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4 Oct 2010

Our Placement Week in Kratie

Celebrating our arrival in Kratie with beers by the river

We arrived in Kratie in time to see one of the most beautiful sunsets ever. A Cambodian we met in Phnom Penh who was from Kratie (pronounced Kraw-cheh) mentioned that Kratie has the best sunsets in the world. At first I thought he was biased, but on reflection and having now been to Kratie, I think he could be right.

Pretty good, huh?

We had a busy week filled with meetings and interviews, house hunting and socialising with the other volunteers. I visited the POE (Provincial Office of Education) and met with the Director and then introduced myself to the various office staff there about 25 times in my very limited K'mai. They all seemed quite happy, though sometimes somewhat confused, by my attempts and I think I may already have set up some language lessons with the HR department who want to learn English (and I want to learn K'mai!). No one in any of the offices speak English so I'm going to need to suddenly start excelerating with my K'mai.

I'm feeling a lot more excited about starting work now but still a bit nervous as I'm not exactly sure where to start but, as mine is a new placement, I don't think anyone knows exactly what they want me to be doing so I'm not feeling too much pressure at the moment. I am missing having a class though. I would have been back in school for a month already and I'm missing having contact with the kids. Hopefully I'll get to start visiting some schools soon.

I will be based in the POE but I'll also be working with 2 districts: Kratie Krong and Chlong. We visited both of these district offices (DOE) during the week and the staff seem excited to be working with me so that's encouraging. Chlong is about 34km outside of the town so I'll be driving there on my moto when I get it. We went by tuk tuk and the scenery was beautiful - lots of villages, rice fields and rivers.

Sunset on a rainy day!

From what I've been reading and from the meetings with the DOEs, teachers have a really hard time here. They earn about $40 a month, which isn't enough to live on and their pay is often late. This means that they are not always very motivated as they have to supplement their income in other ways. They are often late to work as they are in the rice fields or helping to open up family shops. Another reason cited for their lack of motivation is corruption within the education system and schools in particular (e.g. headteachers).

On the Friday morning I was invited to the opening ceremony of one of the schools in the district which was quite exciting. It started at 7.45am and lasted until about 9.30am. All the staff from the POE and DOE were there and the Governor of Kratie so it was really good to show my support right from the beginning. There was some traditional dancing which was very colourful and lovely to see. And the speeches were relatively short by Cambodian standards. (Janet in a province in the north said her school opening ceremony lasted about 4 or 5 hours!!!)

The students from all the schools in the province attended the opening ceremony as well as retired teachers and other important people. They said the total number of attendees was 5,000.

I spent all of Wednesday interviewing for a Volunteer Assistant (VA) with 2 other health volunteers. There were 5 applicants and we appointed Chhay who is already working part time with Abigail (a health volunteer who's been in Kratie for 6 months) so now he will be full time and working with both of us. It was great to meet other volunteers living in Kratie and when we arrive in October there will be us, Abi (Health), Quennie (also Health) and Godfrey who we haven't met yet. Then in November more VSO volunteers arrive, also in Health.

We really loved Kratie and can't wait to go back and settle in properly.


  1. Dear Gilly and Sam
    What great pictures you have on your blog!I can't beat that sunset
    Hope you are both settling into your new home and the pillows are comfy
    Very much enjoying my time in PP and learning my way around on foot mainly still have not braved the bike what a whimp!!
    Take care

  2. Thanks Kath, the pillows are great but the landlord's early starts (4am) aren't so we're moving house on Sunday to somewhere hopefully a bit quieter. We'll update soon and of course you have a room if you want to venture up here one weekend, it's about four hours by minibus.