Monday, September 30, 2013

A taste of Cambodia

Sarah and I watched this short film tonight. It's presented by a secular organization, but is a touching story just the same. And better yet, I was surprised at how clear a picture of Cambodian culture it gives. If you want to know the land and people I'm working with, take just a half hour and watch this. It's worth your time!

Born Sweet - Entire Film from Cynthia Wade on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The kiddos (#1)

The girl on the right is Savy, and she's in grade 6 with me.

So. I just have to tell y'all about my awesome kids. Because they really are super special! However, I do have 35, so I'm going to have to split this up into several different blog posts. But that's OK, because I have plenty of time, and I'm still getting to know them all!

I wish I had pictures of them, but that will have to come another day. All I have is my iPod as far as taking pictures, and it's not that amazing, but Sarah says I can use her camera and so I'm going to take that to class one day and get a picture of all of us. I have to plan that strategically so as not to disrupt class (we'd never get any study done during that period). We'll see. But for now, I'll have to paint word pictures for you. :-)

Number One: Patary
Oh, this kid is interesting! He's definitely the one who stands out most in my mind as being a troublemaker in class. Definitely not the only one, but he's the only one of his kind, to be sure. He's the kind of kid that likes to try boundaries and make me laugh while actually needing to be in trouble. Crazy boy! He is from outside (not the orphanage or the dorm), so my suspicion is that he's not actually a Christian. I should find out from someone about that. He didn't seem to know how to pray… anyway, he is the cutest thing, and I'm sure I'll miss him a lot when I leave.

Number Two: Nak
Nak is the complete opposite of Patary. At 16 years old, he's the most mature boy in my class, and is completely trustworthy, other than that I suspect he lets other students cheat off his papers. But he understands English the most, and he really tries to understand the other subjects and perform them well. I can rely on him to lead a small group if needed, and sometimes even translate to the class a subject that they're not quite grasping. He understands spiritual things fairly well, too. He's actually in the Pathfinder Master Guide class with me, so on Sundays we're classmates together, instead of teacher and student. :-) He's a great guy and I really love him!

Number Three: Moses
This guy is SO CUTE. However, the cuteness comes from his naughtiness - his utter inability to keep his mouth shut!!! It's hilarious sometimes, but it is frustrating other times. I'm constantly having to remind him to stop talking! Lol. But he is really sweet.

Number Four: Rathom
Rathom is my trustworthy girl. I don't remember if she's the oldest or not, but she's definitely the most mature in our class. She's on an equal level with Nak on the girls' side. She doesn't understand English quite as well as he does, but she does the most of any of the girls, I think. And she really tries hard in her classes. When I gave the first science test, she labored over it, and actually got the right answers, while other students didn't quite understand and didn't put everything into it, that I could tell. She's super sweet. Kind of on the quiet side, but she'll do things up front that I ask her to do. She lives in the dorm, so I see her often, at meals and worships and such.

Number Five: Sophall (Ra)
This guy is another special one (but they all are, so maybe that's not the best first statement!). He's from the orphanage, and in just these last few weeks he's become one of my right-hand helpers. He's sure to greet me with a "Hello 'cher!" at any time we might meet, and he usually has a big grin on his face. He's short - very short - but has a big enough personality to make up for it. My first Sunday afternoon before Pathfinders, I went early and sat on one of the steps at the school. Sophall came too, and we had a lovely conversation together. We chatted about family and Pathfinders (crazy that he's nearly the same rank as me, lol), as well as school and other random things. Last night his "brother" Yeremiah - the newest baby of his house parents - had a birthday, so I got to see where he lives (along with Moses and two other girls in my class). He was thrilled to have me there!

Number Six: Leakena
She's pretty quiet, but oh! her giggle! It makes me laugh so much. :-D She sits next to Moses in class, and between him chatting on about random things, and her giggling about what he says, it's hard for me to keep a straight face. I should record her laughing so I can enjoy it even when I'm gone. I think she is from the orphanage, but I can't remember for sure. Anyway, she's a sweet girl, and bright in class.

