Friday, March 19, 2010

A day in the countryside, a night in the city. . .

First things first: I felt bad for telling a story about Veasna and not including a photo of him before, so here's one. Veasna's the stripey one ~ man he looks like such a scalawag! And aptly so. He's a total scalawag.

Anybody want to hear about some more cute things that my students write? Sure you do!

So, Chansy informed me that when one is speaking Khmer and referring to a very young child, one might correctly use a gender-neutral pronoun (like 'it') rather than (the Khmer equivalent of) 'he' or 'she.' This functioned as an explanation for some of the sentences we've seen on the kids' homework. Still, when the subject is 'it' I just can't help imagining some mysterious androgynous creature ~ now, given Chansy's additional information, a younger version of said creature. Some of the sentences have looked something like this:
It can play volleyball. (Volleyball is everybody's favorite sport in Cambodia. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that It likes to play, too.)
It can play badminton. (Perhaps this doesn't look nearly as adorable if you don't know Rasann, who employs badminton in Every Sentence he composes. Not only can It play badminton, but He can also play badminton! In fact, They can play badminton. We can all play badminton!)
It can eat Italian food. (This image just makes me giggle.)
It would like a Coca-cola. (In a similarly adorable manner, most kids call Coke 'Coca.' I dig.)

Sometimes, when I give kids writing assignments, they seem to mistake the instructions to "Write about your morning" for instructions to "Impress me with how closely you observed me today". I accompanied a few of the kids to high school on Monday morning, and as all of my (afternoon) writing students had state school in the morning, they all wrote about seeing me there. My personal favorite was Sineth's account:

I went to school. A beautiful lady walked by my class. It was my teacher.

Another recent adorable and very appreciated endeavor of my students was to write Happy Birthday notes to me mam (her birthday was the 16th). The lady of the day, incidentally, definitely cried. (Good work, kittens!) Mam, don't even bother denying it, I know you did. Also of note: I have the best rentals ever. My mom and dad are my emotional and intellectual role models, and every day I'm happy and grateful to have been raised by two so wonderful people, who I still learn so much from all the time.


A couple weeks ago I was fortunate enough to take another lengthy day trip into the countryside with Chansy. We motoed almost 3 hours (no idea the actual distance, sorry blog-following cartographers) from FLO into Kandal province, toward Takeo province and Mt Takeo (which was unfortunately too far for us to travel on that day. Another day, though!). We stopped in a village and sat down to nyam (favorite Khmer word, nyam, means eat) some dessert and I was immediately hooked up with a bowlful of dessert, a tangy mango, and a frosty mug of Angkor beer. By frosty mug, I of course mean mug filled with Angkor beer and enormous chunks of ice. It's just how you drink beer in Cambodia, otherwise it's darn near impossible to keep cold. So our visit was clearly off to a brilliant start. We were at the home of Chansy's teacher, who also is the father of one of my students, Choury, and Wong, one of the older boys at FLO. Choury showed me all around her home, introduced me to her (expansive) extended family, including her adorable grandmother, and her best friend took us for a ride on a rickety rowboat (Choury complimented my bravery on accepting a ride ~ as though I could help but accept!). While we were gamboling about the river, several other guests arrived: the same pile of older FLO boys who attended Vanni's wedding. We shared a delicious lunch of some sort of fish (sometimes you don't ask) which, I was told, will protect me from diseases (and then you continue not to ask). We lazed about in hammocks, walked about the village (Choury got all dolled up to attend a wedding across the river), snacked on some mangoes, oh! and the highlight: went for a swim!
In this ultra-summery Cambodian weather, I've just been aching to go swimming, and this weekend getaway provided the ideal opportunity. And ladies (hey, why the heck not, gentlemen too), might I most highly recommend bathing in a sarong. It's awesome! All the reckless abandon of swimming fully clothed so artfully combined with practical modesty! In all seriousness, I'm 26 and I don't think I've ever owned a bathing suit in which I felt comfortable appearing in public, but everyone looks pretty in a sarong! (You, too, gentlemen.) Not to mention that sarong-swimming marked the second occasion on which I've been told I'm officially Cambodian now. And being Cambodian, from what I can tell, involves some really pleasant swimming.

