31 May 2013

19 days to go ...

I'm having a hard time believing there are just 19 days left of the 2012-2013 school year. It seems like yesterday I came back from Australia full of a head cold, with lots of plans for the year and excited to have a new group of students. In just 4 weeks another year will be done!

So what's going to happen in the next 19 days?

  • Grades for report cards to be finalised and submitted by Friday 7th June
  • End of year concert - Wednesday 19th June
  • Ancient Egypt unit to teach
  • 5 Mathematics units to teach (think we might only get 3 and a bit done though)
  • Some Language Arts activities to finish up
  • Lots of fun and laughter
  • Making memory pages for my students
  • One last public holiday
  • Report cards to go home

What else? Who knows? God does, and He'll provide me with the strength to finish the year well and start preparing for next year.

25 May 2013

Something I've noticed a number of times in recent days ...

During the last few weeks I've seen something on a number of occasions that I hadn't seen before, or at least it hasn't registered. It reminds me of the deep sadness of death in a country where so many do not know Jesus.

Taken from the 4th floor of EWIS looking south.

In Cambodia, when someone dies, everyone in the surrounding neighbourhood knows about it. Funerals are very loud, and often block the whole street, for anything up to seven days. Back in March there was just down the road from the school. This is what it looked like. You'll see here that only half the street is blocked. Fortunately in this area we have fairly wide frontage outside houses, so half of this funeral was there, effectively shutting down two small businesses in the adjacent houses.

Street level.
Notice the white "flag" which is
another significant part of the funeral.
You can imagine the traffic chaos during peak hour when you've got lots of traffic trying to get past, as well as that being the time when many people come to pay their respects and so are trying to park as close as possible.
This I've seen quite often, so that wasn't what was attracting my attention today.

Today I saw the Khmer version of a funeral procession. Only I heard it long before I saw it. The mournful music and regular drum beats which seemed to be getting louder and louder had me wondering what was going on, so I wandered out of my classroom and down to the end of the building. One of the benefits of being on the 4th floor is the bird's eye view that you get of the street. Here's what I saw when I looked down. The all white clothes or white shirts with black pants/skirts are traditional mourning attire.

This open sided truck is a Khmer "hearse".
Along with the casket there will usually be several monks and mourners.
By waiting a little while I was able to capture
more of the scene. This was then followed
by mourners in cars, and also on motos.

I'm not sure why I haven't seen or noticed these before, but I am fairly confident they are heading to Wat Toul Tom Pong which is at the end of our street.

I share this, so that those who have never been to Cambodia might have a glimpse of daily life here in Phnom Penh. Jesus came so that we might have life, life in all its fullness. He also gave us the assurance of know His children will spend eternity with Him. I thank God that He has allowed me to know that life, and the certainty of heaven, and I pray that I might share both with those around me, that they too might know Him. Death is always sad, no matter where it is, but with Christ it is not without hope!

21 May 2013

Plumbing fun

Last night I went to have a shower before bed, to wash some of the humid, sticky, griminess away before heading for a cool night's sleep, but it was not quite that simple. So I turned on the water, and then pressed the button on the hot water system that starts the water flowing. That's when the fun started. Water was flowing all right, but not quite where it should have been.
The old
If you look carefully at the photo on the let you'll spot a silver butten, just below the body of the heater. There was nothing wrong with the button, it worked fine. Unfortunately the casing around it had split and so water was going everywhere. Equally unfortunately, I didn't have the connections to by-pass the system last night, so I took the easy way out and found another bathroom to have my shower!

Fortunately when the unit was installed I had made sure there was an extra safety net in case something like this happened, so I was easily able to turn the water off and not have to turn all the bathroom water supply off. The guy installing it thought I was crazy at the time, but now I'm glad I insisted.

The new
So I managed to disconnect the offending part and tuck it in a corner of my backpack. This afternoon when after school swimming was over I headed home, collected my helmet and headed out on my trusty moto. None of the first shops I tried was able to help me so I headed to an area where I know they had various bathroom fittings. First place said they'd have to order one in for me. Nope, that wasn't going to work. I kind of like my own bathroom! Next place was very helpful. I showed them the part, and what did they do? Did they have a spare? Well, not really, but that wasn't going to stop them making a sale. They did have a new water heater, so they pulled one of those down, found the necessary part, and sold it to me, along with the plumbing tape that seems an essential part of plumbing here in Cambodia!

