Dated on Nov.12, 2002 Phnom Penh
/ ASEAN Effect /
I am back in Cambodia after a long absence.
The moment I stepped out of the airplane
was a surprise. I just couldn't believe my
eyes. "Where am I?"
The airport area has doubled in the past
five months! Although it is still not as
big as Bangkok airport, I had to walk quite
a distance to get to customs. Is that an
elevator over there? Oh, there is another
baggage conveyer here. I suppose the Cambodian
society and economy are all under transformation.
Chinese traffic lights were introduced on
the streets telling how many seconds to wait.
Median strips(central reservations) were
also something we hadn't seen. All of them
were set up in a short period for the ASEAN
Meeting in Cambodia, which I think can be
called the "ASEAN effect."
Still people are not educated enough to learn
traffic rules, so it is predicted that there
will be more road accidents. I just saw a
bloodstained spot along the way. On the other
hand, there are flags of Cambodia and other
countries seen along the streets while above
the main streets are many advertisements
for international gatherings such as a mentally
retarded people's convention and a Buddhist
convention which expects 1,600 monks to participate.
Once an event is concluded, new banners immediately
replaces it. Has Phnom Penh become an international
city? Doesn't Free Trading among ASEAN countries
affect Cambodia adversely because the country
has been largely dependant on tariff income?
Have prices of things gone down? People's
standard of living doesn't seem to have changed
at all. Especially in the farming villages,
it seems like time has stopped.
/ New Office /
Our New office which has been moved to Nodom
street was totally organized. Borramy is
a professional interior coordinator and they
said that he replaced everything in the office
before they knew it and decorated it very
We had more than 500 books donated by the
Asia Foundation and the staffs in charge
were busy with translation and book binding.
Literacy Education has started and the supervisor,
Bumpeing who came from Kampong Cham, said
with a smile, "Don't worry. Our business
is smoothly operated." as he cared about
my health condition.
I had a chance to participate in a PRA workshop
hosted by FASID(Foundation for Advanced Studies)
the other day. After the workshop, I thought
we could develop a literacy education project
plan to have students think, judge and be
creative thus leading them to improve their
lives on their own, not just to have them
educated in reading and writing.
We sometimes receive questionnaires from
graduate students engaged in different developmental
areas such as education and administration.
And I often wonder what they learn from these
papers. In our case, we know the farm villagers'
situation very well. So our mission is to
do practical work. There is always more room
for improvement with our work.
/ Light is still lit at Night /
While we were busy with preparations for
the school opening ceremony, we visited literacy
classes given at night. As it was just before
the election, we chose two classes but avoided
the Tongroap district, as safety was not
secured. One of the classes was Haln Nyom
teachear's where the classroom was under
the farmhouse floor. The other class was
Horn Heap teacher's, and that classroom,
which had missing walls, was the assembly
hall in the village.
It rained moderately this year and the rice
plants grew fairly well. It was a harvest
time but still the adult students came to
class after the hard day's work. They were
parents accompanied by their 1st and 2nd
grade children who came along to observe
and review their own lessons from the day.
We also observed the 2nd year English class
in junior high. They were much more active
and enthusiastic than students in Japan.
Even in a junior high in a distant village,
teachers give lessons in English and students
answer in English. They were only learning
about 'how to make regular verbs to past
tense' but they were taking notes very earnestly.
The students' hardwork was so impressive.
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