Saturday, February 11, 2012

(Part 2) A day in the life...

Yesterday, I started my post about a day in the life. This will be the second half of my day starting with LUNCH!

Lunch: sometimes the most exciting part of my day. As you may remember from my last post I was really really hungry when I left the health center. Sometimes I daydream about food. On that particular day I remember daydreaming about how awesome it would be if I could have fried rice for lunch. Nothing fancy, just some rice, oil, garlic, and maybe a little egg. I rationalized that fried rice was unlikely to happen because my mom only makes it when she is reminded of it in some way. I would say she makes fried rice maybe 4 times a year.

But, this was a special day. Not only did I get egg fried rice, but I also got 2 fried duck eggs in addition to the usual salted fish. Eggs are awesome. I try not to think about the cholesterol as I bring each delicious yokey spoonful to my mouth. The yoke mixing with the fried rice and doused with copious amounts of siracha sauce (thank you Kurt!) is almost more than I can handle. This day is a two plates of rice kind of day. I try really hard not to eat the whole pot of fried rice on my own and, as usual, my willpower of steel prevails. There is still rice left at the bottom of the pot for others that may come later...

The rest of my afternoon is not so eventful. After lunch is usually nap time. I like to open my window and lay on my bed to read. Usually, my room is as dark as a bat cave, but around noon to 3 the sunlight is in the perfect spot. I get abruptly woken up from my nap by a fellow PCV who needs to have some questions answered about her Small Project Assistance (SPA) project (I'm on the deciding committee).

1pm: check my emails and update myself on the outside world. I just started a new class of 7th and 8th graders english, but some of them don't know how to read yet. The other day they didn't recognize the word 'you' and I decided to scrap everything and start from the beginning. I've been looking online for some resources and trying to cobble together a curriculum that's challenging, but also covers the basics. In Cambodia, you formally start english class in school in 7th grade, but somehow kids are expected to already know how to read and write a completely foreign alphabet. By that age, most middle to upper class kids already have a firm grip on basic english due to years of private lessons. The kids in my classes may not have that history since my classes are free and get a wider range of students. I've noticed that the 8th graders are hugely different from the 7th graders and I'm trying to figure out why. It's been about 5 months since school started and the 7th graders can't read yet (but they just took their midterms). It seems implausible that the 7th graders would catch up to the 8th graders in 5 more months of the same type of teaching. My theory is that in 7th grade, everything is new and it's ok not to know stuff, but by 8th grade the kids that can't catch up just stop trying. They've learned that they can't learn and so they don't come to class.

I spend an hour or so on the lesson plans and then I try to revise the SPA handbook one last time before the new PCVs get to hear about it at a training in two weeks. The rest of my time goes into India. My research on India takes up all the time until my 4pm class. It's such a vast place and it seems logistically hard to plan a trip there, but I'm tryin'.

4pm- One hour english class at the school down the street (it's next to my HC). Today we're trying to master pronouns and the to be verb. Asking basic questions about names and forming appropriate answers. They've definitely retained more than I hoped from the day before and I spend about 20 minutes going over the alphabet and some phonics. Trying to work on their pronunciation and give them a feel for the sounds of the letters.

I get home around 5:30 and it's already time for dinner! Dinner is fish soup, which is not so delicious, but I eat all the red pepper and tomatoes. Veggies don't usually come in the soup so I savor each bite. I also get some cold cut up fish cakes. When I say fish cakes I mean that they take whole fish and sort of mash it up in a machine and then make cakes with them (bones and all). This is not an industrial blender so you can still feel the bones in the cake. It's not bad. I've just grown a strong aversion to fish bones since I arrived here a year and half ago.

After dinner, I change into my sarong and take a shower/ brush my teeth. I see that some animal has pooped in my bike helmet, but it's ok. The poop has already dried and I just scrape it out. It's about 7pm when I get back to my room and reply to a friend's email. Around 7:30 I get into bed and read by headlamp. 8:30 Lights out and fall asleep.


  1. Thank you for taking the time to post a detailed account of your life Helen. I often try to imagine what your life is like there. Interesting insight about the 8th graders. Total Physical Response is a big thing here for learning languages. It is so weird that we haven't met and Kurt has bailed on his blog, so thanks again.

  2. Enjoyed your blog regarding a "terrific" day in Cambodia. Connie and I appreciate your descriptions and humor in describing life in Cambodia. What are your plans after this "exotic" period in your life? If you are coming East after your five months, can you stop by and see us here in Hawaii?
    Aloha, Connie and Gary