Home Is Where The Hostel Is – From Connemara to Cambodia

‘To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the most pleasant sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure” – Freya Stark

It’s funny sometimes how it takes longer than anticipated to truly feel at ease in a new place. I’ve come to the conclusion that some places simply may never feel like home – the school floor upon which we slept in Uganda, for example, or the layover area of Helsinki airport.
But really, when it comes down to it, what even is home? We adapt to our present situations, and continue to beat onwards regardless of what came before or what is coming next. Right now I am here, and I have finally begun to adjust to the fact that Cambodia is currently my temporary home, and boy is life here more difficult than I had expected!

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Local children wave as they see us pass..

It may sound extreme, but I honestly believe that the past two weeks have been some of the most testing of my life, with as many ups and downs as there are staircases to climb to each lesson and each floor within our new schools and homes (that’s a lot!). At first, I didn’t know whether or not I’d stick it. Hell, I still change my mind every couple of hours, and from what I’ve heard from the other interns, many of their stories are similar. In general though, things have finally, finally reached a kind of level enough field where we can live within our means and support ourselves to some extent within this crazy country. For me anyway I think it took longer than I expected for the initial buzz of travelling and being in a new place, with new people, completely alone and self-sufficient to wear off, and I hadn’t honestly taken much of the teaching element of things into consideration.

 Luckily I have a bit of teaching experience to stand behind me, and so I wasn’t relying too much on things to be organised for me – I work well on my feet, ‘winging it’ and adapting to unpredictable situations having been a large part of my previous work (grá mo chroí Coláiste Lurgan!!). This is where the main problem lies in Cambodia and with the LoveTEFL programme in particular – the teachers and schools here really had no idea what to expect from us, nor us them. This combination led to several extremely frustrating days of half-teaching, half-observing, being thrown into teacherless classes with no prior knowledge of what had been taught, nor what level of understanding the kids had of English – trial and error was literally the only method we could have used, the mistakes we made seeming even more humiliating due to our total ignorance to even the way the schooldays were laid out, and what the children see when they looked to us – we are only the second pair of Western interns to ever work at this particular branch of NYIS (New York International School).

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Our humble Cambodian kitchenette

Our school accomodation and wifi situation has (thankfully) finally been remedied somewhat, and we’ve rearranged our limited kitchen appliances to form a kind of kitchenette area, using some of the tables and chairs from the classrooms as a base. This now means that we can at least stock up our own fridge and prepare some meals at home, although these are still limited to foods that are either microwavable or toastable. Eating out was acceptable for the first week or so, but I feel if we are to truly adapt to living in this city instead of being tourists and properly settle in, it’s simply not sustainable! (Not to mention it being expensive). I don’t think the LoveTEFL organisation took into consideration that some of us are on quite tight travel budgets, and cannot afford to be eating out as regularly as seems to be required – the lack of basic appliances for cooking is testament to this. Also, the fact that there was minimal access to internet until this week was extremely frustrating, especially given the fact we are expected to be planning lessons during the evenings – it just didn’t make sense!

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Chandelier in a tuk tuk

All things aside, overall it seems to have finally taken a turn for the better, or at least levelled out somewhat, the actual teaching element of the programme for me proving actually kind of enjoyable and rewarding when the kids respond and succeed in class. I’ve taught one class the same story in three different accents, and both they and their teachers seem hugely appreciative of the exposure to different pronunciations and intonations of words! Sometimes I think we forget that even our presence here in the schools for the Khmer children is effective in their learning. For them to be exposed to other cultures, languages, and identities is as important as it is for them to be attending school in the first place. It opens their eyes to the world and presents them with knowledge they might use to help themselves in the future, language being the key to any sort of communication, be it on an academic, emotional, or spiritual level.

What it was for us as kids to walk down the street – our countries being far more multicultural and multi-denominational in population, is similar now to what we are providing by our presence in the schools, many of them functioning on extremely limited resources and funding.
I don’t want to speak too soon or jinx things, but I am finally feeling somewhat more at ease here, and useful during the schoolday!