Number Seven: Ling
Ling used to sit in the back of the classroom with the rest of the bigger boys and laze around. I'd have to constantly ask him to pay attention to what I was saying... so last week when I rearranged the whole classroom, I stuck him right up front. I can keep an eye on him now! He's not really one to make much trouble (other than stealing the occasional notebook to annoy a fellow classmate); he's just quiet and more methodical at what he does. He's a great artist: I've had them draw various things and he's done amazing stuff. His most recent piece of work was a waterlily pen drawing. Pretty fantastic, if you ask me!

Today in English class, we were studying our various vocabulary words, and some of the kids were saying, "Ling, Ling, Ling!" while I wrote something on the board. I misheard them at first and thought of a joke my family says sometimes (Kenny and Hannah, this is for you!). It is simple English, so I decided to teach it to them:

The phone says, "Green green green!" so I pink it up and say, "Yellow, how are blue?"

Needless to say, they loved it, and we had a good laugh together. :-)

Yes, I love my kids. I'm still trying to decide if I actually like teaching (it's definitely a challenge!), but these kids make every day fun. They're the best class!! ;-)

Monday, September 16, 2013

The value of challenges

Here I sit. 

My windows are open and the breeze is blowing the curtains just a little. It's sunny out, and it's peaceful here inside the house. The shiny white tile floor is (currently) tidy, other than stacks of books and papers here and there that prove I have plenty to do. It would be quiet, but there is a funeral or something going on down the road, so monks are chanting/singing rather loudly over loudspeakers. It only adds to the Asian atmosphere, though...

It's Monday again, and classes are over. I'm thinking back on last week, and how things have changed. My students may have learned a few things (hopefully), but I'm pretty sure that I'm the one who learned the most.

I had absolutely no idea how last Monday would go. How much English did my grade 6 class really speak? Would they behave? Would they be too loud? Would I be able to handle all of them? Questions, and worries… but confident or no, I had to go to school. I had somewhat of a lesson plan, but it was pretty flexible since I didn't know what would happen.

All of us teachers began the school day with staff worship at 7am. We're studying through the book Education, led out by Tim Maddocks. It's been great so far. Still, I had jitters...

Soon enough the worship ended and it was time for flag raising. As the students congregated out in the courtyard, I meandered around the walkway and found my classroom. The door was open, so I slipped inside and wrote a few things on the board for our first class. Then I went back outside and watched the flag raising and announcements. And then… it ended and the straight rows of kids began to disintegrate. Deep breath… I met my students outside and greeted each of them, handing them an index card as they came into the classroom. When they were all situated, I told them a little about myself and then asked them to write a few details about themselves on their card.

As the day progressed, I tried things in each class. Some worked and some didn’t. Again, I wasn't sure how much English they knew, so I tried super-easy things with them and they flew through that in a cinch. OK… on to the next thing. This next thing was a little too complicated though, so I had to improvise and make it easier for them to understand. In math class, we had a similar problem. I assumed they knew some things, so went ahead and gave them a worksheet to do, but several of them didn't actually know how to do it. Back to the drawing board on that… and so the day progressed.

By the end of the day (my Monday schedule is pretty full), I was tired. I definitely had a better idea of where the kids were academically, but now I had to plan new things that I wasn't expecting! Sigh. OK… so I planned. On Tuesday, I taught the basics in some classes, and more advanced things in others. I still didn't feel very productive though, and was having a hard time actually keeping my collection of 35 kids quiet and working and understanding… not to mention that I couldn't remember all of their names. That night I planned some, and then finally went to bed.

Wednesday morning during my quiet time, I cried out to God. What am I even doing here? I'm not a teacher! I just sat on my mattress, only several minutes before I had to leave for school, and knew the only thing to do was pray. I needed God's help, and His energy, love, and wisdom...

I ate a little breakfast, and then turned my computer on for a minute to check my e-mail. Turns out, my mom was online. And she asked me how things were going. She encouraged me and told me she was praying for me. That was definitely a help! 

