For volunteers. More background to assisting Cambodian students.
Auckland Travel Blog› entry 8 of 8 › view all entries
I'm clearly in preparation mode before the journey - probably making pretty heavy weather of the whole run-up before I travel, it's just that the trip to Savong's School in April carries a whole heap of items for my agenda. On the personal front I simply want to see my friends again - Savong, his wife Aneed (and their two kids) and his Dad also. And of course I want to teach, which is at the heart of why I want to be there. I trained a million years ago (well, in 1977) - but my career went elsehwere. Even so, my happiest work memories seem to be about teaching: either presenting at conferences, talking to students about writing (which I did a lot of, 10 years ago) and then more recently the experience in Cambodia. Deep down, apparently, I still dream of teaching.
But the other agendas for the trip are pressing also and I so don't want to waste the opportunities of this journey.
First - the documentary. I've been discussing with Sigi the nature and shape of the documentary we are going to shoot while in Cambodia - and that comes with it a whole production schedule of commitments - getting the shots we need, lining up interviews, and negotiating that fine line between observing people, and simply intruding on their lives. I saw a doco made in Cuba yesterday, and it was filled with the music and rhythm of Cuban life (Cuba Song it was called) but the makers stood back and never really talked to anyone. I felt, still, like a foreigner in Cuba - rather than an insider. So this is a challenge: a question of how to tell a story without disrespecting anyone in the process. Who likes a camera shoved in their face?
The other agenda is the business of the school and on Friday I met up with another volunteer from New Mexico USA who is over in NZ for travels with his good partner Cheryl, who has a lifetime of teaching experience. Holger Schultz and I talked at length about the challenges facing the students in Cambodia, and his insights certainly added to my understanding, and added a layer of urgency - I think -to the question of how we enable graduates to not only emerge with certificates in language proficiency - but also to get jobs. As he explained: in Cambodia, unless you were family, you would be expected to front up to an employer with a monetary gift and basically buy your way into employment. In how many places do you pay your employer?? This makes the cost of entry prohibitive for rural children - so even with academic success, and only a third of students complete high school in Cambodia (according to UNESCO) - there's still slim hope of getting meaningful employment outside of the family farm.
Holger's meeting gave me food for thought, and I owe him a lot for his insight. I've asked him if he would serve (given his background as an educationalist) as a kind of Educational Godfather to Savong's School. He's a good guy, and we took pleasure in the fact that total strangers like ourselves should become friends thanks to a connection in far-away Cambodia.