I went down to breakfast this morning and noticed signs all over the guest house asking guests to be quiet, which seems a not unreasonable request, but also banning hedgehogs, which was frankly baffling and got me wondering whether the locals have a habit of smuggling hedgehogs into hotels:
When I asked about this I was directed to point 12 of the Hotel Regulations which states ‘Fruits with strong odor such are not allowed in the hotel’, and this picture is apparently not a hedgehog, but a very smelly fruit. As this rule comes directly after the rule telling us that ‘Weapons or explosives are forbidden not to bring inside the hotel premise’, I can only assume that this fruit is highly dangerous.
I had my town orientation tour today and we got into Mr Vibol’s tuk-tuk and chugged past the pagodas, the cows and the bicycles to have a look at the town centre. The market has piles of fruit I don’t recognise, and there are so many different types of rice, you could probably have a different one each day of your stay.
The eating out area is appropriately named Pub Street, but there is also Bug Street, where the speciality is Insect Tapas – I’m very keen to go but think I’ll wait a few days to acclimatise before I visit.
Tomorrow is Day One at the Children’s project – I’ve been told today that my class has a lot of lively boys and that their permanent Khmer teacher is not good on discipline, so I’m wondering what I’ve let myself in for … so much for the manual that led me to believe that teachers are so highly revered that they’re practically worshipped over here.
I’ve always known that there are three steps to heaven, but I hadn’t realised before today that British Airways was quite so closely involved.
I turned up at Heathrow with an extra suitcase full of all the toys and other materials donated by friends and colleagues for the children’s project in Cambodia, quite prepared to fork out the extra £65 to get it all over there. But when the check-in clerk put all the luggage through, there was no extra charge for it on the system. We agreed that BA must somehow know that this was excess baggage for a worthy cause, and not the sloppy packing of a woman who simply empties her entire wardrobe into suitcases rather than being selective about what to take.
We arrived in Bangkok in brilliant sunshine and boarded what looked like a cartoon plane, covered with pictures of palm trees, fish and star fish.
Unfortunately, it didn’t look quite so jolly when we landed in the pouring rain in Siem Reap.
Mr Vibol met me in his tuk-tuk at the airport.
He was dressed in waterproofs from head to toe, and he handed me into the tuk-tuk where I sat gingerly on a very soggy banquette for half an hour while we toodled into town. Everyone seems to be on bikes or motorbikes – everyone except the cows, they’re just wandering up the street.
I received the instructions this week from the community project school where I will be volunteering as a teacher. I have learnt that the Khmer culture requires modesty, and in addition teachers are highly respected in Cambodia, and must dress in an appropriately dignified way – and in particular must not display shoulders, knees or cleavage. I suppose it’s the same sort of rules that the Queen adheres to in the UK, but unlike the Queen I have to contend with a tropical climate – so natural fabrics only.
Having taken advice and plumped for linen, I have scoured ebay and have come up with a couple of possibilities. First is the Bohemian Arty look, with Tie-dye linen smock and cropped trousers:
Secondly is the Nehru look, with linen trousers and long flowing top:
I shall continue to work on this – perhaps Lawrence of Arabia next?
But I don’t think I can go for bright colours like the Queen, as they apparently attract mosquitoes, so I will have to look dignified in a muted sort of way … the Farrow and Ball approach to dignity.
The last time I did any maths was a GCSE in 1991- and I mean real maths, not splitting a bill, checking my change or counting children on school trips. But even these things are done using my own idiosyncratic method and I don’t show my working. So I probably wouldn’t get any marks for them in an exam, even if I arrived at the right answer and realised that 37 – 1 meant that I had left a child in the service station 20 miles back.
So I thought I’d better put in some practice before I have to start teaching maths in Cambodia next month, and I got out the list of topics.
Topic number one: complementary numbers. So I googled it and learnt that ‘a complementary number, in number theory, is the number obtained by subtracting a number from its base. For example, the complement of 7 in numbers to base 10 is 3.’
So I googled base number. Apparently it is ‘a number which is going to be raised to a power.’
So I googled power. This tells you how many times to use a number in a multiplication.
I think I get this last one, it’s like squared or cubed, but the other two are definitely still fuzzy … I can’t help thinking of numbers raised to a power as being despotic – probably plotting a violent coup and fighting me every step of the way as I struggle to subtract them from their bases. If it comes to a showdown between me and the numbers, I’ll put my money on the numbers winning – although I will be able to use my idiosycratic methods to check my winnings and make sure I haven’t been short-changed.
I have decided to abandon complementary numbers and start with number patterns instead, as they sound far less threatening. I will post a progress report next week.
Last summer I decided to take a course to learn to teach English as a foreign language. One year on, despite passing with flying colours, I still haven’t found an opportunity to use my new-found skill. So, with ‘use it or lose it’ firmly in my mind, I have arranged to spend seven weeks in Cambodia this summer volunteering in a children’s project in Siem Reap.
This week I received my teaching instructions, and my class is ‘Tigers and Rhinos’. I’m hoping that this is just the name of the class, and not a zoological classification of the class members. I will be teaching them English (good – I’m prepared for that), Geography (erm … not exactly my forte) and maths (gulp … definitely not my forte).
But with my customary enthusiasm I have thrown myself into the necessary research. The geography module is all about Siem Reap province, which is slightly worrying as they live there and I don’t, so they should probably be teaching me about it. But thanks to Google I am now au fait with the reverse water flow of the Tonle Sap River and the problems facing the giant catfish who live there.
The maths is a different matter. One of the topics is doubling, which seems fairly straightforward – we can work in multiples of giant catfish – but there is also complementary numbers and non-numerical patterns on the scheme of work … more googling required, I think.