Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Siem Reap...

Arriving at dawn in Siem Reap was a welcoming surprise, the city was already in full swing. Lots of people out power walking, tuk tuk drivers whizzing through the streets, the smells and sounds of Cambodian life greeted me with a smile. The minute I arrived at Siem Reap, I sensed this was a place I would really like, not only that it is a place I have now grown to really love. Siem Reap is much smaller than Phnom Penh, but the wealth and life it brings is brillaint, the people are friendly as ever and as it is more developed as a city, the place is oozing with culture and history. The first few days are spent wandering around this small place, taking in all the sights and traditional way of life. We manage to find a gem of a place, a small Khmer-French Bistro, which serves homemade bread and wonderful food, so I spend nearly every morning or afternoon eating bread and drinking tea here. 

On the Monday, me and John venture out of town to the Saving Orphanage and School. This was an amazing experience for us, to be able to meet all these beautiful children and share their experiences of education. The morning was spent having fun, interacting and playing with the children in the orphanage. All together 38 children are currently living at the orphanage, the age ranges from a one year old upto a 17year old. One element that strikes me is how happy all of the children are, they literally play happily with one another, doing what all children do and seem really happy. They do not have the material things in life and what they do have is limited. They recently received more funds so now the children have small wooden built bunk beds, before this a couple of months back they all slept on the floor. They have a small classroom where they all attend morning lessons and one library/playroom. The atmosphere at the orphanage is relaxed and content, as it is in a rural community, the orphanage is surrounded by local homes and rural fields. Me and John are welcomed with open arms (literally) by all the children and I thoroughly loved my morning with all of them. 

In the afternoon, we ventured over to the Savong School, here classes occur in the afternoons, the school delivers Khmer, Korean and English to all the local children for free. The classes are filled with motivation from the children, over here there is a thirst to learn. Every child here values education and knows that in order to make a better life for themselves they need to learn. To be able to learn more languages and have a greater amount of knowledge, you will be able to attain a good job and earn money to be able to have a good life and provide money and food back to your family. Cambodia is still a developing country and in a country like this, there is no security nets for assistance in society or a government who will provide money to live. There is no such thing as a benefit or any type of medical care that doesn't cost. Education is paramount over here, therefore, if people become ill or old, you still have to work as you will not be able to make any money and therefore not be able to buy food to live. We spend the afternoon, delivering a session on grammar to the children. I have a small class of young boys, around 16years of age, I found it difficult to even deliver the basics of how to ask a question. I spent over 30 minutes talking about when to use 'Can I and Could I' and also for some strange reason which I don't even know how I got there...what a dishwasher is! Sometimes, even in my teaching at home, I am prone to lose track of things!! The day ended with a long tuk tuk journey home and my respect and admiration to all those children who have a thirst and willingness to learn. 

The evenings in Siem Reap are my favourite, it is when the whole town comes to life. The hustle of people everywhere and bright lights, noise and amazing smells that roam the air. It was one of the few places I could picture myself spending a great deal of time. We mainly ate at the night market, which presented super tasty stir fried food, rustled up in a huge pan and delivered sizzling on your plate. I delved in with my chopsticks and a nice Angkor beer to wash it all down, perfect! As the week quickly passed by, we prepared for our big day at 'Angkor Wat' and began to get excited for exploring all the temples. I must admit, I have seen my share of temples over the past couple of months, so naively I thought I would just see a whole lot more of them in one big day, evidently, for what this place had in store for me was not some 'temple' but an experience that was almost magical...even in a fairytale kind of way. 

Arriving in the beautiful Siem Reap

Overlooking the river, watching the children play and splash around

Outside our guesthouse, heading out to the orphanage and school

In the playroom at the orphanage, reading with the children

Working on how to 'say' the English words

More children getting involved in reading, some are just playing and having fun!

Some of the girls head to school in the afternoon

John and his new 'crew' at the orphanage, even the dog loved him!

Working on 'girl power' 

Delivering a session to the boys

Discussing the use of questions in English

An American Fundraiser (Phil) and Savong himself with me at the school

John delivering the ABC

Off wandering around Siem Reap

The two friendly monks we bumped into and had a good chat along the way

Chilling in the park, think I am ready for my afternoon tea

The electric atmosphere of the night market

The pretty lights outside the New Market

Walking back to our guesthouse at night time

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