31 December 2009

Happy New Year 2010

It's not quite 2010 here in Phnom Penh, with about an hour and a half to go, but it is well and truly 2010 back "home" in Toowoomba, and Coffs Harbour. As I write, I've got the radio on Radio Australia, with crystal clear reception for a change. Sometimes during the course of the day the transmission here seems to drift across several frequencies, and at times it is totally overwhelmed by local Cambodian station transmissions. Never mind, at least I can listen to Aussie voices occasionally.

So what's ahead for the New Year. First job will be to finish setting up the house, by tidying up the living area. The kitchen is done, the bedrooms now both have curtains, on hooks, that can be opened and closed with ease, and everything in the bedroom has found a home. Actually there is an extra in the bedroom at the moment in the form of a folding table so I can type on the computer. I still can't find the desk in the living room, so that is tomorrow's goal - to not only find the desk, but put everything away, and even get some filing caught up, and maybe even some letters written. I've got a few that need to be done before Jenny & Murray leave so they can do some posting in Australia!

I handed over the keys to the old house today, and was thanked by the landlord for handing it over in a clean state. I suspect that many Cambodian tenancies do not get handed over in the tidy condition that I handed it over in. I'll admit, it was a little untidy, but my helper managed to find time on Monday to slip over and get rid of the remaining rubbish, sweep, and leave it in a clean and tidy state for me. Thanks Naomi. I couldn't do this job without her help!

So what are my New Year's resolutions? Hmm, I haven't actually made any, but there are a couple that I should make. But even if I do make some I'm not going to tell you what they are! That would spoil my fun.

Let's just say, that the 1st January 2010 brings with it the same promise that every other day has, that God's love is unfailing, and His mercies are new every morning. Every day is a chance to start over, or to continue the previous day's positives. Praise God that His forgiveness is there for us too, thanks to Jesus!

May God richly bless those who are reading this, and if you don't have a personal relationship with Him, please find out more about His love for you, because you are special.

Have a wonderful, safe, happy, rewarding 2010.


27 December 2009

Christmas in Phnom Penh, Cambodia - Finally

Isn't it great that no matter where you go in the world, you can find fellow Christians with whom to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ? Christmas this year was different to any I'd known before. Not because I was in Cambodia and it was hot and dusty, because this is my third Cambodian Christmas, and Christmas in Australia can be hot and dusty too. It was different because this year I had family to share my Cambodian Christmas with. My first Christmas I shared with a couple of other Aussies who were also far from friends and family on that special day. The second I was pretty much on my own, although I enjoyed fellowship at the local Anglican church (not where I usually attend), and enjoyed a trip to the new school, which was very much in early stages of construction.

So how did I spend Christmas Day this year? We had a relatively relaxed breakfast, and exchanged a few gifts (Mum, Jenny's got yours to bring home with her), and then headed off to the ICF Centre for a quick music practice before a 10am service. I was singing this time. The service lasted a little less than an hour, and it was rewarding to see the auditorium full of people, all gathering to celebrate Jesus birth. After church and fellowship we headed to a local restaurant serving western and Khmer food for a decadent Christmas lunch. We then walked the short distance to Wat Phnom so Jenny and Murray could say they had done all 10 items on the top 10 things to do in Phnom Penh list, and while they did that, I paid the electricity bill. Yes, that's right, I paid the electricity bill - Christmas Day is just another work day here in Phnom Penh. After that it was home to Skype Mum and wish her a happy Christmas, after which packing was the order of the day, with much to be done, and not enough time to do it in. I made a quick trip out to the school to get some more boxes, and was amazed to find the place a hive of industry. There were two staff members working in the office, and other folk working on finishing off construction and installation tasks, and I very much doubt that anyone was getting any "overtime". I then achieved one of the Christmas Day challenges a friend had set for me, to make someone laugh, which I definitely did as I tried to secure a number of large flattened boxes on the back of my moto! I wish I'd got someone to take a photo of that one! I finally bumped over the very bumpy road back to the main road and managed to get home without losing any of my boxes. More packing and a light dinner of sandwiches rounded out my Christmas Day! Bed was very late that night.

"Boxing Day" as 26th December is traditionally known to us Aussies was spent moving house. We had 3 vans from the school with drivers and one extra person, as well as my sister and brother-in-law to help with the move. With 4 van loads everything was done (and these vans have seats, so they don't pack as neatly as a delivery van or moving truck). Then was the fun part of getting everything up to the first floor. The guys took one look at the stairs and set up a system of roping boxes and furniture and taking it up over the balcony. Very efficient actually. Big things (like the refrigerator) did have to come up the stairs but they did that well too. The guys arrived with the vans at 8am, and by 12 noon all was done (except the unpacking and sorting). With boxes everywhere, and the house in chaos, we headed to a local coffee shop for some lunch, and then the afternoon was spent rearranging boxes and furniture and even unpacking some boxes.

Sunday 27th December started with an early morning phone call from South Toowoomba Baptist Church, during which I was interviewed as part of a missionary service. All the other missionaries from South were actually there in person, so they wanted to include me as well. That was pretty special. Hopefully what I said was meaningful to some of the folk there. After that it was time to roll over and catch a few more zzzzzz's, before rising late. Then it was discovered that while we could now boil the kettle, there was no milk, necessitating a quick (or not so quick) trip to the grocery store. While out I also got a few other essential items, like breadrolls for lunch and a newspaper. More rearranging of furniture and boxes ensued, as well as some unpacking of boxes, and setting up the keyboard so Jenny could practice for the afternoon service. At 2pm we all loaded ourselves into a tuk-tuk, and headed off to pick up a guitar for Murray to play, then over to the ICF for the 4pm service, which I was leading, with my family team on instruments and another missionary to help with vocals.

After church, and some time of fellowship, we headed out for dinner with friends, at a restaurant offering New Zealand steak for the very reasonable price of $7.50. Yummy. A treat not often had, and I got a baked potato as well - mmmmmmm! Next stop was a local mall to get some DVDs, and frozen yoghurt for desert, and finally back to my friends' place for coffee (peppermint tea). One of my friends drove us home and finally I unpacked one more suitcase, wrote this blog, and am about to head for bed!

Goodnight all, and I trust you have had a happy and blessed time over the Christmas weekend.


22 December 2009

And now for the new classroom

It's done! We've officially moved. Logos International School is now at it's new address in Phnom Penh Thmei, and we are frantically trying to get things ready before people rush off on holidays for Christmas, so that we can be ready for the Grand Opening on Saturday 9th January, and the children's arrival on Monday 11th January.

At this stage my classroom is starting to look less like a haven for boxes and more like a classroom. I just have two boxes/tubs to empty. Unfortunately they are the nasty boxes containing the jumbled contents of my desk where everything just seemed to get dumped during the last days of school, especially as I fought to get the report cards done. There is also still much sorting out to do, and homes to find for some things, but I'm definitely making progress. I have one more official work day, tomorrow, when I hope to finish finding homes for everything, and then I will take a few days to enjoy Christmas with my sister & brother-in-law, as well as moving house!

Yes, after all the saga of the electricity and the roof, I am moving out. I'm moving just two streets, into a much smaller place - two bedrooms, one smaller living space, and a slightly larger kitchen - but it's all on one level (OK I've still got a nasty set of stairs to climb to get in, but once I'm in it's all on one level). The rent is such that I can afford to live on my own, with room for visitors, which I enjoy. It will take about 10 minutes to get to the new school by moto, and I also hope that I'll be able to ride a bicycle out there a couple of days a week. That currently takes about 25 minutes, although as my fitness improves I should be able to reduce that a bit. That's the goal anyway.

Well, it's time I thought about going to bed, so I'd finish off and do that. I'll try and get some photos of the new school tomorrow to post.

18 December 2009

Almost done!

Packing that is! There are just a few odds and ends to be stowed in transportable containers before I can officially say my classroom is completely packed and ready to go. The photo above was taken about halfway through the process, or maybe a little more.

Tomorrow morning I'll need to see everything out of the room, and then head over to the new school to start thinking about and planning where I'm going to put everyone and everything. The student desks have all gone today, so hopefully I can start arranging things as soon as I get there, though knowing me I'll rearrange five or six times before I'm happy! I won't tell my assistant that!

17 December 2009

Getting ready to move

I hope I've got enough boxes, although I'm already beginning to have serious doubts about this. I've been saving boxes for the last 12 months in preparation for the move, but now the time to pack has come I'm not so sure I've got enough.

The first steps to moving my classroom to the new school were made yesterday. My whiteboards and bulletin boards were taken down and sent off to the new school. Hopefully they will be put up in the correct places by the time I get out there on Saturday.

With students in the classroom today and half of tomorrow there were limits to what could be done in terms of packing up, but we did make a start on it this afternoon. While the children watched the movie "Santa Buddies", I started boxing some of the classroom equipment. Tomorrow morning the kids will pack the contents of their desks into plastic bags which will then be placed in large plastic tubs for transport to the new school. There was a suggestion that we just send student materials home, but I know that if I do that I will have kids without things on the first day back at school. This way I'm guaranteed that everyone will have all the things they need when school resumes on 11 January 2009.

