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.