.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sunday, May 28, 2006


I have a granddaughter

Wonderful news! On Thursday 25th, my first granddaughter, Chloe Elizabeth, was born to Linda and Damon. Of course I'm pretty excited. I previously had four grandchildren—all boys.

Linda had a relatively easy birth, which is what she did last time and Chloe arrived just before 9.00 am, weighing 7lb 6oz.

I congratulate the other grandparents, Rhonda, Mark & Sue and of course congratulate Linda and Damon. And congratulations too to Harry on the birth of his new little sister.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Generation gap

The course my students are studying calls for a discussion on the generation gap. The concept was something new to these Cambodian teenagers. Almost all of them said that their parents were good to them and they loved and respected their parents. They even said that 90% of Cambodian parents allowed their teenage children to do anything they wanted. That was not seen by them as licence to do anything. Most of them would behave at all times in a manner that most Western parents would be pleased with.

So, where do we Westerners go wrong that our teenagers give us such a hard time?


A couple of weeks ago I was waiting in line to buy a ticket at the bus station in Phnom Penh. A Westerner, about 30, approached me and spoke in a quiet voice. He told me that he was stuck here with absolutely no money. He said, 'Dude, If you give me just $1, that will be $1 more than I have now.' He was friendly enough except he annoyed me by continually calling me 'Dude'.

What do you do? On the one hand I feel I'm being touched. On the other hand, if he is genuine I would want to help him. What if I was the one in need, or perhaps my son? A part of me wants to know his story. How did he get to be here with absolutely nothing? But another voice says, 'Give him the dollar and get rid of him.'

What irks me is that $1 is a lot of money to a Khmer beggar. If I gave a Khmer 1,000 reil, they would be more than happy. But that's 30 Australian cents. If a Westerner is genuinely in need, it wouldn't go far. I begrudge giving money to any beggars. I'm not against helping people but begging is a practice that I do not believe should be encouraged. So I am particularly annoyed to give this man $1 here in this country where there are so many native people in genuine need. But I give it to him anyway. He is overjoyed and most appreciative.

I am reminded of the experience I have had in Brisbane. A couple of teenage girls approach me late at night. They say they don't have their bus fare to get home. Could I 'loan' them enough for the fare? I don't ask how they could be so stupid to find themselves in the city without even their fare home. I simply think, 'What if it was my daughter?' Of course I give them the money. But when the same thing happens a month or so later, I realize I'm being had. I say no.

Last Saturday, after I finished on the internet, I had arranged to meet up with a friend from Kompong Chhnang who is studying and working in Phnom Penh. Because of language difficulties I am walking in what I am about to discover is the wrong direction up Sisowat Avenue. I hear a voice behind me, 'Excuse me.' I turn and am being approached by a reasonably well dressed man of about 40. 'Are you Australian,' he asks. He makes polite conversation. I know I am about to be touched again. Westerners don't make polite conversation with strange Westerners unless they want something from them. (Cambodians are different. A friendly Cambodian is normal.)

Sure enough, 'I was robbed last night. I've just been out to the Australian Embassy to arrange to have some money sent over. Until it comes through I have nothing. I need some money to pay the moto driver.' He has hired a moto even though he has no money in his pocket! I would not have the audacity to do that. I would walk back into town. I give him $2. He sees that I have another $1 note. He asks if he can have that too.

What do you do? Once again. I don't want to leave a genuine case stuck. But is he behaving like a genuine case? What would I do under similar circumstances?

Well, first I have travel insurance. I have been travelling for over three years and until this year I have not had travel insurance. But knowing I was going to be spending time in Cambodia, this year I took out insurance. Lonely Planet's 'Cambodia' makes it quite clear, 'Travel insurance...is more essential for Cambodia than for most other parts of Southeast Asia.' Assuming these people are genuine, I wonder if they considered travel insurance before leaving home.

