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Monday, August 27, 2007

TravelAid - End of Week 3

Week 3 is already over. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday we are going to visit the temples of Angkor. After 20 days in Siem Reap we will at last discover its major attraction!

Still, quite a few things happened in this very short week.

Sunday afternoon, JWOC held its second presentation on microcredit. We were able to organize it in a classroom of one of the schools around Siem Reap. Between 1:45 and 2 o’clock, around 20 women of all ages and a few men entered the school. At least 5 of them came with young children. Most of them dressed up for the occasion. The classroom quickly became full of life and colors (and even a little noisy with the children restlessly running across the room). People seemed excited about the whole happening and eager to learn what JWOC would offer them. As I do not understand Khmer, I could not understand a single word from the Scholars’ presentation. But from what could be read on the audience’s faces, it was very clear and interesting. In 45 minutes, they told the villagers about JWOC, its activities, the loans and the creation of a Business Plan. After that, the interested villagers were given the time to fill out their applications – and as most of them cannot read and write, they were assisted by scholars. I was truly impressed to see how well and easily the scholars, both the old ones and the ones that had joined the Microcredit team only a few hours before, helped the loan applicants. All of them took great care in going over what the villagers did not understand and in writing down what they were told. As a result, 30 minutes later we had 18 new loan applications (each of $100), which will be given out this week. And there is another presentation this Sunday!

As the weeks go by, we get to know the students at Wat Thmei a little bit better and we start to see some improvements in their understanding. So we decided to make one class sit a test, on the past tense: a great experience. First, most of the students actually turned on the day of the test. Then, they had all learnt their grammar and did a great job on the test. Buon Thoi, one of the youngest students in the class and Sok Mon, one of the monks, even got full marks.

Wat Thmei is one of the most touristy pagodas around Siem Reap. The classes are often disturbed by a group of curious Barangs (Cambodian word for ‘white people’), but Wednesday was exceptional. An entire bus of Japanese travelers entered the classroom, sat down at the tables, took photos, listened to Michael’s explanations on polite expressions… and gave out presents to the students. And indeed, the answer was very polite: ‘Thank you very much!’

A last piece of information before we go to the great temples of Angkor: one of the nicest places in Siem Reap to chill out after a day of work is Sidney Aqua. Very hard to find, but really worth it: they have a 15 meter swimming pool and a very welcoming - English - manager!

- Seb

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