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Lovely Jubbly Villa Hostel

 Our weekend was spent in the Lovely Jubbly Villa hostel in Phnom Penh, a quieter and more relaxed spot than the Mad Monkey of last weekend, although we did go out anyway for Halloween and watch the Rugby World Cup final in the Aussie XL bar not too far away. On Saturday myself and one of the other interns booked a tour with Nature Cambodia to visit The Killing Fields Tuol Sleng Genocide museum, and see the surrounding villages via quad bike – something I’ll admit I was really excited to try!

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Quad Biking with Nature Cambodia
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Orange, Green and Blue

It was a good mix of a serious versus fun afternoon, as the sombre content of The Killing Fields was made up for by the exhilaration of the orange dirt tracks our guide Johnny took us around on the quad bikes. At one point it felt like freedom was the orange, blue and green hues that surrounded us on all angles, and we returned to our tuk-tuks feeling like we’d gotten our money’s worth. It’s worth mentioning here that this tour was extremely well organised, and from each pickup, drop off and switch over to another element of the tour it flowed seamlessly – one of the first times since arriving to Cambodia that something has actually seemed to work out without a hitch!

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Main Memorial Building at The Killing Fields in Choeung Ek museum – over 8,000 people lost their lives in this small area

It was sobering to think of the tragedies which occurred at Choeung Ek, but I feel it was a necessary insight into the country’s history which left us more aware and appreciative of the successes of the country today, and how far it has come to escape the Khmer Rouge regime.

We made our way back to the hostel, ready to leave the haunting images of the fields behind and sample the yummy food and drinks menus that really added to the Lovely Jubbly experience, along with the pool, with the prices proving a lot more affordable than those at the Mad Monkey. We even started to find our way around the city a bit as we made our way on foot to and from several places – something that I myself had been hesitant to try until then. Next weekend we’ve booked a stay at the sister branch of the Mad Monkey in Kampot which is a couple of hours outside the city –a break from Phnom Penh that I personally am really looking forward to!

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This is so unlike me

Til’ then….keep on tuk-tuk’in!

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View of the sun setting over Phnom Penh from the roof of our school

Useful links

Lovely Jubbly Hostel Website / Facebook / Trip Advisor
Nature Cambodia Website
Tso Sleung Museum on Trip Advisor
Aussie XL Bar Website / Facebook / Twitter
The Mad Monkey Hostel / Facebook / Twitter / Trip Advisor
LoveTEFL Internships 

Koh Dach Moments, Cambodian Yoga, and the Mad Monkey Hostel

When travelling with a group, it is always easy for arguments to arise regarding preferred activities or ways to spend a free weekend. After a busy first week working in a Phnom Penh, our TEFL group however, seemed to all be on the same page when it came to organising some downtime.

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Koh Dach Island

After a group dinner at a local BBQ restaurant, we were shepharded on to Dusk til’ Dawn, or the Rooftop Reggae Bar Phnom Penh  as it’s more commonly known– exactly what it says on the tin, and a phnomenal way (pun intended) to really relax for the first time together and experience great music, views, and our first taste of the nightlife of the city. Curfews at 9pm during the week don’t exactly allow for more than a rebellious tipple on the riverside before racing back to accomodation before the security guards fall asleep, but I feel this restriction allows us to make the most of the weekends, and in a way this week it feels like we’re actually settling into a (somewhat) normal working routine.

The delicious cocktails at the Reggae Bar were exactly what was needed by all after a tough week, and after a bit of chatting and dancing we proceeded to hop the nearest                            tuk-tuk to check in to our accomodation for the next 3 nights.

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The Mad Monkey hostel in Phnom Penh is one of the primary spots in the city for backpackers, with honestly probably the cleanest shower facilities and tastiest restaurant menu I’ve seen since arriving in Asia. Shared dorms, every nationality imaginable wandering around the reception area and rec room, and likeminded working-travellers just chilling for the weekend, it really allowed us to feel like we were finally taking a break and allowed us to revert to ‘traveller-mode’ again.

