Tuesday 6th September

Good day today.  Morning sessions from 8.00 included an introduction to each of the three areas of VSO work in Cambodia  – education, health and sustainable livelihoods, with a look at recent plans, evaluations of progress and talk of next steps.   One of our talks in the afternoon (on ‘dealing with corruption’) was cancelled at short notice without us being told why. As you would expect the chat was that the speaker had taken a backhander not to appear.  However we did receive an inspiring talk from a worker from the ChildSafe project, which responds to the needs of street children with resources to bring them off the street and into training if required.  Because of this we walked up to one of their restaurants (and shop), where I bought a tee shirt (www.streetfriends.org).

Because of the extra time allowed by the cancelled talk, I was also able to speak to Joan by Skype for longer than I expected.   This was an added bonus to the day, although I know I have left her with a lot of extra hassle about things she would probably rather not bother about.   She had enough to worry about with a big workshop for relatives of those with dementia, to help them with their communication and then her trip to London, for work and also to see Beth and help her with her move to the new flat.  I went into the internet cafe next door and after an initial bad connection, we seemed to have a reasonably good linkup. .the video was jerky but I could still see her and we talked (a bit jerkily also, as we had not really prepared what to say to each other.. will sort this out for next time!).  It was great to see her looking good.    One of the other volunteers (a recently retired senior manager in the NHS), Kathy, has also come here without her husband.  However she is having to write longhand airmail letters (12 pages tonight) as he is ‘’computer illiterate’’.  Nice as it will be to receive the letter, I much prefer the new technology.  Joan and I had a letter-based relationship before and it’s no substitute for face to face, or the real thing!!  I don’t think telephone on its own would substitute either, although useful for texts and direct communication.   No.  I’m definitely a Skype fan from now on!

I also got back from the laundry my week’s washing.  This is definitely very much worth doing. Everything came back neatly pressed and perfectly folded – including socks!  The bulging bag which I had taken there, which occupied about half of my suitcase, was returned in a slim wallet style bag, nicely wrapped, taking up about a quarter of the space.   This has to be an excellent weekly investment in the local economy at c£3.

Tonight I completed reading the Berkvens PhD (  www. janberkvens.com ) and made a 14 page summary of the key findings, which I think are very important for anyone doing joint work in Cambodia, and contain a few important points for anyone trying to conduct any kind of training anywhere.  I also completed reading the 48 page pamphlet on cultural differences.  Lots to think about and take into account.   I also finished reading a book called ‘A Malaysian Journey’ by Rehman Rashin, a New Straits Times (Malaysia’s 200.000 English Language broadsheet) journalist.   It gives a reasonably accurate, but typically Malaysian guarded and essentially uncritical account of the history of Malaysia, with particular reference to the political leadership of Mahathir Mohammed, in and among some amusing personal and historical reminiscences as he travels around Malaysia in the early 1990s.   It is the first book I have read about Malaysian politics by a Malay journalist.  For those of us on the outside, we can read and understand, but he is less than forthright in what he says, although ashamed of how he capitulated himself when put under questioning by the Secret Police in 1987, accepting that he should say nothing which might give encouragement to the enemies of the political leadership.

I made a little progress on the house hunting front today.  I have left messages now with three volunteers who are due to vacate their accommodation soon.. ideal if I can move in and buy any furniture etc  from them.  Also Mr Pisit, who is the office manager here, will arrange for me to be taken round to see a few places by an estate agent on Thursday afternoon of this week.

Well, it is 10.35.  Everyone else is in bed long since!   Time to check the e.mail and then head for bed myself.

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