Secondly, I am an unusual traveller in that I travel alone. But I am never alone. I always make friends wherever I visit. There are always local people who will look after me if I am stuck. Regular readers of my blog know that I have been robbed on two occasions and thought I was robbed on another. In each case I had friends I could turn to, to get me through. That is, people who, if they loaned me money, I could repay. I did not have to ask a stranger for a non-repayable 'loan'.

No, I think in both cases, this is the behaviour of a bludger and it saddens me. It saddens me that people come from prosperous societies like Australia or north America. They come to one of the poorest countries in Asia where if anyone is in need of assistance it is the local people. But these people come here and have the hide to beg.

Am I being hard? Well, let me end the story. On Saturday after visiting my friend I returned to the bus station and bought my ticket to go back to Kompong Chhnang. I was sitting waiting for the bus to arrive and there was the American beggar from two weeks before. He started to approach me until he recognized me and slunk off, trying to avoid my gaze.

Now I understand why countries like Thailand insist that travellers have onward/return tickets and/or the means of supporting themselves while in the country. I'll be my sympathetic when asked for such in future.


Most of the teachers of English in Kompong Chhnang are Khmer. One or two have learnt from a native speaker but many are self-taught. Such people will often ask me about a word and I haven't a clue what they are saying. 'Spell it.' I ask. And when they do, the word is nothing like what they are saying. I tell them the correct pronunciation. 'I got that from the phonetic guide in the dictionary.' they say.

'Which dictionary?' I ask. Invariably it is a cheap one published in Cambodia and written by a Cambodian.

Many books for teaching English are published by Cambodians. They are full of incorrect English. One of my students showed me one. The author's name was prefixed with the title 'Prof'. I don't know what he is a professor of. I trust it isn't English.

I would observe that the situation in Thailand is no better.

My class of monks was recently discussing curses in English. We were having a lot of fun, calling each other all sorts of disgusting names that are probably inappropriate for monks to utter. One of the students asked, 'What about the word "vulgar"?'

'Most of the words we are discussing would be labelled "vulgar" in the dictionary.' I explained.

'But isn't "Vulgar you" a curse?' my student asked.

'Never,' I answered. He told me that in a Cambodian published English textbook it said that 'Vulgar you' was a curse.

Well, vulgar you to authors of all such books.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Blowin' in the wind

When I was in Malaysia last year, I met Normand and Ursula who have become dear friends. I have written about them before. Like me, they have retired to travel. They recently visited Cambodia. Ursula sent me the email she sent to all her friends describing their travels. With her permission I am using her email as the basis of this week's blog. I thought you might like to get someone else's perspective on this country. Ursula's first language is not English. However, I have kept my editing to a minimum to retain the flavour of her writing.


The last time I wrote, we were in Bangkok. We are always happy to be there.

We planned to go for a wedding in Cambodia; the son of our best friend Charles married a Cambodian girl. Unfortunately Normand had very bad back pain and was unable to travel then. He takes rest and some therapeutic massages at Wat Pho helped him to recover, but not on time to join the wedding in Phnom Penh. Two weeks later Charles came back from Phnom Penh with the pictures from the wedding and we had the chance to live it through his stories.

Our computer had some very serious virus problems (I told them to buy a Mac—John), we spent three days and many hours at the computer clinic and after they changed all the programs three times we are very happy to have it again, it is a great help for us. With the Wi-Fi connection we are more vulnerable to catch bad things, so we have two anti-virus programs now.

Bangkok offered us once more many faces, markets, a riverside Thai restaurant on the road where we ate papaya salad and sticky rice every day, traditional Thai music in the park, boat rides on the river, Chinatown with all those products we don’t know. While Normand recovers, we take our time to write, answering many letters and messages which we neglected during the time we travel.

And the time came when we packed our back sack, happy to take the road again. By bus we went to Aranya Prathet. Here a motorbike tuk tuk brings us to the Cambodian Border. In a few minutes the road condition changed completely, we enter in a visibly poor country. We spent the night in Poipet, very small town, where the Thai people play their chance and money in the casinos.

