4. Bericht für das Deutsche Rote Kreuz

Letzte Monat Kambodscha:

Ich stehe auf. Ungefähr halb 9. Vom dritten Stock runter die Treppen. Bei der netten Oma nebenan Obst gekauft. Mit dem Parkwächter einen kurzen Witz gemacht. Rauf aufs Motorrad! Durch den Verkehr am Kandal Market vorbei. Motos, Menschen überall. Die Riverside runter, der Sonne entgegen. Unter der Japanese Friendship Bridge die Schlaglöcher umfahren. Weiter bis zur Abbiegung bei Km 6. Durch die immer volle Marktstraße. Am Schweineschlachthof vorbei und am Center angekommen.

Manchmal Frühstück. Mit Mr. Sameth ein paar Sachen besprochen, mit den Kindern einen Witz gemacht. Dann in die Schule. Hier ein Hello, dort ein Hi5. Die Kinder werden nie müde einen zu grüßen. Erste Klasse. Viel Spaß gehabt und hoffentlich einiges beigebracht – ich denke schon. Mit meinen Schülern noch über dies und das reden. Und mit den anderen Freiwilligen zum Kaffee. Vielleicht ein paar Sachen besprechen zwecks Schule, Klassen, Stundenplan; sonst: Gespräch über was auch immer mit den Leuten vom Kaffeeladen.

Mittagessen. Mit den Kindern noch ein bisschen reden oder Wasserschlacht anfangen. Vielleicht auch Monopoly oder Schach. Oft einfach nur irgendwo flacken und reden. Am Nachmittag: Hitze unterm Wellblechdach in der Schule bei der zweiten Klasse.

Vorm Abendessen noch die Englischklasse mit dem höchsten Niveau. Oft regnet es so stark, dass man nicht mehr unterrichten kann. Und trotzdem macht es Spaß, dann machen wir halt was ganz anderes. Beim Abendessen den Hund füttern. Und weiter gehts. Mal ein Poster mit den Kindern machen, mal Bilder zeigen, mal Musik hören. Mal einfach Fernsehen schauen.

Deutschklasse: Alle lieben lustige Sätze! Fast immer ein großer Spaß. Und wieder zurück zum Center mit allen. Teilweise noch gute, interessante Unterhaltungen mit den Kindern, Mr. Sameth oder seiner Frau. Teilweise einfach nur rumblödeln mit den Jungs.

Organisatorisches mit Mr. Sameth bereden. Emails checken. Projekt dritte Schule. Die Kinder gehen schlafen. Ich steig aufs Motorrad und wieder nach PP. Die Schlaglöcher kennt mein Bike blind. Noch mit Freunden auf was zu trinken treffen. Teilweise durch die überfluteten Straßen zurück nach Hause, teilweise weggehen, teilweise einfach nur pennen. Eines Morgens zum Flufghafen und 11000 km nach Westen. Der Kopf bleibt dort.

…you can check out any time, but you can never leave…

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1997 again?

The leader of the oppositional party, Sam Rainsy, has been in exile in the USA as he had been accused of political crime. Just now – right before the election – Sam Rainsy was allowed to reenter the country. With a royal apology from the King himself he is now arriving on Friday, the 19th of July in Phnom Penh. With Sam Rainsy arriving in Cambodia the amount of rallies and number of people participating in these rallies is going to incline for sure.

Now many people are afraid of riots and fighting that might erupt in the time around election. And Sam Rainsy coming to Cambodia is not going lessen that fear. The possibility of some kind of attack on either Sam Rainsy or on Sam Rainsy supporters is well reasoned. One of the many rallies in Phnom Penh supporting the opposition (CNRP) would be a suiting place to blow a bomb. Also attacks on CPP supporters are supposable.

If this happens, the fear or fighting erupting fast is comprehensible as supporters from both parties seem as they might be willing to use more than just words to show support for their political believes.

Another reason for fighting erupting over the next weeks, is that in case CNRP and Sam Rainsy would win the election over the CPP and Hun Sen, Hun Sen will probably not simply step back without trying to keep his power even though he lost the vote.

