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.