3. English Boot Camp 2014

For the third year running we are heading back to Kampong Cham in Cambodia for the English Bootcamp 2014.
During the two week Boot Camp we will school 100 Cambodian English teachers in the English language. We will focus on pronunciation, conversation and grammar and provide new teaching techniques and strategies to give the teachers new ideas for their own teaching.
We are fundraising to cover the cost of the course for the Cambodian teachers including teaching materials, food and some travel cost to get all the Cambodian teachers to the course.
All foreign volunteers (UK, Australian & Swedish) working as tutors/trainers on the course pay all their food and accommodation themselves.

English Bootcamp – The last day

Posted by on Feb 20, 2013 in English Boot Camp 2013 | 0 comments

Today’s early start at 6am felt somewhat different to the previous ones, it’s
the last day of our two week Boot Camp. Cycling through Kampong Cham at
7.30am on the way to the library, taking in all that the morning has to offer –
children waving and greeting, dogs wandering the streets, women doing their
laundry on the front steps of their huts with a smile on their faces and their
little toddlers climbing all over the place.

This is my second Boot Camp that I’m privileged enough to take part in,
I therefore knew that this day was going to be emotional to say the least.
Teaching the last grammar lesson for 2013 , as we discuss phrasal verbs
and why they are difficult, but absolutely crucial to learn, the teachers keep
implementing the fact that this is the last day and they don’t want us to leave
and will miss us, little do they know that those feelings are completely mutual.
It’s not easy to then move their attention back to the joyful world of grammar,
however they did use phrasal verbs expressing their feelings, which lifts the

After lunch, all English teachers made sure that the goodie bags that each
Cambodian teacher was going to receive, containing chalk, a notepad, a CD
containing various materials such as grammar work sheets, Jollyphonics
material and teaching ideas as well as their certificate stating that they
had part taken in the 2013 English Boot Camp, were ready for the closing
Shortly afterwards 65 Cambodian teachers and 9 English teachers
gathered in the fairly small downstairs hall of the library. Each school had a
representative saying a few words about their impressions of the Boot Camp,
this was then followed by giving out the certificates to each of the teachers.
Some of the speeches were very moving, the Cambodian culture being very
genuine and open and listening to them openly sharing their feelings in front
of everyone, filled us with a mix of emotions.
Just before we were about to take a group photo, one of the Cambodian
teachers came to the front and said she wanted to sing a song for us. Up to
this point almost all of us (yes, Ella I’m excluding you) had managed to keep
it together. But when the girl started singing and two other teachers came
to the front to support her, I could feel the tears taking over. All 65 teachers
joined in, the library being filled with voices signing Take me to your Heart by
Westlife (of all bands).

“Take me to your heart take me to your soul
Give me your hand before I’m old
Show me what love is, haven’t got a clue
Show me that wonders can be true.

They say nothing lasts forever
We’re only here today
Love is now or never
Bring me far away”

It was simply beautiful and very moving!
I’m now sitting at the airport in Phnom Penh, after a bumpy and slightly scary
2 hours ride (overtaking an overtaking car while having lorries coming towards
you is not as thrilling as it sounds…). Looking back at the last two weeks, I’m
very grateful that I could be part of the 2nd English Bootcamp and I would even
go as far as to say that it was the 2nd successful English Bootcamp!

Blog 8 Adam Hawley

Posted by on Feb 7, 2013 in English Boot Camp 2013 | 0 comments

If you’ve been reading the other blogs, you’ve been well informed of our routine.  Up early, breakfast by the Mekong River, an idyllic sunrise then off to our perfectly temperate classrooms to work with our group of diligent Cambodian English teachers.   Actually, no one ever said that about the classrooms – they are sweltering – but the rest is entirely accurate.


It’s the second to last day of Boot Camp, as Friday is the Cambodian King’s funeral; and therefore a rare public holiday here, whilst Thursday will be halved to allow for the presentations ceremony.   All of which suggests it’s a good time for a little reflection.


It’s my first year on Boot Camp, so I can’t compare to the last, but the 2013 intake of Cambodian English teachers have been a wonderfully mixed group.  Mixed in their levels of spoken or written ability, in their age (there more than a couple of not-so-young dogs here looking to disprove the old adage), but most importantly, character.  I know that amongst the breadth of assumptions made about the project, not an insignificant number of friends, family or acquaintances subscribe to the image of the grateful participant – hungry to learn and eager to please.  Of course within the group, there are people that fit that mould (to an extent), and it is of course a useful fundraising image, but it’s not an entirely true representation of what’s going on.  These are classes full of adults.  Smart, capable adults, who have trained at teacher training college to join their profession.  Many of them proud and almost all of whom hold positions of status within their communities (for anyone in the UK struggling to imagine this, think of how teachers used to be regarded, perhaps minus so much cane and slipper re-enforcement).