I was somewhat surprised yesterday to discover that there is to be “Grand Opening” of the new school on Saturday 9th January. Surprised? Actually, I think irritated would be a better word for it. The first that I heard of this “Grand Opening” was when I was handed a notice for students wishing to participate in the choir to be at school for a practice on Friday 8th January. More information came to light in the “Wednesday Update”, which informed us that this ceremony will take 90 minutes followed by refreshments and tours of the new campus. I hope they will understand that some of us really need that time in our classrooms rather than listening to speeches and musical items!

OK. It's time for bed if I'm going to get that classroom packed up ready to move tomorrow, as well as having some positive input in the children's lives tomorrow.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Yes! Yes! Yes! The report cards are finished, and I have already packed 5 boxes and 1 tub, ready for the big MOVE. I eventually finished the report cards just before 3pm yesterday afternoon, and they have now been proofread, printed, signed, dated, and stuffed into their envelopes ready for the students to take home tomorrow. One job out of the way.

Next job is to do some tidying of my desk in the classroom so I can actually find things and pack them tomorrow. Only half a day with the students tomorrow, and we are going to do Buddy Reading with Kindergarten, which both classes really love. That's only 20 minutes, but students do need to clear their desks out, and pack everything ready for the move, and we'll play some games as well. After recess there will be just long enough to hand out report cards and have a prayer time before everyone heads off for their holidays.

Well, I'd better go and see how many boxes I can pack in the next hour or so. The more I do tonight the less there will be to do tomorrow.


13 December 2009

Confessions of a Procrastinator

Ever had a job to do, that seemed so overwhelming that you just couldn't get started?

What about being faced with reading and marking 24 stories written by 9 to 11 year olds?

Or writing 24 report cards in a less than 36 hours (and there's also 6 hours of teaching to be done in that time, as well as some sleep that must be had if you are to be even civil to your colleagues, and gentle & patient with your students)?

Actually it's not as bad as it seems. I've done 3 of the 24 stories, and 3 can't be done until the kids finish typing them into the computer (and I'm not sure when they are going to get that done). Added to that, I have got all the Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Bible, and Computer grades done, as well as deciding on most of the Study & Life skills scores, and I have even written some comments (they do have to be typed into the report cards though).

For some unknown reason, I just cannot get motivated, or stay motivated once I start. You'd think I wouldn't need any other motivation with the deadline looming so close, but somehow the piles of papers (in addition to the 24 stories) that I need to review, just seem like too much. I just can't face it.

OK. There is one important factor that I seem to be forgetting. I need to take this issue to God, and ask for His help. He can help me focus on the task at hand. He can help me grade the papers fairly. He can help me decide what is important and what was just skills practice. In Philippians 4, Paul tells us that "we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength". And a little earlier in Philippians 2, he tells us to "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ...". Ouch! I need to work on that one! Especially the next time the principal says I'm getting an extra student!

Well, I really have procrastinated far too long. I guess, I'd better go and do a little praying, and then I really must get those stories read and graded, and put together some sort of plan for tomorrow. By the way, if you're a fellow procrastinator, feel free to give me some tips on how to beat the habit, but only if you can guarantee they work!


11 December 2009

Elementary Christmas Proggram

"King Jesus" was presented to a packed crowd this evening, as students for Pre-K3 through to 5th Grade joined together to share the message of Christmas in music and words. For me it was delight to simply be responsible for getting my own class costumed up, and downstairs, ready to take their places. They were sooo excited. In the end, so they didn't try and swing from the non-existent rafters I had them sit down and sing along to some of the songs they've been learning in class from Colin Buchanan's King of Christmas. Eventually, with most of them present, we headed downstairs, and awaited the start. The program flowed well, and it was easy to see the amount of work that had gone in on the part of the music teacher, and her students. Well done Logos Elementary.

So now I'm at home ready to have yet another cold shower (that makes 3 today - just as well I'm not in Toowoomba, I'd be exceeding my water ration), before heading to bed. The coming weekend will be packed with the challenge of finalising all my grades and writing report cards. These are due to be completed by Monday (hopefully midnight as I get no preparation periods that day to work on them.

In addition to the report cards, there's still one week of school, and then on Saturday the big move will occur for my classroom! The plan is to have everything packed up before we go home on Friday night, and then to get everything moved in one go as far as possible. Whiteboards and bulletin boards will move on Wednesday afternoon, but the rest won't go until Saturday. Guests arrive Sunday evening, and then Monday to Wednesday is setting up time in the new bigger brighter classroom. Should be lots of fun, as well as hard work. No doubt I'll rearrange the furniture several times until I come up with a plan that works for me and my students.

That's it for now. I'm off to the shower then bed! G'night!


02 December 2009

Chapel and other things

I have so many things to be thankful for. Let me just start with a list of a few:
  • a roof over my head
  • a bed to sleep in
  • a family who loves me
  • friends who care and are there when I need them
  • a job
  • all the children in my life, especially my students
  • good health
  • electricity
  • clean water
  • fans & air-conditioning
  • computers & the internet
  • books
  • the ability to learn
  • above all a God who loves me so much that He sent His only Son to this world as an infant, and who then allowed men to crucify Him, so that He could pay the price for my sin. Not only did He die, but He triumphed over death, and lives today, in me, and in the lives of many others around the world.
And I could go on much longer, but I think you get the picture.

On Tuesday morning the 4th Grade students lead the Elementary school in a chapel focusing on giving thanks to our great God. It was a good time, followed by another rehearsal for the Christmas program. Our next rehearsal will be on Friday and will be a big one (and probably long too!).

Another praise point is the provision of a new "apartment" here in Toul Kork. It is just a couple of blocks from where I currently live, with an office downstairs, and two more apartments upstairs. The stairs up to the apartment are quite steep, but once I'm up them, everything is on one level. I will move over the Christmas holidays, and hope to be well and truly settled before the new semester starts on 11th January. I have a strong sense of this apartment being God's provision for me, and am thanking Him for it.

By the way, my shower did get fixed on Saturday, and so that's another praise point.

Well, that's all for this posting. Hope you enjoyed it, and maybe those reading could comment with some other things that they are thankful for.


27 November 2009

It can't be almost December

Oh yes it can! It is! And it's scary. This time in 3 weeks school will be finished for the day and the Christmas break and I'll be frantically packing boxes! Much of the school will have moved on that day, and the rest is supposed to go the next day. Yep, we are on track to move into our new facilities on 18th & 19th December. But that's three weeks away. There's so much to happen between now and then.

First of all let me backtrack.Sunday was a relaxed day and I enjoyed dinner with a new friend. The rest of the week has flown by in a blur of preparation, teaching, grading papers, and dealing with other stuff. I still can't have a shower in my own bathroom (not enough water pressure) and am hoping and praying that the landlord will fix the situation tomorrow (but I'm not holding my breath). At least the electricity is working, the roof is on, and secure, and life is pretty much normal.

So what's ahead? Whole elementary school Christmas program rehearsals started today, and we have two more next week (Tuesday and Friday). Tuesday the 4th grade class will lead chapel for the elementary school, and then we'll have our second practice after chapel is over. In addition to that, I've got a mountain of grading to do, in order to have report cards written and ready to hand out on Friday 18th November. It's going to take a lot of self-discipline to get them done on time, so pray that I can focus on the grading and use my time wisely. In addition to that, I've still got to teach the vegemites something during the next 3 weeks, so I'm going to be busy doing my usual planning, preparation, teaching and grading as well.

On Saturday 19th December my stuff will move to the new school building and I'll be able to start setting up my new classroom. It's a scary thought, but exciting too.

On 20th December my sister and her husband will arrive in Cambodia for Christmas! I'm really looking forward to that. It will be great to have family for Christmas, and also for them to see something of where I live and the work that I'm doing. Unfortunately they won't get to meet most of my kids as school will be out while they are here, but I'm sure they'll meet a few of them.

That's all folks


21 November 2009

Adventures and frustrations

Today I decided to take a day off and head over to the other side of town to do some shopping. My first stop was Cambodian-Japanese Vocational Training Centre where they produce some wonderful woodwork. I discovered that they produced the delightful classroom furniture used at ISPP (where I did my final teaching practicum), as well as both Cambodian & European dolls house and many other wooden toys. The reason I had gone was because I had heard that they made wooden Nativity sets, and I was interested to see what they were like and whether they would be suitable for my classroom. I was really impressed with the quality of the work, and so I came away considerably poorer in $ but rich in a 36 piece nativity set (including some somewhat unusual pieces). I've already enjoyed setting it up on the floor at home, and look forward to setting it up in my classroom on 1st December 2009.

