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

27 July 2009

Welcoming New Teachers

Whoa! Is it really only two weeks until school starts? Oh boy, where did those holidays go? It was great to meet all the new teachers today, and to give them a bit of orientation as to where they can find things on the school network, especially important things like Unit Plans. It's great that we have the system, but now it seems like there is so much information it could be overwhelming. Hopefully it wasn't too overwhelming, and they will feel free to ask questions when they don't remember where things are.

It was good to have time with my new assistant this afternoon. He is eager to learn, and eager to help. I hope I can work together to ensure the students in our class get the best possible educatiuon we can give them.

Hooray, the Math Manipulatives inventory is finally done. Now I just need to get the system in place for borrowing from the store room, and also get teachers to add manipulatives that are in their classrooms that aren't on the list. Hopefully we can have that in place before we move to the new school.

Tomorrow's goal is to find homes for the last of the stuff that doesn't yet have a home, and to start planning for the first week. Hopefully my colleague from 3rd grade can give me some tips for seating arrangements, and possible problems so I can head these off before they become problems. Most important, I need to remember that it's God's class, and He will use me as long as I am available to Him. He knows the issues that each child will bring with them, and I know He's bigger than any of them, so I must learn to simply trust Him with each and every child in our class.

That's it for today.


25 July 2009

House Painting in Phnom Penh

Yes, that's right, I really do mean painting the house. Well, the inside anyway. The landlord agreed to pay for the paint & labour & I've managed to get some of the guys from school to help me, and so today we made a great start. We got the ceilings done on the top floor, and the walls of the living space, as well as lots of "cutting in". They are coming back tomorrow, just for the morning, and hope to finish the top floor (my bedroom, hallway, and bathroom). Next weekend it will be the middle floor, and maybe even a start on the ground floor. Hopefully by the time the students start back we will be completely finished. What we've done so far looks really great. It's a pale, fresh, green, which is really refreshing, and pleasing to the eye after the dirty off-white colour it was before. Painting Cambodian style is very much a matter of improvisation. Yes, we do have rollers & brushes, but no such thing as a roller tray (just dip the roller in the huge bucket of paint, drain on the side of the bucket, and off you go. Yes, there were plenty of drips on the floor, but it was amazing how easily they came off! Fortunately there's no carpet! As for drop sheets, well keep dreaming. We do have a couple of large plastic sheets that came off the new lockers at school (what a good idea that was), and apart from that we just moved stuff around.
One good thing, is that it did make me tidy up stuff! I've still got a lot of sorting, filing and throwing out or shredding to do, but I do have a clear work surface now, and plan to keep it that way if I can. It's always good to have a deadline!!!!

Well, I think an early night is in order tonight, so I'll finish off here. Need my beauty sleep so I can play the piano for church tomorrow afternoon without too many mistakes.

21 July 2009


Yes, rats. You know, those four legged creatures with a pointy nose with long whiskers & a long tail, that love to eat rubbish, carry disease, and who knows what else. Yes, I know that God must have had a reason when He created them, and I know they live in the area, but I really wasn't prepared to find a 20cm long dead one just outside my door on the balcony (and I'm on the 2nd floor)! Yucky!! At least it was outside the door! And the 20cm was not including the tail, which was probably about the same length as the body. He was big, fat, black and "fortunately" very dead. Thank you to my next door neighbour who very kindly came and disposed of the body.
Well, that's just part of the joys of living in a third world country, even in the city. Fortunately for me it doesn't happen every day, or even every month, and I seem to have been able to keep them out of the house (we are pretty vigilant about keeping doors & screens closed though).
Fortunately life is not all nasty surprises. Today's pleasure (apart from sorting out Math manipulatives) was the arrival of visitors from Australia, one of whom I hadn't seen for about 4 years. It was so good to see them here. I'm looking forward to spending some time with them.
Learning another language is hard work! I'm slowing adding to my vocabulary, and my teacher says my pronunciation is good, but my memory is really struggling. I keep getting words mixed up, or putting the words in the wrong order. I'm very thankful that my teacher is so patient with me.
Well, once again, time has got away from me, so I'd better finish off. Lots to do tomorrow as usual, so I'm going to try and get an early start! Hmm, we'll believe that when it happens.

18 July 2009

Rain, glorious rain

OK, I confess, that I love the sound of rain on the tin roofs. Yes, it's raining at the moment, and I'm enjoying it. I think it's a consequence of living with drought for so many years. Fortunately for me it's not coming in through the windows today, and my house doesn't flood. Sad to say, this isn't the situation for all people in Cambodia.

It's great being on "holidays". Yesterday I had fun unpacking boxes of new teaching materials. Only a teacher could get excited about place value charts, and MABs, and Judy clocks, etc. Hopefully these things will help ensure that our students understand mathematical concepts more easily. Praise God that we have been able to strategically build our collection of math manipulatives to go with our new math program in the elementary grades.
Watch a fun movie last night - "Marley & Me" - although it was a little bit sad in places too. Tonight, I'm going to enjoy eating out with friends.
Well, I keep promising myself I'll do some tidying up, so I'm going to go and see what I can get done in the next hour or so. I'm a great procrastinator! Hmm. I need to work on that.

