Friday was quite a relaxing day from the point of view of the course. Each member of the team had a one hour 1:1 interview with our VSO ‘manager’ (in practice, we are line-managed by the Cambodian staff in the offices we are going to be working in). This was to clarify our role, talk through any questions we had and establish how/when we might contact the VSO office if we had any concerns etc. My interview was with Vantha, who was very pleasant. I didn’t learn much new, although there was one new name – Andrew Jones, a Canadian consultation working with UNICEF, with whom I will be working very closely I think. I will have a chance to visit the the provinces and to visit schools I think, although it is all to be decided once I start on the 27th. Vantha is going to arrange for me to have a couple of weeks’ induction into the Ministry, set up meetings with key people etc.
In the afternoon, we only had one session which was dominated by information briefing about the language course and about finding a house. The one year and two year volunteers will not start work till late October, with a six week language programme and a one week ‘placement visit’ in the middle, where they get a chance to meet up with those they will be working with, look for accommodation and open a bank account etc. I will only have two weeks’ language before I start, but the big news is that I already have a house. On Thursday afternoon, Piset had taken me to see a place on Street 322, which was very near my office. It was OK but functional rather than a place I really wanted to stay, so I agreed that it was a good ‘safety net’ choice if nothing else better could be found. On Thursday evening, I visited a volunteer who is ‘moving out’. Her place is in behind a ‘backpacker’ street but quite quiet. It had a second room, which was an attractive option, but the extra room is in a kind of mezzanine, which means a low ceiling in much of the rest of the place, while the balcony was quite small. It was very nice that she agreed to show me round, but it helped to see it to know that this was not one I wanted. On Friday morning, however, I was taken round the city for two hours by an estate agent (on the back of his motorbike) to see about five different places. None of them really filled me with delight; indeed they seemed less suitable in terms of both location and design than the one I had seen the day before with Piset. The last place he showed me was, however, very good. The thing that made the difference was that there were lots of plants around and a very nice balcony. When I came back I phoned Joan and described the choices. It seemed like the last place was good, but there were some things to check about the place, so another visit was required. Leap (the estate agent) and I went there at 5.00, in mad ‘rush hour’ traffic, although having a motorbike certainly helps to zip through the queues, but there was no-one there, so we went back again at 7.30 Saturday morning and secured the deal. What really made me feel at home with the place was that there is a nice verandah with some greenery – everywhere else I saw was more ‘concrete’. I have paid a $100 deposit to secure the house and will start the lease from 25th September. Initially it will be six months, to 25th March, although depending on timing of the work contract and whether Joan and I will stay a little while in Cambodia on her second trip it may extend by a few weeks. The cost is $280 per month, although electricity, water and garbage collection are extra I think.
You can find a short (very short!!) video tour of the house here:
It’s a pretty standard layout, with the tiled kitchen at the back, a toilet/shower room off, and a couple of bedrooms which are really just square boxes with a bed in them! The verandah was the real selling point, although I will have to watch out for the mosquitoes! The location is very good.. quite near the river, but not too close to the tourist section; within walking distance of the park at the Independence Monument, but also within walking distance of my workplace. It should be fine… and very suitable for visitors.
Tomorrow it’s off to Kampong Cham and the language course.