When I left there, I was planning to head to one of the local markets, but not wanting to backtrack I decided just to follow the road I was on. Hmmm. It was an interesting ride. I ended up outside the city, and I actually have no real idea of where I went, except that I enjoyed being out in the countryside, and eventually managed to find an English sign that told me I was going further out of town, so I turned around and eventually found my way back into town, and to one of the newer malls in town where I found a 2nd hand book sale, and lunch. Having satisfied my hunger I headed back down to the market that I originally intended going to, and purchased a copy of one of my favourite movies "Sound of Music" which I'm enjoying as I write this. One unfortunately consequence of my unplanned ride in the country is sunburnt arms. Ouch, I could do without this.

I managed to be home in time for my 3pn appointment with the plumber, who eventually turned up at 5 to 6pm, and despite changing three pieces of hardware my shower is still not working properly. It seems like something must be blocking the pipes somewhere because the water flow is down to a trickle, and it has worked properly in the past. Hmm. Not sure what to do next. I guess I'll have to call the landlord, but finding a time that is convenient for both of us is a challenge. Nothing is ever easy, but at least I know that God will be with me through it all. I'm also very grateful for the assistance of our Facilities Manager atschool. He's a wonderful Christiam man who takes great delight in sharing his love of the Lord with his staff and his family.

Well, it's time for bed, so I'll sign off and hope tomorrow is a productive day.


17 November 2009


There's nothing like a Cambodian funeral right outside your house to put things back in perspective.

I got home from school this evening at the very reasonable hour of 7.15pm to discover a canopy had been erected across most of the street I live on. The black and white fabric around the lower edge of the canopy is an immediate indicator that it is a funeral rather than a wedding. If you're trying to imagine it, think about the old canvase style marquee, only larger and usually with pink and yellow trim. These are set up directly in front of which ever house is involved, and usually a couple of others as well. In this case there is actually a vacant block next to the house, so it's been set up in a way that results in limited inconvenience to the neightbors, unless you drive a car and want to go down the street from top to bottom, in which case you need to find another route. Unlike most Australian funerals, here the families grief is amplifed at a loud volume for all around to hear. When I got home it was the chanting, but a short time later this changed to a mournful song. It stopped around 8pm but there's a distinct possibility it will restart early tomorrow morning (weddings usually start about 5am, but I can't remember what time funerals start). See funerals here in Cambodia very much remind me of the pointlessness of life without the one living God. Somehow, all my troubles seem to be insignificant in the face of such hopeless grief.

I think I was starting to break free anyway of the negative mood that has threatened to overwhelm me during recent days, because I actually did get some work done after school this afternoon – got all tomorrow’s lessons planned, and Language Arts and Bible for Thursday and Friday done as well. Still got Maths and Science for the rest the week to do, but the Maths won’t take very long. Friday’s Science is a quiz, so I need to plan a very tight 80 minutes for Thursday to get across a couple of really important points. I hope I can do it, otherwise I’ll have to rewrite part of the quiz. Hopefully tomorrow I will also be able to clear my desk and get some papers graded and returned to the students. I get three 40 minute preparation periods on Wednesday, so it’s a good day to get some tidying up done.

Praise point – some of you reading this might remember my previous assistant, who now works in 3rd Grade – well, she has been accepted to do her “Masters” starting next July. She needs to do a pre-Masters course for six months, starting at the end of December, but she knows that once that is done she can move into the Masters program. She was very excited to tell me today that the school is going to sponsor her for a substantial part of her course fees in return for a commitment to stay at the school for a set amount of time. That was great news. Her dream is to go out into a provincial area and establish a Christian school there, providing a good quality education. I’m so pleased for her, because she really has the ability to do this. Also, it means we have a commitment from a good teaching assistant & Khmer teacher for a number of years to come. With expat staff changes occurring regularly it is really helpful to have good quality Khmer teaching assistants, especially in the lower grades.

Well on that positive note, I'll hope that I can publish this, and head off to the shower and bed! Oh the joys of 3rd world internet services. Still I'm very grateful to have them! Good night! Karen

16 November 2009


Ever get that feeling that you have more to do than there are hours in the day, days in the week, and weeks in the year! Oh good, because that's how I'm feeling right now.

All the chaos and stress of having construction worker in the house, and extra time having to be at home for security purposes, and the fact that there are only 5 weeks until I have to have my second batch of report cards completed are combining to stress me out. Unfortunately the more stressed I get, the less I am able to deal with each of the things that need to be dealt with, and so I tend to get to a point where just putting one foot in front of the other & climbing the stairs to my classroom is a challenge. That's about where I am now. I can do things that don't require much thinking, but thinking is hard work - hey I teach 4th graders, and they hate questions that make them think, so why should I enjoy thinking.

I did enjoy sleeping in over the weekend, but am struggling to get motivated to do the preparation and grading that I needed to do for school. In fact, it didn't get done. None of it! Oh boy, how did I get through today. One might think that I have 24 little motivators that I have to face each school day, and that's true because I hate not giving them my very best, which is what happens when I don't get prepared ahead of time. However at times they are just 24 added stressors. Fortunately it's not my very first year of teaching, and I'm at a point where I can cover a day or even two with a minimum of preparation. Beyond two days it becomes a bit more difficult. Unfortunately when I do that, things tend to get forgotten (like giving out the books they need for reading homework).Aaaagh. Now do I see who will volunteer to do it at recess, and hope I get six students to do that, or what??? Actually, I can manage if there are 3 who will do it. Hmmm. That might be an option.

The other good thing is that I don't have to do it my strength. I need God's strength, and I need the prayers of those around me and apart from me. Again, I'm thankful for some good friends that I can send a one word SMS to, and know that they will be there in prayer for me.

Well, aside from the other things I didn't get done over the weekend, I didn't get the grocery shopping done, so I'd better go and do it now. Hopefully the traffic will have calmed a little (yes we do have peak hour here in Phnom Penh, when the traffic can frequently come to a standstill) but it has usually settled by about 7.00pm. It's not quite that, but should be starting to ease, so I'll head down town for some essentials. After that it's home for an early night tonight.


13 November 2009

Back to normal - Take 2

Celebrations! The roof is finished, complete with three locked access gates. Yep, that means that I can sleep in on Saturday and Sunday mornings again, and my house helper could clean knowing that things would stay clean for a while, and I could finally get my sheets washed. Why couldn't I do that before? Because we usually dry laundry on the roof, where we have a number of ropes strung up to hang it on (no backyard with a Hills Hoist here). With the guys working on the roof this just wasn't an option. We possibly could have got it dry using the airers, but it would have been much more challenging! Never mind, they are done now!

The electricity is also still working the way it should be, and most furniture (including the refrigerator) has been returned to it's proper home. Praise God for that. Actually, thinking about it, the electricity problems made me appreciate how rarely we actually do lose our power here, compared to other areas of the city where they can be without power for hours at a time (like up to 8 hours). No fun!

Life at school is also smoother. Fortunately some of what I understood to have been said last Friday afternoon was actually a misunderstanding. Unfortunately I didn't find this out until Tuesday evening, so I had a pretty stressed weekend. There are still definitely things that I need to work on in my life at school, in the ways that I interact with my colleagues and my students but the issue that was causing me the most distress was a misunderstanding. Praise God for two special ladies who prayed with and for me, got me talking and listened, and helped me work through some of the issues, both real and imagined/misunderstood. As one of them said to me today, the evil one takes great delight in tearing down God's servants, especially in this country.

The events of last weekend reminded me, again, of the fact that I cannot do this job alone. Only in God's strength can I be the teacher He wants me to be, and that means I must walk with Him all the time. In the busyness of life it's easy to drift away from Him, and especially easy to skip spending daily time with Him. Fortunately, even when we drift away from Him, He doesn't let us go, and sooner or later He gently leads us back to Himself. He never forces us, but He does provide reminders of His love and people and things to guide us back to Him. Praise Him.

I've just been enjoying "The Lion King" and there are a few memorable lines that are really relevant to where I am now.

Rafiki says to the Adult Simba, "Change is good"
Adult Simba: Yeah, but it's not easy. I know what I have to do. But going back will mean facing my past. I've been running from it for so long.
[Rafiki hits Simba on the head with his stick]
Adult Simba: Ow! Jeez, what was that for?
Rafiki: It doesn't matter. It's in the past. [laughs]
Adult Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts.
Rafiki: Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or... learn from it.

Wow, how true are those words. I'm not saying I'm running from my past, but it does affect who I am today. Fortunately when we do face our past and learn from it, we don't have to do it alone. God is with us through it all, and wants to help us every step of the way. How many times in His word does He say to us "I will never leave you" or "I will be with you always"? I'm not sure, but I know there are many. Let's hold on to His love as we grow and change to be the people He wants us to be.

On that note, I'll say goodnight, and I hope that maybe someone reading this will be encouraged by it.


07 November 2009

Hooray, we have electricity

Actually, we had it yesterday. What's even better is that it hasn't gone out at all today. Next step will be to move the refrigerator back to it's proper place, and hopefully the power will stay on.

The roof sheeting has finally been delivered this afternoon, and they have take away all of the old roof, so it won't become a haven for rats or cockroaches. I haven't been up to take photos of the progress, but will do that tomorrow morning before they arrive. It's probably going to be a few more days before it is finished, but hopefully they will leave at lunchtime tomorrow so I can go to church in the afternoon.