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Mad Monkey Hostel Phnom Penh

The popularity and widespread reputation of the Mad Monkey for Western backpackers and travellers such as ourselves really showed as I ran into a girl I know from college back home in Ireland whilst trying to find my way up the windy and confusing staircases one night. The rooms are very strangely laid out, but it’s fun trying to find each one if you don’t mind a bit of trial-and-error – and the artwork around the walls is brilliant to look at too if you do get lost!

There are nightly beer-olympic style games in the ‘Rooftop Sunset Bar’, and plenty of other bars, nightclubs, and Western-style restaurants around within walking and tuk-tuk distance that also appealed to us. I was particularly excited to see the Costa Coffee, and directly opposite it stood a large branch of Domino’s Pizza!

The staff were excellent, the menus were yummy and nicely varied (albeit slightly pricey), and the rooms were spotless, well-cleaned and spacious. We were particularly happy when they didn’t seem to mind us hanging around in the resturant area for hours on the Sunday, I’m sure they’ll be sick of seeing our faces before the end of our stay in Cambodia!

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The ‘Healthy Monkey’ fruit & granola option : )

Only a 5 minute walk up the road from the Mad Monkey, I was thrilled to find the Nataraj Yoga Hub Cambodia, where I attended classes both mornings of our stay. Both the Ashtanga and the Regular Flow classes I attended were great,  and the open-terraced balcony looked out over a beautiful courtyard garden.

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I didn’t mind paying the rather pricey drop-in rate of $9 in order to get a proper class or two in though – self- practice is great, but difficult to accommodate regularly whilst travelling and staying in shared lodgings.

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Koh Dach Island

Our Saturday was spent cycling the length of Koh Dach Island, or ‘The Silk Island’ as it is known to the locals. This beautiful, quiet and picturesque length of land was exactly the break we needed from the madness of both the city of Phnom Penh and the backpackers’ hostel, and we were treated to a visit to the house and workshop of a local lady who showed us exactly how she wove and made the silk products, one long scarf she told us taking ‘three to five days’ to complete. The ferry out from Phnom Penh port cost a mere 500 Riel, (the equivalent of $0.25), and it took us smoothly over the Mekong River to dock silently at the other side, alongside a haul of dusty motorbikes and one or two old cars which drove straight off the boat and onwards to their island destinations as soon as we thumped gently into the bank.

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Silk weaving on Mekong Island

We rented bikes for $2.50 for the day from Phnom Penh Bicycle, which meant we had the island to ourselves to explore. I’d definitely recommend the bike rather than the motorbikes – much quieter, more peaceful, and really helps you feel like part of the island as you pedal forwards over the barely-used dust tracks and pathways.

It was so tranquil and relaxing to traverse the dust tracks and wave at the excited local children who saw us as we passed, the palm trees, strange bone-thin cows and local vendors giving us a true insight into what life here is really like. As we continued on and found ourselves immersed in beautiful countryside, greenery and blue skies, I really had several glorious moments of smiling peacefully and thinking;

‘This is why we travel’.

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After a long afternoon we stopped for refreshment at a French Hotel/Pizza place  where the fresh stonebaked veggie pizza was honestly the most deliciously mouth-watering thing I have ever tasted! Rooms there go for $70 dollars a night between 6-7 people, which we worked out would cost us about $12-$15 each to share for a weekend. Definitely returning here some weekend soon, because it was literally paradise on earth – and there was a pool!!

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Useful Links:
Dusk Til’ Dawn on Facebook
The Mad Monkey Website 
The Mad Monkey on Facebook

How to…. Become a Pro At Awkward Silences! – From Connemara to Cambodia

….Come to Cambodia!

One thing I had not taken into consideration much in my decision to come to Cambodia, was just how alien the writing and text of Khmer language is in comparison to English. While it may seem an obvious issue to many seasoned travellers, I had neglected to consider how basic some of the locals’ English skills really are – especially because we are based largely away from the main tourist-areas of the city which, when you think about it, are generally the areas regularly encountered by backpackers. It has rarely occurred before that I have met with such a complete and utter blank barrier of misunderstanding, with little or no way to break through it – I would wager that 80% of every interaction here consists of a sort of ‘yes?-no?–maybe?-’ kind of awkward silence. Worse even than the most extreme cases I’ve encountered teaching in the Gaeltacht – at least with the Irish language, the alphabet is the same!

