The adventures of Jo!

He Bees
October 25, 2006, 4:00 pm
Filed under: sponsoring!, travelling in cambodia

Ok Ok, I know it is not really nice to laugh with my students but be honest, I be You be He Bees is funny right? Well, maybe I didn’t find it funny to read as an answer on a test because my first thought was : AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA I will kill her!!
So anyway, I discovered that patience is something you really need if you teach them. Luckily I think I have enough patience. My students are lovely young women, but sometimes they can be very stupid too . Although I think there probably is also a cultural difference, in the way of teaching/studying/tests/… so they have to get used to it and I have to get used to them too. But I hope they will make a progress because now when reading the tests I thought sometimes ‘no no no!’. but most of them worked well and nobody failed. But what the weird thing is; the first years were much better than the second years, and I teached the same and the same test and it should have been revision for the second years. So that is not so funny, because I am really wondering what they remember from last years. Or how education is here in cambodia… especially for girls and women.
Anyway, I will repeat and repeat and talk to them… they are soo great, and most of them have been through a lot, although I don’t know their stories yet. But when I was talking about familymembers for example, you hear a lot: he died … and when you ask what their dreams are: to help my family… you also feel that they appreciate you are here. They are surprised that people come from so far just to teach them, and they don’t even get paid for it. They are very interested in why we are here, who we are,.. they come to give us little gifts, or say that they missed us after a weekend,… So although the teaching can be very very tiring, I think it is good that we are here. As I said before, I only reach a few people by being here, but so what.. it all starts with a few no?
And remember ‘if you educate a man, you educate one person. If you educate a women, you educate a family’ (I am sorry but I forgot from who this was, I am bad in quoting)
One sister was telling that a lot of girls don’t have a real childhood because they have to work and take care for their little brothers or sisters. But she also told that some female teachers in their school told her: we will take care that it doesn’t happen to our daughters.
I think this is great, that is the goal no?
I am also reading a book about sexslaves and trafficking of women in asia (Louise brown)(haha, now I knew from who! I am getting better). It is not a relaxing book, but it gives a lot of insight.

But anyway, so I like the teaching.. I also start teaching to the staff. We divided them in three groups and I have the lowest group. But it is sooooooooo funny. They don’t know a lot.. one man cant even write in Kmer… so it is starting from the beginning… but we are laughing all the time because it is so difficult, for them and for me. So it is quiet funny. We will see how it goes..

So, the second volunteer, bernadette, arrived too. She is from Austria. She is the youngest of us and is a calm girl who is also enthousiastic about the teaching. So now we are three. We also eat together (and not with the sisters anymore)
And last weekend we went with the three of us to the south of cambodia (we had a long weekend, four days)> Thursday we arrived in kampot and had a look around the city there. Oh, in the evening we went to the traditional music and dance school, a school were orphins… learn more about traditional music. It was really nice and I gave a small donation from my sponsormoney.
Friday we took a pick up car (well, in a group and with a guide) to bokor national park. Beautiful nature… jungle! It was really nice but I have difficulties describing it… it was just beautiful nature. Very green. Lot of trees. Oh and a very bad road! On the way back some parts of our body were very painful… 
Saturday we went to Kep and took the boat to Rabbit island. A small island with a few people living there (fisher) and some beaches where nobody comes… warm blue water, palmtrees…. Very relaxing… we swom in the sea for like two hours… had very nice fish and fresh pineaple.. and went to bed really early because it was very very very dark at five (not really electricity ) oh, we slept in a little hut which was quiet funny. Very small, no light, and you could hear anything from outside (apparently weird animal noices, but I slept as a baby, as always…)
And Sunday back to Phnom Penh! Really nice weekend…..(few pictures online)

Next weekend again a long weekend, so we will be somewhere again.
But I really do work a lot here.
During the week it is quiet busy.. and we need the days off… because you are all the time at the same place with the students… so the days off are really nice. And it is soooo nice to see the country,. It is so beautiful here. But I cannot describe it. Maybe later I will be better in this. I think I am writing terribly for the moment, I am sorry, but I am tired!