There are things happening at school that are making life very difficult for me personally at the moment, which I won't go into here. I'm working on trusting God to help with these issues, but it's not coming easily at the moment. As a friend said to me last night, I know the truth, but having the faith to believe it and  live it out is a real struggle at times.

Looks like it's going to rain again this evening. Last night it started spitting as I was heading out to my friends for the evening. I'd probably been there 10 minutes (long enough to unload the bike and get it locked up), when it just poured down. Good timing! It was good to spend time in a relaxed environment with my friends. Tonight I'm hoping for a quiet evening meal at a favorite restaurant, stopping for some groceries on the way home.

05 November 2009

Small progress is better than no progress

Yep, we did have some progress in the electricity saga today. The landlord and electrician turned up and began to investigate the situation. Definietly a short circuit somewhere, but finding where proved a real challenge. They tried replacing a light fitting and a powerpoint with no success, and so they finally decided that they will need to rewire the whole downstairs part of the house. Wow! What's even more exciting is that they are planning for this to happen tomorrow. There is also a plan to put an external power outlet in for the roofing construction, hopefully not connected to the top floor circuit (I think I'll unplug the computer equipment tonight just in case). Meanwhile they did put together a temporary long extension lead so that my housemate can at least run a light and a fan tonight. Since we could run it along the wall, and up through the window, without going across any walkways or staircases, we agreed to this with thankfulness.

Today also saw the tap in the kitchen replaced, which had been dripping (and at times running) constantly for the last week. The taps here are a different design to those at home, and they don't seem to have washers that can be easily replaced, but rather the whole tap assemby has to be replaced.

Devotions this morning went OK, and so I'm glad that's over for another six weeks or so. The rest of the school day also went well, despite the lack of sleep (preparing for devotions) and preparation (I had done some planning, although not a lot). On a lighter note, the children in my class enjoyed a chuckle this morning when the Elementary principal, dropping in for some informal observation, managed to crack the corner off the sheet of glass on top on the table that he had chosen to perch on! (The glass he cracked is 7mm thick plate glass, so it must have taken soem force to do it, or maybe just leaning on the wrong spot at the right angle). Fortunately no harm was done other than to the glass table top (no torn clothes or cuts), but it did create a diversion for a moment or two. He really will have to be careful what he chooses to sit on in the future!

Well, I really must get an early night tonight. Hopefully the roofing & fencing will be back in action tomorrow as well, at least that's the plan.



04 November 2009

Another day goes by

Without electricity to 2/3 of the house. And it's going to be another day yet!

Not only that, I organised for someone to be in the house today so they could work on the roof, and then the roof workers didn't show! Won't be there tomorrow either. Maybe Friday.

That's life here. Not much I can do about it, so not much point complaining either. Just have to go with the flow.

School was good today, but tomorrow will be much more hectic. Wednesday's I have three preparation periods of 40 minutes each. One in the morning when my students have music, and then one just before lunch and one just after lunch, so I usually have an early lunch and then get a double block while the kids are at lunch and PE. Thursday I get just one break, while they are at Khmer/Art. I am also on staff devotions tomorrow morning, and we have been asked to share our testimony sometime when we are on, so that's the plan for tomorrow. I'll need to put some thoughts on paper tonight so I don't waffle on too long. I guess the most important thing that I can share is about God's faithfulness to me through the 45 years that I've been alive. He is an amazing and faithful God, who loves us despite all our failings and shortcomings, and will never let us down. Where would I be without Him in my life? I don't even want to think about that. It's not worth thinking about, because He is in my life, and He will always be. I might wander away from Him occasionally, but He doesn't let me go!

I love you Lord. Thank you for loving me.


03 November 2009

The Saga Continues

Oh no, the power's off downstairs again! There is definitely a short in the circuit downstairs somewhere. The difficulty is isolating it, especially when it often doesn't show up immediately, but more like after a couple of hours. We now have 4 circuit breakers in the house. One for upstairs, where I mostly live, and the other 3 for downstairs. Supposedly one was for lights, and the other two for power, but it hasn't quite worked out that way. The latest event is the circuit tripping when all that is switched on is one 22W flourescent tube. I'm beginning to feel sorry for the landlord. Personally I think the whole house should be rewired properly, but that's not going to happen! This house would be an Australian electrician's nightmare! But then, I imagine that so would a large proportion of houses in Cambodia, so that's not really saying much. Hopefully it can be fixed tomorrow or my housemate is not going to be very happy. She's been away for 3 days, in the hope that all would be fixed by the time she returned, especially since it's the power to her room that keeps going out.

Today was wonderful! For the first time since Sunday a week ago, I did not have to be up at 6.30am either for school or to let in the tradespeople. Not only that, there was no generator running outside the house! Peace. I'm sure the neightbours thought so too! Apart from sleeping in, I also went across town with a friend to a new 2nd hand bookshop that is just getting established. They had put aside a number of cartons of books for us to go through for the new Khmer school that is being established by Asian Hope (the NGO that operates Logos). We spent a couple of hours sorting through the books, and then while my friend made the final decision I went looking for books for me, and managed to find 5 that I am sure I'm going to enjoy. All second hand, so for $20, I got got books that would cost me more than $50 new! Bargain.

Progress on the roof has halted until the Water Festival holidays are over, but they did make some definite progress on Sunday morning (and were most frustrated that I said they had to leave at lunch time, which was the agreement I had with the landlord and he assured me that they knew this). I would have preferred they hadn't worked Sunday at all, but sometimes you have to make the best of difficult situations. The ended up tieing ropes to each end of the chain wire rolls, and hauling them up the side of the house. I think they actually split each roll into two pieces, as there are four rolls on the roof, and there were only two when they brought it in downstairs. They will start again on Wednesday, but fortunately I'll be at school most of the day.

Time for bed.


31 October 2009

Long Hot Days

Well, the last two days have been very long, hot and frustrating. Dealing with Khmer tradespeople is fraught with traps, especially for foreigners who don't speak the language or fully understand the culture. By last night I was almost ready to pack up and return to Australia. Almost but not quite.

After have no power downstairs all night Thursday, I got up on Friday morning, and switched the circuit breaker on again downstairs (after it had been out all night) and 20 minutes later it was off again. Then got another 20 minutes out of it, and then we actually got about 3 and a half hours. Long enough for the fridge to cool down and the helper to do the ironing (as well as a heap of other things). She cooked our dinner and put it in the fridge. 10 minutes after she left, the power went off again, and I couldn't get it to stay on.

At 9am the washing machine repair man came, and ended up taking away a large part of the machine, promising to return at 10am Saturday morning (which he did).

After sending 5 text messages to the landlord, updating him on the electricity situation I finally phoned him, and he said someone should have been there. Not long after that a girl turned up, who I assumed was with the guys doing the roof, and made her stay either outside or up with the guys on the roof. (First mistake - never assume anything). A short while after that, another guy on a moto turned up, completed with wife, and two small children. Did not introduce himself, but indicated that they were all coming into the house. When I said no to that, not knowing it was the electrician, they departed, not to be seen again. Ooops. 2nd and very bad mistake! Even if I had known who he was, I still would not have wanted the whole family in the house.

When I rang the landlord to find out why the electrician still hadn't come, that was when I discovered my mistake. I apologised for upsetting them but explained why I had done it, and asked for something to be done. I apologised again the next morning when the landlord turned up at the house about 10.30am, but the damage was done. His wife is now very angry that I would not let a family of people I didn't know and could not communicate with into my house, and is now refusing to pay for an electrician to come and do the work. I'm still waiting. Meanwhile the power has been off downstairs for over 48 hours, and so anything in the freezer that I couldn't move upstairs is now going to have to be thrown out.

I spoke at length with the landlord, and he was understanding and sympathetic, but his wife is still being angry and unreasonable. I asked him how she would feel in my situation, and he agreed that she would not like it. He's trying again to get someone to come, but I'm really frustrated. I'm very close to simply packing up and moving out, except that I like the house and the location, and it would not just affect me.

So where to now? Who knows. I'm still waiting for the landlord to contact me, but it's looking very much like I'm going to have no power downstairs again tonight, and tomorrow is Sunday, and I have plans for the afternoon at any rate, so I'm not sure what's going to happen.

Meanwhile, what's happening on the roof? Actually, today I suspect there is very little happening. They cut the generator at about 11am, and haven't restarted it. They did come and measure for the sheeting, and now the landlord is talking about just putting chainwire around the roof space, so I have no idea what's going to happen and when it is going to happen. Here's a photo I took last night after everyone had left for the day. The pile of rubbish on the floor on the right is the old roof. Under all the bars are the old rusted out sheets of roofing iron. Things are definitely done diffently here. In Australia, they would measure it up, and order all the materials, completely remove the old structure, and then, when all the materials are ready, they would come and do the new installation (at least I'm fairly sure that's what would happen). Not here. They day they started the job, they measured up. Then disappeared for about 4 hours. Then they arrived and starting hauling the frame up to the roof. Then they started both removing the old and installing the new. Then today they actually came and measured for the roof sheeting, and obviously for the chain wire to go around the outside!

