This morning I woke at 6 am to the sounds of 60 children playing marbles outside of my window. As predicted, school was cancelled. I'd heard at breakfast the teachers simply decided not to show up, some fearing relatives had been involved in the stampede, and others assuming their colleagues wouldn't show may have decided not to show. After breakfast I went back over to the bead room to work on a few pieces I left undone. As I put the keys into the lock, I encountered an unusual present left for me. A large frog had died and dried up near the door. The kids had a riot picking it up by its feet and throwing the crusty animal around to each other. One of the women who lives on campus finally got hold of it and threw it outside into the fish pond. It was curious how that thing even died how it did, it was as if it was freeze dried while it tried to jump. However, the boys were out almost as soon as they went in and I was left working with some of the smaller girls. Little Kunthea, who loves the bead room but loves making a mess almost as much as she dislikes making any jewelry was having a great time hiding everyones pliers. Whenever the kids make anything in the jewelry room, I'm always impressed. I assured each of them it was beautiful by saying "Wow, Sa-a" (Sa-a is beautiful in Khmer). Soon they were modeling their creations, and again I told them "Sa-a", however one suddenly lost some of that confidence and little Channy said 'no, ort sa-a' or 'not pretty'. Despite being the newest member of the Wat Opot community with her baby sister, Channy is usually one of the most extroverted and outgoing. The language barrier is the hardest thing in understanding a lot of these children, but I tried my best to reassure her "cha-saa"--yes, beautiful. I dont quite understand Khmer perception of beauty, maybe a couple more evenings watching television I will. But Channy's story is quite troublesome and could explain why she was so sad when I said that this afternoon.
After dinner was again another lesson in English, which wasn't initiated by me today. As I finished dinner the children, especially by 7 year old cutie Tai-Meng were pleading with me "Anglais, Anglais?" I gathered some more children than yesterday, and many came equipped with their own notepads and pens. I began with today's date and the children were able to read the words easily. I tried to touch on an exercise by counting the numbers 1 to 10 as well as writing the words out in English. Again, some of the children learn faster than others. Its unlike any teaching I've ever tried to do--some 6 year olds write and read better than an 8 year old. But here, that 8 year old bad been living on the streets and had never attended school since last year. I realized today it would be a very difficult teaching experience. Their confidence levels in their work is also very different. Some were eager to call to me during the lesson to see their papers, while others hovered over their work as I walked by. Soon it was medicine time and the kids excitedly took their papers to Wayne to show off their work.
Tonight was no different than usual, however some of the excitement got out of hand. As the nightly shoe soccer game was going on (I hide my sandals behind the big doors now) one of the older teenage boys scraped his foot on the gravel outside. A huge flap of skins was now hanging off of the ball of his foot and everyone headed over to the hospice to prepare for stitching. Two of the other volunteers are trained in medicine and Wayne himself is a nurse, so he is in good hands. The hospice is usually a scary place at night, and most kids--and I'm sure volunteers, too-- are afraid of it. The hospice is not in operation right now, but when it was, it was the place where some of the children watched their parents die slow and painful deaths of AIDS and other diseases. It's said that the hospice is haunted, and there have been some creepy things that have happened at Wat Opot over the years. There are photos taken at night with orbs and flashes of light in the shot that are seemingly unexplained, and there have been accounts from past volunteers about strange feelings, sounds, things breaking, etc. Creepy weird stuff. This is my second week, and I hope I won't have any encounters of a paranormal kind. However tonight, instead of being greeted with a ghost the boy received a benediction when the nurse realized he did not need stitches (and we have no anesthetics!!) instead just bandaging the wound and he was on his way. The wound was washed with alcohol first, and it was funny to watch him muster every ounce of energy in his bones to not scream in front of the other boys. In the end, he saved face and when asked if anything hurt, he simply shook his head and limped back to his room where I assumed he'd cry into his pillow the entire night. Ouch.
Right before this happened, the older boys asked me if I could teach them some English during class as well. Apparently, the other volunteer would make time to teach lessons to the older ones on grammar and assign reading. I didn't know this, and told them to come to the schoolhouse tomorrow evening so we can see where they need help. I love teaching the little ones, too which means I now have to find a time to squeeze in lessons for both and research some lessons for older groups.