Then again: All in all the situation in Cambodia is not dangerous at the moment – still keeping a close watch on newspapers and embassy warnings is definitely advisable, as the situation might change in a couple of hours. If the German embassy issues a warning for all foreigners, I will probably leave the country for the weekend of election and hopefully come back after a few days to a peaceful Cambodia.

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Change or no Change?

On the 28th of July 2013, the national elections will take place in Cambodia. Elections are a big topic all over the world, and Cambodia is no exception. One reason of it being such a big topic is probably cause there hasn’t been change since a long time. The prime minister of Cambodia is Hun Sen. Hun Sen is the leader of the governing party of Cambodia, the “Cambodian People Party” – short CPP.

Since the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge in 1979 the CPP has been the ruling party. Hun Sen himself has been the No. 1 in Cambodia since 1985.

 

There are – as always – two sides to the current politic situation: There are people who profit from CPP and a vast amount of people who do not profit from CPP being the No 1.

Cambodia does have – contrary to many believes – a fair amount of people who have a lot of money – one look at the amount of Lexus jeeps rolling down the boulevards of Phnom Penh is enough to prove this true: These are the people who profit. Then again a quick look at the rest of Cambodia – just a couple of kilometers away from the glossy postcard Phnom Penh – is enough to see that most of the people do not profit from the political situation: It are those people that need and want the change, that the election might bring about.

If there will be change or not is – many Cambodians say – up to CPP or CNRP (Cambodian National Rescue Party). Either one of them will probably win the elections. While the CPP will probably govern the country like they have done for the last 30 years, CNRP might be able to bring some change about – at least this is what CNRP claims.

 

Especially the younger generation, and the people who do not profit from the present political position set big hopes in the CNRP.

The older generation and the people who profit from the current politics mostly vote CPP. The reaoson: A lot of CPP politicians where involved in stopping the Khmer Rouge regime. Ever since then Cambodia has been relatively poor but at peace. The old generation rightfully thanks CPP for the peace after the Khmer Rouge.

 

Now we are just a couple of days before the vote. There are huge banners, posters and TV’s set up on the streets to advertise for either party. Most of all there are huge – mostly peaceful – “demonstrations” of each party where thousands of people drive on motorbikes through Phnom Penh screaming either “lai m-pal” or “lai -buen”: CNRP or CPP.

Especially the teenage educated generation is really enthusiastic about the vote. Yesterday when a CNRP demonstration passed our school, the students started cheering “Lai m-pal! Lai m-pal”. The want for change has grown and grown in the last 30 years. People don’t just want change, most people need change!

 

But even if CNRP wins the election, it is not certain, that there will be change. Maybe politics have really gotten too solid here.

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Auszüge des Dritten Quartasbericht für das DRK

Neun Monate bin ich nun hier. Drei Monate werde ich noch hier seien. Es macht mir Angst. Mir wurde gesagt dass die letzten sechs Monate sehr viel schneller vorbei gehen werden als die ersten sechs und jetzt sind es nur noch drei. Die Zeit verfliegt. Sehr bald schon werde ich anfangen müssen darüber nachzudenken wem ich welches Abschiedsgeschenk gebe und wie ich meine Klassen verabschiede, wie weit ich mit meinen Klassen im Buch kommen werde, alles das beschäftigt mich langsam schon.

Ich glaube ich bin nun zu fast hundert Prozent hier angekommen. SCAO kenne ich nun in und auswendig, ich kenne so gut wie alle 250 Schüler der Old School beim Namen, in meinen Klassen natürlich sowieso. Alles läuft, die Klassen laufen, der ganze Laden hier läuft echt gut.

Ab nächster Woche werden wir neue Klassen eröffnen, damit wir genug Klassen für the Volunteers haben, die im Sommer bei uns seien werden und um einigen Schülern die Chance zu geben das Verpasste noch aufzuholen. Mit meiner Headway Beginner Klasse, die ich nun seit Anfang an unterrichte, habe ich das Buch “Headway Beginner” erfolgreich abgeschlossen. Für die Schüler, die noch nicht alles kapiert haben, gibt es ab nächster Woche fast “Einzelunterricht”, der Großteil der Schüler wird aber im nächsten Buch “Headway Elementary” weitermachen.