I went to staff worship, and it was an encouraging thought as well - to teach the young people the value of eternity, rather than the here-and-now success in life. We had Assembly that morning for the grade 4-6 classes, and heard a similar thought, on the value of eternity. (As I sat on the tile of the church, I couldn't help but notice a loooooonnng line of boys. Then I realized they're all mine - I have a LOT of boys in my class!!) Then we went to the next class, and it went so well! And the next did, too, and the next - and I had a short day so it was really nice. God really was helping me! It was only through His power that things went the way they did. The next day was a little bit better, and the next was too, and by Friday I was feeling like I had a better grasp on teaching. Only a little, yes, but I'm hoping that as I get to know students more and understand my curriculum more (please pray for English class, I'm still struggling with how to teach that), things will be even better. Praise the Lord - every bit of credit truly goes to Him. I'm so thankful…

My biggest lesson learned these last few months: I am ever so grateful for challenges and even feelings of despair. Why? Because God can work so marvelously through them, and He draws me closer to Himself when I feel my absolute need of Him. Every morning I woke up this last week, I knew that I had to spend at least a few minutes in the Word to have His power in my life. I wish it could have been more, but I did what I could. This week I'm hoping to make my devotional time longer.

Today I had an experience that really made me think. Some of you may have seen my update on Facebook, but I'll share it here...

After all, that's what I'm here for, right? May I trust my Jesus, continue falling in love with Him, and let His light and love shine out of my heart to the precious children around me.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How I am doing

Lotus blossom: one of life's simple pleasures.

In short: I’m doing great and having a wonderful time here in Cambodia!

If you’d like the longer version, keep reading…

I apologize for not writing something sooner. My computer’s internet capability did something really weird right before I left to come here, so I was without that, other than using my iPod. A bit difficult to write a whole blog post from there! God is good, though, and I was able to get my computer running properly again, with the help of a friend. Typing like this will be much easier, although I do have a lot to catch up on. I’ll try to be somewhat descriptive, but not ramble on and on.

The morning after I arrived in Cambodia, Sarah and I went to the dorm kitchen for breakfast. Usually during break they don’t serve meals there, but there was a group from a closed country holding meetings there, and so we ate with the students who were cooking for them. It was neat to get to know a few faces – David, Yan, Lynn, Sarai, and a few others.

Later on in the day, Pisei dropped by because he had heard that Sarah was back. He is a fun character. :) He told us that we should say hello to our neighbors, the King family, because they would be gone visiting another village for the rest of the week. So we went over to see them. They are Indian, but from England, and are so friendly! I am glad that we are so close by – I am sure we will be spending quite a bit of time together as time goes on. We talked for quite a while, and then noticed out the window that we had other visitors – Andrew Sharon and Khen, his fiancĂ©! We went over and spent some time with them, which was really nice. I hadn’t seen him since probably 2006 at family camp! They invited us to their wedding, which is actually tomorrow. Khen invited us over to her family’s house for lunch. My first day here, and I already got to spend time at a traditional Cambodian house. :) I met her mother, who doesn’t speak much English at all, her sister Khon, and some other family members. When we were done eating and talking, they drove us on their motorbikes back to WPY.

Sarah and I worked on cleaning the house, toured the campus, and eventually took our evening bath out at the pump, then headed to bed. A full and successful day! :)

Wednesday and Thursday I don’t remember much, other than that we kept busy cleaning the house. Sarah organized a lot of her stuff that was left here when she had to leave quickly last year, and I worked on unpacking and settling myself in. Actually, one of those days I think we went to Tob’s sister’s house, who is a seamstress. I’m having her make two new skirts for me, that I can wear to school. She does a really good job, as far as I’ve seen.

Friday morning, we caught the truck into town to Psar Kroum, one of the main markets here. It was rather fascinating! I will save the description of the market for another blog post, so you’ll have to wait on that. :)

More cleaning and tidying for Sabbath, then in the evening we went to the vespers service at the church here on the WPY campus. It was nearly all in Khmer, but it was nice to see a lot of people together, mostly orphanage kids and a small portion of the staff. Because I couldn’t understand much of it, it was a little hard to focus, but I practiced recognizing the Khmer number characters on the screen as the speaker made different points and used Bible references. It was definitely beneficial!

