November 27, 2013
Following Pisey’s graduation party was the reopening of Joe to Go. Joe to Go is a restaurant associated with TGC, in which all of its proceeds help support education at the school. Within the past few months, Jo to Go has been undergoing several renovations, such as changing the color of the restaurant, the style of the menu, putting in air conditioning on the second floor, creating a new staircase that is not as steep as before, adding an art exhibit, and getting rid of the boutique on the second floor that was previously known as Beau Fou. The focus of Joe to Go is now to support TGC while enjoying the art exhibit and a working environment with air conditioning.
All of our hard work had definitely paid off in the reopening. Prior to this event, I worked on marketing for the new look. I created flyers (that was posted previously in my blog), changed the wording for the tuktuk posters, edited the writing for the artist, created ads for the Phnom Penh post, and wrote an article to the editor of the Phnom Penh post informing them of our event. Meanwhile, Becca worked on updating the menu and creating recipes for the delicious cocktails that are now offered at Joe to Go.
The event itself was a huge success! “Becca the Bartender” worked hard making cocktails for all of our many guests (that were half priced) and everyone enjoyed free appetizers, 30% of the menu, and Savann’s art exhibit.
Savann is an artist in Siem Reap who loves working with children. He is best known as our art teacher at TGC. Savann mostly paints pictures of Khmer culture and traditions but he also enjoys creating new styles of art. He uses several lines in his work to demonstrate the many emotions of hardship, joy, and love that embody each individual. Savann also uses only black and gold colors to show simplicity in his work.
In addition to the art exhibit, Mike, on of TGC’s Board members played lovely music on his guitar during the event. Marot and Piron, two of our older TGC students, also guest starred! Marot played the guitar while Piron sang for everyone. They were terrific.
Overall, this event was amazing. Many people attended and everyone had a great time. For all of you Siem Reapers reading this, hope to see you at Joe to Go again soon!
Here is an article about the event in the Phnom Penh Post:
Pictures coming soon!
November 27, 2013
Last Saturday was filled with exciting events for The Global Child and Joe to Go. It began with a graduation party for Pisey, our first TGC student to graduate followed by a reopening for the Joe to Go restaurant featuring a new look, cocktails, an art exhibit, and a live performance (more details to come in by next post about JTG).
Pisey was admitted to TGC when it first began in Phnom Penh. She was a 12 year old, street working child, who was devoted to education and strived for a better life. When asking her now about her life before TGC she just says, “Before I came to TGC, I was nothing.” I had the opportunity to teach Pisey during the Summer School session and I was always amazed at her motivation and her desire to learn. She would constantly ask for extra work and she truly loved learning. One day in the end of our class, I decided to show her and Ratha some sample SAT questions so they could see the type of tests we need to take in the States to get into University. I knew that these would be extremely difficult for them, but they both insisted on practicing them in the last few minutes of every class. Those tests are hard for everyone, especially for those who are learning English as a second language. I couldn’t believe how motivated they were and how much they loved the challenge.
Being the same age as me, Pisey became more like a friend than a student. She would teach me about Khmer culture and about the history of TGC and I would teach her English, dance, and in her free time she wanted me to teach her Hebrew as well. It has truly been a pleasure getting to know her throughout Summer School and when she visited TGC during the school year.
This past Saturday, TGC had a graduation party for Pisey. All of the students, faculty, and family members attended for a meal, a slideshow, and awards. Judy Wheeler, the founder of TGC had also flown in from the States and she handed out awards to the faculty who had been part of the TGC family for several years. It was an exciting day for all, and everyone was thrilled and proud of Pisey for her accomplishments.
Pisey got a wonderful job working as an accountant for an organization in Siem Reap. She has moved out of the Wood House and has grown into a beautiful young woman.
Congratulations Pisey! We are so proud of you.
Here is the original video for The Global Child when it was in Phnom Penh. At 4:35 you will see Pisey at age 12. Look at how far she’s come!