What does all that mean?  It means some of them are grumpy, some of them don’t like being told what to do and some of them find it hard to admit they don’t understand.  Moreover, some are plainly insolent.  They believe they’ve been sent here by their boss to do a training course they don’t need.  Many of us have been in that position, but how many of us have had the humility to not only allow ourselves to be shown that our self-perception is inaccurate, but to also find the person running that course and apologise for having spent the first  chunk of it being a pain in the arse?  Some of us maybe, a number of these guys did – and some of them had hidden their contempt pretty well!  The gratitude and in some cases, transformation in attitude, from this group of professionals has been remarkable.


Enough reflection, the night before the last day is party night.  All the Cambodian English teachers are invited to join with all of the Boot Camp staff for a meal, a sing, some deceptively tricky dancing then a rare trip to a local night spot.  The meal is tastey and reminiscent of most of our Cambodian lunches – some grilled, some steamed, some in a stock or broth like soup, not forgetting the perennial bowl of rice.  Tonight did however include my first try of Soy Bean Milk, a chilled soft drink.  It’s not likely to become a regular at home.


After dinner, the singing and the dancing.  The singing started pretty rapidly, up on the impressively large and high stage, and gave rise to a moment of stark cultural dissonance, as the UK contingent came to terms with the fact that  a) not one of the performers had the excuse of being drunk (not more than a glass of beer had been consumed by anyone, and not at all by most), and  b) those putting themselves in the spotlight were actually really rather good!  And so it was, at 7pm on a Wednesday night, that a group of professionals soberly had a whale of a time singing Khmer songs to an endearingly low-fi, live synth backing, whilst their colleagues tried in vain to teach me a basic two step dance (which involved circling a table in the middle of the dance floor – which I guess is a step up, in size at least, from a handbag).


The night continued for some hours more, with the constant generally seeming to be a bunch of visitors from the UK looking keen, eager to please and grateful to our Boot Camp participants for sharing with us outside of our classrooms.

Bootcamp Blog 7 – Ella Donaldson

Posted by on Feb 7, 2013 in English Boot Camp 2013 | 1 comment

Started the day with breakfast watching the red sun rise over the Mekong River. Breakfast consisting of a fresh baguette and two eggs all for one dollar -  as the days progress I can see myself adapting more and more to life in Kampong Cham. After breakfast it’s time to saddle up on my bike and head to school. Today I took the route along the river passing a beautiful temple ornately decorated in bright reds and gold, pop up stalls selling sugar cane and coconut drinks by the road and locals gathered together for a morning chat. It seems wherever you go in Cambodia, whether outside their shops, businesses or on the street the locals will sit together and talk all day.


Once I arrive at MSK Library, it’s time to gather my class and begin the lesson. This morning I started each groups’ lesson with a warm up song I learnt in my National Youth Theatre training. The song is called, ‘Shake Your Body’, and involves doing exactly that. I taught the warm up to all the groups, however most weren’t quite getting the words or rhythm correctly, but they all thoroughly enjoyed it by the looks of things, especially when they had to ‘shake, shake, shake!’ Little did I know at the time, that this warm up was to become the catchphrase of my classes and when I was greeted by the teachers in between lessons many of them would just laugh and say, ‘Shake shake shake!’


When planning lessons, myself and John have had to adapt or come up with alternatives for Group D as the majority of the class barely speak English. However what they lack in actual English, they do not lack in enthusiasm or the desire to learn. One teacher in particular represents these qualities and despite being the oldest out of all the teachers at Boot Camp, he throws himself into every task or warm up we do, no matter how much silliness or shaking involved. His willingness to participate and just go for it attitude is so refreshing to see not only at his age but as a comparison to home in London where I feel a lot of people are reserved and are afraid to do anything out of their comfort zone for what others may think.


For today’s class, we focused on teaching through song. For Group D we taught them the ‘Counting Fish Song’ for teaching numbers and actions and ‘The Rainbow Song’, to teach the colours of the rainbow. Then for groups A,B and C we looked at the song ‘Happy Talk’. After having learnt the lyrics and getting the class to sing without myself and John, we then taught the teachers about singing in canon. This proved for some groups harder than others, as some forgot which part they were singing and joined in with another group or others found it difficult having to sing a different part to the person next to them. However after a few practices each group were singing harmoniously in canon. The objective of teaching songs to the groups was to explain to them how teaching through song can be enjoyable for their students as well as being an easy way to remember things.