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It’s like a plate of spaghetti

The symbols of gobbledeegook here that look pretty and oriental to a certain extent but that make no sense whatsoever to any of us leave me feeling displaced and uncomfortable – this is what it’s like trying to understand the street signs and local language (Khmer). Think Arabic, with slightly more twirly loops and a tighter formation, which we were informed only pauses for spaces between words in order for a breath to be taken as it’s being spoken.
It reminds me of learning to read English for the first time – trying to make sense of an alphabet so alien that it seems impossible it could make any kind of sense to anyone ever! It’s a feeling of frustration that I haven’t had to experience since I was 4 years old!

 The printed type on signposts and shop signs is tough enough, but spending time teaching in a local school has exposed us to handwriting of the same lettering, so complicated it makes even the most intricate of calligraphy seem dull in comparison. (I say this having no idea what the words in these pictures actually say – I could easily be posting pictures of anything from it being Monday the 26th of October to what Class E3A had for dinner last week!).

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I agree wholeheartedly.

 It’s this lack of comprehension and understanding which greets you like a slap from a still struggling wet fish at the market that makes many day-to-day interactions here so uncomfortable. It’s not only in the physical environment around us, but in every form of communication that exists. Things that we take for granted and think of as ‘normal’ or even ‘polite’ at home are things that would not even be considered by Khmer people. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve specifically explained to a tuk-tuk driver where we wanted to go, had him nod his head in mock understanding with a toothless grin, and proceeded to be carted off into the playstation-game maze of windy, filthy, and downright dangerous streets for half an hour or more as he stops to enquire from other drivers if they know the directions to where he’s going. I understand that they need the money and probably work ridiculous, non-stop and high-risk hours, but it’s kind of in the job description of a taxi-driver to be able to find your way around!

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Crazy tuk-tuk traffic at night

 Another thing I’ve struggled to comprehend the logic of here is the structuring of some of the lessons. Because of the extremely varying English levels of students in each school, the conclusion that has been reached and put into practise across the country is to stream the classes according to ability. This by all means works at home in our systems where students attend school from an early age and cover a variety of subjects, therefore providing them with basic language skills and a certain level of education by the time they reach a particular age, making it easy to form classgroups and ensure a similar age range is maintained.

 In Cambodia, however, this is not the case. A lack of funding and general low standard of education means that the schools will teach anyone who is willing to pay the fee, regardless of demand, class size, age, or previous education, be it in English, Khmer, Chinese, or other subjects. This unfortunately necessary logic is how I found myself standing in front of a class of eighteen students yesterday, the youngest girl of five years old scribbling all over her book and wiping apple juice from sticky fingers while a deep-voiced, burly young boy of fifteen cowered next to her in embarassment as I rountinely asked each student to tell me their name and age. While their levels of understanding of the English language may have been of similar strength (very poor), it was clear from the written work I set and the exercises during class that this particular instance of streamlined classgroups had failed massively. The boy was clearly ashamed of his assumed position as ‘oldest student in the class’, and the younger kids’ natural clamour and sing-songy way of pottering through a days’ schoolwork simply was not the correct environment for him to be attempting to improve his language skills within. I’ve heard from speaking to other interns and teachers alike that they’ve come across many such examples of extremely mixed classes and unfortunately streamlined standards of learning, and it really does not add to the general difficulty here of teaching classes whose regular teachers struggle to pronounce even basic English words correctly – the downfall of an education provided by those with only mediocre levels of English themselves. This, again, is an unfortunate necessity for the schools in Cambodia, and a large reason why our presence here has generally been so well-received.

Because birds are good for heat.....?!?
Because birds are good for heat…..?!?