Meine “Headway Pre-Inter” läuft auch rund und ich habe angefangen mit denen immer mal wieder ein paar kleinere Bücher zu lesen, über die dann Presentationen gehalten werden usw. Die Computerklassen laufen besser denn je, auch dank dem neuen Curriculum. Die Schüler lernen jeden Tag dazu und werden von Tag zu Tag besser. Hier kann man Verbesserung am schnellsten und am besten feststellen.

Seit sechs Monaten unterrichte ich abends die beiden neuesten Familienmitglieder; auch hier haben sich mehrere Kinder nun angeschlossen und ich unterrichte nun jeden Abend die Center-Kids die noch extra Hilfe brauchen. Auch hier hoffe ich bald bei allen weitere Fortschritte festzustellen. Generell bin ich sehr zufrieden in welche Richtung SCAO und das Center sich bewegt, Fortschritte und Verbesserungen sind in eigentlich allen Bereichen festzustellen.

Im Center wird nun ein neuer Raum gebaut, damit die männlichen Freiwilligen nicht mehr im ersten Stock des Centers schlafen. Auch dies ist ein Schritt in die richtige Richtung: Einer besseren Child Protection Policy entgegen. Auch dass Besucher keine Fotos mehr machen dürfen ist ein Schritt in die richtige Richtung.

(…)

Wenn ich an die nächsten drei Monate denke, denke ich auch an die Volunteer Welle, die uns bald überspülen wird. Das heißst für mich: Klassen mit jemand anderem teilen, Bett teilen und mehr Reis und weniger Fleisch im Essen. Wir arbeiten zwar gerade sehr daran, Klassen aufzuteilen einen neuen Volunteer Raum zu errichten um uns auf die ganzen Freiwilligen vorzubereiten, trotzdem werden es viele, ja sehr viele seien!

Erst gestern habe ich eine Email erhalten: “I want to change the lifes of the poor street children, the orphans and the abused children. I would like to volunteer at SCAO for two weeks”. Emails wie diese sind sogar gar nicht so selten: Ich glaube inzwischen habe ich eine leichte Abneigung gegen jene Freiwillige, die nach dem ersten Tag schon alles verändern wollen und zu hohe Ansprüche haben. Besonders gegen jene, die hier mit der Erwartung hinkommen die Welt heilen zu können durch ihre zwei Wochen Volunteering.

Generell bin ich der festen Meinung, dass es sehr viel mehr Sinn macht, länger als einen Monat, ja sogar länger als drei Monate bei SCAO zu bleiben: Man hat die Zeit sich anzupassen und sich einzuleben, die Organisation zu verstehen und den Ansprüchen gerecht zu werden. All dies braucht Zeit. Ich denke, dass wenn man volunteered, dann sollte man dieses richtig machen: Bleib für mindestens ein halbes Jahr bei SCAO und du kannst vielleicht ein bisschen verändern. Bleib für ein Jahr und du kannst vielleicht noch ein bisschen mehr verändern. Besser ist natürlich länger, obwohl es auch immer auf die Person ankommt, wie viel man rausholt aus der Zeit. Besonders für die Schüler ist es sehr wichtig, einen Lehrer zu haben der länger bleibt.

(…)

In den nächsten drei Monaten werde ich mit meinen Klasser weiterhin wie gehabt unterrichten. Die beiden Headway Elementary, die Headway Pre-Inter, die Computer Klassen und natürlich der Unterricht für die Center-Kids. Auch haben ich und ein anderer deutscher Freiwilliger gestern angefangen Deutsch Klassen für die Center-Kids und einige aus meiner Pre-Inter Klasse anzubieten. Vielleicht werden die Kinder bald ja sogar drei Sprachen sprechen.

Ich hoffe, dass die nächsten drei Monate nicht allzuschnell vorrübergehen und dass ich eines Morgens doch noch aufwache und es erst der 16. September 2012 ist: noch ein Jahr bei SCAO in Kambodscha.