The next morning we had difficulties to find a bus to go further. Finally after one hour of discussions and searching, we decided to go sitting on the back with one of the pick ups with the Cambodian people. After 4½ hours on this road, we understand, why the tourists take those minivans for $10. We were completely brown-reddish, covered with the dust from the road. We paid only $4 each, but the Cambodians pay 2000 reil, 50 cents only, ha-ha.

Siem Reap, small very fast developing town. Every body is after us to bring us to Angkor Wat. The first day we spent it by discovering the town and we visited the Miniature Angkor Wat, constructed by a today old man. He speaks very well French and it is a pleasure to listen to his stories, so many things he lived in this country for 40 years of different wars. Our first contact with so many atrocities we discover little by little during our journey.

The next morning we went to the Angkor Wat, many of you have seen it already; I can hardly find the words to describe it to you. It is a real beauty; it is something that touches you deep in your soul, such marvelous temples for the glory of their Gods. Unfortunately the greatness and the holiness of those temples are no more respected today. Too many tourists are walking over those sacred stones and fragments of statues of Buddha, Lingams and Yonis. They come like bee swarms in bunches, creeping in every single space, stealing images here and there with their super cameras. No, the Gods are no more here, gone forever. But we found very quiet places and moments where we had the chance to concentrate on all the fantastic work, the deepness and the spirituality of the place. On the first day we walked 12 kilometers through Angkor, feeling it, spending hours in contact of those stones which tell us so many things. Because of the very hot weather, 38 degrees, we decided to visit the two days after with a tuk tuk, which brought us to the temples outside of Angkor. We had more time to spend on the temple sites and less walking on the hot road. After three days we were full of impressions and very glad to have had the chance to visit Angkor and its beauty. Maybe frustrated to know, that almost all the money goes to Vietnam and the Cambodians seems to have like nothing from the dollars of the thousands tourists who visits Angkor every day.

On Saturday evening Dr Beat Richner, a Swiss pediatrician gives a cello concerto and information of his foundation Kantha Bopha, four pediatric hospitals here in Cambodia. It is very impressive to listen to him, to hear the truth about the medical situation in Cambodia; about the money he receives by almost only donations to treat every year 600,000 sick children. Every month 2,500 children would die if it wasn’t for Kantha Bopha. All services in the four Kantha Bopha hospitals are free. 95 percent of families in Cambodia are too poor to pay for child care. The Kantha Bopha is their one and only chance to grow up healthy. 'Beatocello' is the Mother Teresa of Cambodia. For those who are interested to know more about Kantha Bopha, here is the web site: http://www.beatocello.com.

Two days later we went to Kantha Bopha to give our blood. They need a lot of blood to treat the children affected by the hemorrhagic dengue fever, which is endemic in Cambodia; blood is the only treatment to save their lives. Again we are impressed about this very respectful work.

During the six days we were in Siem Reap, we were brought to the small land mine museum; it belongs to a man who joined the Khmer Rouge when he was 9 years old. I will not go into details, the story is too sad and heavy at the same time. Today, this man’s life is destroyed. He’s in danger of death every hour, but today he works by himself alone, without any sophisticated tool to search for hidden land mines and UXOs in the soil. In his house he and his wife welcome other victims of landmines, but there are too many now, he needs help, but he is alone with all those miseries. Between 4 and 6 million mines lay buried in the Cambodian soil, still today. More than ten years after the entry of democracy in the country, every day 2 Cambodians are victims of those mines, consequences of the war, imagine: over 700 victims each year. We will be in contact with those victims all over the country, they are present and testimonies of the madness of mankind. Nobody can say I am not responsible, we are it all in different ways and once you become conscious of the problem, you are never more the same, knowing means you are part of it.

