Saturday, August 29, 2009

Stuff is Happening

Or: “That’s right, I have a blog, don’t I?”

So a few weeks ago I was finally getting prepared to sit down and write out a blog about how I have been doing nothing for the last several months. Which was true; I haven’t set foot in a classroom since May, and the three students that came to my English club and Karate club on a regular basis stopped coming. Why did they stop coming? Because “it’s the rainy season.” So basically my life for a while now has pretty much followed the following schedule: wake up around 7, go to the market, eat breakfast, find some way to waste five hours, eat lunch, find some way to waste five hours, eat dinner, listen to the BBC, watch some episodes of Stargate, go to sleep. And that’s pretty much been my life.

K3 arrived at the end of July. I was involved in their first week of orientation; greeting them at the airport, keeping them awake in Phnom Penh the first day, and then participating in various sessions before they went out to their training sites. After that it was back to my usual schedule. Except for one small detail.

I have said before that my one ambition at this school was to start a library. The project has had various ups and downs before, but I felt like I was finally ready to get this thing off the ground. While I was away for the week with K3, I instructed my co-teacher to start gathering the necessary information I would need to start writing a proposal. Prices, availability of material, stuff like that. I assumed at this point that we had the school’s permission to actually do this thing, too. I returned to site and went to my co-teacher’s house. His first words to me?

“I don’t know who will work with you now. I got a new job in Svay Rieng town, and will not teach here anymore. And the school director will never approve your library project. He does not want you to get involved in the school at all, because he is very corrupt and takes the money the province gives the school.”

So…that was that. And I had finally had enough of this school. It was time to call Peace Corps.

Fully expecting to have to fight admin and fully prepared to have to threaten to leave, I called up our program manager. Fortunately, I had planned ahead and had my co-teacher standing by to confirm what I was saying about my situation at school. And Peace Corps was…surprisingly helpful about it. They basically said that if it sounded like I had honestly tried to do stuff at the school but because of the school itself nothing had worked out and they agreed that it would probably never work. So they said they would look into letting me switch sites.

Peace Corps has been understandably busy with the Pre-Service Training, so getting me moved hasn’t really been that high of a priority. Plus they still haven’t figured out exactly where they wanted to put me. My first conversation with them was at the start of August, and I still don’t know exactly where I will be going. At first it seemed like I was going to be put in a Provincial Teacher Training Center, basically the vocational college that all Cambodian teachers attend. However, then it seemed like I might go either the Prey Veng RTTC, or a High School in Battambang or Kampong Thom (find a map for yourselves if you are confused). But NOW, when I talked to Admin on Friday, it looks like they are going to place me in the lovely-named province of Kampong Speu.

Peace Corps has wanted to expand to Kampong Speu (it’s seriously pronounced “spoo”) for some time now. I think they were trying to get K3’s there, and I know that the Ministry of Education has been pushing them to place some volunteers there (also they have been pushing Kandal province, which again probably means nothing to the vast majority of people reading this). But for whatever reason they have been running into road blocks. But since I have suddenly become available, and because they know I won’t freak out if left in a province by myself, they figure I can be the test case for the province.

It will certainly be an interesting opportunity. I don’t know anything about Kampong Speu, except its location. I can’t really ask anyone because nobody has ever lived there. But at the very least I will be in a provincial town only about an hour away from Phnom Penh. And once again I will be the first Peace Corps volunteer at this site…and this time, the first one in the province. If nothing else, it will look pretty good on those grad school applications.

And speaking of which, I’m going to try and take the GRE next month. I will have to go to Thailand to take it, so I’ve got a weekend in Bangkok to look forward to. I’ve been studying for a little over a month now, and while I probably won’t be getting any perfect scores, I’m confident I can make a decent showing. I should get at least over 50% correct in the math section…I think.

Anyway, that’s been what’s happening to me here in Cambodia. Big changes are on the way. If I stick to my blog schedule, I should be posting another one…sometime in December.

1 comment:

Simon said...

Hey Mitchel

Did I cycle past you on the main road that goes to Bavet just outside the main town of Svay Rieng on around 1 or 2 oct?

I was out for a cycle looking around and a barang went past on the other side of the road and said hello. I was so surprised to see another white guy I just sort of said hello, but I should have stopped and properly said hello! I was on a white bike with a basket and I have a goatee.

Not sure if it was you but I heard there were a couple of peace corps guys round SR.
Im back in dec, so if you are still around and fancy meeting up with me and my wife for a beer send me a reply on simon_barrow at