School is cool

red roadsDay XXXVIII – April 25

Today was our first day at school, but cycling back and forth on the dusty roads of this town already feels so familiar.
Everywhere we go, kids come running out of their houses shouting “Hello!” Some even ask our names. Though I doubt they remember what they learned the sentence means again, and they don’t know how to continue the conversation when we answer or pose a question in reply, and suddenly become shy again.
We almost feel like celebrities with all this attention. And all those smiling faces are just so contagious!

In class they perform so well!
We’re teaching them colours today. We got a set of coloured paper to explain what we mean, and after writing them down on the board and repeating them a few times, we made a game out of it; holding up a colour to have them saying back the name to us. They’re all shouting out the loudest!

We cover the same material with all of them, depending per class how far we can take it. With the eldest we can even get into sentences like ‘My shirt is white.’ and ‘My eyes are dark.’ and ‘My pants are darkblue.

We teach 6 classes a-day; 3 before, and 3 after lunchbreak, which is from 11am till 2pm. They each have the three of us for an hour.
They’re all different age groups, about 20 kids to a class. It’s hard to tell which is which though; some in the younger classes look like they could be 14, while some in the older classes look no older than 12.
We also have Leak (the ‘k’ is quiet) with us, a girl of maybe 20 years old, who speaks English and translates to the kids in Khmer. Otherwise they’d never understand us.
There is no steady English teacher; us volunteers are the only classes they get in English.
But the eagerness with which they all respond already is so rewarding!

That patch of skin that was torn off; well I figured I’d best let it dry and heal to fresh air. But in class today, this big black fly wouldn’t leave it alone and was, I don’t know, feeding on the crust? Really disgusting!
So I asked Leak for a bandaid. “Here, in school? No we don’t have those…” like I was asking the weirdest thing…

During the break I go to the market for a good look with Yun and Ingrid. A curious experience.
You will find all sorts of stalls, from toiletries to clothing, fruits and meats. The meat is mostly dried, but the fish are usually but barely alive. The fruit stalls make for the most diverse colour palets.
You can walk around it, but there are little pathways leading inside. There’s a sort of covered but not completely closed hall, with a maze of tiny alleys leading up and down along all these little stalls, stacked almost on top of each other, literally selling anything.
Unplaceble smells fill the air as vendors hang out at eachothers booths, chatting away.
Actually, it’s exactly what you imagine it to be when you see this sort of thing on TV. It’s just impossible to describe what it is like in real life.

After school we stop at this place to get some icecream. And that same sort of celebrity feeling comes over us when the shopholder ambushes us with questions, trying to strike up a conversation, wanting to practice his –and his daughters- English. He even sends her to escort us down the street.
“So when you coming again?” “And how long are you staying with us?” The chat does give a sort of sense of being a temporary local, taken up into the community.

I wanted to go to the internetcafé –even this remote a village has one- after dinner, but Mr. Ya isn’t comfortable with us leaving alone after dark.
Dinner is as early as 6pm, but the heat and full workday have made us hungry enough. And while we sit, dusk falls swiftly.
No one else is up for the trip tonight, so I’ll have to wait for tomorrow to find out if any of my facebook friends back home have found a penny to spare to help fill that gap the Saigon-thievery has made.

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