30 August 2010

First day

Hooray! I survived the first day of school. OK, after 3 months off it was really hard work. I was woken by the alarm clock at 5.35am this morning, showered, breakfasted over a quiet time, packed my lunch, and was off to school by 6.25am! There was quite a bit of traffic about, but I had a good run, and by 6.50am was getting settled in my classroom. Once my Khmer teaching partner arrived, we went down to the office to collect the rest of our "copying", so I now have a full set of books for Math, Language Arts, and Handwriting. At 7.30am it was downstairs for the singing of the Cambodian national anthem, followed by a  few words from the principal, then off to the classroom. Today was a day for getting routines started, and getting to know the children, and it was challenging. Some of the children were very eager to chatter and so easier to get to know, while others were silent almost all day. It was a day of discovering some of the children's abilities in some areas, and simply trying to get to know them a little. At lunch time I forgot that I was on duty in the playground for the second 20 minutes, but I think that's allowed on the first day (better not forget next Monday) since I got there for most of it! The majority of my children are Khmer, with a few Koreans, and a few of mixed races. Some speak English fluently, while others are still struggling to understand what I say, much less answer questions. I pray that God will help me to understand each of the children, and their individual needs, and to know the best ways to meet those needs. I also pray that He will help me be very patient, gentle and loving with all my students.

Thanks to all those who prayed for me today! As I said yesterday on Facebook, I can only do this in God's strength. In our weakness, He is strong. And now, it's time I reviewed tomorrow's plans, and then it will be off to bed!

28 August 2010

Rainy season adventures

After a busy morning, and a productive early afternoon, I headed down to the gym for some extra exercise (I'd been to a garage sale on my bicycle in the morning). The sky was looking heavy as I left home, but I arrived safely before the rain started. I was only about 3 minutes into my workout when the rain started, lightly at first, but then very heavily. It continued to rain heavily for the next 20-30 minutes, and was still raining enough for me to put my raincoat on when I left the gym. The bike started OK, and I headed out onto the roads.

There is a main road that directly links the location of the gym with the suburb I live in, which is also the road that I generally use going to and from school. I know that road floods sometimes, but I headed up it, hoping for the best. Not a good idea! There is an alternative route, which while it is longer, is much higher (it's actually known as the dike road for fairly obvious reasons). I will definitely be taking that route in the future.

At first the road wasn't too bad, and for a while I was able to follow a 4WD up the highest part of the road without too much difficulty. It was very annoying to see several young men riding their fancy motor cycles through the flood waters at dangerous speeds, usually with no helmets on, and definitely with no consideration for anyone who may be affected their actions. They were just out to have fun! I learned a number of rainy seasons ago, that if I have to go through flood water, it's important to put the bike in a low gear (1st or 2nd) and then just keep going at an even pace as far as possible. Stopping should be avoided if possible, especially in deeper water. So I kept tootling along at 5-10km/hr, and was doing OK until I was about 1 km from home. Then the bike started coughing and sputtering. By this stage I'd been driving through water that was up to my ankles with my feet on the pegs. Not all the time, but definitely for several hundred metres. I managed to keep the bike going, just, and eventually made it home (taking the long route once I got to Toul Kork to avoid more water), and I was even mostly dry (apart from my feet & shoes). I'd love to have taken some photos, but I was too busy just trying to get home safely. I did however take some once I'd reached home!

These are some photos of the road I live on. Notice the reflection in the water. This water isn't going anywhere fast. Most driveways on my street are built up quite a bit to prevent the water getting into the houses and yards, but you can see in the top photo on the right hand side, the driveway of the house two doors down from mine. Quite a bit of their yard was flooded.
If you look very carefully at the moto driver in the second photo you will notice something that I see quite often in flooded situations. The moto driver has actually tucked his legs up just in front of the seat. Now when you think that flood water in Phnom Penh is almost always tainted by sewerage maybe it's not such a silly action. I've haven't done it yet, and I don't plan on doing it anytime soon. I'd rather just wash my feet and legs thoroughly when I get home or to where I'm going.

The other challenging part of this afternoon's rain is that I am still, 3 hrs after it stopped, mopping up water that is seeping through the walls into my kitchen! I've got at least 1/3 of a bucket so far, and it doesn't seem to be slowing! At least that is clean water (in fact it is crystal clear in the bucket to a depth of about 3 inches in a 12 inch diameter bucket).

So if you're looking for a watery adventure, try Phnom Penh during the rainy season. Floods can almost certainly be delivered.