Our journey continues to Phnom Penh, this time we chose the comfortable air con bus, but on the way, the air con breaks, for a while we have to accept the difficult condition. The windows cannot be open. Very soon, the conductor find the problem, a fuse is broken. In the next village he will change it, we are safe. The route is very nice, not dusty at all. We see a little bit of the real Cambodia as it is still today out of the big centers. Bullock carts, bamboo and straw houses, people carrying water to their homes, children playing naked on the roadside, rice fields as wide the eye can see, dry, very dry. Colorful markets, everybody wears a hat, cycles, motorbikes, boats, only few cars, another world, time stood still somehow. But smiling faces all over, they did not lose their smile, they have nothing or only the most necessary to live, but they smile. We, in our 'sophisticated' society, we have everything and much more, but we lost our smiles. Normand and I, we tried so many times to catch a smile from another western tourist, but almost never we succeed it. When we smile to Cambodians, we harvest the most beautiful and sincere smiles.

Phnom Penh, we stay near the Orussey market, here is the real Cambodian life. We could stroll through those markets for hours. There is always something to see and to discover. The city is ours for sightseeing on foot.

Here I find a very nice and modern dental clinic to fix a crown which is moving since weeks. The dentist made a very professional job and with the cleaning together I pay $27. Real economy when I compare the price in Canada or Switzerland. It is good to know.
Visit of the Royal Palace with its silver pagoda, amazing masterpiece of art. In the evening we like to be with the Cambodians who come to the riverside to enjoy the fresh air after the very hot working day. We eat for the first time lotus flower seeds, very exotic and delicious too.
The visit of the national museum takes us all day long. Here we see many of those statues we missed in the Angkor Temples. They are here, dead treasures, because, once you are in a museum you are definitively dead forever. We sit in the museum garden near the fish ponds, decorated with old stones, stones who have their own stories, but nobody is listening to them any more, people passes by, without touching them with the smallest look.

Saturday, the day our friend John comes to town from Kompong Chhnang where he teaches English in a monastery. We find him in the internet café and happy, we spend some hours together before he goes back.

As usual, I visit a hospital; here it is L’hopital de la Calmette. The test shows, that I have amebas in a cystic form. Again I need some antibiotic to kill them. The doctor recon forts me, here in Cambodia almost everybody has them…but I think for myself, it is not a reason that I catch them too… Normand’s test is negative, very good. I can see that the hospitals here are much like in India. The best way to avoid them is to be very careful.

We had also the honor to meet Jeremie and his young and beautiful Cambodian wife Vannary. We eat together in a French restaurant. During hours we exchanged our life and ideas. We are glad to see them, even we had not the chance to assist their wedding ceremony.

Another bus day, 7 1/2 hours, through villages, rubber plantations, cows on the dry fields, people preparing their fields for the coming rainy season. Again, the air con breaks down and we are in a mobile greenhouse… in an overfull bus, without any possibility to open the windows, we reach Kratie, we look all like steamed lettuce.

Kratie is a small town, very pleasant and here we are on the side of the beautiful Mekong River, for the fifth time we see it again. Very happy to be here, but it is so hot, no wind at all. On this time of the year is dry season and the water of the Mekong is very low. We walk many hundred meters to reach the water. We stand in the Mekong, the water is warm like in a bathtub. From here we observe the sunset, children and women come for their bath, men are there to wash their cows, and time stands still one more time.

We came to Kratie to meet a Swiss missionary. In my village: Gstaad, in Switzerland, I know a missionary, she was in Kratie after she worked in the refugee camps at the border in Thailand for many years, and Daniel is in her footsteps now. We found him, alone in a traditional Khmer house where he lives since almost 4 years. We had the chance to exchange together for two hours, a very precious moment. We were very lucky and happy to know him more and also the work he does here in Kratie.

Almost no tourists come to Kratie to meet missionaries, but for the freshwater dolphins Irrawadi, which are living in the Mekong River. A big business is made around them, particularly with the motorbikes and their drivers. We decided to rent our own motorbike to be free and take our time here. So, like easy riders we discovered the countryside of Kratie. Fifteen kilometers out of town we see the boats waiting for us to go on the Mekong to watch the dolphins. It was too artificial, and we have such a nice souvenir of our daytrip with Peter, Sarah and Campbell on the Mekong River in the 4000 Islands in Laos, that we didn’t go. Instead of dolphin watching we stopped by some small rapids to observe the people preparing for the coming New Year, people are coming here for fishing and enjoy their picnics.