Along with this, I’ve found being thrown in to teach a very weak class for 4 hours straight with no prior warning or even information as to what they have previously covered to be one of the most humiliating experiences I’ve ever had. The students were so weak that they couldn’t even comprehend being asked had they covered a particular page in the workbook, and failed to recognise simple questions and vocabulary that may have enabled me to further their understanding of it. It was as if a literal language barrier existed between the top of the classroom and the bottom, and no matter how we tried it simply could not be scaled. We ended up using the wordless talents of Mr. Bean on Youtube to entertain them for the last half hour of the day, the silent images of England punctuated by laughter (something they can actually understand!) giving them at the very least a visual image of Western culture, and me an exhausted and ashamed break after a particularly painful afternoon.

Teaching is haaaard.

‘Cool Heart’, Fresh Start – From Connemara to Cambodia

‘Cool Heart’, Fresh Start – School in Cambodia

Waiting to do things you are unsure of for people who are unsure what they want you to do or why you’re even there to do them has got to be one of the most unsettling feelings in the world.
I’ve neglected to write until now because of the massively, massively contrasting feelings and rollercoaster of emotions that we have experienced this first week. School in Cambodia is tough.

It was our first week of experiencing life as intern teachers at the schools, and while I can’t speak for anyone save the three girls that I am living with, I know myself personally that I was completely and overwhelmingly under-prepared for the lack of organisation and gaping holes left in the planning on all sides of the programme.
Neither the school we were due to stay at, the TEFL organisation we have booked through, nor the school myself and Cathy have been placed at seemed to have been able to inform us of anything, be it what time the school day started and finished, information regarding timetables, free time, transport to and from the school (we have to get a tuk-tuk there and back everyday), or much else really about what was expected of us. All we kept hearing was ‘I will call someone and find out’, and ‘I will check this out for you’. These may be considered minor issues at home in Ireland or the UK where a little bit of messiness would be balanced out by the fact that our surroundings would be in some way familiar, but when you’re left standing watching 4 grown adults babbling away about you in a different language and clearly debating what to tell you to do in a foreign school where nobody speaks the language and the kids run around eating battered fish and squid-flavoured crisps for ten minutes every hour, it’s difficult not to get a bit frustrated. It was all just so alien to us, and I feel this culture-shock element of the transition wasn’t really taken into consideration by anyone.

I don’t know if it’s just in the Khmer culture to under-inform and not properly plan or allow room for questions, but as we were disorderly shipped from one location to the next and directed towards different members of staff to pose the same questions, the answers to which nobody seemed to have or make any effort to find out, we couldn’t help but get a bit distraught and begin to doubt the decision to ever come on this trip.

 That was the negative side.
The positives were equally as strong – the kids are adorable, so willing to learn, and absolutely fascinated with us. Their chanting in unison as you step foot inside the classroom, and respectful bow of welcome every time they set eyes on us gets me everytime, and although even many of the teachers’ pronunciation and language accuracy is dodgy at the best of times, there is no denying the will to learn and dedication to progress that underlies everything. While I find language barriers to be one of the most frustrating social constrictions of all time, the fact that this is in a school-setting where the focus is actually on trying to reduce the extremity of such a barrier really helps and serves as a constant reminder that steps are actually being taken to help improve the communication between staff, students, and new clueless and naïve intern-teachers.

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To be fair I don’t think the blame came could have been placed on any one party or individual in particular, the problem instead being a general lack of organisation and failure to supply some basic and obvious information within the first few days and hours of becoming interns.

-All of this is what was going through our heads for the first few days this week, and until I managed to sort a few things out and take a step back from the initial problems and look at them rationally, I didn’t want to write anything too judgemental or harsh. I’m used to dealing with and working in a chaotic environment – it’s just that this paticular one is also exremely foreign, operates through a language derived from Sanskrit and with an entirely different alphabet, and is in a continent where I have never step foot before– I feel it was quite understandable that I got a bit flustered!

As the week progressed it has improved slightly, with an introductory meeting eventually being scheduled at the end of the third day, and a few classes spent sitting in silence at the back of the room as neither the teacher nor we knew exactly what we should be doing.

