Myles Harrington

School’s Out

In Cambodia on November 2, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Last Thursday was the final day of term at Chumkriel Language School, that meant it was time for the end of term exams and then a long ‘bank holiday’ style four-day weekend to celebrate the King’s coronation and birthday. It was also our final day in Kampot so we treated the kids before their tests to a few pressies we’d bought at the market in the morning, two fishing sets, lots of building blocks, skipping ropes and a golf set. They were thrilled and manged to break all of the golf clubs and squash all the balls within a few minutes.


A Cambodian Tiger Woods teaches Shubes a thing or two


My first class that has been learning its ABCs simply had to write A-Z on a piece of paper. It’s traditional in Cambodia to cheat in tests, something that the teachers were weakly trying to eradicate for this exam and joking that of course they have cheated in every exam they’ve ever taken. One of the cutest little girls, who is actually the best in the class of 50 at reciting her ABCs was even found with a strip of the alphabet written on her lap. The kids were openly chatting during the test and glancing around the room for inspiration or a helping lip sync from a friend. It brought back all the nerves of school exams to me and I couldn’t help but give a few clues as I wondered around and saw the struggling teary eyed kids with sheets that only contained A B C D.


The cheating little shit didn't get away with it


The second class that I had to independently supervise for their test was quite a bit older, probably ranging from 13-17. I was a hard task master and managed to keep the exam room European style silent. There were the odd whispers that I had to let slip when I couldn’t detect the perpetrator, but on the whole I think I did a good job at keeping the cheating to a minimum. I moved two students and deducted marks off four. They all hated me at the end, so it was lucky I was leaving town the next morning.

Our last night in Kampot was a messy one. We’d made what seemed like quite a few good friends during our three weeks in town. Simon, the German guy who is at the school for a whole year doing his national service, Martin, the constantly drunk barman at The Magic Sponge Guesthouse, and Tom who is an ex-Macbeth barman who works in a shack bar on the main guesthouse strip all joined in on the festivities. We were also joined by a couple of girls who worked at one of the guesthouses. The seven of us hit the Dragon Club across the other side of the river for some Khmer style dancing to Khmer karaoke and the best of R ‘n B 2008.

To make the most of the long weekend and the rest of our relatively short time in Cambodia (less than two weeks), it was necessary for us to get the 8am minibus to Sihanoukville, not a pleasant thing to do after only four hours of beer fueled sleep. I don’t think Sihanoukville is  as good as it’s billed to be, in the guide it’s described as Costa del Cambodia and that’s probably why I wasn’t so much of a fan. I suppose I can’t really criticise it that much as we did spend most of our time in bed, and we didn’t even make it to the town centre because we were staying in the backpacker heart of Serendipity Beach. The beach itself is lovely, how I would imagine Koh Samui was 30 years ago. The seafood in Sihanoukville is also very tasty and very cheap, we had a massive surf & turf with jacket potato, salad and a beer for $3.50. It’s no wonder people seem to get stuck there for a couple of weeks. The whole beachside thing is not really for me though, I prefer to sleep in a bed that doesn’t feel like a sand pit and actually have something to do in the days other than getting sandier.


Too much sand


After the three sleepy days in Sihanoukville it was time to indulge in one of Shubes’ requests for the holiday. We needed to find a beach side bungalow to stay in on a secluded island. Another early start, this time to get a boat to Koh Russel A.K.A Bamboo Island. Because it was a tour boat we’d been bundled on, we stopped of en route for some deep-sea snorkeling, it was rather disappointing as the water wasn’t very clear and the goggles weren’t snug. I just ended up with half the Gulf of Thailand in my lungs and a massive fear of sea urchins, because that’s pretty much all there was to see and the guide kept warning us that “they’ll stab you and you’ll want hospital and there’s no hospital hahaha”.


I requested the lifejacket and everyone laughed


After disembarking on the east of the island we had to walk for ten minutes along a dirt track through the dense forest to the north where we found the secluded Koh Ru bungalow resort. It’s the kind of cosy backpacker oasis that serves beans on toast, mash potatoes and deep-fried Mars bars along side the ‘rustic’ amenity free bungalows and free-flowing overpriced beers. It’s nice for a night but it’s not exactly Ray Mears roughing it and it’s a bit boring, but it was very relaxing. Shubes even managed to conquer a lifetime fear on the island and swam in the sea, I am so proud to say I was there to witness her first piss in the ocean. Well done Shubes!

The water has just started to go warm at this point

5k remaining: £709.52

  1. You only have £700 quid left? That’s less than my rent!

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