For the last lesson of the day we have conversation sessions, with the teachers splitting into small groups between the Boot Camp teachers. Although in each session we are supposed to go by a theme agreed by the rest of the Boot Camp teachers, most of us tend to go off topic to get more of a discussion going. Today with one group we spoke about dance and once I’d mentioned my previous ballet training, I was immediately being asked to demonstrate some of my moves – definitely felt the pressure as I hadn’t been to class for about a month and a half. One small, slightly off balance pirouette complete and I had earned the status of Margot Fontaine. I was then having a lesson for beginners in traditional Kamir dance, which involves very delicate gestures with the hands and proved a lot harder than it looked.


With my next group, I asked about what super powers they would have. With the conversation groups being a mix of all abilities I had to give a quick explanation of super powers and discuss Spiderman for a few minutes until they understood exactly what I was asking. The question sparked some good answers, with a few teachers wanting the ability to fly so they could travel the world – with a bonus of no expense or passport needed I added. Another teacher wanted to be a Super Businessman, having the power of fantastic financial knowledge in order to make Cambodia the richest country in the world. Whilst my favourite answer, was from one of the women who wanted the power to be a Super Chef so that she could make anything she wanted in a second so that she could spend the rest of her time relaxing. As well as this in our conversation sessions on a few occasions, one of the teachers has asked the question back to me and I’ve noticed that sometimes the teachers just want to hear you speak.


After another day of teaching it’s time to head back to my hotel room and collapse onto my bed before dinner as I’m exhausted – must be all that shaking.



Bootcamp Blog 6 – John Mills

Posted by on Feb 7, 2013 in English Boot Camp 2013 | 0 comments

Last week’s lessons I think went very well.  A challenge in some ways as about 80% of the Cambodian Teachers have returned for a second year meaning a lot of new material was required however the other 20% could have really used some of last years work to bring them up to speed. There are also a high percentage of the new teachers whose English is so basic they are struggling to understand the lessons. Herein lies the overall problem and the reason we are here in the first place.  These teachers are standing in front of their classes teaching their pupils a language they cannot speak even to a basic level.  The same errors in pronunciation and grammar and being passed from teacher to pupil, year after year, generation of new teachers to generation of new pupils. The standard state text books are 15 years old and riddled with errors.  Correcting errors that are effectively state approved is no easy task. So we are facing a situation where English is being taught by teachers many of whom have never heard English spoken.

We are now in to the second week of the English Bootcamp. We had the weekend off which was needed to refresh our batteries as teaching is tiring enough anywhere but factor in 30 degree plus heat and it starts to take its toll. The weekend wasn’t all play though.  A good few hours were spent revising lesson plans as we now find our week shortened by a state funeral on Friday so the whole country will be in shut down. No idea yet how this will affect our travel back to the U.K. next weekend but for the moment there are more immediate issues to address. Losing a day’s teaching means losing lessons but which ones?  Can we fit in more of the intended lessons or will we have to drop some completely. How can we re-structure so the Cambodian Teachers still get the most out of the shortened week?  By Sunday  we’re fully re-organised.

Today is Monday and having breakfasted with the sun rising over the Mekon I set off on the cycle to the school with the days lessons running through my head and my eyeballs swivelling 360 degrees to stay aware of the traffic that criss-crosses, zig-zags and any number of other hyphenated adjectives probably best left to the imagination. The rules of the road here are simple because there aren’t any, other than a vague pecking order based on vehicle size and expense.  Foreigners are fractionally safer as damaging them inconveniences the local tourist trade. Removing their ability to pay hotel bills and suchlike with a mild case of death is even less popular but of course it relies on someone spotting you’re a foreigner before impact. In England a high visibility jacket would be de rigueur on a bike. Here,  wearing bright yellow pyjamas and Angy Bird slippers would be an almost chameleon like camouflage.

