Disclaimer: These are my views and do not reflect the views of the Peace Corps.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Birds Stole My Toothbrush

(Me on the way to school with Che.)

(How we got our bikes from Phnom Penh to my site.)

(Che and I teaching club.)

(Che creeping on me while I did laundry :)

I had a toothbrush. I used it to brush my teeth. One day it was gone. There's a flock of birds who live in the awnings of my room. They like to drop twigs and straw all over my floor. I suspect that they stole my toothbrush.

Paranoid assertions aside, I have been teaching English and rocking out to pop songs with my kids. We did Backstreet Boys last week and this week was Taylor Swift. I spent some time developing listening gap tasks and shuffling the lyrics, so that the kids get something out of it, but I've been really enjoying it as well.

(Jammin' for the kids)

My friend Che came to visit me this week. It was really great to have him around, and we went on some random adventures which involved biking down a hill with no lights at night, eating Korean food in rural Cambodia, playing a Taylor Swift duet, and jumping on a trampoline.

Keep your hopes high and your expectations low.

(Che and Tola, my tutor, by the lake.)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Monkeys Stones and Speakers

Hey hey, I'm going to be perfectly honest, I don't really have anything exciting to write about, but my computer is in front of me and I have time... Last week I got to test out my new speaker with the students, and it was a huge success! I think it's the first time music has ever entered the classroom here. Another first was the introduction of skits. It took some prodding to get the ball rolling on this one, but my advanced club eventually figured it out. The students came up in front of the class and enacted several of the situations that we'd listed on the board, some of which turned out to be really funny! I made a day trip into Phnom Penh on Friday, and started a game of settlers of catan, but had to stop early to head off to my meeting with my supervisors, which was the real reason I was there. The meeting went really well, and I got some good ideas about how to be more effective in the future. While I was in the office, I saw a book that made me laugh: "Feelin' Good: the New Mood Therapy" by David Burns (there isn't an apostrophe, as you can see in the picture, but there should be!)

I have no idea about the contents of this book, but the title and author combination was pretty amusing. Besides taking pictures of books, I also picked up a copy of "Stones into Schools" which I spent the better half of yesterday reading, and finished this morning. The fact that it took me two days to read the thing is a testament to its merit. It's a hard book to put down, and a fascinating true story. If you have not read this book or "Three Cups of Tea" please read one of them. They are incredibly uplifting stories with the positive message that peace and stability are rooted in education, particularly women's education. As a teacher, I'll admit that I'm predisposed to want to accept this as true, but even without a stake in education, it's a compelling argument. The story is a testament to the power of tolerance, acceptance, and trust in fostering human connections which help to change the world.

Ending on a completely unrelated note, here's a picture of a monkey carrying a baby monkey across a power line in Phnom Penh:

(The baby monkey is hard to make out but you can see its little tail.)

Have a great weekend everybody!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Happy Victory over Genocide Day!

I’ve been sick lately, battling some Cambodian version of a cold that my body isn’t used to. I told the students that I’d make a brief appearance at the school for the holiday festivities, and so I pedaled my way over at around 10am. There was a small stage set up with giant speakers, and a lone singer performing for a shy crowd. It reminded me of the beginning of junior high school dances in the states. The boys were all together. The girls were all together. No one was dancing. Feeling sick, and slightly overwhelmed, I played the passive role of an observer. I walked around and said hello to some of my students and fellow teachers. What really struck me was the way that people were dressed. In an informal interview with my students before, I’d ascertained that it is culturally appropriate to wear black pants and a white shirt. The very same students who’d told me this showed up decked out in their freshiest attire (The word “freshy” was invented by Cambodians and is commonly used here to describe in-style people or clothing, and, as an English graduate, I reserve the right to make up words, thus “freshiest” was born). Even one of my teachers came dressed in his freshiest. Picture a man in his late thirties wearing skinny jeans and a tight-fitting long-sleeve Waldo shirt. The school director, having come from a meeting with the educational big-wigs, was appropriately dressed as a naval captain.

The captain, in a manner appropriate for his attire, delivered a speech to rally the troops, well, students that is, to start dancing. Leading the way, dressed in his brilliantly white suit, surrounded by students dressed in what is nearly our equivalent of well clad boyscouts and a few freshy boys, he began a circular dance around a tree.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Address Update

Due to the fact that thus far letters and packages have taken a really long time to get to me and the possible loss of a literary care package, I've been advised to tell people to put "ASIA" in nice bold letters on anything addressed to me.

PCV Peter Cooper
P.O. Box 2453
U.S. Embassy Peace Corps
Phnom Penh

I hope this works. In all seriousness, I think it's a bit strange to have to add "U.S. Embassy" and "ASIA" to the address, but the former helps ensure that the mail gets through customs here, and the latter helps the mail get to the right continent. It's sort of like playing to a superstitious belief. So it goes.