On Sabbath morning, we went to church. It was also all in Khmer. After church, we all split up into different groups and had Sabbath School. It was nice to have an English-speaking class with the other teachers, we had a good discussion. Afterwards, Sarah and I fried some vegetables and went over to Tim & Wendy’s backyard for a potluck with just us “foreigners.” That was neat, too! A fairly quiet afternoon followed…

The next morning, we got up early again and went to the morning market since we needed some food, and had a couple other things on our list. We met up with Chantha and Sophar, two Cambodian guys (Chantha was one of Sarah’s students when she was here before), and decided to eat some of our meals together. They did the shopping and we came back home and made nyoum, a really yummy noodle dish, which we eat over rice. We also invited Francis, one of the new volunteers, to join us. What a fun meal! We ate, and then our discussions turned into a Khmer learning session. :) Chantha helped Sarah review what she knew, and Sophar taught Francis and I some new phrases and words (I had just bought a grade 1 Khmer book so we used that to start learning the Khmer consonants). Francis also taught us some Tagalog, since he is from the Philippines. Then he gave us a whole bunch of riddles and we all played some mind games together. Great times. :)

That evening, we went to the dormitory and finished the leftovers of our nyoum, along with Kat, one of the other volunteers, and a few other people.

On Monday morning, a bunch of the other teachers arrived: Donna and Jive from the Philippines, and Gemma, the Kings’ daughter. They had been out on holiday during break. It was great to meet them! Several of us had breakfast at their house, and they all enjoyed recounting experiences from where they had been. We also found out that the teacher’s timetables were ready, and so someone ran off to get those. I found out that I will be teaching mostly grade 6 (Bible, English, science, and math), and we’ve now sorted out the music classes, so I’m teaching grade 7 and 8 piano and violin. I think the coming school year will be very lively – I’ll definitely be on my toes!!

It’s sad, but I don’t remember the rest of Monday a whole lot… I guess I have just been enjoying the experiences as they come along. I take photos here and there, and meet people, but they just sink into my brain as part of the whole picture of Cambodia, and kind of get jumbled up in my mind. Sorry. ;) A couple of things I do remember: Mrs. Sharon arrived, and she and Sarah picked out all the music for Andrew and Khen's wedding. We had a nice time talking. Also, Thomas, another volunteer, arrived that evening. He’s from Germany.

Tuesday was another market day. The truck actually came on time for once, so we got to the market rather early. Sarah and I bought our needed fruits, veggies, herbs, etc. and then we had plenty of spare time. So we did a little more walking around. The first time I went to the market I tried the green soymilk, but this time I got regular white soymilk (and I bought it myself, without Sarah’s help in translating!). It was good, too. We got a few other things to eat, then we all hung out in the truck with the others who were done early.

When we got back, we worked on some things… I got my computer working again, and enjoyed having that available again. I also did some brainstorming for my class.

Later on that day, Chantha and Sophar came over again, and asked us if we wanted to have a meal together again. We said sure! They came over later and brought two of their friends, Sophall and another guy whose name I can’t remember at the moment. We made fried veggies this time, of course over rice. Conversation was interesting – I found out that Sophall and the other unnamed friend are church planters out in the other province that Chantha and Sophar teach in. All these Cambodian guys (except Chantha) are my same age, so it is inspiring to see their enthusiasm for doing just what God wants them to do.

That evening, Kat came by on her bike at around 7pm after the guys left, and she and Sarah and I ended up talking until about 10:30, just sitting out on our porch. :)

Today was another full day – we had our first staff meeting. I learned more about how the school is run, and some questions were answered. I also got most of the textbooks I will be teaching from, so that is quite helpful. :)

There was also quite a bit of bustle going on, in preparation for Andrew and Khen’s wedding tomorrow. Khen and her bridesmaids will actually be sleeping here at our house tonight, so although it is quiet now, I am sure there will be lots going on once they get back from their preparations down at the dorm and church.

My friend Laura (will be a fellow teacher, was once my AFCOE outreach partner) arrives back at the school tonight too, after time at home. Looking forward to seeing her!!

And that is how I have been doing.