27 August 2010

What are you thankful for?

This afternoon I met with a friend whom I haven't seen since late May, and was asked the obvious question, "How are you going?". My initial response was that I was hot, sweaty, and frustrated, but as the conversation went on, it was great to remember just some of the experiences I've had over the "summer" break, and even just this week. I have so many things to be thankful for. Here's just a few:
  • Time in Australia with family and friends
  • Refresh Thailand 2010!
  • Good relationships with people at Logos (even though I don't work there)
  • A sense of God's healing that has allowed me to go out to Logos and feel no bitterness or anger.
  • An opportunity to make a fresh start, teaching 3rd grade, at East-West.
  • The beginning relationships with colleagues at EWIS.
  • My great classroom at EWIS.
  • Mr Dy - My Khmer teaching partner (often know as Teaching Assistants but I feel it is a partnership rather than just "assisting" because there is no way I could teach in Khmer and one aim of EWIS is a truly bi-lingual education for our students).
  • Gym membership - good for my physical, mental, and emotional health.
  • The home group that meets at my place (and the new members who have joined us).
  • A great house helper.
  • Above all, a God who knows everything about me, and yet still loves me unconditionally!
I could go on, but I think that's a good start. I hope to get some photo of my classroom posted sometime soon, and to introduce you to Mr Dy. Meanwhile, what are you thankful for??

23 August 2010

Day one - minus children

Yes, after almost 3 months of "holidays", I have finally had my first day at East-West International School (EWIS). Orientation started at 9am with a brief introduction to the school and some getting to know you activities, followed by a short break with a snack of bananas and/or bread rolls. My head is spinning with the number of new names (about 40) I need to learn! So far I know the other 3rd grade teacher, the principal, the head of the secondary school, and one or two others. And that's just the staff. I'll have 44 children's names to learn as well (only 22 in my class, but I'll teach them all math).

After the break we got some information to help us plan, like lists of students, class schedules, attendance books, and plan books. Then it was show time! I've often commented about the amount of luggage I bring back with me, but our principal must have had much fun packing her bags. It is really hard to get good quality books here, and especially non-fiction books to support the curriculum, so that's something we often go hunting for in Australia. The other challenge is that non-fiction books for children are often very expensive. It was great to see some of the wonderful resources that our principal had been able to obtain, and to hear the story of generosity of different people.

After that it was time to get together with the other 3rd grade teacher and one of last year's second grade teachers and try to sort out which students would be in each class. Then we put some time into our schedules, and working out who would teach what and when. It's ended up that I will teach Math while my partner teaches Science/Social Studies, although I'll need to help with some of the planning for those since Math planning tends to be relatively simple whereas Science/Social Studies can be very time consuming to plan & prepare for. After that we split up, and had lunch and started considering some of the things we needed to do individually.

My trip home was interesting. I got down to the main road that I follow home, and discovered I'd left my lunch box at school. Ooops, can't have that, so I went back for it. When I got back downstairs with my lunchbox, some of the Cambodian staff near the gate pointed out the my rear tyre was flat! Oh no, I don't know where to take it on this side of town. Anyway they pointed out a place not far away, and one of the other teachers helped me by pushing it across the road for me. Turned out I couldn't get away with a patch this time. I needed a whole new tube, so off the repair man went on his moto to buy a new tube for me, and then came back and installed it. 20 minutes or so later I was headed home (again!). As I neared Toul Kork, the rain that had been threatening all afternoon started, but fortunately it wasn't too heavy straight away and I managed to reach home safely without getting drenched.

Tomorrow will be another busy day, and I'm looking forward to it! I wonder what adventures God has in store for me. Praise God for all His blessings, and thanks to all who prayed for my first day.

20 August 2010

Last weekend of freedom

School starts on Monday, for teachers at least. I think the children come the following Monday. It's hard to believe that it's a month since I arrived back in Phnom Penh, but it is. It's been a good month with time to go to the gym, and catch up with friends, and get my "house" in order ready for the start of the school year. I now have just two days before I start my new routines. I'm excited! Meanwhile I'm going to enjoy those last two days.

This evening I had two friends over for pizza and a movie. They are both teachers at Logos, and so it's the end of week two for them, and when they arrived they were definitely ready for a low key evening. It was fun catching up, and hearing some of the challenges they are facing this year. Watching "Love Comes Softly" was great too! Disappointing that it deviates from the original book to some extent, but enjoyable anyway. Some beautiful scenery! God's creation is just amazing, and He lets us enjoy it! In fact He wants us to enjoy it and take care of it.

