Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Work and Play... a lot of play

Last week I began teaching and I have to say that I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.  Although the kids have almost no clue what I am saying I know just enough to Khmer and we can meet in the middle most of the time.  The rest of the time ends up being a class laugh session.

I usually begin with some simple vocab that I can easily describe or draw pictures on the board.  Occasionally we come across a word like 'responsibility'.  Easy enough right?  Well it begins with me slowly (and I mean s-l-o-w-l-y) pronouncing the word a few times with the class repeating.  "Responsibility" I say "responserbity" is what I get back.  Okay so I need to break up the words into phonetics, so I write on the board 'ree-spons-eh-bill-it-tee' and am able to get them to pronounce it correctly after about 4 times.  Next I have to try and explain the word.

This is where things get difficult.  I am going through every possible explanation I can think of in Khmer without just giving them the word (because I have no idea how to translate responsibility) and even trying to explain it in basic English.  The kids just don't get it and about 5 minutes after trying to explain I think I am beginning to frighten them because I am over enthusiastic at even the most feeble try.  I finally go and ask my co-teacher who has taken a phone call and left the room.  He gives me the word and I go tell the kids.  By this time they are all laughing hysterically at my awful pronunciation of the Khmer word and I am laughing at their pronunciation of the English word.  All in all the teaching has been okay, and although its very slow moving every class I feel like my pronunciation is really helping them hear and speak clearly.

Onto my funny story of the week.  So everyday out back of my house there is a group of gentlemen who play soccer and on Wednesdays and Thursdays I go to join them.  There was a small carnival last week and it had a few rides and some small games kids could play, and it happened to be right next to the field where we play soccer.  The carnival usually plays American music (Beyonce, J-lo, Pit Bull, etc.), but no one can really understand anything being said and the lyrics are mostly harmless.

Except for one song.

Now picture me, 23 year old male with a sixth graders immature sense of humor and only fluent English speaker for miles, playing soccer with all these Khmer people who brought their kids to a fun day at the carnival when this song comes on http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/g/gillette/dont_want_no_short_dick_man.html.

No joke, I am in the middle of the field and gasping for air, laughing so hard my face is turning purple.  It had to be the funniest thing that has happened to me since I arrived and my only regret is not having anyone who understands what is going on.  Most of the town already thinks I'm nuts because I walk everywhere, and don't know how to hand wash my laundry, and now they are witnessing a first hand total mental breakdown of this new stupid American who just arrived last week.

Needless to say I was a bit embarrassed and my family kept asking what is so funny but I didn't have the heart to tell them and still don't, but I am now officially known as 'that crazy Barang' but its okay because it was well worth what I got out of it, even if it made me look nuts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

a few more pics

A baby named "David"

Yes, they have pugs in Cambodia

Swear In

My Language Group

Thursday, October 6, 2011

These people don't mess around...

Let me say it was nice to be in Phnom Penh for a few days before swear in to unwind and buy some stuff that I need (instead of getting a stove I bought a guitar, sorry mom).  However the unwind session soon turned into everyone fitting their goodbyes into a few nights and some early mornings.  One thing they don't tell you about Peace Corps is that training is not walk in the park.  Even on your days off it seems there is an insurmountable amount of work to do to either wash your clothes or study the new language.  Now it is all over and I can finally settle into site and have some free time.

Today was my second day of observing classrooms and one of the girls at my school came running up to me very excitedly.  She told me that she was sad because the fortune teller told her she could not marry me but was excited to study English with me.  Never met the girl before in my life but she apparently saw me yesterday (who didn't? I'm the only white person around 6' in this country) and ran to her local fortune teller to ask about her future.  I told her I was making an English club and she was welcome to come anytime, and walked away nearly crying I was laughing so hard.

That was not the strangest thing that has happened to me this week though.  The most uncomfortable I have been since I arrived in Cambodia was not due to heat or bugs, but surprisingly with a close encounter with a man who got a little too friendly.

I was sitting on a bench in Phnom Penh outside a bar waiting for one of my newly minted PCVs when one friendly Cambodian man came and sat next to me.

Now the culture and friendship of men here is different and they like to touch each other and really get up in each others business.  I am not a fan.  That being said you can tell where this is going.  He moves closer to me speaking broken English and I am trying my best to speak Khmer to him and telling him he speaks good English.  Well after I complement him on his English his hand goes straight to my upper thigh and I wince a little because I don't allow other guys to touch me too often (even for hugs).  So I remind myself of where I am and the customs here and slowly lift his hand and put it back in his lap.

His hand goes right back to my crotch.  I take it off and put it back in his lap and stand up.  Now he slaps me in the butt and stands next to me hand remaining on my butt.  Just walk away Bret.  So I start away and he kind of lingers on my path for awhile and finally goes his separate way.

Other than some bugs, heat and gross misunderstandings everything has gone pretty smooth so far.  I moved to my site, finally am able to settle in.  Pretty much have my own tile floor apartment, and looks like I have a pretty supportive staff at my school.  I miss the other PCVs that I went through training with but seem to have no problem finding awkward situations to occupy myself.

My market is very big and I have met a lot of nice people who are always interested in the foreigner.  I walk through the market and time seems to stop for everyone.  Its actually kind of amusing but I'm sure it will get old when I have been here for six months and still get gawked at on every corner.

This weekend I have a trip to Kampot (the beach town, woot!) to get my bike, why Peace Corps could not send it to my site I will never know.  But any excuse to go relax for a day is okay with me.  Next week I have a little more observing to do and then I begin teaching.  Wish me luck and now that I have some free time I will be able to start blogging more often,