Bye for now

16 July 2009

Time Flies

Wow! It's hard to believe another week is almost over. I'm still trying to get those new Khmer words to stick in my mind, as well as getting the pronunciation and intonations right. What a blessing it is to have such a patient teacher. Thanks God, for my patient language teacher, who is comfortable enough with me that we can laugh together at my mistakes. I think the hardest part though is the memorisation of the words and their meanings, but I'll keep trying.
One good thing to come out of this struggle with Khmer is that I am sure that I'll be much more understanding of my ESL students in the future. 10 new words in one day is very hard work. Hmm, let me think how I can help them to cope with all the new vocabulary I'm going to be throwing their way this year. I guess repetition is going to be a big part of it. Not introducing too many new words at once might help too. Finally, I need to try and find links to what they already know. Alright, there's no rocket science in that, but I've got to try.

So what else have I been up to. Well, planning for the new year is definitely underway. Today's main achievement was establishing a picture of my student's reading levels, and it's not really very pretty. Once again most of them appear able to read aloud fluently but have a lot of difficulty with comprehension. Vocabulary is definitely an issue, and I guess that's compounded by the fact that many of the students' life experiences don't include things that are common in a Western culture. Still, the data I have is 10 months old, so it's possible there have been substantial improvements in that time. Let's hope so. I also hope I can get someone to come and help me with the running records.
I'm sure Math is my favourite subject! I started my year plan for that today as well, and I'm really excited about the materials I have, and the opportunities for my students to explore Maths concepts, rather than just me teaching them all things and hoping they memorise them. I plan to use manipulatives whenever I can, but also to challenge students to find their own ways of solving problems. The thing I have to remember is that much of what I want them to do is going to be new for them, and I can't expect them to be where last year's class finished! I know, it's basic, but it's easy to forget.
Well, I'm looking forward to another productive day tomorrow, so I'll finish off for now.

12 July 2009


I love the Psalms. They are such a great way to remind myself of just how much God has done for me, and also how much I can trust Him with every aspect of my life. This evening's sermon was on Psalms 98 & 99, and it was great to be reminded of the different characteristics of God, especially as our King (the King of Kings), and of how we need to respond to Him.
One of the books I'm reading at the moment is a novel about the end times, and it is a little scary to think just how much control there could be of the world, and in reality, it's potentially not that far away. One of the questions I'm pondering is just how I would respond if there was a major effort by the government to control the church, and to control the type of message that is preached. I hope that I would be able to stand up for what I know is true, and that I would be strong in the face of persecution. I hope that I don't have to face that situation, but at the same time, I hope that in Christ's strength, I could stand strong and steadfast for Him.
Another book I read over my holidays made me think about what heaven is like. I'd read another book by the same author before, and it certainly challenged me. OK, it was a novel, and therefore we have no way of knowing that's what it's really like, but I found it interesting. I haven't thought a lot about heaven, but I do know, from what I've read, that I want to go there!
The same book provided a short picture of what the author thought hell would be like, and for a non-Christian that chapter could have been really scary. Again, it was fiction, but it was founded in the scriptural accounts. Definitely interesting.
Well, I've been rather deep and meaningful this evening. Maybe tomorrow I'll write my own Psalm. You'll just have to wait and see. Karen

11 July 2009


It's hard to believe that Saturday is almost over. This morning I went for another bike ride out to the new school. It's great seeing the progress that is being made. I think they must be getting close to putting the roof on the top floor. The scaffolding here, while just the same as on most construction sites in the country, has to be seen to be believed. It's all timber, and not neatly cut timber that bolts securely together, but all different shapes and sizes. I'm glad I don't have to climb on it. It was a hard ride today, and even with a 7.15am start was very hot. I was very glad to get home and have a cool drink!
Other jobs just haven't got done today. I ended up resting for most of the morning, and then spent the afternoon playing with the computer. I did manage to talk to Mum on Skype, which was good. She sounded good, and is looking forward to getting her camper trailer, as well as keeping busy working in the garden. It's been a hard year for the garden with so much rain, but she doesn't give up! All the rain has also made golf a challenge, and I had to chuckle at her story of buggies getting bogged on the golf course. Sometimes you have to wonder if some people really think before they do things.
Well, I still have to make sure I've got music organised for tomorrow, so I'd better get on with that. After that, maybe I'll tackle some of the "filing" that's been mounting up over the school year. I've got to get a better system in place for keeping on top of this stuff. Better do some work on my Khmer language study tomorrow as well, or I'll never make any progress.
That's it for now.

08 July 2009

Just getting started

OK, so I've finally started a Blog. I'm really new to this, but I do like writing, so I thought I should give it a go. If I do this regularly, I think I'll be able to keep my newsletters shorter and just direct interested people to my blog. We'll see if that works. Well, I've got a stack of things to do today - including creating a little more order out of chaos in my classroom if I'm to be ready for the new school year to start on 10th August. I'm getting used to starting a year in the middle of the year, but I'm not getting used to the holiday system here, where school holidays (apart from "Summer" are tied to Cambodian holidays, and if there's no Cambodian holiday then just hang in there! Well, I'd better stop procrastinating and get on with the job. Karen