But everything is fine here. Time goes by so quickly. I like it and I learn a lot. I have been thinking a lot about other things like religion, poverty… but maybe I will write more another time. Sometimes it seems to be a long time. I miss sometimes my independence, my freedom (but it is so relative if you compare with the girls’situation) and ofcourse david and some other people/things.

Anyway, I hope you are all fine too…..

I am going to my bed now!


Jo x


Are you single or plural?
October 15, 2006, 1:03 pm
Filed under: my life in cambodia, usefull information about me in cambodia

Hello everybody!

so, already another week passed by, unbelievable how fast time goes! and still, a lot of things happened…

Ilaria, the italian girl, arrived last saturday. I stayed in the house that weekend to show her around and stuff. she is a really nice girl, almost 25 years old, talking a lot (italian way! 😉 ),… So it is good that she is here too, it is nice having already someone! the austrian girl, my future roommate, will arrive tuesday. ilaria and I hope she will be nice too…

The classes also started this week. So we teach in a vocational training, called Home and Food managment. the girls are between 15 and 24 years old, coming from provinces, and most of them sleep here in the school. They are very very nice girls. There is the first and second year. first year has 10 hours a week english, second year 8. we divided them in groups and each group is around 10 students, so a really nice class to teach! It is sometimes difficult because they dont really understand me all the time and i dont understand their english. my first years (advanced group) have also the same level as my second years (intermediate). but i think it will be really nice year.. they are so nice and willing to learn a lot. they dont have it easy at home,…and are so happy to be here, even I think it is not nice for them living here”: sleeping together, taking showers together, getting up at 5 am to start cleaning, a lot of rules, a lot of work… it is -for me and ilaria- as they live in a kind of army. still it is normal here and the girls seem to like it.

Sometimes their english is funny to, see title of this post! 🙂

so, my day looks like: I get up around 6.30 (although I wake up at 5 when the girls are getting up because i sleep in a room next to their room, but i fall asleep again), have breakfast at 7, go have a look at the children playing in the elementary school, at 8 there is the flag ceremony and then there is a goodmorning talk. At 8.15 classes start till 11.30 and from 1 pm-4pm more classes. I have 3 or 4 hours of teaching each day. it doesnt seem a lot, but wait, there is more! during the day we are busy anyway: preparing, resting a bit, eating a bit, cleaning our room or doing our laundry… From 4-5 we assist girls in playing games,.. (first they have to clean again)  Normally we assisted them to from 5-6 in taking showers but the sisters said we shouldnt do that anymore but take a break for ourselves. from 6-6.75 there is homework assistance and we will also start teaching english to a few girls who are following a teacher training here. then there is dinner.. after dinner we go and play or dance (they learn me khmer dances!) with the girls. at 7.30 we have a goodnight talk. and normally we were free then, but the staff (cook,….) asked if we could teach them too so we will teach them from 8-9. and then we are free :-). but maybe we will try to make this late lessons with two volunteers so that one is free for a night. Fridaynight, saturday and sunday we are free and also on holidays.

It is kind of busy and it also takes a lot of energy. you are all the time with these girls, you are more than just a teacher. but the thing is; the moments that they are free and talking or dancing of playing, these are so great too. you get to know them and it is fun. (and it is the theorie of Don Bosco too eh!) also, these girls need attention, friendship and love.  It is worth the energy i think. but i am so tired in the evening! you also dont have a lot of time for yourself during the week, but anyway, our volunteer room is nicer now and during free times you can relax there or in your own room.

This weekend me and ilaria went to town each day. it was really fun. we did markets, pagodas, just walking around, sitting at the lake,… but it also makes you tired because you see so many things.

I am uploading some pictures for the moment, so you should have a look there. I am quiet proud at some of the pictures.

so everything is really fine here. oh, i also received a lot of post this week and a parcel from my mum with cote dor chocolate and other nice stuff.

