Friday, October 23, 2009
School, Rain and Pepto
Yesterday afternoon we headed back out the KS Orphan Center to see the Cambodia Tomorrow School in action. All I can say is... AMAZING. While the building looked great when we looked at it on Tuesday - putting children in it with two incredibly creative and enthusiastic teachers took it from fabulous to - well, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious - or however that word is spelled. What a treat to see them in action.
Here are just a few photos of the day...
The little ones were working on colors and shapes. They were having a two team race to see which team could identify the colors first by running to the board and slapping their hands on the right colored blob as the teacher called it out. The giant smile that you can see on the teacher's face? CONSTANT. He was so wonderful with them.
Now they are working on shapes. Repeating after the teacher: "Is this a rectangle? Yes it is!!" Repeating might be down-playing the response a little. Perhaps screeching might be a better descriptor for them with their high lilting Khmer voices (except for the one boy whose voice was clearly in the middle of changing and kept cracking - obviously a universal problem for 13 yo boys!)
Next class was the level 3 kids - slightly more advanced. The were working in their work books to a CD that prompted them to circle the correct picture by narrowing it down with clues. "It is round", "It is a toy", "It is a yo-yo", and so on. The laughed and giggled when they got it right!
And finally on to the Big boys and Level 4. They were working on using the words "Sometimes", "Always" and "Never" in sentences. They were really very good at it. At first they just made up logical sentences "She always plays soccer in the park". Then, as you can see they beat out the syllables on drums while they said it. Finally, with their heads together, they were tasked to come up with sentences that didn't make sense, "He sometimes plays baseball in the kitchen." They really cracked themselves up over these.
Bottom line, these teachers keep these kids engaged. They are smiling, they are working, the teachers get them up and moving around. We're pleased as punch with the environment that we have helped to create. And, perhaps a more stark comparison could be looking at the photos of these kids in the KS orphan center compared to the photos yesterday of the less fortunate ones out at Wat Prey Cheum. What a difference. Our hope is to see the changes at Wat Prey Cheum over the next months and years.
And for some fun and games - - in the middle of all the lessons a ferocious thunderstorm broke out. A thunderstorm of biblical proportions. The rain beat down so murderously that the din of the water on the tin roof was deafening! At one point, a massive flash of lightening coincided with an ear-splitting crack of thunder so loud that Cathy screamed and threw her hands over her head! The older boys laughed and laughed. Still, the class continued with the boys just screaming louder to be heard over the clangor. We smiled and thought that, in any US school, classes would have taken a break until the worst had passed. Not so here. I think that you might be able to see from the photo the amount of rain that was pouring down...
Finally classes were over and the kids ran back to the other center buildings through the rain to get over to dinner!
Unfortunately, the rain made our drive back to Phnom Penh a harrowing experience. It was made mostly in the dark and rain, took longer than 2 hours and was dotted with several seemingly near death experiences as Ken, our Program Manager, attempted to overtake motorbikes and tuk-tuks and buses filled to overflowing with garment workers on their way home from the day's shift (again, "buses" is a pleasant euphemism for flat bed trucks with metal bars attached in a cage-like formation so that the people on the outside can hold on and essentially keep the masses in the inner part, with nothing to hold on to, from spilling out in to the road. I gotta get a picture of this!). Passing is complicated by it being only a two lane road with on-coming traffic that may or may not have headlights. Oh yes, and the car we were driving in was a right-hand drive vehicle operating in a left-had drive world. Suffice to say that my position in the passenger side had the best view of when exactly we were inches away from being smashed to smithereens. Ken says that he has never been in an accident. I had to have a lot of faith that he was telling the truth! And since I am writing this account, we all know that I have lived to see another day.
For me the evening brought the reality of being in a third-world country clearly in to focus. For any who have traveled here, it is not unusual for conversations to take place regarding the ability, status, or frequency of bowel movements. That's because a great deal of travel planning has to do with when, where and how you will be able to use a toilet. More importantly, when the system is ka-flooggy, things become a little more dicey. Sadly, me and Pepto have started a close relationship. Don't know what I ate or drank that is causing the issue, but the rest of my days are likely to be spent managing how far or close I am to a restroom. Alas.