Teacher hat, elections and more

I got to wear my teacher hat this past week of my internship. Well, sort of. I was scheduled to do a skill share regarding life skills in Cambodia, where i would present the research I had been doing for the last two months, along with my recommendations for the pilot project and the framework. I thought a few of my colleagues from the program department would join me for the session but on the day we were also joined by and actually the room was mostly packed with young volunteers who work downstairs in the child sponsorship department and who we rarely get to see. I am not sure if they send the volunteers to be a part of each skill share but they were there for mine and they gave me a sense that I had entered a classroom of teenage students again. This was going to be fun.


I had planned a few points in the session where I would break the presentation with a few questions but because I got into the teacher mode with the arrival of these young students, sorry volunteers, I tried to keep the whole presentation as interactive as possible, especially when we had a technical glitch with the slides and the internet. The 33 slides however were of course going be too much for them. It was meant to give an overview of life skills policies, legal frameworks and best practices in the international and Cambodian context and for my colleagues to discuss what our organizations action plan would be for coming years of education program. I was really happy that at the end of the session some of them actually asked questions and were engaged in sharing their experiences as students and the skills they thought were missing in their schooling. The discussion that followed focused mostly on how our programs should focus on improving the teaching methodologies to ensure the holistic development of children and not the prevalent trend of treating life skills education as purely livelihood education which was also my main talking point for the day. At this point it was mostly the program department who were involved in the discussion. So I cannot blame the interns when a few of them started dozing off or checking time frequently. When my supervisor was wrapping up the presentation with a thank you note, a volunteer right behind him kept his hands frozen in the clapping posture throughout and as soon as he was done talking, he started clapping really loud. I almost burst out laughing, but instead just giggled away, confusing my sweet supervisor, who at that point started smiling too.

Well, courtesy of my boring them for an hour and may be also amusing them a bit with references to GoT when giving examples, I notice more of the young volunteers smiling at me and greeting me whenever I go to office these days.

Besides that amusing incident, I am mostly still doing the same thing and getting closer to preparing the framework. We have not had a chance to meet the government officials because they all have been busy, probably because of the elections. Nonetheless, I’ve submitted the first draft and we will be reviewing this with the program department soon.

I have less than a month with the organization and in this country now. I have not had the chance to travel as much as I would have liked and I am getting anxious about this coming to an end. So I will be cramming up a lot of things this last month – from travels to personal projects to getting ready for the fall semester.

I started by attending a spoken word event where I read a few poems by some amazing poetess friends from back home and an embarrassingly old poem by moi as well. It was a very small and quiet event, attended by a few expats. Because it was during the election weekend, a lot of the weekend bar crowd was apparently away avoiding Phnom Penh in case of any undesirable ‘incidents’.

The actual election was yesterday and it has fortunately been uneventful, compared to violence that erupted in the 2013 elections. I didn’t venture out much as I was instructed (by a few friends here and the ever dutiful Intl. SOS emails) but on the short tuk tuk ride I took to go to a friend’s for brunch (gotta mention the oh so simple but super delicious lemon and sugar french crepe she made), I got to see PP at its quietest in the day time. With no opposition party (the main opposition party was dissolved after the last election in 2013 over allegations of plotting with the US to take control of Cambodia and was followed by a five year political ban of over a 100 opposition party members to  participate in election), the ruling party was headed towards a clear victory. They did however fear that people were going to boycott the elections but today’s headlines (in the last of English language daily saved from the media crackdown because it was bought by someone who is pro-ruling party) read 82 percent turnout. Looks like Hun Sen, who is the world’s longest serving prime minister, will smoothly move on to the 34th year of his prime minister-ship.

Besides that, on the personal front I’ve been meeting a lot of expats and travelers here in the past few weeks. I have actually started socializing thanks to my partner’s arrival and a small art exhibit he put together with the help of his friends here. After the initial  joking around at evening gatherings, and a few round of drinks and stuff, the conversations have often gotten quite serious and personal, and I’ve had the chance to momentarily step into the vast and amazing lives people live and the stories they carry with them.

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That’s it for now for the blog. Oh, a quick shout out to the Gender department at my organization. I keep babbling on out my immediate work and here and there that I never get to mention the amazing work the fellow feminists  are doing here. I love their Safe Cities for Women campaign. They’ve been doing a lot of things, including working with the media to ensure sensitive reporting on cases of domestic violence and sexual assault. They also organized a very well attended debate at a local university here on the theme of “My body, my right”. The debate was in Khmer but I sat through it. One of the girls at the debate I thought was amazing. I didn’t understand anything but she really seemed passionate about what she was talking about. Her team lost though, because apparently, her team mates kept going off topic, and I saw her cry when the result was announced. But she was really good and my colleagues who understood her thought so too. I wish her the best and even the next seat as Cambodian prime minister if she decides to take that route. I digress, coming back to the gender team , they’re currently working on a video of women coming out about workplace harassment, joining in the Me too movement . One of my colleagues included me in the Facebook messenger group called the Gender Learning Group through which I’ve found more people who are passionately working towards gender equality in their own ways. One of them is an apparently very famous young feminist vlogger called Cath who destroys taboos about sex and sexuality in her videos and is becoming a great role model for young girls and boys. Get A doze of Cath in her Youtube channel and Facebook page of the same name.

Alright, that is it it  for now.  I’m sure I will have tonnes more to write about in my last internship blog. (And why, oh why does time fly by like this??)

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