Tomorrow I have a busy day planned. Gym in the morning, lunch with another friend from Logos (to celebrate her academic success in her pre-masters course), then a newsletter to write, maybe a blog and and a phone call or two, and then maybe another movie night (with a different friend). Hmm sounds like a fun day to me. We'll see what actually happens!

Sunday I plan to go to the gym, then maybe out for lunch, then maybe home for a "nanna nap", then off to the afternoon service at the ICF. Sounds like a good Sunday to me. Hopefully I'll get an early night as I've got an early start planned for Monday. Don't have to be at school until 9am, but need to get into an early start routine, so I'm thinking that a workout before school might just work. We will see.

Meanwhile, I'm praising God for all He has taught me over the last couple of months. He has been faithful in so many ways, and I know that He will continue to be faithful. Where better to be, than in the place He has called me to, doing the work He has called me to do! Thanks Lord.

13 August 2010

Today I had the "pleasure" of meeting several Cambodian policemen! Ooops. As soon as I got around that corner I knew something was wrong. It was too easy.

Let me go back a couple hours and I head down to the gym. Traffic was a little heavy but not too bad. Did 20 minutes on the treadmill and 10 minutes on the cross-trainer, then swam 20 laps of the pool. All in all, apart from having to disturb the workmen so I could get my shoes & toiletries (& put them away again), a pleasant hour. As I had invited a friend for lunch, I decided to duck across a few blocks to Lucky (local supermarket chain), where all went smoothly until I took my sunglasses out of my handbag for the trip home! Somehow the frame had snapped and one of the lenses was falling out. I hate riding without sunnies! Oh well, life's like that.

Now getting out of City Mall and back on the road I wanted isn't that easy. You can't turn right and you can't make U-turns, and so I just kept going down to what I thought was a round about, only it wasn't. Eventually I managed to get myself heading roughly in the direction I wanted to go, and I saw a little blue and white sign with two arrows which I thought meant I was going the right way. Unfortunately I missed a "no entry" sign on the same stretch of road, and when I rounded the corner I was promptly stopped by the policeman or two. I wasn't going to try and avoid him like many riders do, so I stopped, turned the bike off, and politely asked what I had done wrong. They very politely showed me what I'd done wrong and sent me over to the "boss" who was in charge of the money tin. He wanted to see my moto card (to prove I own the bike) and my license. Fortunately both were in order and so after charging me 5000R I was allowed to continue on my way.

No further problems along the way! Had a lovely time with my friend over lunch, catching up on things. Then late this afternoon I enjoyed listening to and watching a tremendous thunderstorm. Oops neglected to close the back door, and so almost had a flood in the kitchen. Fortunately I discovered it in time and was able to sweep most of the water out. Oops it's changed direction and now it's coming in the front doors & windows (across a metre wide balcony). These are the times when I truly thank God that He has seen fit to give me the home I live in, with a strong roof overhead, and doors & windows to close. There are many in Phnom Penh who will have a very uncomfortable night tonight. They live under tarpaulins or leaking tin roofs, and their homes flood because the town storm water drainage system is inadequate at best.

Well, that's another day in Phnom Penh! Only two more weekends and one more week before I start my new job. Now that will be exciting!

09 August 2010

Is that boat sinking?

Welcome to the new and improved Phnom Penh riverfront! Above is the view from one of my favourite restaurants in town. For a number of months the area was fenced off, and then for several more months it was like a desert, but now it seems to be complete, although I think some of the palm trees have some re-establishing to do - they look a bit sad at the moment, but they haven't been in very long. The riverfront was actually rather quiet as a friend and I sat and enjoyed our lunch yesterday, but sometimes I like to go there on a Sunday evening after church and it's fun watching the locals enjoying the open space. In a city where most houses have very little yard space, if any, and most of what they do have is paved for parking cars and motos, the people tend to gather in parks like this in the evenings to exercise and socialise.

What caught our attention yesterday, and was the cause of this photo being taken at all, is the boat in the centre. If you look at the picture below you can see two boats. The one on the other side of the river looks as you would expect it to, but the one in the foreground seems to be sinking! It only seems that way though. It was actually travelling at quite a pace up the river. We saw another one a while later that looked much the same. Not sure what the story is, but as I looked back at the photos I was reminded that when it seems like we are going to drown in all our cares and struggles, we need to refocus our attention back on Jesus, and let Him take care of them.

06 August 2010

Found it!

