22 October 2015

A well-travelled gift from a school friend

Another school week is over, and I'm enjoying the fact that I have another 3 day weekend. I've still got some marking to catch up on, and some planning and preparation to get done, but I'm feeling like I have a manageable workload again.

Yesterday I actually took an evening off and went out for dinner with an "old" friend. I say "old" not because of our ages, but because we knew each other 30 years ago, and haven't been in face-to-face contact for a long time. Thanks Eric, for making the time to catch up with me in my "home town", and for treating me to an evening out. It was a great time.

Eric also played courier for me, bringing a gift from a classmate from high school days. Some months ago, this friend asked if there was anything she could do for me and my classroom. I knew she loved sewing and making things, and I have long wanted some chair bags for my classroom, to give students a safe place to put folders while they are working on other papers. Up to now, the folders either had to go back in their cubbies, or on the floor under their chair. One required lots of movement (which is not always a bad thing), while the other could be hazardous to the health of the folder.

When I was in Australia at Christmas a few years ago, I found a great chair bag for just $2 in Big W. It was a perfect fit for my special teacher chair, but it was just a bit small for the student chairs. I was going to make them myself, but when Sandra offered, I thought it would be a great project for her, if I could just work out how to get them to Cambodia. Freight was going to be expensive, and with no guarantee they would actually arrive. When Eric mentioned he was coming to visit this month, I quickly asked if he would be willing to bring the chair bags with him. He agreed, and so the sewing began. I photographed and measured the chairs, and sent that information through to Sandra. She got busy, and one of her friends even loaned her a chair that was the same as one of the two types I have in my classroom. The next challenge was to get the completed bags from Sandra in Townsville to Eric in Maryborough (over 1000km). I connected the two of them, and they worked it out. Thank you.

On Monday, the bags finally arrived in Phnom Penh, having travelled from Townsville to Brisbane, to Burpengary, back to Brisbane, then on to Vietnam, Laos, and finally to Cambodia. Happily Eric now has space in his luggage for some souvenirs! Yesterday afternoon, Eric and his travelling companion visited my school, and saw my classroom. The chair bags had finally arrived.

This morning I put them on the backs of the chairs before the students came in. The students weren't sure what they were at first but they found out fairly quickly. With three tests to do today, the bags came in handy, storing the "testing folders" in between rounds of tests. I neglected to take photos of the bags with the folders in them, but they worked beautifully.

Here are a couple of closer views.
The big chairs

The little chairs
So I close this post with a great vote of thanks to my friend and fellow member of the class of 1980 at The Cathedral School of St Anne & St James, Sandra Hubert, and to my friend from my years in Brisbane, Eric Perkins. Thank you Sandra and Eric (and anyone else who helped along the journey of the chair bags).

15 October 2015

Holidays are over

My six day break is almost over. It's almost time for bed, once I post this and hang the washing up to dry. It was a much needed break, and I'm looking forward to seeing my students again tomorrow. I wonder how many will turn up and how many will take the extra day to make a 10 day break. Who knows? I have to be there, so I have lessons planned for those who do come. Meanwhile I thought I'd report back on the achievements of my break.

On Saturday I made a lengthy "To Do" list, which I posted earlier. I'm happy to report that I managed to cross off 39 items out of 50, and one of those remaining I made progress on but cannot complete as it's a Unit Plan which is still a work in progress. Here's what that list looks like now.

Very satisfying
One thing that doesn't appear on this list is to take a mini-vacation. With all I've dealt with since school started, I decided that it would be good to treat myself to a couple of nights in a hotel. I did that, and it was good. I didn't do a lot, mostly staying in my room, and eating in the hotel dining room, but I did try to have a swim one day. When I went down to the main pool there seemed to be quite a few people, including children, already there, so I thought I'd try the roof-top pool instead. That's really more of a spa than a pool, but the spa part wasn't going, so I just relaxed in the water for a while. It was when I was getting out that I got a bit of a fright. I put my foot on the wooden surround of the pool, and next thing I knew it had collapsed underneath my weight. Fortunately I wasn't hurt, but it was a bit worrying. Never mind, I wasn't hurt, and I had enjoyed relaxing and watching the clouds building for a while. Later I enjoyed soaking in a hot bath! Yes, it's one of those things I enjoy occasionally. It used to be a great way to warm up on a cold Toowoomba winter's night. Here in Cambodia, I need to be very cool, in an air-conditioned room preferably, so I can enjoy the warm water. Other things I enjoyed were watching TV while playing Scrabble on the computer, lots of reading (the room was lovely and bright during the day), and some colouring in. One project that didn't make it on the above list was to complete a sample "Book Butterfly". I'd already done all the writing, so it was just the colouring in to make it beautiful, and that was definitely a fun holiday job. Here's the finished product.
I do have another sample that I use with the children, but this one is for a book that I use to teach the whole process. Last year I did it on an overhead transparency using the document camera, but I thought this year it would be good to have one that I can display for the children to refer to as they work on their own posters.

