Thursday, 15 August 2013

TEFL in Kampot and a foray into a rice paddy

Good evening one and all! We are back in Phnom Penh after wrapping up our final set of TEFL sessions in beautiful Kampot Province yesterday. It's been a whirlwind week; here's a little survey of what we achieved, what we learned, and what left us frankly baffled... 

For the past five nights we stayed with a family in their home just outside Kampot town. The region is dominated by rice farming; the landscape is spread with rice paddies, palms and red dust roads - a refreshing change from the chaos that characterises Phnom Penh. Needless to say, our hosts were most welcoming, and also forgiving when it came to our riotous renditions of hits from the Lion King. 

Teaching English in Kampot provided new challenges for us: compared with Kampong Speu, where we worked with 18 girls in a classroom environment, this past week saw us teaching up to 60 girls in an open outdoor space. We managed to adapt our sessions fittingly, focusing more on games and songs, and less on written English. We discovered that working with a larger group was more successful in encouraging competition and enthusiasm for games and songs. By the end of the last session there was real momentum in the group we were working with; they seemed more confident feeding back to us on which songs and games they wanted to focus on. 

We were able to join the group for their promise ceremony, which was a wonderful experience. Although a little lost given the language barrier, we thoroughly enjoyed being able to watch and participate in another organisation's ceremony and really see girl guiding at work overseas.

If we had a motto for the past week, it would surely be 'Anything can happen in Kampot'. As our teaching sessions only lasted for three mornings, we had some free time which our Guiding hosts were keen to fill with exciting adventures for us. Upon arriving we took a jaunt by foot and tractor to a fabulous river where we were able to swim and cool off. This combination of swimming-and-tractor-ride apparently made it Becca's 'best day yet'. 

One afternoon we were invited to join some of the girls harvesting rice in a nearby paddy. Our rice-picking technique is clearly needing some work; our efforts were largely met with giggles and looks of astonishment. We did our best, though it was telling that our assistance wasn't requested for the rest of our stay... Having failed to prove ourselves to be competent rice farmers, we later tried to redeem ourselves by attempting to machete open some green coconuts gifted to us by the village. It probably comes as no surprise that we didn't do a particularly inspiring job of this either. 

Despite these rather feeble performances we did perform a mean Macarena at last night's farewell campfire and send-off party, and our final rendition of 'Let Me See Your Funky Chicken' will no doubt be a thing of local legend in years to come. Well, we can dream. 

Before returning to Phnom Penh we spent this morning on Koh Tonsay, an idyllic island just off the coast from Kep. It was stunning; a perfect way to conclude our time in the south of the country.

Overall it's been a superb week that we all enjoyed immensely. It's sad to have seen it fly so quickly!

Friday, 9 August 2013

A quick update before the final leg

Apologies for the lack of blogging contact this past week - a combination of dodgy internet access and general busyness teaching in rural Kampong Speu and preparing for the final phase of teaching has conspired against our blogging inclination. Tomorrow we head off to Kampot province for our final teaching sessions. Our teaching in Kampong Speu was hugely fun and the girls we worked with were wonderful. We've spent the past two days in Phnom Penh resting: a welcome break for all. We're all well and excited for the coming week. We'll have no internet whilst in Kampot, but we'll hopefully be able to update you when we return. Ciao for now :)

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Leadership training and new challenges in Phnom Penh

Day six of the project and we have completed our first section of training - leadership development at HQ in Phnom Penh. 

Thursday and Friday were spent working with 15 young leaders on the topics of roles and responsibilities of leadership; problem solving; working in patrols, as well as sessions on UK culture, world guiding and craft and game ideas for the girls to take back to their units.


Although the girls were initially quite quiet with only a few speaking out in English, the sessions were a resounding success - by Friday the group were enthusiastic when they arrived and even the quietest were making their best efforts to speak and write in English, throwing themselves into all the activities we had prepared, and also teaching us games and songs of their own.  Games and team building challenges went down a storm, though we're slightly disappointed (and frankly unsurprised) to say that the Cambodian guides defeated us in almost every contest!

This series of sessions were hugely fun and rewarding for us all, especially after months of GOLD prep and build-up.  There were some anticipated translation mishaps and we tried to work on initial stumbling-blocks as the training progressed by speaking slower and explaining activities more clearly.

Buzzing from our successful trainings we were in for more fun yesterday evening, when Sochivanny, acting Chief Commissioner here, took us out to see some of the city by tuk tuk, ending with dinner and elephant patterned harem pant shopping at the Phnom Penh night market.  We were pleasantly surprised with the street snacks, perhaps with the exception of barbecued chicken tails (not what we thought we had purchased!).

This morning was our final training day at HQ, working on fundraising and PR with GGAC staff and committee members.  This was a slightly different group to that which we had expected, so it was a bit of a challenge to step the training up a gear, but generally the session was well-received and we were pleased with the opportunity to work with a different audience.


Thus that concludes phase one of the project here - it's hard to believe that we're almost a week through, time is certainly flying!  We'll leave you for now with happy thoughts from our 'friendship pond'!