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Developmental Aid, Sustainability and Cambodia

In secondary school, at least in Germany, you learn about developmental aid sometime in 11th or 12th grade. Its not a big topic but at least its mentioned sometime in geography lessons. One thing I remember from that unit, was that “at the present time, developmental aid should be done in a environmentally responsible, in a socially and economically responsible and most of all in a sustainable way.” “Sustainability” is one of the key words of developmental aid – for sure.

Developmental aid (DA) has many faces in Cambodia: Primarily there are the big DA “companies”, commonly supported by foreign government cash flow. Examples are UN, UNICEF, UNDP or the German GIZ. Secondly there is -especially in Cambodia- a humongous NGO scene. This is where SCAO fits in. SCAO is by far not the only NGO providing English education and having a child care center. There heaps of NGO who do similar work.

While the big organizations try to work closely together with the government, the NGOs (have the advantage that -the name suggests it- they) are fairly independent of the government. Of course corruption is everywhere even in an officially government and offical free area.

 

I probably look at it from a one sided perspective but whenever I see a UNICEF or UNDP logo, I see it printed on an over sized jeep with a huge antenna and darkened windows. Sometimes I wonder how much money is spend on jeeps and salaries for foreigners. Is this DA really targeting the disadvantaged groups of society?

But then again NGOs are often not much better. There is a lot of mischief going on with NGOs in Cambodia. Often the director drives a big car as well.

I don’t speak for SCAO here, and I see SCAO as an exception, but a lot of NGOs are not a lot different from a business. The only difference is that the product they can sell is not a car or a phone but “Ending poverty” or “Helping Children”- which is an extremely sellable and popular product. Its ironic, but you can make a lot of money by “fighting poverty” or “feeding hungry children”.

Maybe developmental aid is just a great method for transferring money from rich people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.

 

In the end it’s a question of what helps the people of the country most. I don’t know if its the big DA programs run by the people behind the darkened Jeep wind shields or the NGOs who make the bigger change. What I do think, is that both need to do quality work in order to help: While the DA programs often try to change the bigger system by working with the government, NGOs try to help a certain community or a certain group of people in a more direct approach.

 

Returning to the topic of sustainability:

The big DA programs and NGOs should try to work with sustainability as one of their bigger goals. In theory developmental aid (speaking of both NGOs and the big programs) should, at least seen in a bigger time frame, decline because it should not be needed any more. Locals should be trained to run a functional governmental body themselves. Foreign help should train locals reshape and restructure their country in a better way.

BUT if you work in a sustainable way, this will force you to cut foreign personal and cut salaries. Nobody and the people working in the field of DA are no exception, likes to bite the hand that feeds you. Maybe this is why working in a sustainable way seems contradictory to a lot of organizations.

 

Is Cambodia really in need of so much foreign help, and is all of this help really helping Cambodia, or just helping a few, who don’t need this at all? Maybe yes maybe no; another Lexus please….

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Coming Home

Around the end of March I had to say goodbye to Cambodia and hello to Germany again. I went to Germany for a months because I had to take a test for my med school, which will hopefully enable me to start my studies in medicine.

After a 24 hour delay I arrived in Munich. Snow. Quietness. Neatness and Tidiness. Big streets without wholes and so much electricity use. No life on the pavement and no quick food stalls on the side of the street. A lot of meat in the food. People walking on the pavement. Understanding the conversation of people next to you. Rarely motorbikes and no Lexuses as well. Hot shower and ant free towels. A room to myself and being able to close the door: These were my first impressions on my home country. Some good, some bad. Most of all: Quietness.

Maybe it was just the time of year but Germany was a pretty dull place to be. Although of course there were really nice things about it too. Seeing my friends was one of these things, and it was almost like I’d never been gone away. Seeing family obviously too!

What also struck me in my first days is that people in Germany rarely look each other in the eye. For example when walking on the street you somehow don’t look the person passing you in the eye, you don’t smile at each other neither. I also missed the closeness of Cambodian people, the close contact between friends.