Today Ella and I have decided to run through homophones and common errors.  The intended messages we impart are understood to varying levels due to the mixed ability of the classes. This is a slight departure from our usual Teaching Techniques remit but we feel after the first week it will be a useful class for the teachers and it also ties in nicely with the subjects being covered in today’s Joliphonics classes.  As we run through the day we receive at various points a mixture of smiles, blank stares,  laughter,  correct answers, completely random answers,  a barrage of questions and an almost constant low hum of Cambodian whispering as the more advanced teachers try to give hints to the lesser able ones.  One thing I’m finding hard not to smile at is the random calling out of either ‘Shake Shake’ or ‘Chelsea’. Throwbacks from an earlier lesson, these are sometime dropped in to conversation or just appear anonymously from the depths of the class in a puzzling but very endearing way, usually followed by either stifled giggles or repetition by the whole class. Cambodian teachers here are not used to humour or any departure from learning by disciplined rote in their classes and it sometimes feels they are trying humour out for the first time like a child testing the limit to find out what’s acceptable.  We on the other hand try to encourage personality, humour, surprise and innovation as teaching aids in our classes. As the saying goes  ‘if you’re not having fun, you ain’t got a show’.  How many people reading this still recite the alphabet with the tune we learnt as children running through our heads? In Cambodia there isn’t a tune. Not yet anyway. I like to feel we are changing that teacher by teacher.

We end the day as always with one on one conversation sessions. As much as I enjoy the classes this is my favourite time of the day. As well as giving the chance for personal interaction and tuition it also throws up a fascinating insight in to the Cambodian psyche and way of life. I could easily write an entire chapter or two on this, there’s possibly a whole book in there somewhere however I have imposed on your time long enough and the hour is late.  The sooner to bed the sooner to rise and having typed this up I can’t wait for tomorrow.








Bootcamp Blog 5 by Jan Lewis

Posted by on Feb 7, 2013 in English Boot Camp 2013 | 1 comment

Jan’s Bootcamp Blog

RETIREMENT!!!!!! The sound of that word put the fear of god into me but on the other hand I was looking forward to doing the things twenty years of continuous teaching and bringing up a family had prevented me doing. I had plans to travel but I never dreamed that when I finally decided to take the plunge and retire, within a short time, I would be jetting across the world to take part in the Bike for Cambodia English Bootcamp. I certainly did not have any idea that I would be back in this wonderful country within 11 months to take part in the second Bootcamp. I feel very privileged to be back here again.

As we bumped our way here along a very dusty road from PP I could feel the excitement rising in me. I was really looking forward to being back in Kampong Cham. There was also a little bit of trepidation, would the Cambodian teachers remember us? Would they be as enthusiastic as they were last year? What would the new teachers think of us? Many thoughts raced through my mind but I needn’t have worried.

7:30 am, bright and early on Monday morning we set off from the Mekong Hotel with the intention of being there to greet the teachers when they arrived but as we rolled up on bikes and me in a tuk tuk, many of our past teachers were already there to greet us with great enthusiasm and delight. It felt like we had never been away. There were many handshakes and hugs and of course smiles. Cambodia is built on smiles.


My partners in crime this year are Ola and Adam, who have just completed the gruelling Bike for Cambodia ride from Kep to Siem Reap with the other brave people. If you haven’t already sponsored them make your pledges they deserve your support!!!!! We are the Jolly Phonics/Pronunciation Team. This year as well as revisiting the phonics our aim is to improve the pronunciation of the teachers. Cambodians have particular difficulty with sounds such a ‘V’ and ‘F’, so we had to start from scratch and teach the correct shape of the mouth and the position of the tongue and teeth. Oh dear!!!! It was so difficult for some of them to position their mouth, teeth and tongues. In Cambodia it is impolite to stick out your tongue which seemed to have a knock on effect where top teeth are concerned. We persevered and most of our dear Cambodian friends managed to overcome their difficulties to a certain extent. That was the first day and we are already noticing the V and F pronunciation is improving as well as other sounds we have taught since then. We still have a huge uphill struggle with the ends of the words though. So many of the teachers have an amazing grasp of vocabulary and grammar but their pronunciation still makes it very difficult for us to understand them and for them to teach the children effectively.

At the end of each day we have been spending time in conversation groups. I have learnt so much about the culture and way of life in Cambodia. We have spoken about festivals and how they are celebrated. How they live in extended family groups. They talk about their hopes and ambitions and how they never have any spare time on their days off because they are either, preparing lessons, marking work or studying to improve their qualifications. Not much difference between them and their UK counterparts. They are also hungry for information about the way of life in UK, they would much rather listen to us than have to speak in English about themselves.

The teachers really seem to appreciate what is being done. They are enjoying the challenge of the grammar groups taught by Sarah and ‘Mrs Maria’, they revel in the games and songs taught by John, Penny, Ella and Chloe and they look for teaching strategies and ideas for their students in Pronunciation with Jan (Mama), Ola and Adam. So much to do and so little time.

