Two surprises and a shock

I’m surprised that I continue to be surprised by things that happen here, if you see what I mean.  It’s all very well to expect the unexpected, but if you don’t know exactly what you’re expecting, it’s hard to anticipate.

In the weekly computer lesson this week, the children were learning to compile a table using Word.  The task was to complete a list of pupils in the class, with name, gender, date of birth and occupation  – pretty straightforward I thought, until I saw this one


When I asked why she’d put 00/00 for Ream’s date of birth, she explained that he doesn’t know when his birthday is.

So I went around and looked closely at the other tables and saw this one.


Three of these children don’t even know the year they were born, let alone the date.  I tried to imagine an English child of twelve-ish not knowing when their birthday is, but I couldn’t.

My next surprise came on Friday, after I had been teaching this class for six whole weeks.  One of the boys in the class turned up for school wearing a pair of jeans with stars embroidered on them.

I’d put a picture of this boy into a blog post several weeks ago, showing him playing with his home-made table football set.


Anyway, I wondered about this very different look that he was sporting on Friday


and so I asked the Khmer teacher, very tactfully, if the child in the third row back was a boy or a girl.

‘Oh!’ he said. ‘It’s a girl – but I’ve noticed that you say “him” when you talk about her.’

As I was thinking to myself, why on earth didn’t you tell me, I heard one of the girls in the back row say ‘lesbian’  very clearly … these kids can’t string an accurate sentence together, but they can follow an adult conversation and come up with the word ‘lesbian’ … which isn’t a cognate in Khmer, because I checked.

There have been several animal-related incidents this week.

Firstly the children brought me this baby gecko

DSC_2521who seemed to feel very much at home on my ipad.

Then I acquired a large green admirer, who sat on my pencil watching me while I supervised the art lesson.DSC_2643

The solar system art lessons were a great success, incidentally, and we ended up with some lovely pictures; some more accurately drawn to scale than others, but everyone was proud of what they had produced.

This is the morning class displaying their finished creations


and this is the afternoon class.


Nowhere near so many finishers, but just a few had made a real effort, and seem to be much improved in general after six weeks of TLC from the Bardenator.

The shock came on Friday when I was on my own in the classroom while the children were in the playground.  One of the girls came rushing in and shouted, ‘Snake – teacher!’  Then, just in case she hadn’t made herself clear, she shouted, ‘Teacher – snake!’

Oh my God, I thought.  There’s a snake in the playground … and I’m going to have to deal with it.

I got to my feet, which suddenly felt very heavy, and followed her out of the classroom and into the playground.

‘Snake, snake!’ she said, and pointed to the resources room.

My first cowardly instinct was to shut the door of the resources room, and pretend I knew nothing about a snake in there.  But then if someone went in there and got bitten, I’d be morally responsible, I thought.  So I walked gingerly over to the resources room and said to Phanna, ‘Tell me what the snake looks like.’

‘She means Snakes and Ladders,’ came a disembodied voice from the office next door.  ‘That’s what they call it over here.’

I was so relieved I positively skipped into the resources room to find the game.