Why do I say they measured for the chain wire? I say it because a moto with trailer just delivered another pile of one inch square galvanized metal, and two huge rolls of 2" chain wire fencing. How they are going to get it up to the roof, I have no idea! The metal framing is easy enough. They are passing that up, one piece at a time, from a guy on the ground to a guy on the next door neighbour's flat roof (about 10 feet above the ground), and then up to another guy on my roof. The pieces are probably about 7m long, so that's not too difficult, but the chain wire is a different matter. They seemed to be struggling to slide it inside the gate from where it was delivered on the road. It is rolls about 40cm in diameter, and about 2m long, so I guess I'd better go and get the camera out for this one! Since it's only 4pm, I imagine they will make a start at installing it this afternoon, although I could be wrong.

On top of all that, the cold the children have been passing around has caught up with me now that I've slowed down for the holidays, so I'm sneezing and blowing my nose with unpleasant frequency. OK. I'll stop moaning, and go and see if I can get some good photos to add to tomorrow's post!


29 October 2009

Power Failures, Generators, and the Roof

Wow, what a lot can happen in just a few days. Sunday was a relatively quiet and unproductive day, but I enjoyed church in the afternoon, and then dinner at the Garden Centre Cafe, including poached fish, masthed potatoes, broccoli, and feta cheese salad, and then topped it of with a slice of Mississipi Mud Pie (not quite chocolate mud cake, but not a bad substititute). As I was enjoying my dessert, the heavens opened in a tropical downpour, so, even with my trusty poncho at hand, I decided it would be wise to delay the journey home a little. It was still raining when I eventually left, but not quite as heavily. Monday and Tuesday were relatively normal days with a Curriculum Review meeting in the afternoon (somehow I ended up on the HPE committee), and nothing special on Tuesday. However that's when the week changed. Tuesday afternoon I got a text message from the Landlord saying they would be starting the roof on Wednesday morning, and would be at the house for several days. "Oh no", I said to myself, "now I have to find someone who I can trust who can stay in the house while the tradespeople are there." Fortunately I was able to get a young lady whose mother works at the school, and whom I have met several times, and she was willing to help out. She got to the house before my helper left and stayed until I could get home from school. At that stage they were still pulling metal frame up to the roof, but about 5.00pm they started using their power tools, and 10 minutes later I lost power upstairs. Hmm. The circuit breaker had tripped, and so I reset it and headed back upstairs. 10 minutes later it tripped again, so I went upstairs to investigate. I was not impressed. There were bare wires connecting power saws to powerboards, that were in turn plugged into the power supply. There were also bare wires joining the welding equipment to that power supply. I contacted the landlord and explained my concerns, especially with the power going off twice in such a short time, and told him I would not turn it back on until they left, and also asked that he get them to fix the equipment before they returned the next morning at 7.30am.

Well, the next morning they all trooped in at 7.30am, and the landlord arrived shortly afterward, and we went up to the roof so I could show him my causes for concern. When we got to the landing below the roof, I was horrified to see two bare wires had been stuck directly into a power outlet (no plug, just the bare wires). Fortunately the landlord was able to understand my concern, and when he saw the other dodgy connections he agreed that they should not be plugging into the house elecricity, but would use a generator. With this confirmed, things starting to happen, and Rebecca arrived to keep an eye on things, I headed for school and a day of meetings. The cinnamon rolls and juice were great, and the meetings were OK. Lunch was Indian food, which was OK, although it didn't really excite me. The afternoon meeting also went well, and I was home by about 2pm.

That was when the day really started to get interesting. The first thing I discovered was that someone had locked my bathroom door, so the boys couldnt' use it (the landlord had asked them to use the one downstairs). Unfortunately it was the one door in the house that I had no key for. So I phoned the landlord and he arranged to get that problem solved. While I was waiting for that problem to be fixed, I discovered was that the electricity downstairs was off, and no-one could tell me how long it had been off. I turned the circuit breaker back on, but 5 minutes later it had tripped again. I tried once more, and 10 minutes later it happened again. Since I couldn't find any obvious cause, and the landlord was already on his way to solve the locked door problem, I waited until he arrived and then explained the new problem. Explaining my concern about food going off, etc, he managed to get hold of an electrician, and they came and spent considerable time trying to resolve the problem, including the fact that we cannot run my housemate's airconditioner and the microwave at the same time. Eventually around 6pm everyone left the house, and 10 minutes later the power went off again, and again 10 minutes later, then again an hour later. I give up! It's too hard for me to deal with this evening.

Tomorrow is going to be a long hot day (since I need to be home most, if not all of the day) and the generator will be running, and there will be strange people in and out of my house, including the washing machine repair man, so I guess I'd better head for the shower and bed! The roof guys will be arriving at 7.30am. I refused to let them come any earlier, partly out of a desire not to get up any earlier than I do for a normal school day, especially on a holiday, and partly out of consideration for the neighbors (imagine if the generator started at 6am, how popular would I be then).

There have been other things going on as well, but this post is quite long enough, so I'll leave them for another day! Good night!


24 October 2009

Water Tanks and Painting Competitions

Just what do water tanks and painting competitions have in common? Nothing, except that both had to be dealt with today.

First the fun stuff. A couple of weeks ago the principal received an invitation from the local Chevrolet dealership inviting us to bring our elementary students and their parents to a painting competition at their showroom this morning. We were given a choice, but all decided that we'd like to give the kids the opportunity, and that we would give up our Saturday morning to do it. Well, we end up with about 30-40 kids and about the same number of parents, loaded up a bus, and headed off. Traffic was heavy, but we arrived on time, and the kids had fun. They were all given a packet of coloured pencils, a piece of art paper, and a Chevy car brochure and invited to draw their favourite Chevy car. In the end some drew other things, but they all had fun. Then we were provided with drinks and pizza packages, and finally there was the prize giving. The kids had a great time, and some came away with some great prizes, and it was a good chance for some of the parents to meet each other in an informal environment as well.

From there it was a dash home to meet the landlord's wife, to try and resolve a problem with our water tank. These tanks sit on the roof, and the town water is pumped up to them, and then flows from them to the house. The advantage of this system is that if we lose the town water supply, we've probably got enough water for a day or two at least if we are careful. Unfortunately the last couple of mornings and evenings I noticed a strange smell to the water when I was having a shower, like something was dead in the water. Well, I finally had time to go up and check it out this morning, and discovered that, for some totally unknown reason, someone had removed the lids from both my tank and my next door neighbour's. Unfortunately it also appeared like a cat had been sitting on top of my and urinating in it! Hmm. (I've since drained the tank completely and refilled it, so hopefully we won't have any nasty consequences.) Fortunately there didn't seem to be any foreign bodies in it, so I put the lid back on and phoned the landlord. He was out of town, but agreed that his wife should come and see what we could do. I was fortunate to be able to get one of our Khmer staff to come and translate for me (who also happens to be very clever about these things and was able to communicate clearly what needed to be done, and get some answers for me), since she speaks very little English, although her husband speaks English reasonably well. In the end they have agreed to have a cage made to secure the tank, that we can put a lock on, and prevent unauthorised access to the tank, and sometime after the Water Festival holidays (which are very quickly approaching), when they finally put a new roof on, they will also actually put a steel grill all the way around the roof area. This will make it a much more safer place, for hanging laundry, and relaxing. I might even hang a hammock or two up there once it's done. The roof top is quite a pleasant place to relax in the evenings, since it gets lovely breezes, although the access (via a ladder) isn't so exciting. We will see when it happens.

Meanwhile, as well as the parent conferences yesterday we snuck in a trip out to the new building. It's looking good as you can see from the photo above. Tiles are down, and the first coat of paint is on. The basketball court has been roofed and enclosed, and looks great. The picture above is the front of the building, what is seen as you drive in the front gate. The building is L-shaped, and this side of the L has Pre-K classrooms (2), Art Room, and Music Room on the ground floor, the Library, elementary computer lab, and 1st grade classroom on the 1st floor, Science labs, middle-high school computer lab and classrooms on the 2nd floor, and more middle-high school classrooms and the multipurpose room on the 3rd floor. The other part of the L has 2 Kindergarten classrooms, the main foyer, and the administration area on the ground floor, 4 classrooms (Grades 2 - 5) and a large office/workroom on the 1st floor, 4 more classrooms and more office/workrooms on the 2nd floor, and then the cafeteria and kitchen on the 3rd floor. There are spacious hallways, and two sets of stairs, and greatly improved change room facilities for both swimming pool and basketball court. We are getting excited about the move, although there is still a long way to go. At this stage the first main event on the new campus will be our Christmas program on 11th December, and it's scary just how close that is.

