Peculiarities of teaching in remote Cambodia

schoolgirls
Day XLVI – April 3

It’s the time of harvest and planting anew before rainy season is here. Now the burning isn’t as bad here as it is in Laos where they burn entire acres of rainforest to create new land.
It’s just small piles of rubbish, and I think some of that has the purpose of drying and grilling vegetables. Still, a lot of the stray plastic ends up in the fires and a nasty stench fills the air.

Another extremely hot day!
Leak, who normally wears a black sweater and the long jeans and socks everybody wears to keep their skin out of the sun, has even reduced to a t-shirt and a skirt today.
I’m sweating so much the skin in my neck and on my back is covered in a rash.
And thus I discover the power of sugar! Maybe I’m weird, but I never noticed it like this before. Today is no cooler than yesterday, but I was dead-tired than, couldn’t even move. And now I seem just fine, after a lunch of Khmer pancakes with bananas and pineapple and sugar: noms!

When we come back to school the classroom is closed, hung with a padlock, the teacher’s gone home and took the only key there is. So, no class, we skip it all together and go to the next. Pretty odd, no?
Another one of those occasions you shouldn’t try to understand… I propose an outside class or in the library maybe? But we don’t have the tools there and it’s just not going to happen.
Another peculiar fact: when we’re repeating yesterdays lesson I tell the kids “Just look it up in your notebook, you wrote it down yesterday…”
Leak explains to me “They can’t read that.” She always gives them the Khmer translation so they know what it says. And those are very different letters, characters actually, from ours. They’re all very good at writing the western alphabet; they just don’t know what it means…

But despite these little things I feel completely at home here.
And I can hardly imagine my trip will be over and I’ll leave SEA in a month. I’m sure I don’t want to!
I’m reading back a bit to those first days with Sit and the crew in Thailand, and they still feel so close, yet it’s such a long time ago and so much happened since! It’s strange how time works on the mind in these circumstances.

And still you’ll have this notion that there is stuff you HAVE to do. I NEED to finish this book while I’m here so I can leave it behind. I MUST read up on this or that before I go there. I HAVE to book this flight asap.
The western code programmed to always rush to the next thing. And despite the pace in these regions being more like “It’ll happen when it happens, things will come around eventually. Don’t sweat it, it’s hot enough already.” it’s hard to let go of that little voice in the back of your mind completely.

This evening the sky is so bright! The moon is nearly full and there are no clouds except for a hazy veil caused by the fires. I walk for a little bit and when I’m out of the light, the land around me looks as bright as during a solar eclipse. It’s breathtaking! Again that loss for words.
The sounds of weddings have finally died down and all I hear is a concert of crickets, frogs, geckos and some far-away dogs. And all sense of time and space leave me. I don’t have to – anything. It doesn’t matter where or when I am. ‘I’ don’t even exist.

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One thought on “Peculiarities of teaching in remote Cambodia

  1. Pingback: The white wash | Meer Tells

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