Well I can’t say everything went right last month but toward the end of May things really started to brighten up for me.
At the very beginning of May I was organizing an event at my school to teach about reading and how it can be used as a way to pass those hours when most Khmer people just gape into the distance. I had contacted a university professor in Phnom Penh who happened to be running a program with volunteer students and was more than happy to put on the event at my school. I traveled to Phnom Penh to meet him and was having some difficulties finding the University when a moto driver snatched my bag from the tuk tuk I was riding in. Well this didn’t sit too well with me so I leapt from the tuk tuk in what I will describe as a ‘Superman dive’ only to feel his shirt slip out of my hand and watch him speed away. Ipod, sunglasses, camera, favorite kroma.
Went to the meeting anyway looking helpless, homeless, dirty, pissed. Proceeded to get advice from all the students and the professor on how to protect my belongings, no shit you’re careful with your things, no tell me how you carry your bag again. Giving mindless advice to a person who is usually vigilant of things like this but had a lackadaisical moment in a city of opportunity, but I politely listened anyway getting madder the more I thought about it.
The meeting went well other than that and we planned for the event to fall on the 10th. Next duty was to tell my school director and go about getting some supplies and seats for the audience.
Telling the school director went very well and he gave me his blessing to hold the event, and even offered seats and a tent that his friend had. Supplies, everyone is on board, I got this thing locked and ready to go.
So I went to Kampot the 8th planning to return the 9th and do one last run over of the schedule.
On the morning of the 9th I received a call from my school director telling me the District office of Education was not going to allow me to do my workshop. ‘What’? ‘Yes the elections are on June 3rd and you can’t do your workshop’. ‘But that’s 3 weeks away’ I countered. ‘The DOE will not let the school do the event’.
By this moment I’m seeing red, couldn’t figure out what the election had to do with anything, and one day before? So I call my counterpart and ask what the hell is going on and he says the government is scared of large gatherings of people. So what? There are thousands of kids who come to school every day and they haven’t canceled school.
So I had to call the professor and inform him he couldn’t do the workshop at my high school, something I really wasn’t looking forward to but he surprisingly understood after I described the circumstances. ‘Is this normal in Cambodia?’ I asked. ‘Yes’ he replied ‘just wait another week or so and you will see why.’
Sure enough in another week there were mass imprisonments, peaceful protests were violently broken up and the participants were treated to trial in a kangaroo court, and a 14 year old girl was killed in what the news said was ‘indiscriminate machine gun fire’.
I also had two other projects coming to their final events and funding was being received for them.
The first was an art competition in which my school and four other schools in the vicinity were participating, the three winners will be sent to Phnom Penh to see a real exhibit and meet a real artist.
On a Tuesday I invited all my students into participate and it soon got out of hand with kids drawing on each other more than they drew on the paper, but I had some students take things very seriously and submit some very good art. The art show is still on progress so we don’t know the winners yet but we should have the results tallied by the 14th of June.
My other project was a workshop for the boys in my grade and I got to take 8 of them to Sihanoukville for a conference called B.R.E.W. (Boys Respecting and Empowering Women). It may seem a foreign concept, but most of the women still cook, clean, and care for the children, and do not get to go out with their friends often in Cambodia. So our goal was to promote gender equality.
The boys were very receptive and enjoyed the conference, so I think I can chalk this up as a victory in my Peace Corps service.
Last but certainly not least I was visited by a very good friend I met when I studied in Costa Rica. We were able to see almost everything I wanted to show her, only missing Mondulkiri by a few days. It was a gauntlet of traveling by bus and early morning rises to see everything we wanted to in the short time she was here, and by the end of her visit I had been wearing the same giddup for 3 days because we never spent enough time in one place to get our laundry done. Wasn’t a boring moment and I had a blast.
I apologize to my mom and grandma also because I have been trying to make birthday shoutouts part of my blog but have fell down on several of them. Happy belated Birthday, love and miss you tons and will see you in August.