The other not-so-fun thing that I did was visit the dentist. Twice. Not only that, but I've still got two more visits to come. Friday wasn't too bad, with a thorough cleaning and two teeth filled, but today I was there for ninety minutes and had six teeth filled. Grrr. For someone who had no fillings until she was 16 it was a pretty sad state of affairs. Meanwhile I'm thankful for good dental services at about half the price of similar treatment in Australia (or maybe it's better than that). Next time I won't leave it 3 years between checkups!

10 October 2015

School doings

Another month has come and gone. September was a tough month, and October has brought some challenges as well. Thankfully I seem to have recovered fairly well from the dengue. It has taken time, and I still feel like I'm trying to catch up on two weeks of doing little more than I absolutely had to do. We've finally made it to the "holiday season". During October and November I have a total of eleven public holidays, which is something of a relief after just one in the last nine weeks (and that was only two weeks ago). Including the weekend I've got six days off now, followed by one school day then another weekend. The next week we get a holiday on the Friday, and the week after that we get one on the Thursday. I then get a full week, followed by another three day weekend and a four day week. One more full week, plus a Monday and then it's another six day break for Water Festival. After that it's only 3 weeks to our Winter Break (Christmas & New Year), the middle one of which has a holiday on the Thursday!

All those holidays were going to be my sanity preservation for getting my university studies completed, but with dengue on top of no assistant and the chaotic start to the school year I made a difficult decision to withdraw from my studies for this semester. So now, instead of madly trying to catch up on readings and write my second assignment I'm planning a two day mini-holiday, plus some days to catch up on stuff at school.

To help me stay focussed, and to give me the pleasure of crossing things off as I get them done I made a new "To Do" list this morning. Here's what it looks like. Some of these will be fairly quick to do, and others will take longer. Others won't be finished before the break is up, and that's OK too. It will be good to see just how much I can get done.

The list as it was at the start of today's working session.
I didn't take a photo of it when I finished today, so I've marked them off in the photo. 
The green lines represent jobs that are partially completed, or will be completed before I go to bed tonight. It may not seem like a lot of progress, but it is definitely progress.
You'll notice I've actually added more jobs to the list. That happens!
If  you look closely, you'll see that one of the jobs I have to do is to Review Conference Notes & Forward. We had Parent-Teacher Conferences from 2.30 pm to 5.00 pm on Wednesday and Thursday this week, which meant that this list was longer than it would have been on an ordinary week. Life's like that. It is good to meet the parents, and to share some things they can do to help their children make progress. 85% attendance was very satisfying, if tiring. I was grateful for Mr Vichheka's help with translation for those parents who don't speak English.

Tomorrow, after church and lunch, I'm heading a short distance from home to a hotel with a swimming pool where I'm going to stay for two nights. After all that has happened in the past 10 weeks, I feel in need of a real holiday, so I'm having a two day mini-break. Since I dislike travelling out of town on Cambodia's roads I've found a place very close to home that isn't costing a fortune, but which will be very comfortable, and give me the break I need. I'm taking a jigsaw puzzle and some cross-stitch as well as books to read so I won't be bored!

An interesting menu

A friend and I tried out a new (for us) eating place recently. I got quite a few chuckles as I read the menu. I'm posting a couple of pages here. See how many interesting "typos" you can find. I'll post a highlighted version in a few days time. I'm not naming the restaurant, and I will actually be returning because the meal I had was very enjoyable. Just some fun here.

Which item would you like to try?

Construction Progress

Since I last wrote things have been moving along with the centre building. There are now going to be five floors, with PE on the top (5th) floor. Hooray! I have to admit that I wasn't that excited about the thought of PE classes happening right outside my classroom. The 3rd and 4th floors will be vacant at the moment for potential expansion. The lower floors will be our eating area and a play area for the younger children (up to 2nd grade). There's going to be some shuffling of rooms in the elementary building as well, but at this stage I don't have to move! Hoping and praying that continues to be the case.

Meanwhile here are a few photos of what's being happening outside my windows.

Top left and right - almost ready to pour the 4th floor
Bottom left and right - and the pouring is done, just in time for the rain!

Anyone notice any problems here, apart from the poor quality of the photograph?
I should add that it just started raining as I took this.

Top left: This guy is obviously very important, but he certainly doesn't look excited about his work.
Top right: It's a bit hard to see, but the guy in blue is actually tapping on the framing, I suspect to make sure there are no air bubbles in the post, meanwhile the guys in the background are cleaning up a spill!
Bottom left: Cement pouring pipe in-coming.
Bottom right: Some major safety issues here. Note one of these workers is wearing rubber boots, a hard hat, and a harness which is secured to one of the rebar uprights inside the post that is being poured. The other worker is wearing flip flops, has no hard had, or safety harness, even though he's higher. A sad reflection on the value of life here.
Bottom left framing for the uprights.
Top and bottom right: Uprights set, framing removed ready for the next stage.
The forest of steel outside my classroom as they get ready to pour the next floor.
It's all very quiet outside my windows this week as the country observes Pchum Ben. Public holidays are officially from Sunday to Tuesday, but we're off until Friday, when we work one day and then get another weekend. No doubt there will be lots of action on the construction site once the holidays are over.