November 22, 2013
Next stop: Phnom Penh
This past weekend I traveled to Phnom Penh for the Water Festival holiday. Although this holiday is known for boat races, it hasn’t been celebrated in several years because it drew too many people to one place and it was considered unsafe. Despite the cancellation of the holiday activities, it is still a national holiday- meaning a break from TGC and another opportunity to travel Cambodia for a few days!
I had been planning on going to Phnom Penh for a while now. Becca and I work on Saturdays and with the TGC soccer season beginning this weekend, our Sundays will be filled as well. My main interests in Phnom Penh were going to the Chabad/Jewish Center in Cambodia for Shabbat dinner and seeing the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum. I was also looking forward to meeting my friend Mike Lucey, Union ’11, who was flying into Phnom Penh to visit.
Day 1: Fun
With all of my Phnom Penh recommendations from my friends in Siem Reap, I was ready to go. My bus left at about 6am but they told me to be ready at 5am. Silly me, though, should have realized that “be ready at 5am” in Cambodia still means that they will not arrive until 6am anyways. Despite this previous knowledge, my optimism got the best of me and I was waiting outside beginning at 5am when my bus didn’t arrive until about 5:50am. The bus also continued to take an extra 3 hours than it should have to arrive in Phnom Penh. Every time I thought we would be there soon, the driver would decide to stop for some food. Super frustrating!
When I finally arrived, Lucey and I walked around the city and familiarized ourselves with the streets. It is a much bigger city than Siem Reap and it was much more confusing and difficult to get around. That night we made it to the Chabad for dinner and it was a great place to celebrate Shabbat for the first time in four months. It was in a large house and about 30 other people attended from all over the world. It reminded me of the Chabad at Union. There was a large long table down the middle of the room and the food was delicious. They even had challah with an olive dip (shout out to everyone at the Union College Chabad!). On our way out of the Chabad, I met someone who was from New Haven, CT. and he knew my cousins- crazy small world!
Day 2: A nightmare in the middle of the day
On our second day in Phnom Penh, we were very excited to explore Street 240- a street with many restaurant and shops. As we were walking down to find a restaurant for lunch, a man on his motorbike came by, seemingly out of nowhere, extremely quick, grabbed my bag and attempted to rob me. Luckily he didn’t get any of my things as I was wearing a cross-body bag, but I had a very hard fall on the street. I have many scrapes and bruises from my fall. Lucey was right next to me when it happened and we quickly went to the closest pharmacy to get myself cleaned up.
As unfortunate as this was, I was actually really impressed that he didn’t get my bag. Before traveling abroad my junior year, I bought an “anti-snatch” bag from AAA, which guaranteed that it could not be broken or cut into- guess it really works- I still win! Also, as I was walking to the pharmacy a man just looked at me and said “well, your day can only get better from here.” He did make me laugh and he was right. Did I mention this was all in broad day light at about 11:40am?! Craziness. My students also told me before I left for Phnom Penh in their sweetest voices, “watch out for the gangsters.” Yeah… they were right too. After getting completely stung from the rubbing alcohol and antiseptics, I told the owners of the restaurant and they were very disappointed. They immediately called to get more police on the street and were ashamed that something like that would happen in Phnom Penh. Even when I got back to TGC, many of the Khmer staff felt embarrassed and disappointed that it happened in their country.
As much as it hurt and my scrapes are still pretty apparent on my chin, forearms, knee, and hand, I don’t want this to deter anyone from coming to visit Cambodia! I generally feel very safe and I love it here.
Day 3: Genocide Museum & Killing Fields
On our last full day in Phnom Penh, we went to the genocide museum and killing fields with two of my friends from Siem Reap who met us here for the holiday. We started at the museum. The museum was in a rustic old school which displayed hundreds pictures of victims from the Khmer Rouge.The prisoners were kept in the school and the stalls where they lived are still standing. Stories were written on the walls about how the prisoners were tortured. As horrific as this was to witness, I was actually surprised at how little information was available at the museum. Many things were translated into English, but there was still a lot missing. Many letters were translated and they were interesting to see, but it was difficult to connect the pieces when the context wasn’t explained.
