26 December 2010

Christmas Cambodia style

Firstly, Christmas eve ...
'twas the night before Christmas and at Anjali House
ALL the creatures were stirring, even the mouse!

After their tests on Thursday, my intermediate kids were allowed a stress-free day, with no real lessons just craft workshop and lots of play. In workshop they made posters with photos provided by volunteer Tash, whose last day this was, plus lots of glitter -- these kids are addicted to glitter and, as you can imagine, it gets everywhere! We made more friendship bracelets and Christmas decorations, kites were flown, football played, and general mayhem ensued. I did spend some time marking their tests but they won't find out the results until next week, as these are added to weekly test results to find each child's average score and to determine who will move up to the next level.

The climax of the day came at 5.30pm when the Christmas party started. First we sat and ate, though some of the kids were so excited, they ate standing up and ran around talking to their friends between scoops of  the delicious food. They all had a bottle of soft drink -- coke or sprite or a pink-coloured fanta -- and the sugar-rush drove most to the edge of craziness, because when the disco music started, they went wild. The boys, in particular, are quite uninhibited and real little show-offs, so they were dancing like little Michael Jacksons.

It seems to be a Cambodian thing to dance in a circle, often around a table or central object, so the dance floor (normally the concrete football field & volleyball court) was one huge pulsating conga line. I haven't danced so much in ages! It was huge fun!

The party finished at 7.30pm with everyone singing Jingle Bells. Who knows what time the kids calmed down enough to sleep? M and I went back to our guesthouse to clean up, then headed into town for a quite drink with a volunteer friend we met last year.

Christmas Day dawned bright and clear, and M and I and a Taiwanese student from Sheffield in England, Wen Sung, went templing. Having seen the main Angkor Wat temples last visit, we headed further out of town to Beng Melea, a sprawling jungle temple covering an area of one square kilometre. It was a two-hour journey in a tuktuk, but on good roads and I always find it fascinating getting out of the city to see the real Cambodia. People here tend to live right by the road side, so you can easily get fascinating glimpses into their private lives ... and some great photographs!

The temple did not disappoint. It's mostly ruined, and quite overgrown with strangling trees, but being so far out of town, it is lightly touristed.  At one point Wen Sung and Marianne went clambering over rocks Indiana-Jones style, leaving me to spend some time alone, taking in the feel of the place and listening to the leaves fall. It was magical!

And Christmas night was our long-anticipated reunion dinner with Australian and English volunteer friends from last year. Aussie Rachel has come back for a 3-week holiday, bringing 4 members of family with her, and Simon and Colin finally managed to escape snow-covered England to visit us here for a few days before going on to holiday in Laos and Vietnam. We enjoyed delicious food and chatted away as if we had just seen each other a few days rather than a year ago. It was a truly memorable Christmas!

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