The only thing that was reminding me of Cambodia was the Khmer music on my laptop, the movie “Same Same but Different” and the wikipedia article of Cambodia. Not a lot; if fact Germany really has nothing to remind you of Cambodia I think. I was afraid of loosing touch with the world I knew from before. Not being able to practice my Khmer and not having the small conversations on the street annoyed me. I would have loved to talk to some Khmer person again.

The first days were just totally weird. The mind somewhere between the two countries, being everywhere and nowhere. I didn’t know if to think in German or English, and somehow I was in Germany but never really there.

The lucky thing is that this changed really fast though. After a week or two I was pretty much back to the German way of life. I thought about Cambodia and SCAO just as much as I had in the beginning, but I thought of it from a German point of view. Maybe this transition went so fast, because I knew that I had a return ticket in a couple of weeks to Cambodia and that I was not staying in Germany for a long time. All the time I was really looking forward to going back to Cambodia again.

Somehow everything in Germany passed really fast and then, when I had just began to resettle in Germany I found myself on a plane going to Bangkok and Phnom Penh. Once you see the officials at the Immigration in Phnom Penh you know you are back in Cambodia. Baggage claim and off into the hot and humid Cambodian air again. Ridding back to the Center that night was great and seeing all the kids and everybody at SCAO was one of the greatest moments so far! It was amazing. I just realized then how much I’ve missed everybody here when I stepped into the doors of SCAO. Seeing my classes the next day and everything: I had Cambodia and Cambodia had me again. It took me maybe two days to arrive mentally and I was back again to where I was one month ago. Its great!

The last month had been one of the weirdest so far, coming home and then coming home again in a place so different and so far away. I love the wholes in the street and my shitty motorbike. I love my class and the heat during the power cuts. I love the Cambodian style bathroom with no toilet paper and sharing a bed with someone. I love five kilos of rice I eat in a week and the cheap Cambodian beer. The untidiness and the dirt, the streets of Phnom Penh and the Mekong river. The sound of Cambodian weddings during the night and the bad TV shows. Most of all I love the people, who have helped me understand this country and be part of this country. Thank you.

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New Headway Class

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Six Months Report for the German Red Cross

“Knjom nau protea kampuchea pram mouy kai howey” – or: “Im in Cambodia for six month now”. Whenever I say that, Khmer people look at me, and are astonished by an eighteen year old living in Cambodia for six months. Sometimes, I have to be honest, I am astonished myself.

It’s been six months by now, and a couple of days. I probably experienced, saw and learned much more than I could have in ten years of studying at university in Germany.

Its not just teaching my class everyday, seeing improvement in my students, having a second family to life in, living with twenty children and living a Cambodian lifestyle. No its not just, driving around in Cambodia on a BigBike, cruising the streets of Phnom Penh, living my life how I think it is right and living by my own set of rules. It’s being able to look at least a little bit behind the scenes. Behind the scenes of the NGO, behind the scenes of Cambodia and the looking behind the scenes of the Khmer society. What I appreciate about my life here, is not just the high living quality – although not having a western toilet and privacy- but it is the thousands and thousands of lessons you learn each and every day. I am sure that this also makes a great deal in ones own maturity and process of growing up.

 

Each day, you step a little bit closer to the society this country. You start to realize why things are the way they are and why Cambodians act the way they act. You start to understand the unwritten rules and spiderwebs of Cambodia and its society.

 

My role at work has developed a lot since I’ve arrived. Me being the longest long term volunteer, I have taken up a great amount of responsibility and tasks. It might sound strange, but by now I am not just responsible for my class anymore, but actually for the continuous running of the whole school: for 250 students daily. My tasks have become very different and I work pretty much on every side of the organization. Managing the volunteers, sorting out classes, writing Volunteers guides, Annual Reports, editing the webpage, writing reports and proposals, fund-raising, keeping track and helping with finances, giving certificates, setting new curriculums for English and computer classes, and organizing the Newsletter are all part of the daily tasks. The good thing is that, now I have a quite a lot of other long term volunteers helping me a lot with all of these tasks. This really helps me and the organization a lot, because a lot more can get done.

