Wednesday, 2 March 2011

I-to-I day twelve: A total waste of time

Wednesday 2nd March 2011

MP3 track of the day: You don't know what you've got till it's gone –Cinderella

Weather: Still very cool. It's making a rather nice change.

Due to leaving thirty minutes earlier than normal I canceled my usual order of pancakes and went for bread and jam. It arrived pretty quickly, however it was as riveting as it sounded. Both Sandy (who was feeling much better) and I boarded our tuk-tuk and, instead of heading to 'library two', we went to 'library one'. Once we had arrived we met some students and a couple of volunteers who worked at 'library one'. I could tell immediately that the students within the building weren't from 'library two'. I was told that my students would arrive at 9am and that, in the mean time, I was to wait before helping to take 'library one's' students to the dentist (an orphanage building turned into a make-shift dentist). Some of the children here were very young, only three or four. 'Library one' had a creche which one of the volunteers worked at. I was so glad that it wasn't me; even though some of my students can't speak English very well, at least they can speak.

The situation seemed rather bizarre; firstly why was I instructed to leave half an hour earlier than normal if I was just going to wait around? Also why was I at 'library one' and not the orphanage? The second question was answered straight away; the orphanage wasn't big enough to accommodate all of the children waiting. As 'library one' was the nearest school to the orphanage it was decided that 'library one' would be used as a hub, feeding children as and when they were needed. My first question was never answered.

After waiting around for thirty minutes two tuk-tuks pulled up outside to take the students to the orphanage. It's amazing just how many people you can fit in one tuk-tuk as we squeezed five adults and five children into ours. The dentist wasn't how I imagined; firstly all the dentists were foreign – Dutch I think – and they were part of a volunteer group. Secondly the dentists were working outside; there were six tables each with a patient on. A make-shift roof, of different types fabrics, had been erected in a hurry. All-in-all it looked more like a field hospital that a dentistry. We piled the children into a small classroom as they awaited their fate. We presumed that the two European women, already within the classroom, were the wives of two of the dentists. One had an accordion and the other had a huge pair of lungs. They were entertaining the children by singing songs, some of which weren't in English or Cambodian. It all went well however there was nothing for any of us volunteers to do. Finally Kim-Lee spoke to me and asked Sandy and I to go back to 'Library One' – again – to wait for the students from 'Library two'. We jumped in the tuk-tuk and went back to where we had come.

It seemed as though we had a bit of time before the children were due to arrive. I read a Cambodian child's story (rather weird) before going on the internet. The only Cambodian teacher there asked Sandy to accompany her to buy some bread for the students lunch. Sandy asked me to watch her bag as she got on the woman's scooter (glad it wasn't me) and off she went. I was now on my own and without anything to do. I was frustrated as the time was now 10:30am and I hadn't done a thing all day. I wondered if Kim-Lee thought that he had to provide work for each of the days I had booked in for volunteering. Now I would be the first to complain if, for example, I didn't have any work to do for a whole week however one day wasn't really that much of a problem. I would have preferred to have stayed at the guesthouse than sit around here. I had done all I could think to do on the internet and so I decided to open my 'flickr account'. I looked at all the photos from where I had been, picking mainly places in Canada and New Zealand. Even though I am enjoying teaching I would give anything to be back in Canada. Right at this moment I would have loved to walk through the Rockies, sit on a beach in Tofino, make my way through the streets of Quebec City or take a pleasant stroll on the islands of Toronto. I do miss Canada a lot. Another thing that I wasn't enjoying was the lack of countries I had left to visit. Back in New Zealand travelers would ask:

“... So where have you been and where are you going?...”

I would reply:

“... I've been to Canada, Alaska, Fiji, Seattle and LA. I will be going to Sydney, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and China...”

Now I only have Vietnam and China and soon that will go down to just one. I'm not really bothered about being within South East Asia however, right now, I do miss Canada more than anywhere else. To get me out of my miserable mood a tuk-tuk driver came and told me that Kim-Lee wanted me to go back to the orphanage. I told the tuk-tuk driver that the students from 'library two' still hadn't arrived and that Sandy was out shopping with the Cambdian teacher and had left her stuff here. He didn't understand. Eventually I was handed a mobile with, I think, the Cambodian teacher on the other end. She didn't understand my questions either. I eventually got that my students from 'library two' were already at the dentist (so much for the hub explanation) but I didn't know where Sandy was. In the end I took Sandy's stuff with me and off I went, again, to the orphanage.

What had actually happened was that a private school, opposite the orphanage, had allowed my students to wait there before seeing the dentist. I turned up to that school to see the lady, with her accordion and her evil accomplice, in full voice. They were entertaining yet another class of children whereas my students were in a classroom, all sat down, awaiting their turn. They was actually only two students from my class present and both had been seen. As I waited there I met the other volunteers who had as much of an idea of what was going on as I. Further more the children were given their lunch; it comprised of French bread and, wait for it, Fanta pineapple fizzy drink. I sat there horrified seeing children, either waiting to see the dentist or had just had some teeth pulled out, drinking a liquid full of sugar. Now I'm not a Dentist (I don't have the qualifications) but I am sure no UK dentist would advise drinking fizzy drinks at any time in your life, let alone when you are just, or have just had dentist work. I couldn't take anymore; firstly the two Dutch women were outside still singing and playing the accordion (don't get me wrong, they were doing a brilliant job entertaining the students – much better than I – however I couldn't help myself imagining inserting said accordion into the woman's bottom); secondly the children were drinking this bright green liquid. I pulled Kim-Lee over to protest on the students behalf; he said, due to the loss of blood, they needed something sweet. I hardly think that the loss of blood was that great and did he realize the message he was sending. He had children going to the dentist and then drinking fizzy drinks, I was fuming.

I waited with the students for a little longer before, yet again, a tuk-tuk came to take me, and the other volunteers, back to 'library one' to rest … they said. I didn't actually need to rest as I hadn't done anything all day, however the chance to get a little lunch was welcome. I ate for a while and chatted to the others before another tuk-tuk arrived. This tuk-tuk was instructed to take us all back to the guesthouse. Once on the tuk-tuk I reviewed the day. I was annoyed that I had been woken up at 6:15am this morning to do nothing, I was amazed at the chaos a simple task presented (whoever was en-charge, of this dentist outing, seemed to have the organizational skills of a walnut whip). However I was more annoyed about the use of Fanta ... totally sending out the wrong message.

Before heading into my guesthouse I purchased some snacks for tomorrow and I then wondered what I was going to do with my day. Looking at my watch it was only 2pm and the only answer I could come up with was to watch a little TV and read my book. The only time I came downstairs was to head out for tea before returning for an early night. Even though I hadn't done much today I was totally shattered.

Toodle Pip!

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