Monday, October 5, 2009

One Week in

I called this blog best decision ever because I feel like I already know this to be true.
I haven't even been to Thailand yet actually, I'm still finishing the first two weeks of my TESOL training in Phnom Pehn (which I found out is pronounced P-nom) in Cambodia; I go to Pattaya, Thailand this weekend for the second two weeks of my training which involves practice teaching with kids.
I really loved my job in Seattle this summer working with infants, toddlers and preschoolers and will hopefully be teaching kindergartners, although I am certain that ALL the children here are just delightful and adorable. Cambodian toddlers are simply adorable and all the kids around town love to ask you how you are and initiate elementary English dialogue.
Upon arriving in Phnom Penh, myself and several other Language Corps students from my flight were greeted by a couple Khmer people, ready with tuk-tuks to take us to our accommodations. I mentally prepared myself for the culture change and am familiar with the climate from being to Costa Rica a couple times so I wasn't so much shocked on that first ride through town. I was overcome with happiness as I realized that this was about to be my new lifestyle. The thing about Cambodia is that after a while, nothing is shocking. Families of 5 are riding on motorbikes, babies often being held aboard. I saw a family on a moto where a young boy was in front of the driver, sort of draped over the front and sleeping. One classmate said he saw someone on a moto with an IV in their arm and a person behind them holding the whole IV contraption. I saw a car with so many people piled in it that the driver was sitting on someone's lap!
Most of the class of 26 is staying at the "Okay Guesthouse," a hostel where we each have our own room with a full bed, tv, ac, and bathroom in which the whole thing is the shower. These are supposedly the $9 rooms and some shared rooms there are only $4 a night. Fried rice is about $1.70 which I eat at about half my meals. I haven't eaten any meat since I've been here because its so sketchy looking and I'm not that attached to it anyway. Some classmates bought bugs from a cart on the street and ate them! I took their pictures haha. One guy even ate a fried frog, still shaped exactly like a frog. Everything is in US dollars and the ATMs give dollars too (probably not many Khmer people have bank accounts anyway), although a small amount of money goes a long way here so you don't need to go often.
A very interesting thing about Cambodia is that it is very young, 16 to be exact. It basically had to be rebuilt after the Pol Pot regime and the Khmer Rouge killed about half of the population in the late 1970s. They killed the most affluent and educated people and the really poor people in an effort to be a communist country. I heard that Cambodia used to be more advanced in many ways and very luxurious and that this genocide set them back-- I find this absolutely incredible to think about. On our first day here we went to the old high school that the Khmer Rouge turned into a prison with tiny holding cells and rooms for torture and questioning. Now all the rooms are filled with rows and rows of mug shot-like photos of Khmer people who died.
Next we went to the Killing Fields where they brought the people from the prisons to kill them. There were still the shapes of where they dug giant holes for mass graves. In some places you could see clothes poking up through the ground. They excavated many bones and built a memorial structure at the killing fields. They killed entire families because they didn't want children avenging family deaths in the future. They took babies by the foot and smashed their heads against a tree or threw them up in the air and shot them. It was an awfully gruesome and depressing way to begin the trip but it is a very important part of history here and understanding the way things are now. My Language Corps class consists of people going to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and China but one teacher keeps trying to convince more people to stay here and has already persuaded two students to change their plan. He discussed how this country is so young that every student you have is important because they are the foundation for rebuilding the country. He argues that here your teaching will have the most affect on a society. I do like it here a lot but I haven't even seen Thailand yet!
This weekend our whole class took a bus to Siem Reap, about a six hour drive, depending on traffic and cows haha. Siem Reap is a bit more advanced because Angkor Wat attracts so many tourists. We don't see nearly as many foreigners here in Phnom Penh. They had just had serious rain in the preceding days so the street were completely flooded. I though it was so awesome walking through the rivers of streets and just plain getting wet. In some intersections we were up to our knees! They said it probably wasn't too dangerous since it was all fresh rain water. Tuk-tuks were getting stuck and people were pushing them and laughing and it was such a crazy site to see. We spent Saturday exploring all the temples including the site for the movie Tomb Raider and Angkor Wat. We finished off our tour with a short hike to the top of a hill where there was a temple; we watched the sunset from there along with hundreds of other tourists. The view from there was amazing. One direction was a beautiful "lake" which probably doesn't exist outside flooding season and then just a beautiful countryside in every direction. That night our Khmer guides with Language Corps took us out to Temple Bar where we danced and socialized late into the night. The next morning we went to a really neat temple about an hour outside Siem Reap. This one was very cool too and way less touristy although the weather was so hot and humid that day that we were are drenched and a bit out of it from the heat.
Tomb Raider My class is very interesting with some really cool teachers. Their enthusiasm is getting me excited about teaching. We are taking turns leading the class in exercises we have learned and I recognize a lot of the methods exactly from my Italian classes at UW. My classmates are all really fun people as we are obviously all a bit like minded. Most are about 22-24 with a few older ones. There are about 5 people from England and 1 from Australia. One is a grandma and she is pretty spunky. The things I have to look forward to here are endless and as soon as I got here, any doubt or homesickness I sensed was gone. My class will probably meet up on an island in Thailand for Christmas/New Year so don't worry about me then! Also the full moon party falls on New Years for the first time in like 25 years so its going to be crazy fun!
Language Corps Oct 2009!

1 comment:

  1. Your trip sounds amazing so far! The history of that country seems like something you have to see to believe, how sad. But I am so excited for you and feel like you definitely made a perfect decision for yourself by going there! I love you and miss you!