|Time is going quickly, and I am only in this country for a short while. On Tuesday morning, at my prompting, Chea joined me at the hotel to give me a list of how he would like to spend the money I raised. I need to be careful because he is involved in many other projects including building a sewing center in his home village. Previously, he had even mentioned he would like to get a motorbike rather than paying for tuk-tuks all the time.
“The money I raised is not for the sewing center and not for a motorbike,” I said firmly. “It is for the children and the school.”
“I understand,” he said.
Afterwards, we walked to the Canadia Bank where I withdrew several hundred dollars. Cambodians have their own currency, the riel but the currency of trade here is the US dollar. No US coins are used and the riel does not include coins either, so if a person’s change is less than $1, paper riels are given - 4000 riels equals one dollar.
Our first stop was a stationery/bookstore where we purchased students' books, textbooks, 2 boxes of copy paper and other school and office items. Chea then went off to visit various computer stores for quotes while I sipped a cold drink at a road side shop. He agreed with me when I had said, “If I come, they will ask for more money.” After all, in their eyes, I am a rich Caucasian.
When Chea returned he told me the prices were very high and he wanted to talk to his friend who sells computers near the Wat (temple). I hired a tuk-tuk and we returned to the bookstore to pick up the supplies and parted at my hotel with a, “See you later.”
The school operates from 4 pm until 8 pm since many of the children also attend regular school.
Later in the afternoon, I hired a tuk-tuk to take me to the school, but it wasn't easy to find and luckily I had a mobile phone as I had to phone Chea and pass the phone to the driver. After having been there only once there was no hope I could find it again as it is down many dusty lanes that all look the same.
The children at the school are lovely, so friendly and so keen to learn. Each class is working their way through a book so lesson plans aren’t needed. Chea and I did some team teaching with me focusing on pronunciation and him explaining the grammar in Khmer (the local language). Cambodians do not pronounce the ‘r’ sound so Khmer sounds like Camay (the soap). They also do not have the ‘sh’ or ‘th’ sound in their language or pronounce the ‘s’ at the end of words so a lot of work is needed on their pronunciation.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with such a happy group of boys, girls and a few adults. Students are placed by level of English and not age so there are some adults in with six year olds. Some of the children came and wrapped their arms around me at the end of class. They are loving and sweet and could wheedle their way into anyone’s heart.
At the end of classes, the landlord who lives under the computer classroom and also drives tuk-tuk took me back to the hotel. En route there is a tiny Buddhist temple in the center of a traffic circle where people knelt and reverently made offerings.
I am so happy to be back to myself, rested and feeling like I can handle any challenge life puts in front of me. Life is good, very, very good.