Ok, that's all for now. I'll try and post more regularly, but that depends on school work being done first! And I've got a mountain of that to do. Fortunately I've got a brief holiday to catch up on some stuff from next Friday to the following Tuesday. Thursday is a teacher work day, which probably means meetings! I asked the principal today why we should have to be there when we know the elementary principal isn't going to be there. He didn't really have an answer, so I guess I'll just make the most of it, and hope the meetings don't go all day!

In His service


22 October 2009

Spinning Raisins

Couldn't resist posting about the fun Science lesson we did this afternoon. It went really well. It was based on a lesson that I had participated in during my final university practicum, and involved dropping a handful of raisins in a clear cup of "Sprite". Before we did it, students had to predict what they thought would happen, which is always interesting, and we also talked about the importance of observing closely and recording what was happening. There were some interesting predictions like "it will bubble up and explode all over the room", and they recorded some great observations. When asked to write some questions starting with "I wonder why ..." I could see I've got some students with the potential to be great thinkers (they are already getting there). Thanks to Mallie for the lesson! The students really enjoyed it.

Reprieve and Breathing Space

Whoa! It's time to stop and take a breath. The last two weeks were hectic!
First the good news. For reasons totally out of my control, I am no longer getting a 25th student. God answered the prayers of my colleagues (I confess I was too angry to pray), and I finally got work on Monday or Tuesday of last week that I wouldn't be getting the extra student. Thanks Lord. I mean that!
Second piece of good news. Report cards are finished and sent home! I eventually finished them at 8pm on Thursday night (only 20 hours late), and despite two power outages on the Friday, the Elementary Principal managed to read them, and the office managed to get them printed. Thanks so much ladies!
Third piece of good news. Our first Scholastic Book Club orders for the year have been placed and paid for! As a school, we have gained a lot of resources from our students' purchases from the Scholastic Book Clubs. This year I'm coordinating it for the first time, and that is going well. We are also looking forward to our first ever Book Fair. For those of you who aren't familiar with this, we purchase a range of books at a decent discount, and then hold a fun Book Fair, where parents and students can look at the books before they buy them. This can be a great fund raiser, so we're hoping that it goes well.
On a personal note, my social life was very busy during the last week. On Friday night it was a "girls only" movie night for teachers with six of us enjoying "Away From Her". Then on Saturday I had two couples and one toddler over for dinner. I even cooked - and even Allie liked my spaghetti sauce. Finally on Tuesday night I was invited to (and even attended) a 35th birthday party. I really enjoyed that evening, especially chatting with other Aussies.
I also recently started hosting a "home group" in my house here in Phnom Penh. We're a mixed group, and I've been enjoying getting to know some new people, and also the studies we've been doing. We meet on Wednesday evenings, so that means I have to be home by soon after 6pm that night. Fortunately Wednesday is my lightest day at school, so it's possible, although I am often still eating dinner as folk arrive.
Tomorrow I have more parent-teacher conferences, so I guess I should sign off for now, and head for bed. No kids, so in between conferences I have a chance to get ahead with grading papers and planning for next week's lessons. More holidays coming up, so that means some short weeks, and a teacher work day next Thursday.
That's all folks!

09 October 2009

Another week, another student

There are days when I hate being a teacher. Fortunately they are not many, and they are usually those days when report card time is approaching! Most of the time I love teaching, especially when the kids "get it", or when they are showing how much they have learned.

Yesterday was a lousy day. The main reason being because I got told that I was getting an extra student, sometime next week. As I already have 24 students in a too small classroom (I can't get between the desks as it is), and I have already had one student arrive six weeks late, who doesn't know classroom routines, and has missed a heap of work and assessment, and I have resources which are setup for 24 students (6 x 4 = 24 which means they all get to read the book over the course of the week), and a heap of other whinges, I was NOT HAPPY. I pleaded, I begged, I argued, I stated my case, but all to no avail. The student is coming, and I just have to make the most of it. "Get over it" is the sentiment that I was receiving. OK, so I deal with it. Doesn't mean I'm happy about it, and I still wish it wasn't happening, but I'm going to have to pray about it this weekend, that God will give me the patience I'm going to need with this student.

Unfortunately the timing was bad, report cards are due next week, and I'm starting to wonder when I'm going to get them finished. My goal is to have Maths and Bible grades finished and in a spreadsheet ready for inputting into the computer before I leave school this evening. I think I can do it, so I'd better stop procrastinating and get on with it.


04 October 2009

Taking Risks

One of my extra-curricular jobs at school, until this year, was managing the school sound equipment. This year, I was fortunate to have two new teachers take on the main responsibility, although I am still there as a back-up. Well, on Friday morning I wandered onto the basketball court to check that everything was going to plan for the Middle-High school chapel that morning and discovered that one of the two guys (the one with the most prior knowledge) was missing! That was OK. Found out he was on an official school trip. Anyway, that left us with no one to actually operate the mixer, so I decided to take a calculated risk and ask one of the high school students that I know is musical to do it. He was pretty apprehensive, but agreed. I appreciated it because I needed to get up to my classroom and students.
I didn't hear any more during the day, but that afternoon, he found me and thanked me for trusting him to do the job. He'd had a number of positive comments about what he'd done, and felt good about it. Even better, he's agreed to help out in the future if needed. Praise God. Praise Him that I was willing to take a calculated risk, and that God used that step for His glory during chapel, and for the future.

30 September 2009

A quick update

Don't ask me where the last two weeks have gone! Days here just fly by. This is just a quick update to let folk know that I am still alive. I survived the staff retreat, and it was OK, but 9 hours or more travel for a day & a half retreat seemed a long way to me. Granted it is an interesting drive, but the roads aren't that great (at times it was a matter of finding the smallest potholes rather than avoiding them altogether). Coming back on wet roads was even more hazardous, especially when we decided to try and avoid the Phnom Penh peak hour by taking a fairly major "back road", only to discover that either it had been washed out by recent rain or they were rebuilding a bridge without any diversion routes. When I compare road building in Cambodia to road building in Australia there's just no comparison. You think the Australian roads fall apart quickly? You should try Cambodian roads. Some are better than others, but I'm sure they could benefit from some Australian engineering input!

Speaking of Cambodian roads, I haven't been out to the new school recently, but I've been told that access is something of a challenge. Let's hope they get something sorted out before we have 30+ staff and 300 students trying to get there and home again every day. I'm sure it's on the list of things that has to be sorted!

And while I'm on the topic of the new school, it looks promising for us to have two computer labs to set up when we move. We still need monitors, keyboards and mice, but we know that God can provide.

OK, it's time I was in bed, so I'll finish off for now.

See you again sometime soon I hope. Report cards are looming in the very near future!!!


17 September 2009

Hooray for Holidays

Hooray. I have survived the first six weeks of school, and I finally get a break, albeit a short one.

This weekend is one of the important Khmer religious holidays, Pchum Ben, which is determined by the Khmer lunar calendar. This year it is in September, but two years ago, it was in October. Pchum Ben is the "Festival of the Dead" and a time when the Khmer people feed the spirits of their dead ancestors, who supposedly walk the earth during this time. It is time when Phnom Penh is largely deserted, as many people head out to their "home" provinces, and so the roads are quieter, and shopping can be a challenge. This can be a challenging time for Khmer Christians, who don't want to offend their families, but no longer wish to "celebrate" these traditional festivals.

So what do I plan to do with all this extra time? Well, actually, I won't have much extra time. Tomorrow I am off to Takeo Province, with my teaching assistant. The trip will take about an hour and a half by moto (or some I'm told), and I'm not sure over what sort of roads. If you're reading this in time, pray for safety on this journey. This will definitely be a stretching experience for me, and I'll admit to being a little nervous about it.

Saturday and Monday I plan to spend at school, catching up on some marking, and planning for the week ahead. Sunday I'll relax part of the day, and will lead worship (& play piano) at ICF in the afternoon. Then it's just one and a half days of school before more "holidays", only this time I don't really get a holiday. We have a compulsory staff retreat happening at Koh Kong (more than 4 hours travel by school van each way), departing lunchtime Wednesday and returning Friday evening. Not looking forward to it, but I'll do my best to make the most of it.

By the way, I finally have all my students. The last one arrived today! It will take him a while to get up to speed, but hopefully he can do it next week so everyone starts fair after the holidays.

Bye for now


05 September 2009

Chamber Strings in Phnom Penh

On Friday night a friend and I enjoyed a great treat. The Tubingen Chamber Orchestra from Germany performed music from Mozart, Mendelssohn, Telemann, and Jaan Raats in a Phnom Penh auditorium to a packed house! I'm still not sure how we got tickets, but our music teacher at school had managed to procure 20 tickets, and on short notice there were not a lot of people able to attend. By the time my friend arrived it was standing room only. Fortunately we got a spot leaning against one of the side walls, and then a gentleman rearranged his children so that my friend and I were able to sit down. Even if we'd had to stand for the whole performance it would have been worth it. By the time it finished it was raining again, but fortunately I didn't have very far to ride home in the rain. I've been trying to load a picture, but it doesn't want to happen, so I guess I'll just post this without.

