March 03, 2006

Phoudindeang Village

Only a few kms from town is a small organic farm that makes silk, grows mulberries and provides a library and classroom to teach English to kids. It was the perfect escape from the renovation-construction-tourist chaos that was happening in town. I didn't see the silk but the tempura mulberry leaves were light and crispy, the rice had a nice pink colouration, the shake was frothy and the fat berry-packed pancake was gorgeous. And then I volunteered to try my skills at teaching. I discovered that knowing english is much easier than showing others how to learn it.

DAY 1, What I Expected: a 1 hour class, teaching art, communicating in english. What I Didn't Expect: Almost 50 children 11-18 years, no responses to my questions, only 8 peices of paper, 1 outdoor watertap which meant paint all over the ground outside. The Plan: Introduce myself as an artist and talk about things that have inspired me during my travels in other countries including Laos. Do a simple demonstration with watercolours and have groups paint a mural-collage using pictures and words to describe what they find inspirational about their village. Result: Not one person volunteered to speak. Because I used the mountains as an example, all 7 groups had a mountain in their mural. Nobody wrote any words. Used way too much paint out of the new tubes. The only questions they asked were "What is your name? How old are you? Are you married? How many people in your family?" My Thoughts: I never want to teach ever! They didn't like the class. Need a much better plan for tomorrow. I want to run away!

DAY 2, The New Plan: Have a lesson explaining what a noun and a verb is. Play Pictionary as a way to draw words the audience has to guess. Use the word in a sentence using at least 1 noun and 1 verb. The Class: At the beginning I had to place the white board marker in hands and force people to go up and draw. My sentence "I saw a turtle in the toilet today." (true story!) triggered one boy to write "Ross poos in the toilet." One child had a lot of difficulty writing n's and m's, and d's and b's but the class helped him by yelling out the letters one at a time. Result: It became a community effort, I'm sure much like how they live their everyday lives helping eachother at home. Each one spoke more and looked much more interested than yesterday. Everyone said thank you and good luck to my family (that's for you, mom, dad, Steven, Nancy!) and hoped I would come back. My Thoughts: Success! I felt overjoyed from their enthusiasm. These young adults are very well behaved. As an non-mandantory, after school class, it's incredible they were all there because they chose to learn. I would prefer to teach art to younger kids, who speak english as a first language! Well worth the experience. P

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