The Killing Fields is the most famous of over 300 mass grave sites throughout Cambodia where many of the victims of Khmer Rouge Regime were killed and buried in 1975-1979. In this short span of years, the Khmer Rouge Regime was responsible for two to three million deaths in Cambodia, a staggering proportion of its eleven million population at the time. It was horrific to witness the many clothes, teeth, and skulls of the victims, some of which still rise to the surface to this day. An audio tour guide explained the Killing Tree- used for killing babies, how many parents lost their children, women were raped, and families were separated. In the entrance of the Killing Fields, you see a large stupa which houses many of the victim’s skulls. As appalling as this was, I was surprised that for something this important, the English translation had never been reviewed. In one section in the Stupa, instead of captioning “senior women,” it wrote “senile women.” As imperative as this site is for Cambodian history, the language should definitely be corrected to respect those who perished.
Night 3: I think I’m ready to go back to Siem Reap
With an attempted mugging and a tough visit to the Killing Fields, we decided to end our trip on a fun note and go to a bar. To my surprise, the bar scene in Phnom Penh was very different from Siem Reap. There were prostitutes in several of the Khmer bars and kids on the streets doing drugs. I did not feel safe in this area and I was definitely ready to get back to Siem Reap!
In 2004 when TGC was founded, it was originally in Phnom Penh and then a few years later moved to Siem Reap. After visiting Phnom Penh, I could not be happier that TGC had moved. My trip this weekend made me appreciate Siem Reap City so much more and I was very happy to go back to my home in Cambodia.
November 21, 2013
Over the past two weekends there have been several national holidays and I have had the opportunity to travel to different parts of Cambodia.
First Stop: Preah Vihear
My trip to Preah Vihear was actually a last minute decision. With no school the next day, my friend Amanda and I were out on Pub Street when we realized that there was an open invitation from another friend to go to Preah Vihear the next morning at 8am. Despite us being out late and having absolutely no idea what we should pack, we thought, “Sure! Why not? Let’s go!”
The next morning, we woke up bright and early on an adventure to a place that I actually did not know much about. All I knew was that we were driving to the border of Cambodia and Thailand and it was an opportune time to go. The following Monday the Temple may be closed to tourists because of a court ruling for ownership. In 2008, the Temple was titled a World Heritage site by UNESCO which caused a lot of tension between the Cambodian-Thai border. Sounded adventurous, right?
Well, despite all of the risks, I felt very safe there, except for the drive up to the top of the mountain! It was a very windy road that had a steep incline. I felt as if I were on a roller coaster. The top of the mountain, where the temple was located was beautiful. It overlooked Thailand and Cambodia and the temple itself was so ancient and stunning. There were only a few other people there aside from my friends and I so it was a very different temple experience. The temples in Siem Reap are usually packed with tourists and it is always hard to get that perfect picture with no other people in the background. At Preah Vihear we had no problem. It was perfect.
The next morning, I saw in the BBC news that there was a Thai helicopter that flew over the temple the day we were there and it caused a great deal of tension and risk in the area.
When I first read this I was really surprised. I kept hearing that it was a risky place but it didn’t feel like it at all. There were some soldiers with guns on the mountain but they were all just relaxing. Hmmmm I go to a risky area and come back in one piece. Now, my trip to Phnom Penh the following weekend, that’s another story. Stay tuned!
November 11, 2013
I have been here for about 3.5 months and I have definitely adjusted to this whole teaching thing. That being said, I have realized that it is not for me. Don’t get me wrong, I do usually enjoy teaching and I love my students, but I am running out of creative ideas for my classes. I also give teachers a lot of credit- teaching can be hard work! It isn’t always easy to follow your class objective, provide information, manage a classroom, and have it all be fun and exciting at the same time.