We had a nice day, small villages, laughing children, busy markets, roadside restaurants, take a nap in two hammocks offered by two young ladies to us. Beside us, the majestic Mekong, silently but so strong, and full of life, it flows 42,000 kilometers until it reaches the sea in Vietnam.

On our way back we have a flat… in the middle of nowhere. But there comes an angel on a bicycle, without speaking he signs us to follow him, a few 300 meter further was a small straw house. Here we met a friendly man; he was the 'flat repairer'… once more we are blessed. He speaks well French, is handicapped by a landmine, but we feel not any kind of bitterness in him, he is happy to be alive. After a long chat with him and a professional patched pneumatic tire we continue our road home.

During the night we had a wonderful rain which cools down the air. And early in the morning, it is a little bit 'fresh', but still 32 degrees. We take the bus to go back to Phnom Penh. First we planned to stop in Snuol to meet another couple of missionaries with two children there. But our timing is not good, they left for a forum in Phnom Penh, and we have no news from them. So, we went back to the capital.

Palm Sunday, we are looking for a church, but the only one we find is closed. Nobody can inform us where we could find another one. Every body likes to help, but no one is sure. People sent us to the big Buddhist temple, so we visited it. We meet a young doctor and we speak a long time with him. Today, we are asking us, if he was really a doctor or, as so many others, received his diploma without studying medicine? Anyway, he was a nice man and we could well exchange with him.

Since three days we are in Sihanoukville now. From our balcony we see the Turkish blue sea, the sky full of stars in the night and an almost full moon. The beach is covered with fine white sand. It is not only a vacation place for western tourists but also a beloved holiday station for the Cambodians. Today is the beginning of the Buddhist New Year and many people are already here. For us it is the Easter holiday. We like the place, we take long walks on the beach, and from time to time we are cooling our body into the crystal-clear water, it is like a bit of paradise here. It is not too touristy and overdeveloped like other places in Thailand or Boracay in the Philippines.

Easter Sunday, we would like to go the church. By motorbike we go to the 6 kilometers out of town church. We just arrived when they come out of the church… too late. But, we had the chance to speak for a while with the French priest. He arrived in Cambodia in 1957. And now we know that every church has been destroyed under the Pol Pot regiment. Christianity was forbidden for many years in Cambodia. Even he was caught by the Khmer Rouge, 4 days in the jungle, before they let him free and he escaped to Thailand. For fifteen years he worked in the refugee camp too, before he came back to Sihanoukville.

In our passport we have a brand new visa for Vietnam. On April 20 we are leaving Cambodia already, one month passes to fast. We are happy to be here, those people are worth to be visited and to listen to them, they have a very heavy past but they are strong and full of hope. I wish that they can be free of all the corruption one day, they have the right to have a decent life like every body in this world should have. How many liters of water have to flow in the Mekong until they are 'free'? I don’t know it, but in my heart I love them and wish them the best…

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea?
Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

I am asking you, all of you, to listen carefully to this old song “Blowin' in the wind” by Bob Dylan, and make for those few minutes place in your hearts for all those innocent people who are still suffering today, suffering for atrocities they never asked for. Become conscious of all the injustice in the world is not enough to help them, I know, but thinking about them and even pray for them, is a very little compassion for them, and that, all of us can do it, at least once every day.

Dear friends, humbly, I share those thoughts with all of you. We are glad and thankful that we had the chance to meet every one of you at least once in our life. We wish you happiness and a joyful heart.

Best Regards,

Normand and Ursula

PS: For those who don’t know the song 'Blowin' in the Wind', many people sang it throughout the years, I think however the versions of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and also Peter Paul and Mary are the best.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


Getting enough water? (2)

The Tonle Sap is the river that runs through this province. In the river there are literally thousands of houseboats on which people who are quite poor live. There is no sewage system for them. Their raw sewage goes straight into the river.