What I find most difficult about my work, is having enough time for everyone. There is always something that needs to be done, whether its teaching or organizing. Having enough time to spend with the children and young adults, who I live with and having enough time to spend with the other volunteers is sometimes very difficult. Setting preferences is very important.

My goals and ambitions for my next six months have changed a lot, also due to our “weltwärts-Seminar” in Kampot: I’ve decided to learn Khmer and I’m making pretty good progress, I’ve decided to help organize more activities for the children who I live with: Last weekend we all went to a nice island in the Mekong river to swim and relax. I’ve decided to teach my students not just English but also knowledge which is much more important than English: About their country and environment but also have workshop in cooperation with other NGO’s who teach about human trafficking and gender topics: Some of these workshops have already taken place at the New School, I will try to organize them at the Old School too.

All in all, after six months at SCAO I feel like it is possible to make some bigger changes and improve SCAO in some parts while also improving my teaching. I have really gained a deep insight on how things function at SCAO, which enables me to do more. The next six months are going to be very essential.

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Cambodia on Two Wheels

This gallery contains 10 photos.

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Thoughts on this Country

This is just some notes or thoughts that I’ve had during my last past weeks:

A lot of Cambodians never learned how to study or learn properly. Properly means being able to master transfer, to think for themselves and to channel their already learned knowledge into finding out new things. Abilities which are taken for granted in western civilizations are often not to be found here. In concrete this means that students are extremely good at copying information but often cannot understand the copied and further on cannot use this information in the next task. This is a big problem of the Cambodian civilization and their educational system. For one, the public schools and lessons here implement exactly this way of learning: Copying – but not being able to use this information. Another thing is that the hierarchy and tradition in the Cambodian civilization makes it hard to question information or think of something your self. What ever your elders or your teacher tells you is right and you cannot question this. You have the same profession as your father and you think just like your father did. This motive of “copying” cannot only be found in schools but also in the civilization. This has a big impact on the lessons, as students are often not able to transfer. This is why it is extremely important to not just make students copy things, but let them do group work, presentations and tasks that require transfer.

The damage that the Khmer Rouge regime has done to the country is beyond any compare. The amount of uneducated people in this country is immense. Only sometimes you can find very old Cambodians, who can speak very good French and who have high educational degrees. This they have from a time before the regime, which they luckily survived. Then comes a vast gap of education in the age group from 50 to 30. Now the younger generation is the one that is probably the most educated. Often the younger Cambodians are the only onces who can speak English or who have gone to university. There is still a great lack of education obviously, but it is definitive good sign that the younger generation has a better educational level then their parents. The sad thing is that you can imagine where Cambodia could be now without Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.

Phnom Penh is part of Cambodia, but it does not reflect the vast amount of Cambodians and of Cambodian society outside of Phnom Penh. In the city you can pretty easily brake free of the tight restrictions and rules of this very traditional society. In the countryside the Khmer culture and tradition is still a lot more present than in Phnom Penh. The big city is often just a place to make some money. Especially young women and men can relatively easily find a low paid job and are then able to send some money back home. I often think about what big a change and how hard it must be for people who grew up in the countryside to start a life in the big city – its like living in a whole different world, which still belongs to your home-country though.

“Cambodia is the customer of China”. This is actually a quote that a government official said while I was having a long conversation with him in Stung Treng province. This is in fact very true. China has some seriously massive building projects in Cambodia including building roads, plantations, electricity generation plants, hydro electrical power, new villages. During my past holidays to Koh Kong, Rattanakiri, Stung Treng, Kratie and Pursat provinces I have really seen a lot of ecologically sad things going on in rural Cambodia. Although Cambodia is in need of new roads and electricity, the country will have massive problems in the years to come because Protected Forest Areas are being cut down dramatically, rivers are being dried up and people are being resettled. The big money giver and investor China is taking full advantage of poor Cambodia and will earn a big profit out of all of this. The Cambodian government doesn’t really do anything to stop this as long some money keeps flowing in their pockets. The people who will have to pay for all of this in the years to come are – as always – the locals living in the affected areas. It will be them who loose their rivers, who loose their forests and will have to pay for the Chinese electricity.

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