Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The First Full Day at Anjali House

This morning, Naomi and I rode our bikes to the Anjali House for 8:30am. To get there, we have to follow two and a half long dirt roads that pass a diversity of sights: small straw homes, sometimes selling food or candy and water out front, empty lots where the grass sometimes reaches up to two feet, three private schools, including one "USA International," the photocopy shop with the 80's machines where some of the teachers get their hand-outs done, a few really nice double story gated homes (probably NGO workers'), guesthouses, a pharmacy and a little bridge that goes over the smallest body of water you've ever seen.

At the Anjali House, there are five other girls and two guys teaching the kids and a few other volunteers helping with administrative work. All the girls are really sweet and easy to work with, I love the atmosphere. They are mainly European from Belgium, Norway and Germany and one is Australian. It's wonderful to see so many young women travel alone to the other side of the world and most of them are traveling around Asia or staying in Cambodia for months, even a year. Travelers who do things like that always tend to be really fun, down to earth, cool people. For the moment, I've been training with Karen, the Belgian girl who escaped her marketing job back home for 6 months, and eventually I may take over her class or move to another one.

Although the lessons are very basic and easy, teaching the kids is a pretty intense - they have hardly any attention span, are quite rowdy and don't really pick up that quick. It can get slightly frustrating and I can see that patience is definitely a virtue around here. That goes for punctuality as well - Cambodians are rarely on time. Patience is actually a very important word to Cambodian culture, they NEVER lose their cool or get angry. They believe that if someone loses their temper, they are no longer deserving of respect and therefore they are always trying to find a fair agreement during a debate or an argument. I haven't seen one person actually get angry, demanding or be rude to anyone else (something the French should learn from).

Overall, these kids are definitely not of the same species as the ones from the Greater Hope. Some are very sweet and adorable, others seem much more out of control. It's not the same vibe at all, but I'm hoping to get to know them better soon.

The first part of the day I helped out with the workshops. I brought along the rest of the art kits Arterro donated and the kids loved them, especially making bracelets. I made a crazy bookmark that I'm still pretty proud of. Then, we had general studies class, where Karen taught the kids about the features of the face and head. A really funny part of class is at the very beginning when traditionally, the teacher says "Good morning class," and the kids all stand up and reply in sync singing with a very awkward melody "Good morning, teeeeacher, how are you toooday?" And the teacher answers "I am good, how are you." Typically the children reply with "I am ha-ppyyy, thank youuu."

After repeating the features of the face a billion times, the kids were still having trouble, but that's mainly because they weren't really paying attention. They kept getting out of their seats, playing with other things, talking to each other. There is limited obedience in the class, and authority doesn't seem to work as well as it should. I'm excited for my turn to teach, it will definitely be a challenge. Monday, Karen will be in Battambang, so I will replace her in her class. I've already made my lesson plan and I've chosen to discuss the topic of pronunciation.

For lunch I decided not to stay at the Anjali House and to ride 15 minutes to the old market by myself for some "morningarony" a.k.a. morning glory. On the way there, I passed the hilarious "batmobile" tuk-tuk, which I'll eventually get a photo of, a family of 6 on a motorbike and a couple of waifey cops who definitely would never have made it onto Miami Vice.

In the afternoon we repeated the same classes but to another group of kids. By the end of the day, the dirt, sequins and glitter on my hands made for great finger puppets and we were all burnt from the heat.

After class ended at 4pm, I rode to the old market again to pick up some new hippy pants. On the way back to the guesthouse, really loud bad trance techno music was coming from the school down the road so I stopped to see what was going on - a group of 30 women were doing some sort of aerobics tae-bo dance class in the courtyard. Super random.

Tonight, a few girls from Anjali and I went out to Pub Street to get some food and cocktails. The scene is very Western, which takes away from the local landscape, but it's fun and cocktails are $2 - can't beat that! I rode home in the back of a tuk-tuk driven by a certain guy by the name of James Bond (the 2nd one I've met so far!).

I love Siem Reap!


  1. I want to see more pics of you in the environment!

  2. Wow - Erica you are doing a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of Cambodia, which we have enjoyed on our visits there. I hope that you will have the opportunity to get to our school while you are there. I know we would enjoy your photos of our kids. Danny Spitler, Spitler School Foundation.