Did you ever put something in a safe place, only to be unable to find it again 2 days later? Never? I don't believe you! Well, OK, maybe I believe you, but I seem to do it all the time, only sometimes it's not 2 days, it's 2 weeks, or months, and then it's really frustrating.

One of the challenges of changing schools has been that I brought home a number of the resources I've bought over the years, and then had to find places for them. Obviously some will end up in my new classroom, but others will live at home, for reference & planning purposes. That means that I have to find homes for these treasures (temporary or permanent), and sadly some things have been misplaced along the way. Like the CD that goes with a maths program which we don't use at either school, but which has some great resources in it. I've got two levels (3B & 4A) and each teacher edition comes with a resource CD. Well I found the level 4A CD without too many problems, but could I find the level 3B one? No way. After hunting through all the "piles" and putting all my CDs & DVDs in one place I still couldn't find it. Eventually, in utter frustration, I decided to have one last book inside each teacher edition (they have pockets for the CDs). So where was the 3B CD - for some obscure reason, which I'll probably never remember, it was inside the level 4A book! Hooray! At least I found it.

My main goal for this weekend, apart from phoning my mother, and going to the gym, is to sort and find homes for all the "junk" that has accumulated in my living room, and to put the stuff that has to go to school in a box so it's easy to take! Hmm. Watch this space to see if I can actually achieve my goal. Meanwhile, if you have "lost" something, don't look in the sensible places, look in the weird places. Who knows what you might find!

04 August 2010

Love in Action

Today at the gym I was inspired and challenged by a delightful example of love in action. When I arrived there was a lady getting changed with some assistance in the change room, and a short while later she came out to the gym, and a gentleman (not the trainer) helped that lady get started on one of the treadmills. I think I noticed this lady because there are quite clear notices saying no "bodyguards/maids/children" are allowed in the gym, and the helper seemed to be staying very close. As I continued with my workout, I noticed something I hadn't expected. The lady doing the workout needed quite a bit of assistance with some tasks, and I suspect she is recovering from some sort of illness. That wasn't what impressed me though. As she moved through a variety activities, the gentleman continued to help her in the most loving way. Later they joined me in the pool, and again I really enjoyed seeing his gentle care for this lady. I praise God for this reminder today that what we first see is not necessarily the whole story, and the reminder to slow down, and look for the whole picture. Don't worry, I wasn't staring, but with mirrors all around, it was easy to observe this beautiful demonstration of love. Thanks Lord.

01 August 2010

A Different Sunday in Cambodia

My usual Sunday in Cambodia involves a sleep in and a relaxed morning, occasionally phoning Australia, catching up on e-mails, sometimes some prep for school or some grading, and then off to church mid-afternoon. The service I usually attend starts at 4pm, so if I'm on worship team (leading, singing or playing piano), then I'll leave home around 2.30pm, otherwise I leave about 3.30pm. Not today!

Today, after a short night (went to bed early, but took a long time to go to sleep), it was up at 7.10am to have breakfast and get ready to head off for the morning service. That meant leaving home about 8.00am since I was joining a morning service worship team (interesting - much more traffic then than I usually experience on Sundays). It was fun to be part of a team of 3 musicians and 3 singers this morning, and the message was challenging as well. Thinking about evangelism. Pastor Richard raised some interesting ideas, but I think that the main idea which struck me was that we are all called to evangelise, but that doesn't mean following a formula or preaching at someone or even simply having them pray to become a Christian, but rather that we are to share with them, in a wide variety of ways, the good news that the Kingdom of God is here, and to show them how they can be part of it. There was a lot more to it than that, but that's a starting point. If you Google ICF Phnom Penh sometime next week you should be able to download the message and hear it for yourself.

After the service I invited some friends home for lunch and had a great time with them. They are both on staff at ISPP where I did my final QUT practicum, so we have a profession in common as well as other things. After they left I had a more normal Sunday afternoon, checking e-mails, reading Facebook and even playing Scrabble on Facebook.

Church this afternoon was a special treat as worship was led by a talented couple who are friends of our Youth Pastor. Despite the power going off in the middle of the service (that's Phnom Penh for you), it was a blessed time of worship. It was also great to see a number of folk back both this morning and afternoon after the holidays/home assignments (OK, so I only got back a week ago, but some of these people had been away 6-12 months).

Not so unusual really, but a good day! The coming week is starting to fill up with all sorts of people to meet up with and jobs to do, so I'm looking forward to it. Bye for now. Karen