Some of us have already been struck down with the dreaded Cambodian Revenge which luckily does not last too long but makes you feel like a squeezed out dish cloth. The food here is amazing. Fish Amok has certainly become a favourite with many of us, with its delicate flavour of coconut and lemongrass and succulent pieces of fish but some of us are becoming ‘riced out’. We find ourselves eating less and less of it. At lunch time we are presented with very, very large bowls of it which the Cambodian teachers take great delight in dishing out in very big portions.

One of the restaurants we frequent is charity run, it trains young people from the Kampong Cham area in catering /restaurant work and is a lovely place to eat if not slightly chaotic at times. One of the delights for me is watching the antics of the small gecko type lizards as they scamper across the walls and ceiling catching the dreaded mozzies and fighting each other for territory. They resemble the rubber, jelly like, toys that are for sale in museum shops in the UK.

Speaking of shopping, some us decided we would go to the shops and markets here in KC and buy things to take home. The only person who has managed to increase the trade figures in KC this week is Maria who bought some lovely things for her grandchildren. Ola and Adam have bought coffee filters made from tin plus coffee and pepper. Unfortunately most of us have increased the profits at the local pharmacies having said that, medicines seem remarkably cheap but I suppose when you are only earning $10 a week it’s all relative. There is definitely a niche market here for the tourist market which is not being exploited.

It was decided that we would not venture too far from Kampong Cham during our weekend off. We visited Tonlebet School to see the dental clinic, which has now been open since October. Last year it was a patch of dusty ground and a plan on a sheet of paper. Now it is a fully operating modern dental clinic where the local children can get their teeth checked and get treatment when there is a dentist in residence. Once again Ola has triumphed!!!!

On Sunday we travelled out of KC to visit a pepper farm which is run by Phally’s cousin. We were given the most wonderful welcome. They proudly showed us around the farm and explained how the pepper was grown. As you grind your next lot of pepper onto your pasta spare a thought for the people who work very hard to produce this little condiment. Of course the Cambodian people are the most hospitable in the world and a feast of different foods had been planned and we were told that the table we were sitting at had been especially scrubbed in honour of our visit. We were presented with dish after dish we seemed to be eating for hours. There was even the smelly and very frightening Durian fruit. Some of us decided we might never get the chance to try it again and I found it unusual but not as bad as I expected. In fact the Jack fruit I had tasted the day before, while being treated like royalty in Piseth’s sister’s beauty salon, was a much stronger flavour.

All too soon the days have flown by and it was time for our night out with our Cambodian friends I have always said that you need to an exhibitionist to be a teacher and some of the Cambodian teachers just couldn’t wait to get up onto the stage to Karaoke Cambodian style. After the best food

we have had this year we were up ‘dancing around the table’, trying very hard to coordinate the feet and the hands. It was a really lovely evening.

The last day, many speeches, lots of emotion, presentations and a lovely song called ‘Take me to your Heart ‘sung to us by the Cambodian teachers. No problem there guys, you are already in our hearts and always will be. I hope that what little we have been able to do in the short time we have been in Kampong Cham will leave a lasting legacy and that in the future we will be able to help them more. In the mean time I know they will try hard to put into practice the ideas and skills we have given them.

Finally one of my abiding memories of this year’s Bootcamp will be hearing a class of Cambodian teachers chanting ‘She sells sea shells along the seashore’ (not easy when you have difficulty with ‘s’ and ‘sh’) and Adam making them say it faster and faster until it sounded like a cacophony of snakes and they all fell about laughing. There was a lot of hard work during the two weeks but also a lot of fun.

Bootcamp Blog 4 by Maria Telisia

Posted by on Feb 2, 2013 in English Boot Camp 2013 | 2 comments

Another 6.00am start. Quick shower – really running out of shower gel as I hadn’t factored in four or five showers a day – then down to work. Feeling refreshed from yet another good night’s sleep. The local wedding celebrations surprisingly were still not ongoing when I woke up so I’ve got relative quiet in which to do my preparation this morning. I had hoped I was pretty much sorted in terms of preparation but had badly misjudged the overall standard of student I would be offering support to. My material is proving, in the main, adequate for the top group, although yesterday the work I did on phrasal verbs with Group A proved challenging for them, but totally and completely unsuitable for Group D. As I start with Group D this morning I have a lot of work to do to produce something that is both stimulating but basic – quite a challenge especially when I remember that I’m producing it to deliver to a group of English Language teachers! No time for breakfast but the mangoes brought in for Ola by one of the student teachers yesterday make a refreshing alternative.


