|Heading off to School/Work in Kampong Cham|
So for the past week I have been in Kampong Cham with the rest of the new arrivals learning Khmer. The group is split into two groups my group have language classes from 1.30pm-5.30pm Mon-Sat (the other group have class from 8am-12pm) in the Western International School which is about 15 min cycle from the accommodation.
It is amazing but after only 6 days of lessons or 21hours I already have as much Khmer as French which I studied for 6 years and way more Khmer than Irish which in theory I have studied for 12 years. There are probably a few factors why my Khmer is coming along better than my pervious attempts at learning other languages.
|In Class Daniel and I swamp notes|
1. The emersion factor is a big part. So that I am not just learning the language in class but using it when buying food and talking to locals although I have to really think about the sentence I want to say before I start it.
2. The grammar and verbs in Khmer are remarkable easy for example do you remember in French how you spent endless hours memorising verbs and endings well in Khmer you don't have any of that for example.
Rienn: to learn (and it stays the same) so all you have to do is:
Knhom Rienn: I Learn
Nea Rienn: You Learn
Qwot Rienn: He/She learns
Poo Yun: We/us learn
Poo Ka: They Learn
And that is as about as complicated as it gets.
3. Because we are only learning to speak we can just spell everything phonetically, which for me is a dream come through and is actually making it easier for me to get words into my head.
4. Without a doubt our teachers and his teaching style is part of my success so far. Dara is very energetic teachers and he really knows his stuff. Unlike my experience learning other languages he started by giving us about half a dozen verbs and all the pronouns and then got us to start making up sentences.
So after 21hrs of lessons I have about 150 words that I can recall pretty quickly and can manage to keep a conversation going for a couple of minutes. It's great as well in that we have learnt to construct for very long sentences using conjunctives which makes my simple sentences sound quite complex.
My favourite sentence so far as to:
I work a volunteer with VSO in PP and I work with teachers. Every week I write a report and eat Khmer food.
Khnom twoaca neak-smack-cheat choie moie ongkar VSO now PP hi-noon Khnom twoaca choie moie kun bon rienn. Roll a-tit Khnom saw say robika hi-noon khnom nyam ma-hope khemer.
|Keeping Fit Khmer Style|
So the bulk of the past week as been spent doing the above in class for 3 hours a day and in your study groups for a hour or so a day. Let me tell you about the study group which is good fun. Leandra who is miles ahead of the rest of us with her Khmer does up flash cards and we have to translate what is on the cards. We also turned it into a bit of game by taking turns making up sentences to be translated with the sentences becoming longer and harder each time. Oh on Friday evening Dave, Ingrain, Sam and myself managed to play a bit of volley-ball on the banks of the Mekong which was great as I had allot of energy that needed to be realised.
|The adventurers take a break after the bridge|
|Sam and Ingrain take Kizuna bridge|
|Well what will we do now folks?|
So after a week of learning this new language I have found myself slipping into pigeon English from time to time which is annoying and by Saturday afternoon my brain was well and truly fried. We had Sunday (yesterday) off and six of us (Sam, Gilly, Dave, Paul, Ingrain and I) decided to go for a cycle. Now you have to bear in mind that we have basic one gear bikes with baskets on the front and has we found out it can get very hot between 11-2pm.
|Sam's Bike takes and pit-stop|
Anyway we assembled at 9.30am with some basic supplies and headed out for the Kizuna bridge over the Mekong towards the Chup rubber plantation and factory. Well less than 20 min's into the trip Sam's bike developed a problem so we pulled into one of the many bike-repair dudes on the side of the road. After been told the repair could take awhile Sam and Gilly decided to catch up with us later and the four of us that were left cycled pretty much non-stop the rest of the way to Chup which was about 20km.
|Ingrain at the start of the Plantation|
|A bridge somewhere!?!?|
We then cycled back along Route 7 and turned onto Route Goudronner passing through the d'eveas rubber plantation where we meet up with Gilly and Sam (whose bike was now better than new) the repair had taken about hour and cost $2, you can't beat that. We continued along Route Goudronneur to Pagoda over a very bad road. Picture a tarmac road with large rocks randomly sticking out of it. Anyway it was on this route that Paul took a minor tumble of his bike and was quickly assess by our team medic Ingrain. By now it was 1pm and between the heat, the sunburn which we had all got to varying degrees and the hunger, it seemed we had bitten off more than we could chew.
|This doesn't look like the main road do I hear a banjo|
As we started to cycle again Gilly got a bit faint and then out of nowhere literally came the rest of our group in tuk-tuks as they had been doing more less the same route as some but in the comfort of tuk-tuks and with plenty of food and water. Gilly did the honourable thing a climbed about the tuk-tuk with her bike after completing about 30km. The five remaining cyclists continued to cycle to Point Metalique over the Tonle Tache river. Then we stopped for lunch which was great and badly needed as it was now 3pm. We then continued to cycle with a plan that we would reach the shore of the Mekong and get a boat to bring us back up-river towards Kampong Cham. At times it did seem like a cross between LOST and Deliverance but we persevered and eventually found a couple of boats that would take us and our bikes.
|All Aboard!! wait where are the lifejackets?|
|Ingrain looks after the bikes just in case|
We loaded up the bikes and ourselves and for me it was the highlight or the trip as we motored up the Mekong Ingrain and five bikes in one canoe rest of us in another one. After about 30min they dropped us off somewhere opposite to the K'ile Koh Themi island on the east bank of the Mekong and from their we took the Piste Longueur Mekong for about 10km back to Kizuna bridge and into Kampong Cham.
|Kizuna Bridge at Sunset|
So after cycling about 50km, a boat ride of about 3km and been very hot and tried I decided blow the budget and had a few beers and dinner in Joe's. All in all it was a great day trip and now I am looking forward to another 6 days of language classes before I head to Phnom Penh for a placement visit week.