Being a minority and other observations

Well, if it’s one thing I’ve learned about human nature is now I know what it feels like to be a minority. I have been stared at, gawked at, laughed at, followed by people and barked at by dogs.

There is a beautiful little girl about 5, whom I have often smiled at, and who has taken an unusual liking to me. Today, she pulled up a chair next to me while I was listening and watching the chanting. She got close up to me and continued to stare at me. I smiled and then got unnerved and left, with her following me all the way to my room. Weird.

Then I walked with my computer in the bag to the radio station, in the hopes I could post some stories, but no one was in the building so I walked back to my room. On the way, I walked by some Nuns and another woman, who asked, “where you go?”

“I’m going to my room.”

Another Nun on the walk back motioned to my bag. I opened it and said, “my computer.” She laughed.

Today, I wanted to return the three books loaned to me by Monks. One of them had told me to take it to the information desk so I did. The person in charge, of course, didn’t know what I wanted to do with the books.

I pointed to where the Monks live and put up three fingers. “For three Monks.”

He took me into a room, a library, and put the books on a shelf. I took them down and put them on the table, and again, pointed to the Monk area and held up three fingers, “for the Monks.”

Well, that little episode seemed to bring about a lot of laughs.

Happy I can bring about some smiles, laughs and curiosity even though I don’t know what it means. I can only believe that it is a response to something very different from what they are used to, and that is completely understandable.

This is Thursday, and I have this day and one more day here with two more teaching nights.

A few different sites for me to experience were the following:

A Nun with a very long bamboo pole and a bag with something weighing it down used it to shake fruit off of the trees. Yesterday, it was a man using a pole to shake down mangoes.

Cats and kittens are everywhere. One has a broken and crooked tail, another has no tail, and all of them skinny as can be. I see the larger cats jumping on the counter where the Nuns and others prepare the food for themselves and the Monks. Cats gotta do what cats gotta do.

I have become friends with two cats that a Nun who lives next to my room feeds and gives loving care. One is a grey striped tabby and the other is white with orange trimming. When they see me sitting close by, they come right over to me for a cat massage. They understand English.

Workers on the property, use wooden trailers to transport old wood out of the area, and bicycles and motorcycles to bring in equipment. This includes long pipes traveling sideways on the vehicle.

As much as I’d like to get off the beaten path and wander through the jungle, it is highly discouraged because of land mines still embedded in the earth.

The many children I see on the pagoda do not seem to have many toys. However, they do seem to stay entertained by each other.

Nearly everyone owns a cell phone, which people are often seen using.

Often seen in the open part of a home, are large, but short-to-the-ground tables. Whole families sit on these tables to eat or lounge on. I saw an old table under a house built on stilts, where about 5 men sat watching a television. How that was hooked up is anyone’s guess.

The tuk tuk stopped for gas last night, at a stand in front of a house. A little boy came over with a bottle of fuel and put it into the tank. I have seen many of these stands with glass bottles of fuel. At least now I know what they are; before I knew, I thought it was something to drink.

Oxen are often used in plowing up fields or carrying wagons full of various objects. White cows are everywhere and appear to be as happy as California cows. They are being fattened up for food.

All over you see little fires being built to clear away fallen leaves, tree limbs and trash. They sweep the fire away with a long broom.

The Pagoda grounds are kept clean by often sweeping.

Children are responsible for doing many of the chores. No one could be considered lazy.

Last night, one of my classes asked me how they could learn English faster. I advised them to watch English television programs. They don’t have TV, however, they do have Internet on their cell phones. I suggested they look up the lyrics of their favorite American and British pop bands.

I also told them there are many instructional YouTube videos to learn from, such as cooking, demonstrating a ‘how to’, and lots of other ideas.

I advised them to practice speaking to each other and to their teacher. Practice, practice, practice, I told them.

I am not one to give advice, but their regular teacher said they asked him to ask me, so I did my best.

The classrooms these children use, should embarrass any American complaining about our education. While we have air conditioned rooms, computers set up, instructional materials, libraries full of books, teachers with impressive credentials and on and on, the children sit in a dark, hot room, on wooden benches and tables attached, with one light above a high ceiling, a twirling fan, and no books, no library, no computers.

This, of course, is only the English language school, so maybe the public schools are better. I don’t know.

When I arrived back to my room after teaching two classes, I heard a rustling noise, and I checked around and saw the culprit. It was a frog that was leaping away as fast as it could. Good idea, frog; you could be dinner.

I admire the tenacity of the Cambodian people and how adaptable they are, and positive. Cambodia has experienced wars and turmoil all the way up to just a few decades ago, and they are in the rebuilding process, both infrastructure and with themselves. I honestly believe, since the population is 95% Buddhist believers, this is what keeps them moving forward, but taking a day at a time to rebuild. They have my utmost respect.

What a people.






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