The adventures of Jo!

a mirror in a box…
January 28, 2007, 1:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


I would like to share a story with you…

Every morning there is goodmorning talk to the girls. so or the sisters or the teachers speak about something. last tuesday it was my turn. the subject was about sharing your m ission or vocation.

anyway,  I started by saying you can have different “missions”in life and that for me it is just something you really want to do, you really feel it inside and then you try to do… or something like that, i dont know anymore.. but i said something about my past (studies..) and maybe my future (work, marriage or not,…) and then i said, but you all know what my last “mission”or “vocation”or whatever you want to call it, is.

That is coming to cambodia ofcourse. I told them a lot of people dont really understand. THey ask me, why do you go so far? and why for so long?And you must be crazy to work without money. and what about your family and your friends and boyfriend?

“So i thought about this question. And the answer is in this little box ( people who did CMcamps might know it, i had the idea from there). In the box there is something really important for me, it is the reason why i am here, and it is also very very beautiful. “ofcourse, all the students wanted to know what was inside.. but i said i was too shy to show them.. but after a while i said “ok, i will show you but one by one because i am too shy in front of a group to show this”

what was inside, well, it is in the title of this topic. (and first i want to say i really mean this because i realised that i am here for them and that is why i like it.. ofcourse there are other reasons too, but this is the main one. i only realised it when I was here already). but this is not the thing i wanted to share.

i didnt know what i expected how the girls would react when they saw the mirror but it was very strange for me. they started to laugh and laugh or shout “oooo teacher”and sometimes I asked them do you understand? and they came back to have another look and looked very confused, if they didnt understand. nobody else said something about it. So i didnt know if they understand so i felt weird.

but then, friday in my class… There was a girl holding a diary of Kunthea, another girl. she was trying to get it open (it was with a lock). Kunthea said to me, teacher teacher, do you want to see my diary? and i said no, it is your diary, i dont want to know.. and i told once my brother read my diary when i was a kid and i was very angry.. and by the way, it is in Khmer no? and she said she wrote in english… (she is one of the best students english, also really motivated)

anyway, five minutes later, she opened her diary and said, teacher, you really have to read this…

so i read (i am also still a human being who is curious!)

‘today i was very happy because teacher jo told us about her vocation and about coming to cambodia”and then the explanation that i had a box etc.. “i was one of the last ones. i heard the reaction of the other students and i soooo wanted to know what was inside the box. when it was my turn and i opened the box, I saw myself. because there was a mirror in the box. but the meaning of this mirror is much bigger, you cannot explain in words”

I thought this was beautiful.

so now you know too why i am here working for free and far away 😉


Back in time? (or: “to believe or not” number two!)
January 16, 2007, 3:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The last weeks I had sometimes the feeling that I was 50 years back in time. First of all, I want to say I am not talking about
cambodia itself, but about some values and ways of thinking from the sisters here. And I don’t mean it bad, I mean that I don’t think we are so much better or that they will have to think the same as us. What I do mean is that some things the sisters say here, do remind me of the time in
Belgium years ago…
To give examples, I guess you will be thinking”oooo”and “aaaa”and “oh god, so oldfashioned” or why not “jo, what are you doing there” when you are reading these!-girls who wear bikini are bad girls. They don’t have any respect for their body. (Imagine: I heard this when the sister was telling this to the girls. Some months ago I showed my bikini to these girls, telling about that this is what we wear on the beach… I don’t know what the girls think now!!)-confession!!! (last time, I hide myself… I feel like a teenager)-puritiy and chastity! (for the dutch speaking: kuisheid dus!) -prostitutes don’t have values. They want to have easy money. They treat themselves as objects. (I never talked to a prostitute but I know people who did and I read articles too. I don’t agree… I think the sisters should go and talk with them too)-women who choose for abortion don’t have values. They don’t have respect for life. (oh, I wished one of the sisters could experience pregnancy. I don’t really believe any woman is very happy with this decision but there are some situations where I think it is the best choice)-our god is more powerfull than every other god. (and now I don’t tell about some citations about the islam but you can use your imagination) -be a good woman! Clean well and work hard in the house! If you husband sees this, he will love you and respect you and he will not beat you! (Note to David, if you are planning to only love me if I clean well, I think I will beat you!! Hihi 😉 ) 