I get the impression that Khmer people are just too nice! They come across too timid to make any definite assertions of decisions regarding us or any other visitors, yet it’s difficult to feel comfortable and accepted in a strange situation and country if nobody takes the reigns and makes some definite moves or plans. If I weren’t so wary of offending the culture and their way of going about these kind of assimilation periods (which I get the impression they don’t do often), I would have had no trouble taking the bull by the horns and re-structuring the entire system but, as you can guess, that’s not exactly an option.

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As it stands it was a relief to reach the end of the week, and we were finally provided with a full itinerary and timetable to begin the following Monday. Indeed, a lot of our concerns about correct teaching attire and how satisfied the principal was with our progress were deemed irrelevant as an ‘important meeting’ he called with all staff at the end of the week was spent planning a Halloween party for next week!

Things can only go up from here, and I feel with the right attitude, a bit more patience, and keeping a ‘cool heart’ as the Khmer people say, we will settle in a bit more this week.

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Day 2 – Tuk-tuk Travel is the Way to Go

From Connemara to Cambodia

Day 2 – Tuk-tuk Travel is the Way to Go

After a haze of jet-lagged and broken sleep, we were treated to a strange concoction of dinner foods that combine to create a Cambodian breakfast, topping it off with a further energy boost of coffee so sweet it could pass as hot chocolate if milk was added. The waiter didn’t seem to understand when I askedf or coffee without the added sugar, and I’m beginning to think sugar just exists in every single type of food and drink available here!

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 Myself and two other interns set out to explore the markets of central Phnom Penh after a bit of negotiating with our tuk tuk driver, as he laughed comically at the suggestion that he take us where we wanted for 4 dollars. He quickly changed his mind when we shrugged and turned to make for another driver, his laugh having a bit of an Ash Ketchem vibe to it as he straightened up and pointed at the vehicle next to him with two toy monkeys hanging on to it’s poles for dear life – something we found ourselves doing after a mere few minutes inside the tuk tuk.

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The traffic in Phnom Penh is akin to many other Asian cities – every man for himself, with little or no heed paid whatsoever to any existing rules of the road. If you want to go – you go, and hope you don’t get crossed over or knocked into by another overloaded tuk tuk or motorbike weaving it’s way through to the front of the queue. Similarly, when we disembarked and tried to cross the road to enter the market, we found ourselves pedestrian contributions to the madness as we tip-toed our way across, causing havoc and further beeping – it was easier to just make a run for it and get it overwith quickly.

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The Central Market itself is an extremely vast expanse of electrical goods, jewellery, clothes, and food with each vendor following your progress through the stalls, catching on to your every mildly interested glance at a ring or necklace that you’re not actually ever going to buy.

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‘Ten dollah? Nine Dollah??’
‘No thank you, just looking!’
‘Five dollah!!?’
“Alright then.”

It’s worth your while haggling.

As we continued on through the various stalls of fresh (and not-so-fresh) produce and streetfood, it became clear that we were among the only Westerners about at the time, as we attracted many stares and pointed fingers of semi-naked children along the street.
As we were due back to the hotel for dinner with the group, we didn’t sample any of the fried vegetables or fish being consumed by the many Cambodian families seated around the place, but the smells both attracted and disgusted us in equal measure, the tanks of live fish, squid, crabs and other mystery marine-life flailing about helplessly beside their freshly cooked brothers and sisters.

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After an hour or two we decided we had secured any necessary items for then and also managed to experience the madness of the markets, so we attempted to find our way back to where the tuk-tuk driver had left us off- instead emerging at a completely different entrance to where we’d begun and haggling down a return price with a different driver.

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I inspected my haul on our return to the hotel, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I’d managed to secure myself some ‘real’ Gucci sunglasses, a long patterened sun-dress (recommended for teaching), another shirt-dress, a coffee, a kilo of apples and bananas and some jack-fruit, all for under $20, and that wasn’t even including the cost of the return tuk-tuk journey!

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By the time we got back and sorted through our things, it was almost time for the welcome dinner with the rest of the group. We were served around circular tables with a revolving platform in the centre, each dish placed around it containing authentic Cambodian food, from fish and tofu soup to a chicken, peanut and spinach with a gingery sauce. The freshly cooked rice has proven to be a staple of every single meal so far, and apparantly we’re going to have to get used to it as a main source of carbohydrate during our stay here!

