Well, it's been a drier welcome than this time last year when we arrived to find the whole of Siem Reap flooded and Spitler School cut off from the world. This time the rains seem lighter and less regular - though most people are expecting a good deal more in the near future.
We made our first exhausting trip in to Spitler school this morning and found the place buzzing, as usual - even though the term hasn't yet started. Teachers were sitting in the shade (as - yes - there has been a little sunshine) ready to enrol new students, Sokkol was teaching a group of Grade 8 and 9 students who still come back to the school, and Sam Nang seemed to have a full class of Grade 6 students. You can't help notice the contrasts between a Western school during the holidays and a Cambodian one! Here, there were plenty of kids around - not just in the classrooms, but in the play areas too, and all in school uniform. A few were making the most of the new swings which Sral and Salut seem to have created out of old tyres - and two young boys had brought their tiny little sister to school and were pushing her on a swing, to her delighted chuckles.
The stilt houses on the approach to Spitler school were now sitting on top of a fair-sized river, and most people seemed to be content to get on with their lives. Some of the kids, of course, were splashing around in the water lapping at the base of their houses. Wonder how many of them know how to swim . . .
|Their own swimming pool.|
We thought we'd attempt the trip over to Kurata school after a while, knowing that it might be a little wet underfoot, but if we took the right turn at the bend in the road we were sure it would be ok. Of course, we couldn't have been more wrong. So we enjoyed a pleasant half an hour squelching through the mud and knee-deep water, waving occasionally to cheering villagers who were harvesting the rice crop. You can imagine they thought us quite mad, as indeed we were. Only three days ago we had been walking the streets of Bangkok trying to avoid heavy traffic! You can see from Loll's face how much she was enjoying it. She did get a tad fed up with the frogs and other little beasties jumping around near her lovely new shoes!
But it really is magnifcent country side (when you ignore the water swirling around your legs.)
Kurata was a little quieter than Spitler School as we had arrived after some of the teachers had left. Vebol gave us a wonderful welcome back, however - and we were delighted to see photos of his young son.
Teacher Sam Nang, the Grade 6 teacher at Spitler school, had just returned from a 5-day trip to Singapore, organised by Caring for Cambodia, and he was really full of excitement about his visit. He didn't particularly like the large portions of spicy food, he said - but as it had been a working visit this was not too important to him. His trip took him to the Singapore American School, Chatsworth International School and Tanglin School (where our own daughters had been pupils way back in 1985!) Some visits to schools had been a real eye-opener, especially how cold they were because of the air conditioning. He also commented about the lunch boxes and the organised pegs for each child to hang their stuff. What had really surprised him was how children had been allowed to learn away from the confines of a desk and were lying around reading, talking and just getting on with work in a more informal manner. He took plenty of photographs (see some below) and is now keen to share his experiences with other Spitler/Kurata staff.
|Sam Nang sets off to Singapore.|
|Making the most of the available space!|
|One of the ideas Sam Nang wants to bring to Spitler.|
|Working with the computers in the ice-cold library.|