Footprinter report: Cambodia, Christmas and Crickets

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By Michael Freer

The past two months have flown by as they usually do somewhere new and exciting.

I am volunteering at a grass roots organisation called FKC – Future of Khmer Children (www.khmerchild.org). They are a small organisation with all Cambodian staff members who are friendly, funny and caring. We are working together to create a new curriculum at the school as well as looking at ways to improve things. We all teach daily, and I have the intermediate class, the highest class out of six.

The NGO is located in a small village just outside of Siem Reap, appropriately called the farmers village (Poom Kaksekam), where many of the students live. They come from a mix of backgrounds, with their parents ranging from farmers and street sellers to tour guides and chauffeurs. When we try to figure out how poor a family is we basically look into the vehicles they own, the animals they own and the farmland they own.

We all had a great day on Christmas Day, with lots of noodles, fizzy drink, a dance and music performance and what seemed to be Cambodia’s Got Talent! First of all there was a fashion show with the girls and boys both dressed in girls clothes, and then there was a sketch about not studying at school before a drama about a family where one of the parents had died, something that unfortunately happens a lot in Cambodia.

Since I have been here I have also tried pig’s face, crickets and locusts, red ants and frog. I am yet to try duck foetus, dog, snake or spider but I will get around to each of those eventually. Most of the meat is on the bone here which means you don’t get too much. Each meal always has rice unless it’s a special occasion, and is served with a soup and a vegetable dish or prahok – a fish paste dip.

The winter hasn’t been too bad – there were a few cold days and cold nights relative to Cambodia (I’m talking about 15 degrees Celsius!) but generally it has been very warm and no rain whatsoever. In fact I enjoy counting the days without rain knowing what it is like back home – 60 days and counting at the moment. It’s warming up quickly now but I am yet to use the fan in my room although that is bound to happen by March!

I also have started studying the local language, Khmer. It is tricky to pronounce some words as there are many sounds we do not have in the English language, but most of all it is fun and a fairly straight forward language to speak. Writing and reading on the other hand is a nightmare, so I dedicate less time to this currently since it is the conversational aspect I really want to improve.

All in all a great start to the year, Cambodia is a very interesting place, and extremely different to any other country I have ever been to. There are a number of issues here but so many opportunities too, so I hope that while I am here I can look at the possibility of bringing in other improvements for the school and the community.

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