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Overall it was great to meet everyone for the first time, and afterwards we all proceeded to have a jam and sing song around the hotel swimming pool – the music proving a great way to make connections and put a calming end to the day before orientation started properly.

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Jack fruit!!

My Humble Cambodia – 6 Weeks To Go

My Humble Cambodia – 6 Weeks To Go

In 6 weeks time I will jet off to Cambodia to spend 7 weeks teaching as a LoveTEFL volunteer. While it’s not the most excotic, revolutionary or innovative and original way to travel, it suits my current situation so well in that I have such a yearn to move and see and learn about the world and places and people I have not yet seen, but lack severly in available funding (I SUCK at saving!).
As I began considering a long-haul trip and went about researching possible destinations and routes, the realistic length of the time I could afford to have spent travelling alone gradually began to reflect the ever-depleting balance in my bank account, and I was forced to reconsider. Wanting to spend a lengthy period of time abroad was going to cost me, and I was more than likely looking at returning home to an empty bank account with my head hung low and another few months living back at home and being bailed out by my parents. This way, I get the best of bost worlds – 8 weeks solo travel, living in South East Asia and really getting to experience a taste of what life is like there, with weekends free to do as I please, and a structured routine for the weekdays which is sure to keep me (I hope!) from celebrating too hard at the extent of the freedom I’m sure I will feel at taking this step. At the end of this 9 weeks (I have a week longer after the course to myself in Myanmar) I will be returning home, not only with a certified TEFL qualification, but with genuine firsthand experience of teaching English to foreign students in their home setting – something which will undoubtedly lead to further job prospects for me both at home and abroad in the aftermath of my travels (post-travelling-blues are more definitely a real thing!)
This way I don’t feel so bad by blowing what little savings I have on this trip. Does ‘blowing’ really factor into this situation? I feel like I’m making a genuine extremely valuable investment into my life here!!

 There are certain things I’m nervous about, certain things I’m excited about, and other things that I can’t even begin to imagine how I’ll feel about. For one, I’ve never travelled very far alone, something which has only fueled my scatterbrained tendencies and given me excuses to depend on other people to get around and navigate for me. I know for a fact that this solo trip will be good for me, and it will only build on all the work I’ve done in past months to better myself and strengthen my presence here.
I’m excited to experience the culture and people of Southeast Asia – from what I’ve heard they are some of the friendliest and most easygoing people in the world. I don’t want to be getting too far ahead of myself in all these musings, but it’s difficult not to get excited at the prospects of a trip like this! The fact that I’ll be teaching young children language skills which will aid them in their communicative and social skills, help them be stronger and have more to give as they move forwards in their lives really appeals to me and makes me feel that I will finally be contributing to something worthwhile by helping other human beings advance in their lives. In my teaching experience up until now I have definitely found this to be true, however such diversity of cultural boundaries and opportunities to discover more about myself and the world have never before presented themselves to me or seemed so huge and exciting.
In the weeks leading up to this trip I will be concentrating on completing the online section of the TEFL course, whilst also preparing and strengthening myself both physically and mentally to undertake this trip. Today I’m focusing on securing myself an international police-check which is necessary for all LoveTEFL interns in order for them to be eligible to teach abroad. This is basically just a garda-vetting form which has to be signed by the Garda Superintendent at my local station (or ‘Supernintendo’, as we used to call them!). I’ve already checked out the vaccinations necessary to travel in Cambodia, but it seems I’m covered for them all since my trip to Uganda this time two years ago! Hard to believe it’s that long since we were there, I still remember it so clearly!

 While I plan on trying to keep this blog updated on my preparations and plans for the upcoming trip, I also understand that too much pre-meditation and pre-planning for something so large as a trip of this extent can not only get boring to read, but may ultimately result in an anti-climactic experience when I actually arrive! Hopefully I’ll be able to write regularly while I’m there, if I have no internet access then I’ll be sure to write it anyway and post it at a later date.

 For now, Lia suhn hao-y!! (That means goodbye in Kmer!!)