Another recent adventure involved a night in Phnom Penh with a new friend, Estelle, who works at FLO on Saturdays. It was an utterly unique night and a total blast, one of the only evenings I've spent away from the orphanage in a good long time. We went out for dinner (Mexican food!) drank cocktails (cocktails!) and chatted the night away. Estelle was good enough to have me stay at her lovely home, with her two crazy kittens (actual kittens), and the next day we shopped around, dined at the finest marketplaces, and just out and out enjoyed a sunny day in Phnom Penh. At the end of the day I met up one of my former students, who is studying in her second year at university and just got a job in a dental office, so she moved out of FLO to live with her sister. I'm so proud of her! It was great to see her place and spend some time walking around her hood, too. In fact, here's a photo of me being proud of Sokuntear and Sokuntear smiling:

Another recent time I was told I've become Cambodian was when I accompanied Chansy on an errand in the city. She needed to pick up some supplies for the handicraft shop, and I love riding a moto, so off we went to some crazy market (They're all crazy) to pick up some enormous bag of stuffing (like for stuffed animals and pincushions, not turkeys). Both Chansy and I could have easily fit into this bag. And the two of us transported it by moto! Just like real Cambodians! It was a treat ~ accompanied by drinking icy~cool treats (fruit shakes!) on our way back. All sorts of treats, for real Cambodians!

Well, that looks like about enough out of me for a week. This girl misses you, everybody!
P.S. My auntie arrives to visit in less than a week! I'm beyond stoked

Monday, March 15, 2010

A+ is for Amazing

Shall I say it again? My brilliant students keep me in constant awe of their potential and capabilities. They're so wonderful. I'm so proud of every single student in my writing classes.

Also, remember how I said I'd seen geckos in love, but not making love? I can actually scratch that as of this afternoon. Totally walked in on two of the little guys (well, I guess one little guy and one little lady) in my bathroom. So Rob (it was great to talk to you today) . . . looks like you're not the only one studying reproduction.

More to come (hopefully less regarding gecko reproduction, which is, in all honesty, kind of terrifying),

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's come to my attention

that this blog contains just a shamefully small amount of evidences to the extreme adorability of my students, which is criminal, because they do cute things All The Time.

As my own dear Homie commented recently, I have quite the doting students. It's true! Seldom does a class (or any interaction, for that matter) fail to begin with at least one girl exclaiming, "SisTAH! You look so beautiFUL!" You might think this would get old, but nope, it really doesn't. On the rare occasion I even receive the utterly unanticipated compliment: One of my writing students walked into class and told me I looked "beautiful, like the Buddha." I'll never forget my immediate feeling of bewilderment and 'aww shucks.'
It's not just me, either: these crazy kids will dote wherever they're allowed! I was grading monthly tests in my elementary English class, and in the section where they were asked to write a paragraph about themselves, every single student (I kid you not, 100%) wrote about how smart, funny, and/or beautiful their English teachers are. (It helps that Meata ~ my student intern co~teacher ~ is certainly one intelligent, awesome and gorgeous lady.) Here's a photo of Sopharey, one of the doters in Meata's class, all decked out for a dance performance.
Visal, one of my favorite students (not that I have favorites) noticed that I had checked the time on my (awesomely terrible garbage) cell phone telephone and asked for my phone number. I'd like to further illustrate this situation by adding that Visal is 9, which means he looks about 5 to an American, with floppy straight black hair and ENorMous brown eyes. While I recited the number to him, he concentrated so hard on copying it down I wouldn't have been surprised to see him sticking out his tongue. After he copied it down he scampered off so happily, you'd think we'd made plans for dinner and a movie. Visal occasionally comes up to me before or after class to recite my number back to me. And yet, he never texts, never calls . . . my poor heart. Here's a photo of the little ladykiller.
Veasna, another star student in the same class, was helping me give an example of creating a conversation beginning with a question using the word 'can.' It went a little something like this:
Veasna: Can you tell me the time please?
Ann Marie: It's about six thirty.
Veasna: How do you know? You're not wearing a watch!
Tricky little trickster.

Alright, whoever's being good enough to read up on my adventures, this is short because I've been trying to post for almost two weeks now and the internet's been awful around here and sometimes I just don't know how much to write over a given passage of time, so I'll certainly write not the proper amount. But I did post three cute anecdotes and two photos, and now I'm going to list at least two things that I've improved at since arriving in Cambodia:
1. My Khmer has improved! Nobody get excited, it's still Awful. But I'm also trying to learn Khmer script ~ which I'm unabashedly proud of, because it's crazily difficult. The point is I'm actually pretty bad at both speaking and writing in Khmer. But darn it if I won't give it a try!
2. De-boning a fish using only a spoon. I feel a lot more like a kitten than I typically do as a result of eating so much fish off the skeleton. No complaints there, it's pretty enjoyable to feel like a kitten. It's also worth mentioning here that Chansy has been providing me with some amazing meals. I have tempura fried mushrooms and eggplant slices, fish grilled with ginger, all sort of things that don't sound nearly as impressive when I write about them but even remembering them makes my stomach growl. Yum city.

Oh! More good news! It's sweet mango season in Cambodia, which is fantastic news for this lady. My students have continued to exploit my fondness for this fruit, and even if that means they're stealing from the trees on the compound, I'm not even going to try to stop them. As ever, I'm a slave to my love of fresh fruit. What can I say?

Alright, I'm going to read to children. You all have my long-distance love!