Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Welcome to Phnom Penh!

COUNTRY: Cambodia
PROJECT: Education and Teaching
WRITTEN BY: Isabelle Khaicy

First Impressions
As soon as you leave Phnom Penh Airport, you are greeted by a bustling city full of life and colour. A wave of humidity washes over you and you are overwhelmed by the busy streets and the smell of the food vendors by the side of every street. As you move through the heart of the city, you see the beautiful architecture of the Khmer-style temples and pagodas, and begin to appreciate the history of the city. Welcome to Phnom Penh!
The first few days in Phnom Penh have been about getting know the city, it's rich history and culture, and visiting the school we will be teaching at for the next few weeks.

Day 1- Tour Day
After an early wake-up, we took a Cyclo ride to visit the Royal Palace, followed by a visit to the Silver Pagoda and the Wat Phnom temple. Lunch was at a restaurant serving traditional Cambodian food including the national dish Amok- a delicious fish with curry.

The next stops were the Choeng Ek killing fields and the Genocide Museum located at the former Tuol Sleng Prison. Both are sites of the torture and execution of thousands of people at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. This was a confronting experience; viewing the remains of many of the victims and the mass graves they were found in, as well as the prison cells where horrific tortures were enacted. Our guide also related her story of growing up during the Pol Pot regime and being separated from her family and forced to work in a camp at only 8 years old.

Due to the recent nature of this history, the majority of people here have been touched by it in some way- and yet the Cambodian people are well known for their resilience and happy nature. This is a nation emerging from a dark past with a great hope for what the future holds.

Dinner was at a restaurant with beautiful views by the Mekong River serving more Cambodian classics.

Day 2- Training Day
We undertook Child Safety Training at the offices of Friends International. Here we learnt about the exploitation of vulnerable children living on the streets and the measures being used to prevent this. Friends International provides training and certification to people at all levels, from corporations to hotel staff and tuk tuk drivers.

They also support their cause while simultaneously providing vocational training for youths in their various establishments, such as Friends restaurant- a popular place to eat. This is where we had lunch and among other things tried a beef with red ants dish!

The last leg of the day saw us learning some of the Khmer language that will be useful during the program, especially in the classroom.

Day 3- First Day at School
We visited the Stung Mean Chey Centre for the first time, and were given a tour by the manager, John. We saw firsthand the location right next to the former dump, and the number of students that the Centre both educates and houses. A crash course in lesson planning later, and we were assigned our classes and sent to observe them.
I will be team-teaching a class of about 35 Grade 2 students. They were very happy to meet us and the observation soon turned into the kids climbing all over us and playing clapping games. We have been given the curriculum and now it's up to us to lesson plan and start teaching!

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