I leave the hotel room at 7.30am after having locked away all my valuables as securely as possible and head for the bikes. Mine is the bike numbered 2. Not quite as easy as it sounds as I discovered when trying to locate it again at the end of the first day’s teaching as there is bike number 2 with the bell, bike number 2 with the brakes that don’t really work, and bike number 2 with an odd picture on the back next to the number. I’m lucky this morning as the bike with the bell hasn’t been taken and it’s got brakes! As I cycle, the long way, to the library along the Mekong River I can’t help but compare what I’m doing to my normal school run in suburban Twickenham. The boatmen are landing their catches from the Mekong River. I stop to take a photo of a group of chickens out side what appears to be a derelict site only to be taken aback when a young boy emerges from the rubble and starts to wash himself from a bucket of water and I realise that the hovel is indeed home to at least one family if not more. I quickly hide my embarrassment by turning my camera towards a nearby monastery and snap away with studied intent. I know my way pretty well now, along the road with the stalls and past the very ornate monastery on the left. Just beyond that I notice an emaciated little girl – possibly 2 or 3 years old helping to erect a table which is twice her size. Turn left at the roundabout with the statue and first right at the next junction being careful to avert my eyes as I pass the first shop where John has previously warned me that activities of a dubious nature had been taking place the previous day.

I arrive at school early for the 8.00am start so drop off the books that I’ve brought over from England (that should make my suitcase a little lighter on the  way home), collect my name badge and head up to my  classroom. I’ve already prepared most of the work for my classes last night and this morning so am feeling pretty confident that I have enough suitable material.

Group D arrive fairly promptly all dressed very smartly despite the imminent afternoon heat. The students are all focused and willing but I struggle to understand how they can possibly be teaching English when most of what I say is met with blank stares – thank goodness for the interpreter. We begin with a revision of basic vocabulary and role plays relating to greetings and personal information and progress into the heady depths of familial relationships. Their homework had been to draw their family tree and use it to generate 10 sentences using the vocabulary we had ‘brainstormed’ together. Three homeworks are handed in! I had planned the next part of the lesson exploiting their individual family trees so a quick rethink is urgently needed. I draw my own family tree on the white board and get one of the students to come out and pretend to be me and respond to questions fired at her by her classmates. After an initial total lack on comprehension, the students (with some prompting from the interpreter) get the idea and the session goes well. From there we venture (with some trepidation on my part) into grammar relating to the present tense. I had fortunately, prior to coming out, represented each tense pictorially and attempted to give as simple an explanation as possible (my original intent had been that it might have been of use to the teachers in their classrooms – not that I would be using it on the teachers themselves). It seemed to work well but I’m going to have to wait until tomorrow when I start ‘present tense’ focused work to see whether or not that is the case. The session finishes at 9.30 and I saunter out into the corridor to encounter a very queasy looking John – more viral (or food?) based, than Zambucca it would seem in this instance! I’m also informed that we are a teacher down as Jan seems to have fallen victim to a very similar bug.

A quarter of an hour break, then the next session starts at 9.45 with Group A. Well, it actually starts at 9.45 with a handful of students from Group A. When one of those who has arrived promptly goes to lock the door from the inside I feel half tempted to let her, but quickly realise that with the stifling heat, that might not be the most sensible course of action. I start the lesson and the stragglers arrive. This is, in the main, quite a bright group of students who are willing and eager to develop their English skills and are focused, interested and determined. After some initial pronunciation and intonation work we discuss the hidden meanings behind ‘The Little Prince’ the book that is being used in the course and then proceed onto phrasal verbs a topic that generally evokes fear and trepidation in most students of English. These are no exception. I have prepared an explanation that will allow them to categorize the various types of phrasal verbs (the nearest that I can get to the grammar ‘rules’ that they seem to love) but point out that the only way for then to become truly proficient is by extensive listening and practise. The follow up work goes surprisingly well.

Lunch starts at 11.15 and I tidy up and head downstairs. I am curious to see so many students still hanging around. Normally they are straight off to the restaurant. I hear that one of the girls has had her moped stolen from the compound and that three other bikes have had their locks broken as presumably the thief attempted unsuccessfully to steal their bikes first. The police are called, distinguishable from the students, not simply by their garish tee shirts and jeans, or their slightly more stout and robust appearance, but by their ‘police’ labelled baseball caps. As the power had been down during the morning session there is some concern as to whether the thief might or might not have been caught on CCTV. Ella and Adam feel it appropriate that the students milling around who were not directly involved in the incident are herded to the restaurant as soon as possible. We follow. The normal large bowl of fluffy rice is brought out accompanied by three other dishes whose composition I can’t say I’m particularly sure of – one vegetable dish, a soup type dish and a cut up omelette.

