This has been a fantastic week. As evidenced by the showering of praise we gave each other during our Friday team meeting for team work, listening and contributing, the problems of the week previous have been solved. I got UK volunteer of the week! So I’m feeling pretty great about the week in general. We have just two weeks more of work before we travel to Kampong Cham for Debrief, and everyone’s mind has definitely turned toward the brevity of our remaining time. Working on debrief team certainly makes it seem very close.
I discovered on Monday that I’m the scorpion queen, when another beast of a similar size to the Bathroom Scorpion turned up under a pile of wood. This one seemed fairly angry, with his tail curled and pincers wide. A member of infrastructure threw some wood on top and stamped to kill this one. Moments later a lizard fell from the fan in the office, prompting a dozen piercing screams from UK, Khmer, male and female alike.
That was all the interesting beasts for the week, aside from the normal cockerels waking everyone at 4am and misshapen cats. Work-wise we’ve been doing more English, my favourite. Sre Krosang English youth club on a Monday afternoon puts me in a great mood as I bounce around the room making a fool of myself as I teach colours and fruit. The kids are energetic to say the least; I lose my voice shouting over them but their eagerness to learn is fantastic and they are never too shy to participate. I am trying my best to find the slow-learners and support them but when class size can be upwards of 40, or 50, it’s tough to give personal support. I hope that I repeat myself enough for everyone.
The second half of the week we discussed in our youth clubs the importance of youth participation and volunteering. Because there are limited opportunities in the area we mostly geared this toward being a good member of the school and being an active citizen. We even did trust falls! We ran into trouble when the rain prolonged our session to Koh Krouch – when it rains the river is nor safe to cross, and so we were temporarily stranded there. I gave a spontaneous English lesson to fill the time, which I think was appreciated by the children who knew little more than the alphabet. They did not know of the letter ‘N’ however – something I’ve found before in other schools and with kids around the office. Perhaps it is a very forgettable letter. Some children in Koh Sampeay could not write Khmer, and were too shy to draw, so our lesson was challenging.
We completed a resource on student councils for the team that follows us, something I had suggested early on that we complete. By establishing 4 student councils we have accomplished something that was planned to take 2 years – now the student councils can work alongside VSO volunteers in the future cycles to ensure our work is sustainable. It’s great to have such a concrete impact on the schools and the future of VSO ICS in Siem Bouk.
We spent our Saturday carrying out a Community Action Day on alcohol consumption, with a guest speaker and activities to educate the community on the topic. It can be difficult for UK volunteers to find something to do when the CAD starts, as it is held in Khmer. Luckily I was chosen by a baby as a suitable resting place, and the same child took me on an adventure around the pagoda. I later managed to forcefully bump my head on a low hanging gong – a hefty barrel – which was embarrassing and painful. I forced a smile and thumbs up to the room, who had turned to look at me, and quickly escaped to feel sorry for myself in privacy.
On Sunday we were up early once again to head to the impressive waterfall Sopheak Mitt. We spent a relaxed day taking pictures and playing cards in a restaurant that overlooked the spectacle. The waterfall itself is a wide expanse of thundering Mekong, at the junction of Stung Treng province, the neighboring Preah Vihear province and Laos.
One of the best, but most exhausting weeks!