Last week the monks in my class at Wat Xam told me that they drink river water that has been boiled. They wanted to know if this is safe. One of them recently spent four days in hospital with stomach troubles and until recently was still not well. I don't know if there is a connection. I told them I didn't think it was safe and followed up by emailling my friend Nathanon in the MSU Food Technology department for advice.

Wat Xam is a fairly big monastery. Because of the school, they have about 130 monks.

They have a well from which they draw water for washing. Rain water might be an option for them when the rainy season arrives shortly. At the moment the little rain we are getting is probably insufficient for their needs.

The monks are supported by the local community which is quite poor. I'm told that bottled water is donated along with their food. The quantity does not go far enough.

Nathanon emailled me back immediately (I was still online) and told me to tell them to stop drinking the river water boiled or not. He pointed out that some bacteria produce toxins that withstand 121C.

The upshot is that the monks are now drinking boiled well water. Perhaps shortly they will switch to rainwater. Neither is 100% safe but considering the poverty here these are the best options available to them.

Another result is that I have downloaded the Wikipedia page on water purification. It prints out as eight A4 pages. It will provide a rich source for our English studies over the next few weeks.

For those who are not familiar with it, Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia. Check it out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page


It was recently reported in the Phnom Penh Post that The US Agency for International Aid was sponsoring a distribution of vitamin A to mothers and children in a village near Battambang. I applaud the US or any other country for giving aid to Cambodia. It sure is needed. But in what form?

In my opinion, giving vitamins reinforces the belief that good health comes from a pill. Vitamin A is, in fact, present in a range of foods. It occurs naturally in eggs, liver and milk. Many plants contain substances called carotenes which our bodies can convert to vitamin A. Carotenes are found in eggplants, carrots, sweet potatoes, dark green leafy vegetables and deep yellow vegetables.

I would be applauding the US Agency for International Aid more loudly if they had embarked on an education program and distributed seeds to help the villagers to become self sufficient in these vegetables thus enabling them to take control of their own health.


Someone had told me where the Kompong Chhnang Post Office was. I thought the building was the telephone exchange. When I rode in the gate I saw an entrance. I parked my bike and walked inside. It sort of looked like a post office but an empty and dirty one. Perhaps it had been abandoned. There was no sign of anyone, nor anything that would indicate that it was actively in use. This was about 2.30 pm.

I walked outside and around the other side of the building. There was another entrance there and a guy who was about to enter said, 'Can I help you?'

'Post Office?' I said.

He told me it was around the other side of the building. So I had been in the right place the first time. I gather this entrance was the telephone exchange. So back I went.

I waited inside a little while and a guy came out. I asked if this was the post office. He said, 'Yes, but the stamp collector is not in.'

I asked when she would return. He didn't know. He said that she went home in the afternoon to cook for her children who go to school in the morning. He rang her on his mobile phone and then informed me that she would come straight down. 'Straight down' may have a different meaning in Cambodia to the way we use it and my class started at 3.00 pm. But she was apparently on her way so I waited. He stayed with me and chatted. He informed me that he was a telecommunications technician and as he worked for the government only received a salary of $35 per month. (Yes, it is cheap to live here but I easily spend more than that each week by myself and he probably has a family to support.) He also said that the 'stamp collector' was a widow with three children, all at school.

Eventually the 'stamp collector' arrived. After she did a few other tasks, she went out back and returned with a franking machine. Like most people in Cambodia (except drivers) she was in no rush. She got some scales, weighed my envelope and printed a stamp on the franking machine. She stuck it on the envelope, took my money and that was that. I asked when it would go. She said, 'Go Phnom Penh today.'

You might think from this that this PO is in a little backwater village. But no, this is the main PO in Kompong Chhnang, a town of about 50,000 people.

