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A heart breaker of a week at school...

...starting to see the true side of everything here...but Pub Street is still awesome!

sunny 27 °C

So last week was a bit of a heart breaker at school. On Monday it was Teacher Amelia’s last day, and yes I was successful in making all my kids write on her cards “Teacher Amelia is crazy!” Also, Henry, her boyfriend who got to Siem Reap last Friday, came to school on Amelia’s last day, and a picture of him made it onto almost everyone of Amelia’s goodbye cards, which pissed Amelia off after having been there for six weeks compared to Henry’s one day!

Also on Monday this little girl in my morning class who I love (I know you shouldn’t play favourites, but I think it has something to do with the fact that this girl loves to play Uno – she’s like my long lost sister! I think before I came along the kids just played by putting down random cards but now most of them have the hang of it, so pretty much every break time we play Uno – awesome!) …anyway, Uno girl came to school with a massive cut on her foot and it was really swollen and she was limping. I got her to tell the Khmer teacher what happened (as these kids can barely say the day of the week in English, let alone explain that to me) and she said that her Mum hit her. The stat you hear is that 80% of Cambodian children are abused at home, but basically until that happened, none of us really believed that that could happen to any of our kids at school because they are always so happy. But the fact that this kid and the teacher just told me so matter of factly and weren’t particularly upset about it means it must happen a lot more than we know.

So pretty much since then, I have been a resident doctor (as well as Uno player) every break time. We asked Tammy about it, and she said it does happen a bit but there’s not much you can do, as she’s heard similar stories of abuse, and then when white people interfere the families might pull the kids out of the school or abuse them even more. So all you can really do it treat it with Western techniques (rather than these weird green tea leaf-looking things she had on it) so at least when she goes home with a bandage on it, the parents are aware that we know what’s going on. This kid’s foot has healed up pretty well seeing we have re-dressed it every day for the past week as whenever she gets home from public school the parents must take the bandage off it. But it’s better than nothing. Needless to say, we go through betadine and bandaids at school like they’re going out of style!

Then on Friday last week, this one little girl in my class was absolutely inconsolable (which is rare, these kids are very tough, plus as the kids say themselves “Friday is Funday!”) and again via translation I found out that it was because her Mum and Dad have moved to Bangkok for work. At first all the Khmer teachers were like “it’s ok, her Mum is coming back in April for Khmer New Year”, but she is only coming back for a month and then she is leaving again. She has a little sister at the school too (who by the way couldn’t be more different from her in looks and personality…they have got to have different Daddy’s!), so pretty much they have both been abandoned and are living with their grandparents. I asked (via translation) if they liked living with the grandparents, and they said yes which is good, but all the same, this same girl came to school the day before dressed in a massive winter coat and was practically begging me for new clothes as she was about to pass out from the heat (we have a box of clothes at school that we can give to the kids if they either have something majorly wrong with their clothes, or if they’ve worn the same grotty thing for a few days straight…but it’s hard because really they all need new clothes a thousand times over. Seriously the supposedly poor beggar kids in town are so immaculately presented compared to our kids at school it makes me sick). Anyway, on Friday this girl was inconsolable and it’s so hard as there is literally nothing you can do to make it better. It’s not like her parents have just gone on holidays or anything, plus she can’t understand me, even if I did have good advice for her. Anyway, she was so upset that she fell asleep in my arms, and she stayed there for two hours until we had to wake her up to go home. It was so sad as she became attached to me and didn’t want to leave, so now I have to keep my distance from her, as I’m leaving in two and a half weeks anyway, so I don’t want to make her go through that all over again…it’s so sad ☹

Anyway, aside from all that school is still awesome, I guess that’s all just part of the experience, and it makes you want to be able to help in an ongoing way so much more. Even though my kids can barely speak a full sentence to me, I feel like I already know their personalities and what not. Plus they are hilarious! All of them love the library, or ‘banalai’ in Khmer. Every time the bell rings they all fight to have the honour of carrying my bag and my water bottle to the library. However the problem is that the library is pretty much the central room to our school, so as well as books being kept there, there is also games and the first aid. Stuff. You should see the line we get to treat freckles and moles for the younger kids at break time, all so they can get a coloured bandaid! But seriously, library time is tough, as some of the kids do like to have books read to them and would even choose to do that during break time, but most of them would rather play. Today I spent a lot of time during library yelling out “you are meant to read the books, not build houses with them” but due to their limited English skills, this was to no avail!

Library time is also hilarious due to some of the books the kids choose to read. There is this one book called the Jumbo Fruit Book, and it has very detailed descriptions of every fruit under the sun, but massive colourful pictures of them, so it’s a big winner. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it, but if I had a dollar for each time I would be a very rich woman. They all know the names to basic fruits such as banana and apple and strawberry, but then they get to this page with all these random fruits on it that I have never heard of, and they don’t know how to say them in English, but they all go nuts trying to pretend to eat these crazy looking fruits off the page! Then there are some other books in the library, which are Khmer stories printed in Khmer and English, and not only, is the English translation appalling, but the stories are so messed up! We tell the teachers that they are bad for children, but they just say “it is ok, they are ghost stories”. This one I read last week was about this girl who was an evil spirit who possessed people when they crossed a river, so that they got constipated and died (no joke this is what it said), until this one man who was drunk, didn’t let the evil spirit get off his back, so it turned into a log and then he cut it up and blood came out of the log when he cut it up and then he soaked it in alcohol…seriously, I have not exaggerated it is so messed up! Plus you should see the illustrations; they literally scare the younger kids!

So yes, I guess that’s been school for the past week. In our other Pub Street life, it has just been the usual craziness, especially seeing we had going aways for both Amelia and Mairead. So much fun, but it is so weird now that they are gone, especially Amelia, seeing she was at the same school as us!

Our Khmer teachers also take us out a fair bit on their motos, which is really cool as we get to go to places where there are no ‘barangs’ (foreigners) and we just pay for their meals and petrol or whatever. On Monday, Amelia’s last night they took us to dinner and then Khmer karaoke, which was hilarious as some of them are so shy at school, but not when they are singing in Khmer! Plus the Khmer video clips are so entertaining and dramatic, I could watch them for hours! Amelia and I rocked the few English songs that were on offer, plus there were some Khmer songs that were written phonetically in English letters, so we sang them, which was apparently hilarious! Then on Sunday they took Courtnay and I to West Baray Lake, where we have been before with them actually, where you just chill out in hammocks and eat and swim. Although to be fair, very few Khmers can swim or have ever swum (so hard to imagine in such a hot country!) so we do the swimming and they do the eating. I’ve had a go at some of the real Khmer food that Khmer’s eat, so be proud, but chicken blood is going a bit too far for me! Chansip, Courtnay’s Khmer teacher said the other day “I save the children in Africa, I eat everything!” Hilarious, especially seeing Cambodia is such a first world country and all…

Anyway, Courtnay and I were in bed at 8pm last night watching Gossip Girl (I know, I don’t believe it either, neither does anyone in the house mind you) so we feel we have earned ourselves a night out tonight so better hit the showers. It is unbelievable how fast time flies – this is Court’s last week of school, and after that I only have two more weeks as well ☹

Posted by ljmac2 04:12 Archived in Cambodia Tagged children cambodia siem_reap teacher school pub_street west_baray Comments (0)

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