I’ve not had the inclination to write much the past week or so. Life got very busy at work when I was told that we were to run a 5 day workshop for staff from all over the Ministry of Education, UNICEF etc in the week beginning 25th October – however on Monday evening I was phoned to say it was postponed so pressure was off, though it would have been nice to know that late last week when I was putting the papers together at short notice.
I’ve also been providing a bit of input on the revision of the national curriculum, the senior school assessment policy, vocational programmes in the upper secondary school and trying to breathe life at a national level back into an outstandingly good Primary School English programme developed by a previous volunteer. Early this week I was back in Kampong Cham for motorbike safety training which was good fun although we had to stop early due to the heavy rain. I came back to Phonm Penh Tuesday night rather than Wednesday. The 7 hours on the bus (3.5 each way) was enlivened by Timothy West’s fantastic reading of the wordy, slow and opinionated, but entertaining, Thackeray.
Health wise, my knee has begun to play up again. There is no obvious reason for this happening. However I noticed a ‘twinge’ at the end of last week and blamed it on my rubbish VSO bike (saddle too low and not adjustable so that you can never straighten your legs when pedalling). Last night (Wed) was my first walk since Sunday and again I felt twinges which really slowed me down and made me come back early. I was quite tired by the time I got back. I’ll just keep taking it easy, which is not a difficult thing to do when the temperature is in the 30s.
Here’s a little video of the construction site outside my office landing. I should have taken video of this from the beginning. The reinforced concrete pillars were constructed by the builders making a wooden frame around the metal rods, which some then climbed up. Others mixed the concrete and a human chain was set up to pass buckets of concrete up to the top. Once emptied in, the empty bucket was expertly caught at the bottom in what looked like a massive baseball glove and passed back for refill. Meantime, at the bottom, a big guy was hammering the side of the frame with a sledge hammer, presumably to make sure all the concrete settled with no air holes. You see the final product once they removed the wooden frames – so it seemed to work. I’ll take some more pictures over the six months I’m here. Health and safety is not a prominent feature of this site!
Next door is another massive building project. None of the local people seem to know who this massive house is for. In the absence of information, speculation is that it is the PM’s son who is building it – who else would have sufficient money, power and influence? It’s quite a house!! Let’s say ‘palace’, as that makes us remember that what happens here with a small group of extremely rich people enriching themselves even more is no different to our society, in the past and present. I also attach a couple of still photos. Once they fill the swimming pool I’ll maybe take a paparazzi photo, unless it led to me being arrested! Of course it may be that by then they will have demolished my office because it overlooks the garden area!
I’m not ready yet to talk about corruption and so on. I don’t know enough about the detail and I’m not really clear about my own views on some aspects. But the contrast between the superrich and the very poor is staggering.