School is going well, with plenty to keep me occupied. The children are really enjoying the variety of songs I have to use in the classroom, and they make a great break in between lessons, especially when they give opportunity for actions or playing air guitar (I've got a few who do a great job at this). Colin Buchanan and Doug Horley songs go down really well, and so do some others I've had for many years.

Well, I've got put music together for this afternoon, and time is fast getting away. Chatting on Skype is great, but it does take time. Still it's time well spent, keeping in touch with friends and family and I had great lines today!

Bye for now


02 September 2009

Rain, rain and more rain

Wow, I think it has rained every day this week, and consequently the temperatures have been delightfully low (mid-high 20s) instead of low 30s. I love it. I think this a result of coming from so many years of drought in Southern Queensland, especially the Toowoomba area. I love the sound of the rain on the tin roofs, even though sometimes you have to send text messages to communicate with someone only 6 feet away because it's soooo lound. I don't love riding my moto in the rain, but it's something you do, and I just have take extra care, especially when it comes to avoiding potholes, which frequently appear in the roads without warning. Our cement road seems to be holding up well to the rainy season, but the point where it connects to the bitumen road at the end is not so great. Still, it's lovely to have the rain, although those whose homes regularly flood don't tend to agree with me.

My staff devotion last week was well received. It was great to just praise God for who He is and all He has done for us. Several people commented that they had enjoyed it.

Well, I'm back on music again for church, only this month I have someone else to play piano and I get to sing, so I'm quite excited about that. We welcomed our new pastors to ICF last Sunday, and we are looking forward to seeing how things move in the coming months. I'm sure God will do great things.

This week has been interesting. As I became increasingly stressed last week, I realised that, once again, I was trying to do this job in my own strength. Yep, relying on my own organisational skills, training and ability to do a job that I can't do on my own. It was amazing the relief I sensed when I confessed to this, and have once again made a concerted effort to start each day by placing it in God's hands, and giving Him a chance to speak to me. It's not easy, as I'm not a morning person these days, and I have to be at school, in the room ready for devotions at 7.30am. Got to keep working and trusting Him to help me with this.

Finally, the fourth grade students presented Elementary Chapel on Tuesday morning this week. The music teacher had been teaching our chosen songs to all the other grades as well, so they went really well, and the kids did a great job. Sorry, no photos. Must remember to take some next time! Praise God for his guidance in planning and for making things run smoothly. It was also great having someone else looking after the sound equipment for me so I could focus on helping the kids with their presentation.

OK, better go and listen to some rain drops as I fall asleep.


26 August 2009

Peace, glorious peace

Oh boy, I think the party that has been going on right outside my gates is finally over. Not bad, it's only 10.15pm. Hooray. The music was so loud the inside windows upstairs were vibrating. Fortunately I got an SMS warning me about it before I left school, so I just stayed a little later than usual and then left the moto at school (since I couldn't have got it into the house without creating havoc) and a good friend picked me up and brought me home. Actually I only had to listen for about 30 minutes, but that was long enough for the peace to be very welcome.

So what else has been going on. Well, it's definitely rainy season. Yesterday morning it actually started to pour rain about 10 minutes before I had to leave the house, and it didn't stop so I had to put the wet weather gear on or arrive at school looking like a drowned rat. Here's a photo of me just about to leave. Actually I was still pretty dry when I got to school (under the rain coat - which is actually a huge poncho that goes on over the top of the backpack. The hood has to go on under the helmet or I'd end up with water running down the back of my neck - not a pleasant experience.) By 8am it has just about stopped, but not before the driveway at school was an inch or two deep in water!

Tomorrow I'm on staff devotions, and I'm thinking of having a simple time of praise and worship. I sometimes feel totally adequate in the face of staff who have Bible College training or who were educated at Christian universities in the US, but I know that's not what is important. What's important is that I'm here because God called me here, and because He gives me the strength to continue. I'm thinking a couple of worship songs, then break into small groups, but with the focus being solely on praising God, for who He is, for what He has done for us, and for what He is doing both at Logos and in the rest of Cambodia. So having made that decision, I guess I'd better go and print out some songs so I can make overheads in the morning instead of wasting paper.

The party is definitely over, and sleep is a distinct possibility now.

Good night!


23 August 2009

Easy to tell school is underway

Sorry folks, life's been hectic as it usually is once school is underway. I'm enjoying the kids, and we have been doing some fun things together, as well as establishing classroom routines and expectations. Hard to believe two weeks have already passed, and this Friday is "Back to School Night" - a chance for parents to meet the teacher and find out what's planned for the year. I won't get home to after 8pm on Friday!

This weekend's frustration was spending the whole day at home waiting for the Landlord to come and do a small repair in the bathroom, only to have him ring after 6pm and say he was sorry he had been busy, and could he come tomorrow. Eventually we agreed he would come that evening, and while one urgent problem is fixed, the one which I requested a repair on some weeks ago is still waiting for finalisation. Please Lord, I need to be more patient.

Then, after finally deciding to get my own internet service at home, a friend made a call for me, only to discover that there were only 6 connections available in this area and they are all used up. Oh the joys of living in Cambodia.

On a positive note I did get a newsletter out this weekend, and I did enjoy reading Frank Peretti's "Monster", which was my relaxation for the weekend. I do love a good suspense story.

OK, I've got a 6.30am start tomorrow so it's past time I was in bed. Have a good week.


13 August 2009

One day to go!

Before the first week of school is officially over that is! It's been a good week, and I'm beginning to get to know the children. Their names are coming more easily this year, and I think that comes with having chatted with their previous teacher and getting a heads up on pronunciations before they actually arrived in the classroom. I also know some of the faces from the playground, and I'm making good progress, except for Phoebe, whom I have called Evelyn (her older sister's name) on a number of occasions - ooops, I apologise to her, but I really must work hard on that one because names are important. I'm getting some of the other girls mixed up as well, but they are all being patient with me.
I had a surprise visit from the Elementary Principal this morning, during my second Language Arts session. As I mentioned to him later, he was fortunate to actually catch me teaching a formal lesson, as most of the early part of the week has been informal or testing. What he did catch was me introducing Reading Response posters. I got these through Scholastic Book Clubs last year, and had been saving them as a great way to start the year. I'm really looking forward to seeing which books the children choose to write/draw about, and to reading/viewing their thoughts and ideas.
Tomorrow I plan to introduce them to their Journals, and to journal writing using the Six Thinking Hats as a reflection tool. I will also be discussing the "Ideas" component of the 6 + 1 Writing Traits. Should be fun. Then we also get to do Buddy Reading tomorrow with Kindergarten (at least I hope we do). Both classes really enjoyed it last year. There will be lots of other things happening tomorrow as well, so I guess I'd better finish up, and get some sleeeeeppp!!!
Hope you're enjoying this.

10 August 2009

One down, many more to go!

What do you get when you put 20 children in one classroom with a teacher and an assistant? Organised chaos! Not really. Actually we had a good day, although it was a little frustrating to be missing 20% of the class. At least I had no students in tears today, unlike my housemate who teachers pre-school 3 year olds and had 4 of them in tears. Hopefuly tomorrow we'll be down to one missing student, and since he's not expected until September sometime it will a matter of just getting on with the job! As I anticipated, I completed a fraction of the tasks that I had planned to do, but that's OK. Better that, than running out of things to do and have bored children on my hands. I now know who all my students will be, and am finally able to print labels, and finalise the filing cabinet and class lists. Tomorrow will be another busy day, so I'm heading to bed very soon, but I wanted to let those who are reading this know that day one went well. Thanks to all who have been praying. Karen

09 August 2009

Ready, set, GO!

In just a little more than eight hours the first day of school (for the 2009-2010 school year) will be underway. The classroom is ready (well almost, but hopefully cleaner will be in bright and early so I can finish it off. Hopefully I can snap a few photos once it's finally ready.
Eventually I'll be welcoming 24 students into my 4th grade classroom, along with my new teaching assistant (well, he's already been welcomed), however tomorrow there will only be 20. Two students will return on Tuesday, and another won't arrive until sometime in September, and there's still one place to be finally allocated. Hopefully by the end of the week I'll have everyone's names at least so I can finalise grade books etc.
I have a plan for the day, which is partly dependent of getting some photocopying done before school (so let's hope the copier doesn't go on strike through overwork!). Actually if I get through all I have planned for tomorrow it will be a miracle, but that's what first days are always like. Hopefully I have enough tasks organised for students to keep them busy while I manage some individual time with each student. Later in the week we'll be getting started on some fun projects, but tomorrow is mostly getting to know you and testing activities. Mondays are good days (even if I don't get any prep periods), since we have Khmer/Computers, and Library/Swimming. I'll be teaching the Computers and Library. Just as well I don't have to teach Khmer or no-one would learn anything, although I did impress our security staff today when I was able tell them I had already eaten in their own language! Well they all smiled at me anyway. I love practising what little Khmer I do know, and our Khmer staff are very willing to help me.
Church this afternoon was good, with a reminder of the importance of forgiveness, both to the person who needs to forgive and the person who is forgiven. The important thing for me to remember is that in forgiving others we set ourselves free.
Well, that's it for today. Time to clean the teeth and head for bed so I'm bright eyed & bushy tailed in the morning. Oh, and cheerful not grumpy goes down well too!

