I have spent the last few days in the small provincial city of Sisophon, the capitol of Banteay Meanchey province in northwestern Cambodia. To be honest, there isn’t a lot going on here. Tourists rarely come. You won’t find tuk tuks cruising the streets looking for business (although one that we called did have a tv screen in the back – very bizarre).IMG_0628 There is a market, a central park where there was a funfair the likes of which would scare the daylights out of any sensible parent.IMG-20150309-00053 And a rather terrific barbecue restaurant. But I wasn’t here to sightsee. I was here to run the second “Training of the Trainers” session for Enfants du Mekong, whose largest centre is sited here.
To be very honest, this was some of the most difficult days of teaching I have ever had. The temperature was reaching 100 degrees. Although I was teaching in a large open outdoor space with a roof, there was no fan and no movement of the air. Plus, the training which took me four half-days in Phnom Penh, here I had to squish into 2 six-hour days. The people who came for the training came from other schools outside of Sisophon, and they needed to get back to their homes and schools as soon as possible. The combination of the crazy heat and the fact that I tend to stand and walk around while I teach made this exhausting.
But the good news is that the participants were really pleased and felt that they learned a lot. Although most of them were Khmer teachers of English, there were also some social workers, and that worried me at first. Teacher training is definitely an important aspect of the Writing Through program. But would the social workers feel as if they had traveled all this way for nothing? Luckily, everyone said it was worthwhile. The techniques of brainstorming, using prompts, writing together and then separately, and others I’ve developed for the programme really do seem to be transferable. How do you get a troubled child to express what they are hiding, or what they don’t understand themselves? Learning to write stories and poems, to think conceptually and creatively, is important to everyone. Whether any of these participants actually help run a Writing Through workshop or not, I’m happy to say all of us felt the time, the heat and the exhaustion were worth it.IMG_0630
Next stop, Siem Reap for the weekend and the Big Event celebrating the Writing Through workshop I led for a new group of students in Anjali House a few weeks ago. And then on Sunday, up to Banteay Chmar where I taught last year, for another week-long workshop for Enfants du Mekong.