Dated on Feb. 10, 2004 from Phnom Penh
/ Apsaras on stage in Japan /
An Apsara(heavenly maid) is a dancer that every girl in Cambodia longs to be. The incumbent Minister of Culture, Princess Norodom Bopha Devi used to be a No.1 Apsara dancer. Apsara dancing classes started because we hoped that Cambodians would become proud of their tradition and culture. And soon lovely little 'Apsara' dancing girls are going to visit Japan. The Apsara dancers will shiver during one of the coldest months in Japan. ASAC's Noda branch is now busy preparing winter clothes for them. Public performances will be held at the No.1 Primary School in Kashiwa, then at the Northern Primary School in Noda. On March 4th, a charity show will be opened at WUU studio near Kashiwa station. On March 6th, a joint performance with the local students of Noda city is to be held in Keyaki hall. And it will be offered as appreciation for all donors and supporters of ASAC.
/ Planned primary school to be named 'Elephant Footprint' /
The development of the center area in Kampot district, Kampot province, is almost completed. And now the outskirts are expanding. The mistress of a small shop across from my usual inn showed me an application form for the school construction. She had long been complaining about the indecisive attitude of officials toward this project. The school is to be named Elephant Footprint. Its location is further into the interior than the Noda-Don Soy Primary School, which was thought to be at the very end of the developed land, and we have to go there by crossing a terrifying suspension bridge. The transport of construction materials must be more difficult than for the Toul Ponley Primary School, which was the first school that ASAC built in Cambodia. Of course, there is no other school around this isolated area.
If we can build some classrooms, the priest monks(who are living in the temple just now under construction) and some other people are willing to teach the children voluntarily.
/ Old King Primary School /
There are many large scale schools in the center of Kampot town. These schools stand very closely together and each of them holds a large number of students. Among them, there is a two-story primary school. It is called "Old King primary school." Although the school looks fine from the outside, the Board of Education referred to it as one of the schools which needs urgent renovation. We always thought this concrete building very impressive. But during our inspection, we found that it was miserably broken down. Or rather, it seemed to have been built by unskilled engineers. The center of the ceiling was distorted and nearly falling down. Floor tiles had peeled and there were lots of holes like crevasses. The concrete was falling off the walls and we could see rusty iron rods exposed. It was decided that this broken down school was to be reconstructed, together with another decrepit one in the back, which was infested by termites. All of these defects are the result of the corner-cutting on construction works. As for the engineers of ASAC, they can never escape from blame for poor work because it is very clear who was responsible for a particular school. I hope our engineers keep on doing a good job so that their names as well as the name of ASAC will be respected in Cambodia.
/ Echos of Arigato rang at Tonhon Primary School /
Tonhon Primary School, which ASAC supports, is now in its second stage of construction. This school is located in an area which floods almost every year and its roads were rough and its bridge was half-destroyed. But now the good infrastructure has reached the border area and its roads are remarkably improved.
Initially, it was thought that three classrooms were enough in this village. But nearly 700 students gathered at the school when it started. So a temporary straw roof hut was built. But still, school ran on three shifts. When the school was running in full swing, a tornado hit it. Most roof tiles were blown off from the main building. The straw house collapsed and some people were injured. So the construction of an additional five classrooms started immediately.
After the ground-breaking ceremony of the new schoolhouse, we were leaving school, when the children shouted in chorus "Arigato, Arigato!(thank you in Japanese)" Their voices are still ringing in my ears. If they wait a little longer, they can study in more comfortable conditions.
I would like to express my gratitude to the donors for 'the brick of school' foundation. Thank you very very much.
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