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Published: November 14th 2010
It's been another week in Phnom Penh. The days have gotten slightly less brutal. Although I still work from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm, I now only have to teach 4-6 classes instead of eight. My only complaint is that they are all first and second graders, along with kindergarters (two times a day!). The kindergarteners don't understand English, and the Khmer assistents don't really control them--yesterday, they sat in the back and painted their nails while I pretended to handle 30 non-English speaking kids (to be fair, they also painted my nails after class). I'm not sure how to deal with this really, and on several occasions it has reduced me to tears for hours at a time.
While I have begged not to teach kindergarten, apparently I am the only female foreign teacher in the school and therefore the education of small children rests solely upon my shoulders. Because (I was told to my face) women are soooo much better with kidlets than men. I am frankly nauseated by the blatant chauvanism, but I suppose practically speaking, women are not pedophiles and so what choice does the administration have?
The evening classes...well, I'm still showing up ill-prepared
and just sort of teaching out of the book...yep, one of THOSE teachers. We celebrated Halloween last night. Halloween actually falls on a Sunday this year, and today is the anniversary of the King's coronation and we got the day off. So we had to celebrate Halloween on Thursday.
To celebrate, I gave a typically badly-prepared lecture on Halloween in the US and its origins; then we made pumpkin cookies out of pseudo-sugar cookies and black and white Betty Crocker icing. The icing was super-expensive due to import taxes; I bought a vial of orange food-color to dye the white icing only to discover that it was orange flavoring
(yes, I am always this bumbling). So, the cookies smelled
orange and black at least; instead of making jack-o-lantern cookies, we made ghost cookies. I told them about my supernatural experiences in life. And today I've been eating the rest of the icing despite a case of diarrhea.
I also visited the "Ghost House" which is sort of a third-world version of a Haunted House. The high school kids comandeered a classroom and dangled lots of black sheets from the ceiling. They also shrouded themselves in rags and turned out the lights with the exception of a few strobe lights. They then screamed and pushed us around, and grabbed our legs as we tried to weave our way through the dangling black sheets. Although I don't think this country really understands the concept of "Halloween", I think the "Ghost House" was probably a lot freakier than any haunted house I yawned through in the US.
In short, a good time was had by all.
I am still at the Okay Guesthouse; I need to begin to find an apartment. I also need to start learning Khmer. I bought a course at Monument Books, complete with CDs. The problem is that I don't have a CD player, and no one in Phnom Penh sells them except in the form of PlayStations and DVD players. Another problem, since I don't have access to a TV. Damn: the resources are right there, and my own backwardness prevents me from utilizing them. My driver knows of my ambition to communicate with the locals, so he teaches me a few words at least. And he made a point of telling everyone on the block, so whenever I leave the shelter of Okay Guesthouse, I get bombarded by bored tuk-tuk drivers saying Hello and Hi to me in Khmer. And one way or another, I'll learn how to say stuff.
I guess I can't complain. I have seen blue sky every day for the last two weeks--which is something I saw on maybe six days out of as many months in China. I don't sit around an empty apartment bored four days out of the week. I don't have to put up with parents observing and judging my teaching, and I don't have to put up with an ignorant populace staring me down every waking moment of my existence. Although I'll probably be attacked by more dangerous thugs than in Jining
, and although I am likely to contract dengue fever and malaria here, I guess there will always be trade-offs. This is my life: as good as it gets!
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