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 tastefully.
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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