I needed to go back again a few days later. I decided to go in the morning after what happened last time. I had two letters to send so I went to the stationery shop first to get a couple of envelopes, (Looked it up first—s'raom sombot—I was proud of myself when they understood.) and took them with me to the PO to address them. There was life this time. There were a few motorcycles parked outside. It looked promising. I went inside. There were about three people there. Not the woman I saw last week (the stamp collector). I sat down and started addressing my letters. There were no other customers, just the three behind the counter. And a TV set going with cartoons. They were pretty excited about me being there. One came out and tried to speak to me in Khmer. I'm not that good yet, so that didn't work. Another had a try and didn't do any better. I had finished addressing my letters before another guy came from out the back and spoke to me in English. 'She go market.' (He said 'mar-ket' with the stress on the last syllable as they do.) 'You wait 10 minutes.'

I waited. She (the stamp collector) returned, weighed the letters, got some stamps out and glued them on my envelopes. Cost less the $A1 to send each letter Airmail to Australia. Everything was fine really. If they had an efficient postal service it would be more popular and I might have had to wait in a queue for ten minutes. I was happy to relax in the chair instead.


If my father, Herbert Shield, was still alive, this week he would be celebrating his 100th birthday. He died at the age of 69 on 22 May 1975. My grandchildren and I are celebrating his birthday. Please feel free to join us: http://grandfatherjohn.blogspot.com/

Monday, May 01, 2006


The best teacher in the world

Who is the best teacher in the world? Do you think it is someone in a university somewhere in a highly developed Western country? I don't. Can you consider the possibility that the best teacher in the world might be your mother?

All students who go to university already have knowledge. Teachers at the university are only adding to that knowledge.

When you are born, how much knowledge do you have? You know how to cry. You know how to suck. You know how to pee and poo. But do you know any words?

By time you are five you can speak and understand your first language quite well. You have a good vocabulary. You can ask for what you want. You can say what you like and don't like. You can tell little stories. You can communicate quite well in that language. You got from no words to all that in five years. You are very clever. But who was your teacher?

Probably your mother.

How did your mother teach you? She talked to you. She talked to you a lot. At first you didn't understand but she still kept talking. Eventually you could understand some of the words and you started to say them yourself. But you didn't always get them right. You had to practise many times before you could say them properly.

For my present students, their first language is Khmer. Did their mothers speak to them in English to teach them Khmer? No, if they spoke in English, my students would have learned to speak English. Their mothers taught them Khmer by speaking to them in Khmer.

When I teach English, I speak to my students in English. They won't always understand me but I'll keep talking to them. When they hear me say words they can try to say them too. They will make mistakes just as they did when they learned Khmer. But if they keep practising they will get better and better.

I want to be a good teacher. I will try to teach them English the way their mothers taught them Khmer. I hope they'll be good students and learn English the way they learned Khmer.


One of my Thai 'sons', Ton, has started a business selling Thai gift items on the internet. His site looks very professional. If you are looking for a gift that is a little different perhaps you will find something on his site. Check it out here: www.orientdecorate.com


My friend La wrote the following paragraphs to explain why Khmer New Year is celebrated in April.

In the past, people celebrated the Khmer New Year in Mikasa month (Khmer month, the same as December) because this month was considered the first month of the year. In ancient times, a year was divided into three seasons, they were cold season, dry season and rainy season. Past leaders thought that the cold season was very cold. It was considered the first season of the year, as after the night, morning is the first time of the day. Dry season was the middle of the year, like midday. Rainy season was the end of the year, like evening.

Many years later, the time of the Khmer New Year was changed (It is uncertain which king was reigning at the time.) and it was held in Chetr month (April), thinking that this month was the first time of the year. Furthermore, our ancestors thought that in December farmers were busy with farming, so they delayed the time of the Khmer New Year from December until April because by then farmers had finished harvesting rice in their fields and already stored it. Everyone was free to go to pagodas (wats), offering food to Buddhist monks and to commit good deeds for the next life and to go elsewhere for pleasure. Since then, the Khmer New Year has always started in April.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?