Saturday, 24 January 2015

JCU teachers making a difference

COUNTRY: Cambodia
PROGRAM: UniBreak Groups
PROJECT: Education
WRITTEN BY: James Cook University

Since arriving in Siem Reap on Thursday 8 Jan, after 3 flights and 12 hours in the air, so much has happened already. We have completed our first week of teaching, gotten to know our students and enjoyed many bumpy tuk tuk rides. We have sampled various delicious local dishes and tested almost every coffee shop in town (‘Sister Srey’ cafe is becoming a favourite amongst many of us). But, most importantly, we have all been very busy developing relationships with our Khmer teachers and with each other. So, where do I begin…

Upon our arrival in Siem Reap, we were greeted by the very friendly Davy and our very patient bus driver who loaded our very heavy luggage into the van and we were off to Jasmin Guest House. We arrived at our guest house, dropped our luggage off, connected to the Wifi (very important) and were taken to what has now become our regular lunch hang out, Neary Khmer. The food here is amazing and we have all been shocked at the service and quality of many of the restaurants and cafes around Siem Reap.

In general we have so far avoided eating the coveted tarantula, snake and scorpion. Maybe next week! :) Lime sodas, mixed fruit shakes and fresh coconuts are regular sights at our lunch table each day. The program has been organised so that we get to meet up each day for lunch. This is a good opportunity to share our experiences with each other. Our group has been divided up between three schools. One is in the Siem Reap township and the other two are a little further out.

The girls at the school in the city are treated to a tuk tuk ride from our very comfy guesthouse to the placement. We expected each school to run their day-to-day activities, lessons and timetable differently, but it has been quite a surprise at just how much each program and the students differ.

The girls who have been placed at the further away schools are driven by minivan at 6:30am for a slightly earlier 7:00am start. Despite these two schools being just 10 minutes apart, they are worlds apart in terms of development. The vast differences will ensure, however, that each of us will take away unique memories from our time here.

The days are long here. We are up at around 5:30am and do not return to the guest house until 5:30pm most days and then there is planning to do and resources to be made. We eat out at restaurants and cafes for dinner most nights; the local food is so varied and delicious! Sometimes if we're feeling super tired we'll just order in pizza and occasionally wash it down with the local Angkor beer.

We have our weekends to sightsee, shop and be pampered. Our group has a keen interest in responsible tourism and has been actively seeking out organisations and products that help the local people lift themselves out of poverty. From fishy foot spas and facials to trips to Phnom Pen and elephant rides- the Australian teachers know how to have a good time :) We can’t believe how quickly this 11 days have flown by. We miss you all!


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