anyway, I will stop now with the citations. I think you know what I mean.But if you think about it, it is not sooo long ago that also people in
belgium thought about this. I think there are still some people who think like this.
But now I think you also have certain sentences in your mind about the sisters here. I know because I thought the same. BUT then we are doing the same as they do… We judge. I don’t really know where I want to go with this, but what I want to tell. I live here in this situation where people around me judge differently about what is good, what is bad. If they would know more about me, my history, my thoughts, I don’t know what, they would consider me maybe as bad (or maybe not, but I think they would pray for me a lot). But I don’t really believe that I am bad. But I also see that these women are not bad. The sisters work hard, they really want the best with their students, their children, they have their dreams to help these people who are poor and they want to offer them good education. They work themselves into the hospital (really, some weeks ago there was a sister who had to rest a week in another country because she didn’t sleep enough here). And you can also admire their belief in some way, although you don’t have to agree. What they think or belief, is just a consequence of their own education, their formation, their culture, and their way of living. They don’t really come in contact with certain people or with the real world. And being afraid of others, of the thing you don’t know.. well.. it is not only typical for the sisters no? I can give examples from in
belgium too. (I think I don’t need to give them but a lot of you think about the same things that happened last year, or about a certain very “friendly”political party).
So I live here with them. I see that they are not bad, but I also sometimes feel like screaming to them that they should open their eyes and don’t judge people (and also not me!). So I have to find a way to deal with it, no? well, in the beginning I was still thinking, I will be honest and if they ask me a question about something, I will answer honestly and try to explain them. Well, although I still think this would be maybe a good thing to do, I don’t do this. Because I don’t think they would really try to listen or try to understand. Maybe that is the only thing where I have problems with. I don’t really care about the things they say. But I don’t like it that they don’t try to listen and to change. But I know they will not really listen, anyway, not to me at least. The change or openess should come from someone inside them, and I am not planning to become a sister… So what I do now, is listen, say yes, and just avoid some subjects while I am talking with them and think my own thing. And try to understand why they say it, but also still know what I am thinking is not bad either. I was thinking if someone not sure of herself was here, maybe she would be more confused of it. But on the other hand, in my lessons, in my contact with the girls… I will tell them things about myself and about my country. I want them to see that I am not bad because I have a boyfriend or whatever…. I also noticed the girls know very well how to handle the sisters. A lot of the girls are buddhists, so for them it is also sometimes not easy. But yesterday, the sister asked what they want in the future. Ofcourse the sister was delighted when the group said “I want to live with good values”. But I saw the faces of the girls too, which was very funny, they know the sister would be very happy with that answer. But wait a second, ofcourse these girls want to live with good values, I really believed that they mean it. But I don’t believe this is the first thing a 20 years old girl says when you ask her what she wants in the future. I think people answer normally more concrete things on this question. 

Another thing I try to remember is that I can be very angry with people in
belgium too because they don’t think about other people or they don’t try to understand other people experiences. It is something that I sometimes don’t really understand, it is not so difficult. The world would be more beautiful if people try to understand and listen to eachother and try to accept the differences and not to have their own right everywhere. I can have big discussions here with the sisters about abortion, but what will be the consequence? I am not changing my opinion and they will not too, the only thing is that we will have a bad feeling after and maybe don’t like eachother. so it is better to try to respect and understand eachother
Some discussions or wars are quiet useless. We are different. So what? Ofcourse it is difficult to make no judgements at all, everybody does it, sometimes very small ones. But I think you should try to discover them and be conscious about it. If I would make my religion, this would be important for me. Stay open, look around, listen to other people, don’t be afraid of them, try to imagine how it is living in their situation and try to do nothing that will really hurt them and do only things you feel good about and if you do things with other people, they should feel good about it too.  

Anyway, more concrete things. I am still fine! Exams finished, they were quiet good. have met some parents, very nice. The teaching is starting again and I like it although patience is still necessary! With bernadeth is everything ok. And last Sunday I met two belgian doctor students doing their workexperience here, which was nice! And in one month my mother is here! So, time is flying again…I hope you are well! 


happy new year!
January 3, 2007, 3:18 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Another year passed by! 2006 was -if i look back- a really strange year, a lot of things happened! my last year at uni, the struggle with thesis, the feeling of I have enough from studies and certain professors, operation of my  mother, homesick to dublin, more living independently in Ghent, the decision to come to cambodia and all the organisation and thinking and doubts involved with it, and ofcourse David (I wanted to write a really nice sentence about it, but I can not really write what I think/feel, but i guess writing this is nice too no? 🙂 )

whoops if I am reading this, it looks like I am growing up!

And then, for 2007… I dont really make resolutions.. and i dont want to look forward that much, it is like the first time that I dont really know what will come this year! other years you know, oh yeah, next year I am still studying.. but now it is dark. but so many possibilities and chances. it is great!

anyway, here in cambodia everything is fine for the moment. christmas was nice, although there were also not very nice things (ilaria left to italy due to problems with kidney and eyes… me and berna were a little bit sick at that time so it was very confusing/weird to say goodbye like that) .

new years eve was nice too. me, berna and caroline (english volunteer from another school) dived into the nightlife of Phnom Penh which is quiet interesting to observe. Ofcourse this involves sextourism too, which everybody knows if you see programs on television about thailand, cambodia,…

anyway, i am tired from correcting exams (yes, examtime here! boring for a teacher… ) so I am going to end it here.

i wish everyone of you a fantastic 2007, and i wish you challenges and dreams, an open and non-judgmental look (okay, i know this is wrong english but who cares? dont judge me! hehe..) into the world and a lot of love

Jo x