After lunch I head off back to the hotel as I have a free session until 14.45. Following a quick shower I head off to the market. The street I need to go down is completely impassable as the wedding I referred to earlier is still ongoing and completely blocking it. I do a detour and stumble on to the market. I’m not really looking for anything in particular – possibly something for my granddaughter – and am amazed not only by the size but by the close proximity of the stalls. As I squeeze my way between them I am surprised by the fact that so many people are called ‘Maria’ here until I realise a tad belatedly that I have forgotten to take off my name badge! Despite the numerous stalls I can not really find anything to spend my money on so head back, replenishing my fast diminishing store of shower gel. Once back at the hotel I realise that there appears to be internet access. Not knowing how long it is likely to last I quickly skype my granddaughter. For a change they are already awake as for the last two days I have been waking them regularly at 5.00am. They show me the snow outside their window and I in turn point my i pad out of the window to counter.

I set off back for the last session only to discover that someone has taken my bike – yes the one with the brakes – so I take somebody else’s. Actually I discover the saddle is much higher and as  a result much easier to ride. I arrive back in time for the conversation session and following the incidences of this morning it is decided that the topic will be crime and punishment. It was during this session that the full enormity of what had happened with the stolen bike impacted. The students informed me that as insurance doesn’t seem to exist in Cambodia the student will receive no compensation whatsoever for her loss. As I was also informed that even if the police do discover the bike that she will be expected to pay half the original cost to have it returned to her). It was clear that the students were massively uncomfortable talking about the topic we had stumbled onto so I felt it auspicious to change direction. By the time I was on the third group we were all hot and tired so just had a chat about shopping which was much more relaxed.

Hot, sticky and tired I head for the bikes and quickly discover my ‘stolen’ bike with the brakes and bell so quickly ‘steal’ it back and head off towards the river with Ella. Even though this is a longer route I find it not only more scenic, and somewhat safer than the main roads (even with brakes) but with the breeze coming from the river it is slightly more pleasant. We stop at the same chemist where I had replenished my shower gel so that Ella could do the same and cycle back to the hotel. First stop shower number 3. I spend the next couple of hours marking homework and preparing for tomorrow’s lesson before spraying myself with my new eau de mosquito spray and heading down to the lobby to meet up for dinner. Numbers are a bit down due to illness but we head off to a new restaurant in the main part of town.

Here the menu is most decidedly impressive. I’m so spoiled for choice between the fried frogs, boiled soft turtles, goats intestines and various other delicacies that in a pique of massive indecision I opt for a salad!!

Eating over, I head back to finish my blog, count my ever increasing number of mosquito bites and treat myself to another shower and well earned sleep.


Bootcamp Blog Day 3

Posted by on Feb 2, 2013 in English Boot Camp 2013 | 1 comment

Kampong Cham is a 40 000 population town. It sits along the bank of the Mekong River and even though its not a big place it has it charm. Along the river there is a long nice walk where you can stroll and every evening there are many people out and about to do exercise, cruise on their motorbikes, eat popcorn, have dinner and so on. It is a very social little place but with a much smaller alcohol; consumption per person than we are used to from back home in London. I’d say that the Cambodians live a very healthy life.

So, The English Bootcamp happened for the first time last year and in my group we introduced an English teaching technique called Jolly Phonics. When you teach with Jolly Phonics the idea is that you teach the language based on the sounds in the language instead of the alphabet. This is a very effective way of teaching and the classes last year went really well. This year we asked the question to ourselves what we should teach the people that came last year. One option was to continue with more jolly phonics and to go deeper on most topics. BUT we ended up deciding to go down a slightly different route. Instead of moving further into Jolly Phonics we decided to focus on speech therapy which is a very big part of Jolly Phonics as well as all other English teaching methods. If people can’t pronounce and master all sounds in a language it is very much harder to speak the language.

In Cambodia many people have problems with the TH sounds like in THE or the TH sound like in THIN. When we started to work on these sounds today it was great to see that some people actually can pronounce the sound if they just know how to do it. To instruct people how in a mechanical way actually pronounce the sounds seemed to be exactly what was needed. Many of the sounds that we knew was a problem last year do sound much better this year.