Now, I'll bet that wouldn't happen in Australia! It's not exactly the same as the old one, but it's installed and works perfectly. In fact, I like this one better that the old one because it has a tap you turn on instead of a button to press. I'm thinking less pieces to go wrong is good!

18 May 2013

Short weeks

May is a month of short weeks here in Cambodia. That can be a good thing, and it can also be not so good.

So what's good about it? Well, all those public holidays scattered through the month give me a great chance to catch up on stuff. For example, last Wednesday I was temporarily completely up to date with all my marking. Yep, everything my students had done for me had been reviewed! Didn't last long, as they handed more papers in on Thursday and we did an English test on Thursday and Friday, but it does feel good when it happens. It also allows me to strategically take some specific time out without feeling guilty. That's important. It's well known that if we keep on and on working a full pace we'll eventually buckle under the strain. If we think back to creation, God planned our week so we would work for 6 days and rest on the 7th. Now, anyone who is a classroom teacher, especially at the primary school level, will know that it's not always easy to take that seventh day every week, but it's definitely God's plan. The trouble is, sometimes my Sunday seems like anything but a day of rest, even if I don't do any school work. If I happen to be involved in leading or playing for a worship service, well that can be stressful, especially if there are songs I don't know so well. It also takes time preparing for it, time that I might otherwise spend on school stuff. Then there's interaction with people, which is part of being part of a church family. It's good, but for introverts like myself it's not exactly restful! And then, sometimes I get to Saturday, and that's when I need my "sabbath" rest. I've worked hard all week, and I'm just ready for a break, so sometimes that's what I'll do. Have a "slow" day on Saturday and then get my planning and prep done before or after church on Sunday. Public holidays make it much easier to take a "sabbath".

OK, so that seems like there are a lot of good things going for the public holidays I get in May. What's the flip side? Again, it's a teacher thing, but I'll bet parents can relate to this one too. Most kids actually thrive on routine. My students learn much more effectively when we are in a routine than when we have days off at odd times. The first holiday this month was on a Wednesday, and that's even worse than one attached to the weekends. You just get moving on things, and then you have a day off and you have to start all over again. Hmmm. Should we move all the holidays to Mondays or Fridays? No, I like my mid-week breather.

The end of the year is fast approaching. We've got just 6 weeks to go, and of those six weeks, two have public holidays, so altogether I have 28 days of school! Eek. We've got report cards to write, a whole Social Studies unit to complete, the end of year concert, and probably somewhere in there we'll also have a major assembly. I also need to plan some fun things for my students, and restock my "Go For Green" shop.

So this weekend is a Saturday down day. Tomorrow's going to be busy, with church, picking up my old keyboard from the repair shop (so we can use it to practice for the concert), grocery shopping, and lesson planning for the coming week. Life's like that!

12 May 2013

Stress Test by Richard L Mabry MD

Why would someone kidnap a surgeon as he leaves the hospital, beat him up, then stow him in the boot of his own car, and head off to kill him? Then, when he miraculously escapes from the moving car before they have a chance to kill him, why would another staff member from the same hospital be murdered on the same night and the body left in boot of his car? What wants Dr. Matt Newman dead? Failing that, who wants him convicted of a murder he didn't commit so he's out of the picture for a long time?

Add to this mix a girlfriend who works for the DA and dumps him at the first sign of trouble, a new job that he can't take because he's a person of interest to the police, a Christian lawyer, a missionary brother, and a caring colleague, and you have the ingredients for a well written mystery.

I'm glad I chose to read this book when I could do so without feeling guilty (i.e. a holiday weekend), because it was hard to put down. The twists and turns of the plot kept me turning the pages. The underlying Christian message that God is in control was incorporated in a tasteful way, with enough detail for the reader to grasp the message without it being overwhelming. The medical content is sufficient for the plot, but not over the top. The characters seem realistic, from the central character, Dr Newman, to the corrupt cop, to the hired thugs, to the lawyer and all those other minor characters.

