Monday, September 13, 2010

In Country Training or ICT to those in the know!!

So last Thursday I arrived in PP and as already mentioned the humidity hit me like blow-dryer in the face. So naturally I did what anyone would do after unpacking in the Burly House on ST111 (see the map) I headed to Rory's Pub and had a Angkor beer just the one mind you. Then I went to the VSO office were dinner was provided and I meet my fellow Volunteers who are-Gilly (and Sam), Daniel, Danny, Dave, David, and Janet, Kathryn, Ingram, Paul, Jan and Thea, Vicky and Leeandra and Andre. All of of whom are very different but fascinating people who any organisation would be delighted to have.

The bulk of the group fall under the VSO Cambodia Education programme which apparently is very normal for the September arrivals. There are three programmes in VSO Cambodia Education, Health and Livelihoods. So those in Education-me, Gilly, Danny, Janet, Jan and Leandra will have various roles such as Educational Teaching and Learning Advisers (who work with teachers in Cambodian schools), Education Technical Advisers who work with the ministry or colleges of education. The role of the other vary form Paediatrician to development advisers so it is quite a varied group in terms of experience despite the education overload.

So we have had a packed week which I will outline below:

Friday 3rd-
Welcome to Cambodia-Basics about the country, and PP.
Introduction to VSO Cambodia Programme Office-Told about the office and various programmes they run.
In Country Training preview-What to expect in the next few days.
Security-Personal security in a new country

Saturday 4th-
Cyclo Tour-for those not in the know the cyclo is a French import (see that Cath). It is a bike with an extra seat in the front that you ride in so that the cyclist is behind you. It is a great way to explore PP although at times I wondered if my cyclo operator would last the pace as he was in his 60's at least. At other times I thought I wouldn't make it as we ducked in and out of traffic and around potholes. 

Sunday 5th-
And on the seventh day the lord rested and this is exactly what I did I was wrecked. I was also frustrated with numerous technical difficulties which varied from my Irish mobile not working to not having a headset to use on skype.

Monday 6th-
Role of Programme Office-We were briefed as to what support to expect from VSO once we started our placements.
VSO's work in Cambodia-This session looked at the background and process through which VSO works in Cambodia.

Tuesday 7th-
Overview of VSO Cambodia's Health Programme
Overview of VSO Cambodia's Livelihoods Programme
Overview of VSO Cambodia's Education Programme

All of which did what they said on the tin, but it was great to hear about what has been done, what has worked and what has not worked and what the future holds and where we fit in with the future plans.

Child Protection
Obviously a big issue we had a good talk from an NGO called the Child Safe Centre.

Wednesday 8th
HIV & Aids talk-which was presented by a former VSO Volunteer now working in the area. 

Gender, ethnic and minorities issues- presented by a current VSO Volunteer

Cultural Do's and Don't-Which was really good and stopped me for one making a complete western tourist twat of myself. Well ok it can't work miracles but it made me less of twat in terms of cultural norms.

Mines in Cambodia-This talk was given by MAG and covered their work and the dangers posed by mines left over from the US bombing during the Vietnam War and of course the Civil War and Khmer Rouge regime. Cambodia still remains one of the most mined countries in the world.

Staying Healthy-The VSO doc called by and give us all some very good advise and information about how to look after our health and what the symptoms of various things might be.
View of the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Peng
Dave and Ingraim at the Olympic Stadium

Thursday 9th 
Working in Cambodia and with Cambodian's-This was a great session as it looked at the practical problems that could arise for all of us both in terms of working in a new country and of course in a workplace which is cultural different to that at home. The importance of hierarchy and diplomacy been the biggest differences as well as the language barrier.

Meeting with British Ambassador-But before anyone starts there is no Irish Ambassador in Cambodia and the British Embassy looks after all Irish citizens in the country. This was a really good session which the Ambassador and his Economic Advisory and covered a wide range of issues which included: the Cambodian tribunals, aid and NGO's. the role of DFID and the Embassy and the future development of Cambodia.

History of Cambodia: Good interactive session bringing us swiftly through the complexities of contemporary Cambodian History which is very complicated. Want to know more read

Friday 10th
One-to-One session with Programme Managers-This was an invaluable meeting with my VSO Manager Vanthna where we discussed CITA and my role with them.
The Group having dinner at the VSO Cambodia Office in Phnom Penh
Saturday 11th 
And on the 6th Day the VSO Volunteers rested after a very late night and very long week. 

Sunday 12th 
Traveled to Kampong Cham which located 120km North-East of PP on the Mekong River. It is a welcome change from the manic pace of PP and I will be based here for the next two weeks.

Now just a quick side note on Thursday 9th and  Friday 10th, while I have been taking it handy regards going out and having a few drinks on Thursday I decided to live a little and do some social networking as I am after all going to be living here in PP for the next two years. So what did I do on Thursday nite I went Swing Dancing classes in Equinox. I kid you not it was great craic and there was very little drink involved. So I think I may have a new hobby which is a tad different and not easy when you have no rhythm. Also have come across a number of Irish ex-pats which seem so far to be the second biggest group after the Brit's.

Now Friday with my new information acquired about my placement and day off due I decided to blow of a little steam with my new friends and colleagues. This began with cocktails and pool at Equinox which was fine until happy hour ended and the we moved to a wine bar somewhere not sure where I just pedaled till I was told to stop. After the wine bar a by now very small by elite group of adventures headed for Pontoon (Eoin you'll be well imppressed with it) which is dance nightclub on pontoon/boat. Needless to say the excitement of been in a new country with plenty of really interesting people caused me to dance my heart out until some ungodly hour in the morning. But hey you got to live a little sometimes!! the really amazing things was the lack of a hangover the next day my only conclusion been that I danced and then cycled it all the alcohol out of my system. Oh and note to future visitor to PP the city is really beautiful when your cycling home at 4am.


  1. swing dancing :-))) great! will see if you can beat alex as a dancing partner after u come back from cambodia ;-)

    sounds like u are having a great time living a little ;-)

  2. Hey Vanja it was my first swing dacning class but I enjoyed it so after 2 years of lessons I might just be able to macth Alex but at present I just know-rockstep, triple step, double step, rockstep, spin out, rock step spin in and finishes with a triple. It will be great to have a hobbie once work starts.