Day 4: April 7th, 2010 – First Day at SFODA

Woke up early today, ca. 4 am, with some nightmares about Cambodian ghosts. I think it had something to do with visiting the Killing Fields and S-21 on Monday. It all started when I had to take a piss and had to use my iPod as a flashlight. Imagine how freaky it would be to turn on your iPod to use as a flashlight and then stumble across a young girl in a white dress and her eyes poked out in your room. Those are the sort of images that were running through my head. Of course, my mind wouldn’t let it go and I kept thinking about how many ghosts Cambodia must have, especially in the country side. Are all of the victims of the genocide resting in peace?

So I found out today that I won’t actually be teaching English until AFTER the Khmer New Year, which is next week. Talked to my Sebastian (program coordinator) about it, and we’ll try to work something out. The idea was thrown around to have me stay for two weeks after the New Year celebrations. As much as I don’t have a deadline, I also don’t have endless pockets to fund this project. Money is a funny thing. Though I’m concerned about it, my good friend Steve told me before I left for Europe last year that money is never the issue and is usually the tip of a much larger ice berg. The debate is now whether or not I can afford and want to stay in Cambodia for a full month instead of just two weeks.

Anyway, about the orphange. It’s abbreviation, SFODA, stands for Sacrifice Families & Orphans Development Association. First, the place itself. It’s a shanty. I really had no idea what to expect but the place is in a run-down part of Phnom Penh and the orphanage itself looks like it needs a major overhaul. The “classroom” is right beside the “playground” which is right beside the kids’ beds. They have an office with a computer connected to the internet, etc., but that’s the newest part of the orphanage I think. In regard to teaching supplies, they are sufficiently equipped: books, pencils, markers, computer, printer, plenty of water for volunteers. They even gave me lunch today too! The one really cool thing about the orphanage is how they do some fundraising. Some of the older kids are pretty good painters. The paintings they make (usually of Buddha or some country scene) are very well done. After they are finished, they can be sold in order to benefit the orphanage. They also make bracelets and some other things. Apparently this is typical of many of the orphanages in Cambodia.

Second, the kids. Hilarious! The kids range from 18 months to 7 years old, though I’m told there are older kids, only 1 of whom I saw today. Their English is also very good, much better than I thought. There are a few girls, Counry, Cundrun, and one other girl whose name I forget right now, who are absolutely hilarious to talk to. They pick up on all of my sarcasm, though their response isn’t as sharp. There is one boy (I’ve named him Toytoy because he tried to say turtle but NO ONE understood him until he pointed at the picture on the wall) who likes to fight me, so we Thai/Khmer box until one of us gets hurt. Then we stop and laugh.

You know the adorable eyes that Puss n’ Boots gives in Shrek? Well, there is one 16 month-old who has eyes like that. There are a lot of babies in the orphanage, usually given over by the hospital for any number of reasons. They’re wild, but adorable.

I won’t teach English until sometime after the Khmer New Year, which means this week I just show up and play with the kids. That gives me some time to think about how to actually teach these kids, given that some of them are so young and I’ve never dealt with babies before!

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