I can thoroughly recommend this book, and let the reader be warned, that the conclusion is not predictable. You will have to keep reading to the very end. I'll definitely be looking for more books by this author.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

05 May 2013

Bella Voce Spring Concert 2013

The last two weeks have been rather busy, but it has been fun too. With just two weeks to go to the Spring Concert, we were still struggling to pull some of the songs together, so we had practice on both Monday and Tuesday nights for the last two weeks, as well as one last Saturday afternoon. By Tuesday night this week, we were beginning to feel like it might all come together. We had one final rehearsal on Saturday afternoon at the concert venue before our performance that evening. The rehearsal went OK, but I knew there were bits I still wasn't confident of. I snuck a couple of minutes at the piano before the doors opened, and hoped for the best. Here are a couple of shots taken during that final rehearsal.

While the hall wasn't as full as it had been for the Christmas concert there was still a good crowd, and our program was well received. And as for those bits I wasn't sure of, well I nailed them during the performance. Musically we were challenged by several of the pieces this season, especially with the harmonies, but they were fun and I will miss choir practice during the coming weeks until we reconvene for our next season. Instead I will turn my attention back to my piano playing, and have some lessons and get practising again. We will also be starting to work on our class performance for the EWIS end of year concert, so I won't have time to be bored.

And to finish off, here are a couple of shots taken during the actual performance, thanks to a friend of mine.

PostScript: Here's a link to a video of the first half of the concert,
thanks to the folk at the InterContinental Hotel.

01 May 2013

If I could change one thing in the world, I would change … because …

I haven't posted anything about school lately, so I thought I'd share some of my students' thinking.
On Fridays we have a 40 minute time slot called Journal Writing. During that time we sometimes work on completing unfinished writing tasks and other times I ask students to reflect on their learning. Sometimes I'll give a "big question" for them to respond to. Last Friday, after the students had finished writing their "procedures", I asked them to complete two sentences, and then write a story about what the world would be like if they changed that one thing. Today I read their responses and thought I'd share them with you.
Some interesting points:
  • For 9 - 10 year olds, one thing can be a very big thing.
  • While some of the responses were similar, the writing was unique.
  • Many of the students were able to look outside themselves at the world as a whole, while a few were more self-focused. This is neat because it shows that we are making progress toward our school-wide goal of growing great thinkers.
So here is how they completed the sentences (compressed into a single sentence but without any other editing):
I would change the people will be kind to each other in this world because there are not many kind people in this world.

I would change people would be nice and be helpful to each other. I would change this because I want people to be happy.

I would change everybody into a happy life. I would change this because some people would have a lot of unhappy life.

I would change that the world was filled with peace and happiness because people all around the world wants happy, and it our duty to make them happy.

I would change that everyone is rich because I don’t want to see people on the street asking for money and the person that ask for money feel shy too.

I would change everyone is not poor because I don’t want all the people poor because when we poor our life is hard to live...

I would change the robbers or thieves. I would change this because I don’t want to see anyone got killed by the thieves or robbers, and I don’t want them to go to jail.

I would change everyone to have many money because I saw the crook steal the people everywhere.

I would change all the bad people like robbers, murderers, and lots more because I don’t want anyone to be robbed or murdered.

I would change how people treat animals. I would change this because I mostly see people treat dog by hitting it.

I would change a rain in foods, a drink, because the homeless people can eat and everyone don’t need to care about no food again.

I would change the environment because it’s good for us and there won’t be a lot of trash.
I would change the environment to be clean no trash and no pollution, because that keep us healthy and make fresh air.

I would change bad water to fresh water because we need fresh water to survive and right now we go only 0.6% of fresh water and everybody was worry that fresh water will disappear.

I would change about garbage and trash. I would change this because every time I ride my bike near the smelly street, it’s so smelly and dirty.

I would change that only Sunday was a weekend. I would change this because when I have tow weekends, I am so bored and there is nothing to do.

I would change so I have super national powers so I could be number hero and luckingest person ever.

I would change cars, so all the people in the world can dive a sport cars and not drive in old cars or small cars also poor people can drive new cars.