And just as we thought the rainy season had finished - a TORRENTIAL downpour. Luckily, this occurred overnight, and today it appears to have stopped - and it's rather pleasantly cool. Too much rain makes it impossible to get into school on our bikes, but we hope that it holds off today for further English Activity at Spitler School.
We have a couple of new developments to report: the revival of the 'sewing circle' and the introduction of English classes to the kindergarten children in both schools.
A small group of women from the village turned up for this initial session and settled down to some very busy sewing of hand puppets which will then be used by teachers and children in their English classes. The problem was that the back stitch suggested by Loll was ignored in favour of the much faster running stitch and soon a competition was in place for who could make the most! Eventually the suggestion that we fashion eyes, nose and mouths were picked up on and the puppets developed characters all of their own. Before the final tidy up and eating of biscuits and fruit much hilarity had taken place with the learning of the English for the facial features and similarly, but less successfully for Loll, those in Khmer! We hope in future to use old plastic bottles and yogurt pots to make toys for younger children and also using the session to discuss the nutritional and hygiene needs for the people of the village. One of the mothers is pregnant with her third child and we shared information about the situation for women giving birth from the village. Future events might also feature the need for play and how to get the children ready for school. Tomorrow a similar session will be held in Kurata school where we hope some mothers will get time away from the planting in the fields to enjoy a play and share session there.
The Scary Kindy Classes
Several of our English teachers - and Nick - are rather apprehensive about trying to teach English to the youngest children in the school. Nick is really only used to working with students who are over 16, and Ann Hoy, Ratha, Sokkol and Phoem are generally happier with older children. You have to remember that while Western 4 and 5-year olds are rather small - the equivalent children from Ang Chagn village, many of whom are severley undernourished, can be absolutely tiny. And many of them are also terrified of strange people, especially these weird barang (Westerners - the word translates as 'French person'.) You begin to get an idea of their size when you go into the classroom and all the children are sitting at their desks. 'Stand up!' said Loll, yesterday, to our little group of Spitler children. 'Stand UP!' she repeated, in a more encouraging way - only for Nick to have to point out to her that they were already on their feet. A few of them barely came up to the top of the desk, over which they peered with apprehensive eyes.
Yesterday, Ann Hoy was very worried about what we were going to do - and what we would be able to achieve. Unfounded worries, of course, as he showed himself a natural with these little babies. We all sang a 'Hello' song and waved; Hoy wandered around with a glove puppet scaring the socks off a few of them - but gradually gaining their confidence. (Actually none of them wore socks. Only a few had shoes.)
The children began to respond with increased enthusiasm, though it was clear that a few of them were utterly bemused by the whole experience. More and more, however, they began to join in until, when Hoy suggested we take them for a walk in the compound they all ran to line up ready for the adventure. Still a little confused, a number of them decided to follow Nick, duckling fashion, despite Nick's attempts to shoo them off. Luckily, the Kindergarten teacher was at hand to sort out these teething problems, and soon they were all happily following Hoy as he introduced them to various objects in the compound. We looked at the teachers' motos, all parked under the shelter, to Sarin's car (and the dog underneath it), to the flag pole (with flags still at half mast for the death of the King Father), and we then headed off to introduce ourselves to the toilets. Happy as I was to see the children say 'Hello moto, hello car, hello dog', I rather drew the line at 'Hello toilet', and the kindy teacher, who has only limited English, entirely agreed as she found the entire concept hilarious. We are very keen that the children gain this early exposure to English as we are all aware that opportunities for the children of the village to speak English are rare, and English is such a valuable language to have in this part of Cambodia.
And a final plug: all this is entirely FREE for the children as the school is heavily reliant on funds from the Spitler School Foundation. Luckily, anyone can make a donation to this fund by following the link on this page or going to the website.