Sunday, 25 November 2012

# 16 : “ Stung by the splendour of a sudden thought. ” - Robert Browning

Ok, I know, it's been 10 days since my last post but I have been rather busy, so here's a rundown on my last 2 weeks.

The ethics/philosophy classes are running pretty smoothly now, although kindergarten's still a bit of a challenge.
We covered a topic on "How we Treat Animals", from grade 5 through to the staff, last week and it went gangbusters!
I showed the staff a video on Bullfighting since most of them were unfamiliar with it. WOW! What a response. They were fascinated, horrified and appalled that it continues to be considered a national 'sport' - I think they were all secretly routing for the bull..

The Teens all agreed that hunting elephants for their tusks is TOTALLY unacceptable. I had asked them to score each case from 1-10, with '1' being unacceptable and '10' being totally acceptable. 
When I taught this topic back in Oz last year, my dear Alex pointed out that the pictures provided in the course were actually slanted to elicit a particular response, so this time I had two pictures for each case, one pro and one anti.
For the 'elephant tusks' case, everyone, in all the classes, initially gave it ZERO - off the scale UNACCEPTABLE. 
My 2nd picture was a starving African child. I asked them: "What if the poachers are people whose children are starving to death because of drought & famine? What if poaching the elephant for meat is the only way to provide food for your family and what if the foreign markets will pay you more than you could earn in a year for a tusk?"
They discussed this for a while and eventually decided to change their score to 10. but ONLY for people in this situation. Only they should be allowed to hunt the elephant.
Sayon said: "This could still wipe out the elephant and that is not good. The countries that buy the tusks must be stopped from doing this. The world needs to help these people to feed their families and maybe they should move to a place that gets more rain, so they can grow their own food.." This child is such a THINKER!!
I then moved on to Whale hunting with Sayon's class and received a grinning "Do you have any video of these giant animals jumping out of the water? Has anyone else seen this amazing thing?"
...Thank you Youtube!!

We discovered that the International school our kids are going to, Dewey, has an Ethics course for all the students. Wonderful, we thought, maybe I could go and check out, talk to the teacher, maybe even collaborate. So Erin asked them to send her a copy of their Ethics Curriculum... 
It's a Christian scripture class pure and simple, sneaking in under the radar in a supposedly secular, expensive, international school. NOT COOL!!
Since Tara's in Oz for another 2 weeks, we're just biding our time in anticipation of the expected fireworks when she returns

I haven't had a chance to investigate the country around Battambang yet and I'm itching to do that...although that could just be the mosquitoes...
Incidentally, I believe we're witnessing Darwinism in action here; 
Battambang's mosquitoes are absolutely silent ! You don't know they're around until you you discover ginormous bites on every centimetre of exposed skin that hasn't been liberally doused in Aerogard. It's a little bit eerie...
Have they really worked out that making irritating mozzie buzzing noises just gives us a chance to squish 'em before they can carry out their evil mission?
Is this a case of selective breeding through survival of the quietest?
I'd love to know what an etymologist would have to say.

Chhaiya, one of the guys from Kinyei, the-best-coffee-in-Cambodia-Cafe, who make my regular morning lattes, offered to take me out on his moto, to visit his village and check out the countryside, in exchange for more discussions about history, English & geography.
Chhaiya:" What's all that white on the map under Australia?"
Me: "That's called Antarctica.."
C: "Why is it white?"
Me: "Because it's all ice & snow. It's very cold.."

 So that's the plan for next weekend - riding out around the countryside. I can't wait.
 He sent me a friend request on FB and when my dear Chantha saw his picture she became just a little bit hysterical - turns out she grew up in the same village, went to the same school, knows him well and had no idea he was in Battambang.

Our beloved Pommies, Louise & Phil left us yesterday morning. After 8 weeks of sorting out our accounting systems and doing some training with our own Khmer accountant, they're heading back home, via Nepal & India, to get married.


 They are really going to be missed. No more sounds of pommy Football or World Cup Rugby floating through the open windows...