When the school year first started we were given a book to follow for creating our lesson plans on the curriculum. This makes class preparation so much easier but now I am afraid of being a ‘boring teacher.’ I know that if I am enthusiastic about my lessons then the students will be more likely to be enthusiastic, but it is getting difficult to maintain my positivity when it is becoming a routine. I do enjoy teaching reading and writing with the older students because there is more to discuss on those subjects, and I of course enjoy teaching dance and mental health because I am more passionate about those topics, but vocab, listening, and speaking have proven to be more difficult. If anyone has any teaching tips or creative ideas for English, please let me know!
I have been trying a few new things lately, like incorporating positive reinforcement in the classroom. At the beginning of the week I created a “Class G3 can speak English” chart. For every class in which a student speaks ONLY English, she will get a sticker on the chart. When she earns ten stickers I will add a bonus point to her exam. On the first day the students were great but I continually need to remind them about the chart. The truth is, they CAN speak English and use other words to describe things that they do not know how to say, but it is difficult for them. I was hoping this system would encourage them to try harder but it looks like the girls may need a bigger goal than just one bonus point.
In addition to positive reinforcement I have created a new program for this class to practice their English in real-life situations. For one hour a week I meet with the G3 students for library time – a class with no particular instructions. Sometimes the students do their homework, sometimes they do independent reading, and other times they don’t really have anything to do and beg to watch movies. I showed movies at first but it felt like a waste of both their time and mine. Therefore, I have implemented a Pen Pal program to make this time more exciting.
My mom works at the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, CT. as a communications teacher and, although, her students live in the US, they are also learning ESL because American Sign Language was their first language. They are also similar in age to my students. I taught G3 all about what it means to be deaf or hard of hearing, I showed them pictures of ASD and the town of West Hartford, and I taught them some sign language. They were quick learners! They already know the entire alphabet in American sign language and they know how to sign “I love you.” I also heard that back at ASD, the teachers have taught their students about Cambodia and Siem Reap. My students have each written a letter titled “Dear Friend” in which they asked questions of the ASD students. Here is an example from one of my students:
“Dear all friends,
My name is ______. I’m 16 years old. I’m Cambodian. I learned some sign language too. I am not hard of hearing but I want to know: how do you feel when you are unable to hear? What do you do when you want to sing song? Especially how do you speak to your teacher? I think that maybe it is hard to speak to everyone. I hope you all have a good time with your family, friends, and teachers.
Bye Bye my love.
I scanned their letters and e-mailed them to ASD so that the students there could respond right away. And… we just received some letters back! All of the girls in G3 were so happy to get letters back. They wanted to see more pictures and get more information from the American students.
Here is one of the letters that we received back from ASD:
How are you doing? My name is _______. I am 21 years old and I am hard of hearing. Most of our teachers know sign language and there are some deaf teachers that can’t speak. My school goes from pre-k to 12th grade. We have dorms here and some of the students live here and go home on the weekends.
Why you all have your shoes off? Do you have a dress code? I notice you all are wearing skirts.
Have a nice day!”
This program has been working very well. It has definitely been helping with motivation because the students can get something in return for their letters. Seeing my students faces as they received those letters made their hard work writing in English completely worth it. I look forward to incorporating more fun activities into my classes!
Sending our smiling faces to ASD. Check out Sokoam signing “I love you” on the bottom right!
November 8, 2013
Today I received a package from my mom and in it was a super cute letter that I thought I would share. Thank you mom for all of your support! I love you, dad, Noah, and Josh!
"I read this in Chicken Soup and thought of you…”
A Peace Corps Mama
'I taught my daughter to walk
And she showed me how to walk in the dark
I taught my daughter how to talk
And she spoke for me in French and Bamoun
I taught my daughter how to eat with utensils
And she showed me how to eat with my fingers
I taught my daughter how to bathe
And she showed me how take a bucket bath
I taught my daughter how to vacuum a carpet
And she showed me how to squeegee cement
I taught my daughter first-world greed
And she showed me third-world need
I taught my daughter how to love her family
She showed me how to embrace the world.’
-Cheryl Reece Myers