Some routine sets in
Another week went by very fast. Life is getting more routinized, although I do not yet have a fixed schedule. There were a lot of meetings with individual faculty and meetings of committees and team teachers. Nancy Hooyman from the University of Washington is here to meet with faculty about courses and does workshops on how to put a syllabus together and course planning. It is all a great support to the faculty here and great for me to have another person here as well to do things with in Phnom Penh.
We continue to eat in great places, yesterday we had a dinner in a Vietnamese restaurant and had a thin pancake filled with bean sprouts, it was served with all kinds of greens that the pieces of pancake or wrapped in! We shared and had different kinds of tofu, and fried spring rolls. Delicious and always cheap. Glass of wine and dinner $6.00.
Saturday night we went to a fundraiser for orphaned youth at one of the private Universities, called Pannasastra, organized by the Center for Community Service Learning and Internships. It was clear that there was a lot of student involvement in the running of the evening. We saw some beautiful dances: the Wishing Dance, just girls with their gracious movements, especially hand movements, and then the coconut dance, with older students, men and women. A gracious and fun dance where women sit in a circle, the men behind them and they have coconut shells, which they bang together, between the men and the women in a varying rhythmic pattern. Quite nice to watch. Then there was a skid about a grandmother selling her grandchildren into trafficking, and who in the end was arrested by the police. The skid got a great applause from the mainly student audience. The moral was that she acknowledged that she did something wrong, and the audience heard not to do this. (All was in Khmer, this was the explanation we were given). Purpose is educational and from the reaction of the audience (mostly students) it was well received, with big applause]. The evening was like most meetings in the refugee community that I used to attend, start late, and it is quite normal to walk in and out, talk on the phone, talk to each other, all kinds of things we would find very disruptive if it were a performance in our culture. I was glad we went.
Today Bora, one of our faculty members invited his students for a day at his house outside of town, Nancy Hooyman, and I were invited as well. Bora picked us up at 9.30 a.m. and when we got there (about 30 minutes drive) the students were already there. The men were starting to get some firewood, and making a fire to roast corn, the women were cutting mango’s, (for mango salad), getting a different fire going in clay fire pots, to cook fish in foil. They prepared a lot of lettuce, carrots, cucumbers and other greens that we do not know. They also made some great little sauces and bowls with condiments. Rice was already cooking. All happens in great harmony and with ease.
HIs place was a big garden we would say, with a lot of varieties of banana trees, and jackfruit, -milk fruit,- lime and some other (all fruit) trees. We tried many of them. A little house on stilts stood in the back of the garden and in the middle on the side, a raised level sitting area with a thatched roof. (Many houses have those arrangements). That ‘s where a lot of the food preparation takes place and also where we all gathered to eat. Mats were already there, and when the lunch was ready, we all sat in a circle (cross-legged, or sitting with legs stretched back) and ate a great meal. Men sat all on one side of the circle, women at the other side.
The students are a lively bunch and asked a lot of questions: how much it costs to study in the US, how many poor there are in the United States and why they are poor, what we were doing, etc. They themselves often choose to study social work as their third choice,(they have 3 choices for college when they apply for a scholarship) just because they did not know what it is, or because they received a scholarship in that field, but now they all seem to love it and have the same aspirations of social work students in the US. Most of them come from rural areas, and their parents are farmers or have a small business,( likely to mean a little store on the side of the road.) One student told us that she was the only high school student in her school, all the other girls had to work, but she did not want to end up like her mother and she had always dreamed to study at the University! They themselves are poor as well, I just gave my bike away to one student who could not come to some classes because she had no transportation. Others have no money for food or other essentials. But they all look happy and are very cheery. The women remind me of the refugee women, they all touch my arms and some my stomach! I know now again why I wanted to come to Cambodia, the people are very wonderful and relational. I had a great time! (pictures on the blog).
After getting home, I did some work and then Nancy and I went to the large ‘park’, next to the one where I always walk, where at 5.00 p.m. there are many groups (mainly women, but also men) that do aerobics. There is one teacher with a boom box in front of the groups, and 30-50 or sometimes 100 people in rows who participate. There are 3-5 of these groups in various places of the park and sometimes the music of the various instructors compete so that the volume of the various boom boxes is turned up! Imagine my red face after an hour!! It was a great workout!
Tonight I will see the movie: Oliver Stone meets Bush!
I am sleeping through the night -fall asleep and wake up at 5.30! great time! with the help of half an ambien pill, it is an over the counter drug and I had to do something to beat the incredible noise!!
Also, after making believe that visits were not the right thing, I again got visits from the rat!! Well, it is a sentient being and perhaps we have to live in harmony!! I planted basil seeds in pots on my balcony and it is up in 3 days!
Weather is steadily getting hotter and I am sitting here in the internet place next door and sweat is dripping from my face! I got my hair cut about an inch around and it looks 'naked', but it feels good.
Hope this gets to you!
Take care and this will be continues!
Having a great learning experience in Phnom Penh!
Love to all,