Monday, February 21, 2011

Maps and Parties

The world map is done!! Well, ALMOST done.

The holdup is trying to find a person to write the names of the countries in Khmer. Although I could write them in English I feel it will not help any of the students or staff members at Romeak Hek High School become more geographically literate. And they really do not know anything about geography.

I spend a lot of time in my school’s library – especially lately - as I’ve been finishing up on the map. When teachers or students come in I nearly always ask them to point to Cambodia on the map. I’ve had people point to a country in Africa, South America, and one person even pointed to China. Results are equally frightening when I ask them where the United States is. Rarely, if ever, does anyone point to the correct country. And when shown which country on the map IS Cambodia they always look very dejected, and often exclaim at how small it is.

This is why I gave permission yesterday for my English Club students draw a four foot map of Cambodia right next to the world map. I admit I was a little selfish of the world map. I had a few of my club’s students help me paint some of the larger countries, but the majority of the work was done by me. The map turned out fairly good (although I still can’t muster the energy to draw all the island countries in the South Pacific) but I am racked with guilt for not letting the students do the map themselves. So now they have their own map project and couldn’t be more excited. And I am happy because I know that Europe’s countries are, for the most part, in the right place.

February is nearly over which means my birthday is just around the corner. Surprisingly my host family asked me about two months ago if they could throw me a birthday party. I thought, sure, why not? So, this Thursday, I’ll have my first and only Cambodian birthday party. I’ve already been promised some duck meat, num ban chalk (Cambodian noodles), rice wine, and music. A few weeks ago my host dad sat down with me at the table and started talking about the party. He told me about all those things that he would get for the party but that he would need me to take care of my cake.

A cake. Easy. Right?

Only not in rural Cambodia.

In Romeas Hek we actually do have a family that supplies weddings, and other celebrations of the well-to-do families of our district, with cakes. I’ve had one of these cakes. And to put it lightly, they taste like chemical throw up. I will admit they ARE pretty but I’m fairly sure there is nothing in them that would make my birthday a sweet one.

Luckily for me there is a French restaurant in Phnom Penh that bakes cakes and packages them so they can not only travel but also SURVIVE without being refrigerated (there’s no frosting on them). So last week, when I had a dentist appointment in Phnom Penh, I picked up four of these cakes. As each cake is supposed to serve 10 people – and we are expecting 40 – I hope it will be enough.

This upcoming weekend I hope to celebrate again with some of my fellow volunteers in the big city as well as watch the Academy Awards. For the first time in my life I have watched every single one of the nominated films for Best Picture. Thank you, Cambodian Black Market, for making this possible.

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