I feel like i have so much more to tell, there are so many things going on here, but I think i will stop now and write some emails.



first time outside Phnom Penh!
October 6, 2006, 3:28 pm
Filed under: my life in cambodia, projects, travelling in cambodia


Monday and tuesday: first days school for the elementary school and kindergarden. children come to me, look at me (how tall I am, or at my freckles…), touch me, laugh at me, talk khmer to me… the little ones pretend they are in prison, crying all the time, being sick, calling for their mummy… the parents, worried and concerned, but proud…

wednesday: sister Maria had to go to another sister community in Battambang for two days. And I went with her! we were leaving early to be there around 1pm. sitting in the car was very cool… so much to see… rice, lots of rice.. very flat country (what i have seen till now), little wooden houses, a lot of water (it has been raining a lot lately), poverty,… soo different….

arriving in battambang, one of the sisters there took me and agness, the chinese woman, around. small city, not so busy as phnom penh. nice. we went to visit a few projects with people with handicap. dont know if you know it, but there were and still are in some areas a lot of landmines in cambodia.

but what interested me the most was the work of the sisters here. they have a little centre for literacy and skills training for girls between 16-25 years i think. these girls come from very poor, traditional villages. most of the time they didnt go to school because they couldnt pay it, or because the school was far away and it was too dangerous to go there. some of them have a history of abuse. or another girl was sold by her family. trafficking of girls and children… so the sisters try to teach them a few things (reading, writing, making things….) but also try to give them a home and the chance to develop themselves as a person.

i met a few girls and they were really nice! thursday there was a market in town and the girls also were selling thigns so I helped them a bit (and i bought things ofcourse). you can feel they attach quickly to persons (by the way, this is also here in PP, the children really come to hug you all the time and ask you if you like them, say that they love you…   ) I went round the market with them and they said thank you for that…

anyway it really touched me. and i will support that centre but i have to think about how many money i will give to each centre… am now looking around a bit and will decide that later

coming back in PP was nice. there are some girls here who do a teacher training who asked if I could teach them a bit in the evening, some english. they are about my age so that is also great and they will teach me more Khmer.

I am getting used to this life. I like it. the sisters are great too, I see them working hard, take care for the students here,… they are good women, although i dont agree with everything they say but that doesnt matter. I admire them for their work. and they can be soooooooooo funny and cool too!

it is strange how we can have certain ideas about groups of people. judgements we make. sisters are like that. asian people are like that. generalisations. for example: asian people are closed and you will never know what they think. by saying that, you say the same thing about sooooooooo many people. I mean, people who were on erasmus, noticed already that people from another culture in europe can be different. we wouldnt like to be called the same as people in france, germany, england, the netherlands… but we do it for people in africa, asia…. it is normal that we do it I think, but we should realise it. the same about sisters. i also had a certain idea and i think a lot of you have. anyway, i am not going to write more about it or i will still be writing tomorrow morning.

but everything is very good here. I enjoy being here, meeting people, being confrontated by so many things, learning…

I hope you are good there too… thanks for all the emails or reactions or what so ever, it is nice to hear from you too!!!



about choices and dreams and experiences and so on. about life?
October 1, 2006, 1:49 pm
Filed under: my life in cambodia

hello you,

I know I am writing a lot but be happy because it will be less in a few days because i will get it a lot busier (woooh) so I will not bother you so much. but I wanted to write today because this weekend was,.. i dont know how to say it… but it was good.

how will I start telling you what is going on in my busy head (mmm). well, to be honest, I had a very bad day on friday. one of the worst. altough it had maybe something to do with hormones (those women! always looking for an excuse!) but it was not a funny day.

