19 January 2011

A week of farewells

Sunday 9 January was the first day of the 2011 Globalteer Siem Reap Junior Soccer League season so M and I headed off at 9am to watch the Anjali Under 15s play their two matches. Although their first game was supposed to start at 9.30, it had, in fact, begun at 9 – ah, Cambodian time! – so we missed the first half. We cheered the boys on throughout the second half and during their later match against another team but, unfortunately, they lost both games 1 – 0. They are all very competitive so were looking quite disappointed as they climbed up onto the back of the truck that was their transport home.

Marianne and I headed into town to catch up with Rotha, the young woman who had been our waitress at the Globalteer restaurant last year but is now working at the Funky Monkey. It was lovely to see her again – and enjoy a long cold drink after the heat of the football field. After lunch, M headed for a relaxing couple of hours by the swimming pool while I retired to my room to rest. 

That night we had a farewell dinner with M’s Khmer family. What a great pleasure and privilege it had been to spend time with them and share their knowledge of Cambodian life. I have been invited back to attend Narong’s brother Soria’s wedding – he’s only just met his girlfriend so the wedding may be a while off yet, but I am delighted with the invitation. 

On Monday morning M and I said a tearful farewell. We have become firm friends and I have very much enjoyed our time together. I’m not sure when we’ll meet again as I have no plans to go back to Cambodia in the near future, nor can I afford a holiday in the south of France, where she lives. But if the wish I made when she tied a friendship bracelet on my wrist comes true, we shall meet in some exotic place before too long.

My last week at Anjali went by far too quickly. In English lessons we finally started the text book and I taught some lessons alone as Billy the Khmer teacher was sick a couple of days. The kids worked hard and made good progress. We revised telling the time as well as vocab and verbs to describe their daily routines, so by the end of the week they were each able to give a talk about what they do every day.

In General Studies we covered healthy eating and the food pyramid, how not to eat too many fats and dairy products – actually, they eat no dairy here at all. Perhaps rural villagers milk their own cows, but the climate and lack of refrigeration means you can’t buy milk in shops and so there are also no dairy products, except those imported for tourists to eat. Still, the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables means the children are mostly healthy, if small by Western standards. Thursday’s task was to pretend they were restaurant owners and design a healthy menu for their customers to enjoy.

Workshops were fun. A German woman, Brigitta, had arrived to teach theatre workshops twice a week to each level of students, so we learnt how to warm up our bodies, mime some simple actions, sing an animated song, and played various games like Chinese whispers. Courtenay had the great idea to carve cakes of soap into animals and faces (and use the shavings to make more soap, so nothing was wasted), and the other day the children coloured in detailed pictures of birds and faces, which they always seem to enjoy.
Thursday was my last day and quite sad. I thought I’d be fine but when I read the letters the children had written for me, and saw the little presents – a handmade bracelet, a lovely drawing –  I became quite emotional. And some of the girls were clinging to me like little limpets. It was very hard to walk away, especially as I have no immediate plans to return to Anjali. At least some of the older children and Khmer staff are friends on Facebook, so I can keep in touch in a small way.

I enjoyed a lovely dinner that night with a small group of volunteers, then we tried our luck at the Funky Monkey pub quiz. We only came 8th out of about 12 teams but, more importantly, the quiz raised another $159 for Grace House.