I got to experience Cambodian red tape first hand on Friday - I had to laugh:
While you don't actually need a licence at all to drive or ride around BB & very few Khmae bother with them, you do have to have a Cambodian licence (US$45) if you want to be covered by your insurance. Which seems like a good idea after witnessing the total absence of anything remotely like adherence to road rules here, and Cambodia doesn't accept an International licence that says "accepted in Cambodia". So off I went with Lavi to get my licence...
Official: "No problem, we just need your passport and a colour copy of your passport and visa." 
Me: ok, I have those..
Official: "Oh, and your address in Battambang. Name of the village, street name & house number."
Me: ummm I live in a village? Silly me, I thought I lived in Battambang...and my house doesn't have a number, none of the houses on my street have numbers and while the street is marked as 'Street 153' on the maps, the locals actually call it River Road..
Official: "Oh, and you'll also need a signed letter from the Headman of your commune saying you actually do live there."
Me: I live in a commune??
Official: "When you have those documents, just bring them to me and I will give them to my Manager's secretary so she can give them to him to take to Phnom Penh next time he goes."
Me: when will that be?
Official: "I don't know, but after he takes them to Phnom Penh it should only be about 3 or 4 weeks until you have your licence."

Me: sweeeet....

Considering it took 6 weeks to open a local ANZ bank account, I should be riding my moto, legally, by next year...

 CCT had WiFi installed at our house on Thursday. The signal covers the volunteers house and my little bungalow, so no more depending on dodgy dongles. Very happy about that.

And last but not least, I finally remembered to get a shot of CCT's Main House:
Main House

It's a great house. We have our classes on that balcony on the first floor:
Chantha teaching a grade 5/6 class on the balcony

Time to get back to work... Chatcha soon :)


  1. You had me giggling all the way through this one!

    It is truly difficult to teach someone else ethics without influencing them to come to the same conclusion you would when facing an ethical dilemma. It certainly takes some thought and a good measure of self awareness, to truly allow them to make their own decision even if you don't agree with it. The absolute logic and simplicity of the answers the kids come up with is lovely.

    I lol'd at Sayon's request for proof! When you think about, it does seem a little fantastical that something the size of a whale could haul it's entire mad into the sky like they do! Thank goodness for google and you tube (although at some point further down the track it may also be prudent to point out that not everything you see on the internet is factual...)

    I am curious to know exactly what was being taught in the Pannasastra ethics class. It seems you guys definitely need to look into the school a lot more critically from what you were saying when we chatted. Is there an alternative place you can send the kids if need be?

    Cambodian red tape certainly gives you a new appreciation of the relative lack of it we stumble upon in most of our day to day dealings here in Oz, though I'm certain we can find examples of similar ridiculous bureaucratic silliness in our own country! Be careful riding Around on a moto!

    Chhaiya sounds like a good friend to have....seems you can both learn a lot from each other, and he can also make you a good coffee! Win win :-)

    As usual, an enjoyable read ma. I do look forward to catching up on your life over there. I hope you can find the time in your busy days to post lots more of these lovely blog entries.


    1. Thanx baby girl, we do often have situations where I disagree with their conclusions but, as I've explained to them all, ethics is about forming YOUR OWN system of values. As long as you have SOUND reasons for them, you can't be wrong, even if no one else agrees with you. In fact a lot of the science we now know to be true was once someone's crazy new idea that no one agreed with - like the sun, not the Earth, being the centre of our solar system, or the world being round not flat.
      I told all my students, at the very beginning that one of the important reasons that we need to learn critical thinking is so we can realise that not everything we see or read, on TV, movies, newspapers, magazines or the Internet, is true. You must always look for supporting evidence from a different source.
      I always look forward to my class with Sayon's group. One of the other boys, Marady, lives with the monks in a pagoda so he speaks a lot of English and is already learning to think like a philosopher.
      I'll email you a copy of that "ethics" curriculum from Dewey. Let me know what you think..
      I love you

  2. yeah, i tried this morning to say well done with the killing animals dilemmas, particularly taking on al's advice about contrasting positive and negative imagery, to provide a more balanced basis for their decision-making.

    i totally just thought about our bureaucracy here, and how you always need a gazillion pieces of paperwork, and they always ask for more stuff that is obscure and irrelevant... oh well. soon precious.

    great to read your update ma ma. hope you get better lickety split.


    1. Thank you Dear One, I'm better already - You can't keep an old horse down an' all that..
      Applying for a licence & opening a bank a/c DID remind me just a bit about waiting for my Qld Blue Card.

      After we'd covered most of the examples in the 'Animals' topic, I pointed out that the reason I was showing them these opposing images was to make them realize just how much a simple picture can influence your opinion and to
      a)always think carefully and,
      b) wherever possible, get more information before you jump to conclusions, even if it SEEMS like the conclusion is obvious.
      Just love some of the reasons they give for their opinions!!