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Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Getting the hang of it

I have mentioned before that I had considered leaving Cambodia and doing some travelling for a few months. I decided rather, to stay in Cambodia and make some changes in my life.

I have been living for three weeks now in this house and, let's face it, this is Cambodia—even though I have the best house in the street, and fairly much to myself, I am not exactly living in luxury. But then I didn't come to Cambodia to live in luxury, so I'm not complaining.

I get plenty of exercise going to the water pot outside—perhaps that's what's called running water. And I can count on the electricity being out for a few hours at least every second day. The house has no lining anywhere, so when there is a wild storm—often these days—I get a sprinkle of rain inside. My first reaction to that was that I couldn't stay, not with all my electronic technology. But I solved the problem by buying some large sheets of plastic to keep everything dry. Yes, there are challenges. I just need to work through them.

The other change was to drop my English classes at Wat Xam. I was teaching two classes a day. I have started some classes here in the existing classroom under my house. As of this week I will now teach three classes a week.

One is a vocabulary class for teachers. Most teachers here are only two steps ahead of their students. I like to think I'm helping them to take those steps in the right direction.

We have another class that I call a discussion group. We take an article that might be of interest to the group and work our way through it. The articles usually relate to Buddhism.

The third class starts this week and in it we plan to work our way through the Dalai Lama's book, The Compassionate Life. I get a lot from this book each time I read it and I'm sure my students will too. I believe it will also give them a slightly different perspective on Buddhism than the one they're used to.

One of my frustrations here was my inability, after six months now, to speak the language with any fluency. I am happy to report that while I have not achieved fluency, I am starting to get the hang of it. (An idiom that came up in today's teachers class)

It is common here—almost a daily occurrence—that as I ride my bicycle to the market, someone, usually a stranger, will ride alongside and chat. Some just want to spend some time with an exotic creature (me), others want to practise English. Today, a teenage girl came alongside of me and said 'hello'.

I decided it was my turn to practise this time, I said 'Neak doh na?' (Where are you going?)

'Psar' (the market), she replied.

'Ting ai?' (What are you going to buy?)

'Ting ma hope' (buy food), she answered.

The conversation went on from there and at times I got out of my depth, but I was pleased that we managed to stay engaged in Khmer until it was time for her to turn off.

Like I said, I'm getting the hang of it. BTW, if you are wondering why I asked those questions—this is a normal conversation in Cambodia.

If you'd like to see photos of my new home and other aspects of my life in Cambodia, any of the flickr links on the sidebar should take you to something interesting.

Leah howee

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