life, acquiring the limp and who knows what other health problems?  It's difficult to articulate the feelings, I just know I would not be contemplating those thoughts and looking back on my childhood and early adulthood in the same way as I do now if I did not come and live here.  Seeing up close the consequences of Western foreign policies and the lasting effect it has on people is eye opening.  What I will do with that I don't know.  So the old Khmer man and this old American man continue with our lives, he with a limp, no doubt health problems, and probably hungry and me with my tennis, good health and deciding on the meatloaf or club sandwich.  What has changed really?  I am still lucky.

  I guess I had to get that out once I started.  Back to Fridays because the past is unchangeable.  So after tennis it's home and perhaps a meet up with friends either at our place or out and dinner.  Can't write anymore, enjoy.  


lcuy said...

We ARE lucky. It is frustrating when people seem to think it's all about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. Worthless attitude when the subject has no flip flops, much less boots.

Steve said...

Exactly my feeling, well put.