Life has become routine; I guess it always does.
I am working in Phnom Penh through the first week of March on a social work guidebook. This guidebook is meant to help address some of the key areas that have not been addressed in other Cambodian guidebooks for trafficked children living in centers. So, it talks about things like special issues when working with trafficked children, integration children with disabilities into programs, child sexual abuse, discipline, sexual education and more. I think it is going to be a good manual—though the process has definitely been a kick back and review to lots of skills from Tonya’s Social Work Foundation I course. The manual is being written by another social worker who has been here for 1.5 years and is amazing! I am working with her to edit it and add in content, and I am working with a Cambodia cartoonist on the layout and integrating his drawings into the text. Finally, I am helping put together a chapter with organizations people can go to for help on specific issues. Starting next week, I will get to start going to organizations that focus on disability, mental health, health, sexual abuse, and human trafficking to find out what they do and get some key points. Then I will write up a little paragraph on each. Mostly, this focuses on trainings, counseling, advocacy, and material support.
In general, the office is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 am to 5 pm; there is a lunch break from 12 to 1:30. I arrive sometime between 8 and 8:30; however, I am still unable to fill 1.5 hours with just lunch. I usually spend at least part of that time on my Khmer homework and another part on emails. I have found a Khmer tutor (hence the homework). I spend 2 hours in the afternoon with her six days a week, generally from 4-6 or 5-7. During our break, her sisters have fun sticking different foods in front of me and seeing how I react. They have all been quite tasty; although the lemongrass soup was a little spicy for my taste. Since I am the only person learning, sometimes the sisters also get to play along in games. On day two, while we were learning numbers, we all got to play bingo. After the lesson, I head out to find food. Up until a couple days ago, this meant spending another hour or so in a restaurant. Now that I have an apartment, it generally means going to pick up something to cook. It is dark by 6, so I go to bed early too. Until bed time, I play on my computer, re-write and complete my Khmer homework, or work on documents for work.
I have managed to meet some people here in Phnom Penh which has been nice. Thanks to an introduction by Svea, another GWB student, there is one American teacher who I hang out with about once a week. Mostly, we just grab dinner or a drink, but she is great. Also, Deborah, a GWB graduate who has been working here since she graduated, has gone out of her way to introduce me to a wide variety of ex-pats in the city. Finally, the other social worker has tried to introduce me to ex-pats within the NGO community who are in my age range.
Overall, it hasn’t been too bad. Still, mostly, life is just quiet and routine. That said, who knows surprises what Svay Rieng will bring. I guess sometime in March I will find out.