These are some pictures from our party. The four girls in costume were in a short play. They are using Halloween costumes I brought. As any normal 3-5 year old they love to dress up especially as fairy tale characters. As you can see the teachers are very inventive with their costume arrangements. There is one picture with the cambodian living arts group. They play traditional wedding music with unique instruments. They let the kids try to play the drum and the string instruments. It was a bit challenging for the little ones to sit through the explanation and songs but they loved participating. We are probably too young for this group but Sopeak will try to find us a younger teacher who is not playing only traditional music. I think it is good exposure for all- parents and children. This is their cultural heritage.
Well today was our last day at the Center. It seems as if we have been here at least a month. We had a blast at the circus last night and i feel i really got to know the teachers this time. As usual the days run together and I have so much more to tell. We met with Heifer International here and got approval for an adult literacy project at the Center. Quite a few of our mothers can not read and write and when i spoke to them last visit that was their main request. We will have free teacher training for Chamroeun and the teacher and free materials for our students. The cost of the teacher will be ours. I will add it to the budget and hope we can get a donation to cover her cost. It would mean more money for one of our teachers. We took a tuk tuk to buy dry erase boards. It amazes me the amount of things they put on a moto and tuk tuk. I posted a few pictures yesterday of what I saw on the road to the bee farm. Today I saw a man riding a bicycle with a huge stack of boxes barely balanced behind him. Also of course there is the variety of humanity- whole families, small children, girls riding side saddle, texting while riding? The driver wears a helmet but no one else. I saw a small child with a helmet for the first time yesterday. Of course he was riding precariously perched in front of dad.
Today was our party. I will post a few pictures and more later. Unfortunately there were only a few parents. They have to work and can not take the time off. We had a group of young musicians play Khmer music with Master Mik. The children did some short plays and sang. Then played a few games. It was quite a bit of work for the teachers and cook and they did well- as you will see.
I just got back from taking the staff, their children, and Son Blu to the Khmer circus. They have a school here in Battambang that teaches art- painting and circus skills. They just had 2 students 16 & 17 selected to train in Montreal. Wow!!! Gabby also went with us. What an awesome show. It centers around a Khmer story and then they weave in the acrobatics. Chamroeun’s son Bebe was so mesmerized- at 2 years old he was pretty focused. Perhaps a future performer. Son Blu didn’t stop clapping. This was Gabby’s first circus here and all I kept hearing from her was wow – like me. It was a fun evening. We had to take 2 tuk tuks. I have some pretty good pictures but will upload them later and post. Chamroeun had my camera – which I gave her and I think she videoed the whole show! Soooo fun to share the evening with such amazing women-10 of us.
The interesting thing which we all commented on was that all but 2 of the performers were men. They juggled, did gymnasics flips and stacked themselves one on top of the other and flipped off. The most amazing part was the fire. They had a jump rope of fire and did not do the usual jumping but flips and spins over and under the rope. One of the performers just barely caught his pants on fire. At the end they jumped on a see saw up into the air landing on a thick mat. The whole time they were laughing and having a great time themselves. WOW!
Yesterday was a long day. We traveled to the bee farm by tuk tuk-about an hour away. They have 20 hives and 20 more in the villages. Chamroeun and our security guard asked multiple questions, every once in awhile I chimed in with my own questions. I think we managed to get answers to all our major concerns. The bees that can be “put in the box” are found in holes in trees. They are very tiny. I am very bad with Khmer names so forgive me but the older gentleman has many years of experience and he would be the trainer. Our security guard would manage the hives at the Center. I wanted to make sure that he wanted to do this. At first he was apprehensive but after talking with the beekeeper he agreed. Chamroeun would also take training so that she could help him. We opened the boxes and looked at the 5 racks that hold the honey. They need to be checked on a daily basis. One hive -bees and box is $150. The beekeeper finds the queen bee and the workers follow. He would come to the Center and assured us that he can find bees. I asked for a discount as we have a hive in the eve of our classroom! It is beautiful country there. The bees like the flowers from the trees. He also said if there was enough food we could have 2 hives at our Center. Dry season is a bit tougher for them to find flowers. The best time of year is November through June. We discussed the importance of the personality and comittment of the beekeepers. Farmers do best as obviously they have the “food”. Chamroeun and I decided that we would rather start small with 10 people in the village first and see how that goes. If Bee World is unable to assist us we would have to find another donor. Today I went into the village near the Center where several of the teachers live. One of our teachers takes care of her mother and grows mushrooms. She gets up at 1am everyday to check and harvest the mushrooms in season (right now). They are quite poor and they work so hard! I really would like to be able to help our families earn more which the honey from the bees when sold will give them. One other thing the beekeeper told us was that alot of the bees die due to the pesticides used in farming.
Barbara and I headed to the Center at 7:30 this morning. The children start arriving at 7am have breakfast and do their morning exercises before classroom time. We arrived just in time to observe classes. The children are divided into 2 rooms- 3 & 4 year olds, and late 4’s 5’s & early 6’s. They work hard on teaching the children their letters and numbers. It is difficult for the little ones to keep their attention on the lessons. The older class has more experience so they know more songs and it is much more participatory. Later in the day we showed the teachers ways they could enhance their lessons with activities that allow the children to move about. Chamroeun is the only one who speaks English so it was a little challenging. We were meeting during the children’s naptime but as children woke up they appeared in the room. One of the youngest boys perfectly demonstrated my point when he started going from the picture on the card to the same picture on the poster- the matching game! There was a small group that wanted to “play”. We were trying also to discuss the importance of play and imagination using the concept of centers. I am not sure that was really understood. So tomorrow we will set up a few and again demonstrate with the kids.
Just before the nap we helped with baths. We found that the pump soap that we brought was the easiest to use. Bars of soap are too cumbersome and get dirty so easily. Barb and I washed the girls and the teachers rinsed. The girls and boys have separated bath areas on either side of the classrooms. Unfortunately they mostly put back on their dirty clothes. We are trying to have extra sets for them so they get a clean clothes after the bath. So in the afternoon we set up their cubbies. They will have their toothbrush, comb, personal items, and clothing in each cubbie. The teachers wrote their names on them but – the kids can not read as I reminded them so we will have to find some stickers. Then we cleaned and cleaned. Anyone who has been in a developing country especially one with a dry and rainy season knows how impossible it is to keep anything clean. We started on the cabinets threw out all the old stuff – found lots we could still use and organized. Then discussed how to clean the floors and the toilets. yikes- a challenge especially with no money and too much work for the staff I have. We did laugh alot- When we were all done (at least for today) Chamroeun told me that she knew I was tired but she said the teachers were exhausted?! Both Barb and I feel like we have been here for months and it’s only been 6 days. I have a friend, Gabby who is also an RN and is working here for the Handa Foundation. We met Gabby for dinner tonight at her house. There was a misunderstanding and a rain storm and Barb went off without me. As Gabby said later you can’t be in Cambodia and have anything go perfectly. We spent some time discussing cleaning- which has become her job at the hospital of late. She is trying to convince me to stay longer next time and teach at the hospital- however I think I will pretty busy at the Center!
I am going to post pictures from lunch and classroom time.