Tomorrow, day 4 J

English Bootcamp Blog Day 2

Posted by on Jan 29, 2013 in English Boot Camp 2013 | 1 comment

Day 2

The second day of boot camp began with a pineapple shake whilst watching the sun come up over the Mekong River.  Afterwards we hop on our bikes and head off along the waterfront to the library for our first lesson.  There are definitely worse ways to start the day!

Despite Chloe taking us on a bit of a detour, we eventually arrive to find masses of mopeds and bicycles already parked outside the library and the teachers raring to go.

I am working with John, Ella and Chloe running the teaching strategies classes.  The idea is that we introduce the teachers to new activities and approaches to teaching that they can take back and use in their own classrooms.

It was a little bit nerve wracking taking our first set of lessons, but the teacher’s enthusiasm meant that we soon forgot any worries and found that we were having a really good time! We started off with some ice breakers that made everyone laugh and got us all warmed up.  Then we all contributed to a huge crossword where we managed to incorporate everybody’s names into one grid.   Next up was an activity where the teachers had to unscramble sentences on the whiteboard. We finished the class with a game that involved getting into groups when the music stopped, which provoked much hilarity and bad dancing by Chloe and myself.

The day ended with sitting down and talking in small groups.  It gives the teachers a chance to practise their conversation and provides us with an opportunity to get to know them better.  One of the main topics of conversation was what they liked to do in their spare time.  A lot of the teachers don’t get much of an opportunity to relax.  Many of them use their weekends to catch up with the housework, plan their lessons for the upcoming week, help out on the family farm or take private English classes.  Several of them are studying for extra qualifications – they are teachers during the week and students at the weekend!  When they do finally get the chance to unwind, the teachers enjoy activities such as reading novels, taking walks along the river, playing volleyball, visiting relatives and watching television.

A number of the teachers told me that they were attending weddings this weekend – apparently it’s the season!  As I am getting married later this year, I was keen to find out a bit more.  The teachers told me that the ceremony is usually held at the bride’s home where older members of the family and community come and bless the happy couple.  Afterwards there is music, food and lots of dancing (very much like a British wedding then!).

It’s been a very busy and fun-packed day, so after some lesson planning and dinner, it’s definitely time for bed (by 9.30pm!!).    We need to catch plenty of z’s so that we are ready for tomorrow…….

Penny xx

English Bootcamp Day 1

Posted by on Jan 29, 2013 in English Boot Camp 2013 | 0 comments

Day One Blog

A lovely bright sunrise for our 6am wake up call for the first morning of the boot camp. We all met at the local restaurant ‘Mekong Crossing’ for a group breakfast a nice selection of food including lots of fresh fruit shakes all bought out one at a time (Cambodia time…as they call it haha)! We hired bikes from our hotel and started our journey down to the library where we will spend the next 2 weeks. There is a real mix of us who did the boot camp in 2012 and the newbies so lots of different emotions going around. It was a relatively slow start to the morning with all the teachers arriving in dribs and drabs, it was lovely for Sarah, Ange, John and Jan to see familiar faces the teachers were so happy to see them. For the rest of us it was amazing to finally meet the teachers and soak in the atmosphere.

After registration and getting a nice little name tag on everyone, Penny, Ella and Maria took the group for some icebreaker games. For a relatively small space and around 60 teachers we managed to get all the teachers sitting opposite one another ready for speed dating!! This was a great way to get the teachers to interact with each other and get their English speaking rolling….We followed this by playing the ‘truth/lying’ game which involved us getting the teachers into a circle and telling the rest of the group 3 facts about themselves 1 had to be a lie. This created a brilliant atmosphere around the room with a lot of funny lies being told, i.e. having four wives.

Lunchtime soon came around and we all headed off to a local market to eat together. A very interesting selection of food not quite sure what it was we were eating but it was very tasty indeed! I am not a big fan of the meat dishes but the vegetarian dish was delicious.  With it being so hot and humid over here a lot of the Cambodian’s go to get showered/changed at lunch time ready for their afternoon sessions.

The final part of our first day involved us completing an assessment on each of the teachers in order for us to get a deeper understanding of their abilities. Having such a mix of abilities made this very challenging but extremely important in order to make sure they were all in similar group ability classes for the rest of the boot camp.

Back at the hotel absolutely shattered after our first full day but so good to finally be here! Plan of action for tonight involves lesson planning for tomorrow and eating more noodles cannot wait!! Over and out….