07 August 2009

Starting to Look Like a Classroom

Well today was an interesting day, and if it wasn't as productive as I had hoped, it was certainly worthwhile. We started off with devotions, then moved into administrative stuff, mainly for the US staff. After that we worked through the Child Protection Policy. This very important document was reviewed and discussed and then copies of the agreement distributed for signing. Working with children is a huge responsibility. They are trusted to us by the Lord and their parents, and it is very important that our school, and especially our classrooms are safe places for them to be.
After a short break for a healthy snack of pineapple & watermelon, the upper elementary (Gr 4 & above) and middle & high school teachers had a short workshop on the PDP Cornell note-taking methodology, and discussed how we can implement it into our classrooms. Much of it linked well with guided reading practices in elementary classrooms, but in this case the idea is to get the kids doing independent in their reading/note-taking skills. By the way PDP stands for Pre-During-Post, and it comes out of a uni in the US. I was quite excited by it, because it links perfectly with the fact that part of my fourth grade curriculum is research, so this is a great tool for me to use to help the kids develop their research skills.
After lunch it was off to the new school to see the progress. It's so exciting to see how much progress has been made, and to start visualising ourselves in real classrooms. Then it was back to school to get more stuff done. I do have bulletin boards started and some "welcome" signs in place, but there is lots to do tomorrow if I'm going to be ready for the children to arrive on Monday! I think I need to make a list of things to do when I get to school in the morning so I can cross them off when they are completed!
Meanwhile it's time for bed. No good starting without a good night's rest.
That's all folks!

06 August 2009

Frustration (with myself)

Do you ever have days when you wish you could start all over again? I do! I've just been reminded (again!) that what I say doesn't always come across the way I intend it to, and generally when that happens, what comes out is much harsher that I mean it to be. This is something I really struggle with, because I don't want to hurt people, and I don't want to offend others, but I am often simply too honest and blunt with what I say or how I say it.

What hurts me most when this happens is that it's often not the person concerned who comes to me about things, but usually a third person. Am I really so hard to deal with / scary that people can't come directly to me? Apparently some people think so. I find this really unhelpful, and wish that people would follow Jesus instructions in Matthew 18:15 and speak directly with me rather than involving other poeple. Even at a Christian school that doesn't always happen.

I know James was pretty tough on people who couldn't control their tongues, saying their religion is worthless (James 1:26), and gives pretty explicit instruction on taming the tongue in chapter 3, but I hope that is balanced by 1 John 1:9 where John assures us of God's forgiveness if we confess our sins & seek forgiveness. It's days like this that I have to remember that I am still a "work in progress".

Meanwhile school starts in just 3 days and I have so much to do I can't believe I spent as much time here in the summer as I did. People who have had less time have got much more done than I have. I guess I'd better stop procrastinating and go home and prioritise what I'm going to do tomorrow (after all the meetings are over).


05 August 2009

First Day for Returning Teachers

Yes, I have officially started work! These last days before the students return on Monday will be very busy.

One of the items on the agenda today was a workshop/in-service on the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing. This tool to help teachers and students develop strong writing through direct teaching, dialogue, and assessment of student work, is a required strategy for the school. Unfortunately for me I've been here for 2 1/2 year and this is the first chance I've had to actually do a workshop on it (no-one's fault, just one of those things), although I have been using bits of it in the classroom. It's been really interesting doing the workshop this morning, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow morning when we do the other half.
This afternoon was sign-up for extra-curricular duties, as well as allocation of professional learning groups. I've managed to step away from the sound side of things this year, and am going to stretch myself by helping with Middle School Girls volleyball. I'm also going to be co-ordinating the Scholastic Book Club program across the school, with help from one of the Khmer Teaching Assistants (actually I hope it will be help from more than one person, at least when it comes to placing orders). I will also be leading one of the Professional Learning Groups, which really just means facilitating meetings and encouraging everyone to do the required "observations". Personally I think that the requirement to do one a month is too much, but I guess I'll have to encourage it, and do my best to help it happen. Given that last year a number of us didn't even do one observation, it will be interesting to see what happens.
Well tomorrow is another day, and I've got a few things still to do tonight, so I'd better get on with it. Karen

04 August 2009


One of the joys (or frustrations) or working in an International School is the melting pot of accents that you experience. In our school we have lots of Asians (Cambodian, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani, Malaysian, Singaporean, Chinese, Vietnamese & Filipino0) then we have the Americans and Canadians, and then we have the Aussie (that's me). Challenging for the kids I'm sure, but it gets very annoying very quickly when Canadians try to do what they consider an Aussie accent (which we don't have anyway!!!). I think I'll ignore the perpetrator next time he does it until he speaks to me normally? Lord, grant me patience, please, but do it quickly!!!

03 August 2009

Last days of freedom

Oh No! This time next week school will have started. First day will be over, and I'll have started the process of learning the correct names (and pronunciation) for my 24 new students. Still, that's still six days away, and that means I've got just 5 days to make sure I'm ready to go! Today I found my desk again, and created some sort of order on it, and in the desk drawers and filing cabinet, but I still have four student desks covered in all sorts of "stuff" that must be gone through and put away or thrown out tomorrow!!! Nothing like a deadline to help me stay on task! It was also good to see some more returning teachers arrive today! Welcome back folks.
Finally got the painting finished on Sunday. A big thanks are due to the two guys from the school who did the bulk of the work, although I did have a sore hand and arm after a day and a half of helping out! Still, it was worth it. It looks so fresh and clean, and the house even looks back to it's normal state again after our helper put a few things back in their right places today. She really is a treasure. I'd find life here in Cambodia much more difficult without her. Praise God for a reliable, trustworthy, cheerful house helper.

Yesterday (Sunday) it was also great to have another visitor from our home church, and to share a meal with her and her daughter (who lives in Cambodia too). I'm looking forward to showing them our current school tomorrow, and to sharing another meal with them.
And I just got confirmation of more visitors coming at the end of this month or early next, so that's something else to look forward too.

Well, I'd better finish off, and get some sleep, ready for another busy day tomorrow. Staff meetings & in-services start at 9am on Wednesday morning, so what doesn't get done tomorrow is going to have to be squeezed in between meetings etc. G'night.

01 August 2009

More Painting & "The Shack"

Oh the joys and frustrations of painting in Cambodia. I was sure I had requested that 2 more lots of coloured paint be ordered, but was told this afternoon (when we were almost out) that no mor had been ordered. Fortunately a phone call to our facilities manager resolved the issue, and we made good progress. Hopefully it will be finished tomorow because the start of school is fast approaching!

My "light" reading at the moment is a book called "The Shack". If you haven't read it, I strongly recommend you do. This amazing story (I think it's fiction) challenges the reader to a new consideration of just who God is, what He has done for us, and how we respond to him. I'd love to write more, but I'm falling asleep over the computer, but be watching for more about "The Shack".


PS. (Monday morning) Now I've got a whole container of paint left over!!! And they probably won't take it back! Hmmm. I did want outside my classroom painted (they did inside). Maybe I'll say if I supply the paint it can be done this week. Karen

30 July 2009

Relaxing on the River

On Tuesday evening, I was invited to join my neighbour and our visitors on a boat trip on The river. We headed down to the riverfront by tuk-tuk, along with our food and drinks, and loaded ourselves onto a two level boat. At first we headed down the Tonle Sap to the intersection with the Mekong, then across to the Mekong and along it's bank a little way, passed a fishing village, before turning round and heading back up the Tonle Sap, not quite as far as "The Bridge". There was a delightful breeze, making it a refreshing time, and watching the sun set over the water was beautiful. My camera got quite a work out. Silly me forgot to take spare batteries, but fortunately one of my shipmates had some or I'd have no photos to remember a relaxing evening with friends.
Wednesday saw me busy at school, and then do the class stationery shopping. Unlike in Australia where teachers make a list and all students turn up with basically the same materials, if I did that in Cambodia, my students would turn up with all different shapes and sizes of "notebooks", and some of them wouldn't have anything on the first day, while others still wouldn't have what they needed at the end of the first week. This way we can start work on the first day of school, and I won't end up with crazy piles of notebooks in all different shapes and sizes when it comes to checking, correcting and grading work.
Thursday was busy in the classroom in the morning, followed by another trip to the airport in the afternoon, this time to farewell our visitors. I'm not sure where this week has gone, but I'm definitely going to have to put my head down over the next few days if I'm going to be ready for school when it starts on 10th August.
Saturday will see me busy painting again. Hopefully we can finish it this weekend! It would be really good to have it all done, so I can get everything back in place ready for the busyness that comes when school is in session.
Right now, it's time for bed! Hope you are enjoying this. Karen