To kick off the Khmer New Year celebrations, which last for 3 - 4 days and mark the New Year after the Buddhist calendar, we organised a Special Week with fun activities at the Countryside Class in Battambang. We created flowers from Pet-bottles, told stories, made drawings with the Khmer New Year theme, and on the last day there were home-made smoothies, cookies and dancing. And of course, the end of the celebrations were marked by the traditional "water fight", where everyone throws water at each other.
These activities were all made possible with huge support from our current volunteer Kim, from Germany. Joe, from the UK, joined us for the last two days as well. Apart from a short break, Kim will remain with us until the end of September, which is great. We are very happy and grateful for her help. Our young Cambodian English teacher can really use support and she can learn heaps from Kim.
Sambon and his Countryside Class Traditional Dance Group were asked by the abbott of a close-by pagoda to help with decorating the temples and organising the evening activities there. The result was a very creative and, certainly in this area, completely unique decoration out of recycling materials. The show was beautiful and the Cambodians loved it. Stefan, who is another German volunteer, and I stayed for most of the evening, but when the Karaoke part started we decided to go home.
Stefan hanging his wish for 2016 onto the line
The stage which had been decorated by Sambon and his dance group and Sambon preparing a girl for the performance
The rest of the holidays Stefan and I spent mostly in the only Cafe which was opened during the festivities, working on the Seed Annual Report 2015.
On Saturday morning, at 6am, we left for Bech Khlok on motorcycles packed full with painting accessories and paint buckets. Heang was kind enough to accompany us. Arriving after a 3 hour trip we immediately started sanding and painting the doors and window frames of the new school building. Soon we were surrounded by little helpers. Despite all the help the work was extremely tiresome, the intense heat and the strong gusts of wind made it all very hard.
When young villagers started preparing the village square with a generator and huge loudspeakers, we knew we were not going to have a great night's sleep. After all, it was the last night of Khmer New Year, and the Cambodians spend that night dancing. Unfortunately they don't seem to know a pain threshold, and the music was so loud that our ears hurt.
After sundown we crawled into our sleeping bags and tried to get some sleep despite music and dog-barking.
The next morning we painted the last layer of "Pacific Blue" onto the doors and window frames, and then we payed a visit to the families of the best three female students of the school. We want to give the girls special support, to enable them the transition to secondary school in 2-3 years from now. The parents promised us they would help us achieve that objective. If they will really stick to the task will remain to be seen. Two or three years are a long period of time, especially when your financial situation only allows you to plan day for day.
The trip back home was a borderline experience. It was glowing hot, dusty, hard and the traffic was desperately dangerous. Buses and big SUVs were overtaking recklessly and I had a feeling that many a driver's alcohol levels were still pretty high after 4 days of celebrations.
Finally some photos of Sophia and Sokhorn, Bech Khlok's teachers, who could attend a training seminar by KAPE, a Cambodian organisation. KAPE had offered that training in order to accustomize the teachers with the new educational material Seed had bought for the school. I sincerely hope that this will have been the first step towards a more playful and active learning experience for the children. Improvements in the teaching methodology and style are very necessary.