But after friday there was saturday. I decided I would go for a walk in the neighboorhoud, so I did. First I went to have a look in the ‘western world’here: the international school. it was nice, big sportfields, people from everywhere, a swimmingpool, a bar…. so maybe something to do when you need it ( so i will go there a few times to enjoy!!).

 than i went further into the streets here and walked into a complete different world. it was very confronting for me and i sometimes wished i wasnt walking there. but i wanted to. i am not here to spend all my days at a swimming pool between fat white people who are drinking coctails (although that can be very nice too). maybe it was the first time in cambodia that I realised where I was. i passed factories, and people had build their little houses around it. i just read in the newspaper that they maybe earn 40 dollars a month in a factory. 40 dollars! maybe you are thinking now ‘but the living cost is lower there’ okay, it is lower, but not so low, really. anyway, so i was walking there, thinking, watching, feeling… it was also difficult because everyone was sooo looking at me. but it got me thinking about my motivation to come here. as I said, I know I will not change it here, but maybe i can teach a few girls so that they find a nice job and then their children will be able to have education too and so on. I believe in education. that is good because I studied it, it would be bad if I didn’t believe in it, not? I am also here to be conscious about it, about the differences there are in the world, in culture, in poverty, …

anyway, people are very nice. they tried talking to me but it is still difficult. it will get better once i know a bit more cambodian and about the culture.

then i went to town. walked around. oh, went into irish pub (because I just had to! It is like a tradition to drink something in a irish pub in every town.  i drink for you, pierre, ivo, greetje, anne, laure… :)) had a chocolate brownie (being a belgian woman with monthly hormons it is also necessary to do that), phoned David (:) ) …

when I got back home, I stayed talking with the guard at the gate. it is a really nice boy, my age, who wants to teach me Khmer. so we talked and I tried to repeat what he said and then most of the time he laughed. haha. he is a good guy, I went today again to the gate to learn a bit.

children who are intern arrived today, tomorrow primary school and kindergarden will be open. i will be helping a bit, and try to cheer up the sad ones (because the sisters think they will stop crying if they see me because they are so suprised seeing such a giant). the children who are here now also came to me. they gave me a bracelet and talked Khmer to me (no, i didnt understand) and stood next to me to see how tall i am. one gave me a kiss and runned away laughing. they are funny. or they think i am funny. a funny giant.

but back to yesterday in town> i went into a bookshop and thought about buying a book because i wanted something really nice to read. looking around to all these books… didnt know what to buy. than i saw The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) and I remember that david and laure were talking about it all the time on holidays. so I took it. I read it today and i have to say: perfect book on the perfect timing. some quotes I find now quickly: ‘he never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of ‘ “people are afraid to purseu their most important dreams, because they feel that they dont deserve them, or that they will be unable to achieve them>”tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. and that no heart has ever suffered whenit goes in search of its dreams/”most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place” ‘there is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve:the fear of failure'”

the combination of all these things:t he book, the children who come to me and gave me the bracelet, the poverty I have seen, the staff who wants  to get to know me and learn me Khmer, some music i was listening to (your cd david!)… it all just felt right this weekend and made me thinking again about my motivation… I know I made a decision coming here because I really wanted to, it felt really right deciding it. yes, it just felt right. and it is not easy to make this kind of decisions because you have absolutely no idea what will happen. will i be able to do it? will i like it? what about the people I like and love in belgium? I think it is true that it scares some people. it scares me too, but on the other hand, I am a funny giant! So I decided I am happy that I am here. I know I didnt want to work already in belgium. I know also that there will be things here I probably dont like, and that I also have to give a lot of things: my time, for a part my freedom and independence,  …. But I think there are no real limitations about what you can do. probably you make these limitations yourselves, so you can also change them. I have no idea if someone understands what I am trying to say, I have even no idea why I am writing this. but i said i would be honest. and you are reading this because you are interested what nine months in cambodia will do with me eh? if you just wanted touristic information you would have bought a book.

so i decided to start doing a bit more in my day because i didnt do a lot even if i had a lot of work (i am still not finished with preparing classes and stuff because last week it was difficult to concentrate all the time). but now the children are here, and tomorrow the chinese volunteer will arrive and i still have to prepare things… so it will be busy.

but euhm, so, I am happy that i decided to come here and i will try to make the best of it. maybe it will not work, maybe it will. we will see. but it felt as the right decision and i still think about it that way.

ofcourse i still miss david and some other people, but even here, had our Coelho an answer ready (although i dont know if it is the right one. I dont say that i am believing all what coelho is writing. I am just trying to say that the book made me think why i am here):

”If I am really a part of your dream, you’ll come back one day… ”