Sunday, July 31, 2011

Kids of Koh Rong

Village girls always stopping by to visit us.  Or, if we walked through the village, we would hear them yelling "Hello!" from all around (Note: most kids in the village would yell this at us).  The youngest of the girls would just waive and waive, or say "Hello" like a broken record. 

The famous waiving baby of Koh Rong.  It's amazing how fast kids picked up waiving.  I waived to all kinds of little kids in Cambodia and they would look confused at first and then slowly start doing something like a waive.  In the end, they probably became waiving fanatics like this little one.
She was a waiver too, but she was also skilled in rapid-fire hellos
A young girl from the far side of the village.  At times we would hear hellos ringing out from very far away, usually when they spotted us somewhere across the bay. 
The child that we saw the most was Nid.  Her mother cooked for us and Nid often spent her days in our place.  If  you could slow down what Nid was saying you would realize that she was often repeating English sayings at an incredibly fast rate.  Embedded in her English expressions was usually her name.  One of her favorite expressions that she would yell at us was "HellomynameisNid."   Rapid phrasing like this was common in the village.  We'd often hear "HellohowareyouIamfinethanks."  It really saved time.  You knew they were doing fine before you even asked them.

It was possible for Nid to be peaceful....typically it was induced by the possibility of candy from Ceri, or an afternoon nap.  Otherwise, she could be a bit of terror. 
Nid liked to have her way.  One day Nid's brother, Dal, had a balloon.  I was sitting on our "porch" watching him play with it, when it exploded.  Behind the exploded balloon was young Nid carrying a large butcher knife that she decided to use against her brother's balloon.  She realized that I didn't like her running around with a large knife and went running off to the kitchen with it. 
Nid laying in our kitchen/gear locker.  Looks sweet, doesn't she...?
Other girls would stop by to visit regularly, one of them was Vid.  She told us that she was 5 years old but she was bigger than most girls twice her age. Vid loved to repeat everything you said or count from one to five over and over again.  I'd usually try to keep her going above five, but her spontaneous counting outbursts usually only went to five.

Ceri and Vid.  Both hysterical.
At one point Vid really enjoyed having her hair braided by Ceri.  It never seemed to last long, but she found it entertaining, nonetheless.

Once the word got out that we were cleaning cuts and bandaging boo-boos, we saw a lot of boo-boos.   One of our resident, hyper-dramatic girls was Da.  I cleaned a cut on her thumb one day and she was not happy with the sting from the alcohol.  Most of the kids were really good at taking the pain.  Impressive, actually. Da didn't like the cleaning, but she enjoyed the Band-aid....even though she would always take it off and smell it.  (Band-aids may have been pretty cool things to have...perhaps even cooler than the stickers that Ceri would hand out at English lessons.)  Da would love to scream and play very rough (e.g., hitting people) and she would feign fainting at regular intervals.  Typically extended bouts of screaming and being dramatic would cause her to overheat and she'd need a break. The fleece pull-over probably helped with that.  The presence of a camera pointed at anyone but her would instantly activate Da and she would run to be in the picture.  She never really liked her picture though.   
The hyper-dramatic Da.
Tina and a couple of girls.  Da (center).
 Indeed, the girls were fun and sometimes dramatic and none of us could really talk to one another, but we'd hang out and try anyway.  They were a regular part of our day, stopping in to visit, have their picture taken, or play games. 
Girls playing a game with a collection of stones.
One of my favorite girls on the island, was Na.  She was super sweet, incredibly bright and very polite.  Nat thought that my beard was quite funny, but that has been a typical response in Cambodia.  Na was excellent in the English lessons, but she was never willing to write answers to our questions on the board, no matter how much I encouraged her. 
Na.  I'll miss her very much.
Na. Running to class because she was worried she was late.  On sunny days the kids were usually late.
Girls sorting fish or working on the nets (Na on the right).
Each day, at around 5pm, the kids would start to gather around our place.  They were waiting for class to start.  I'm not convinced that they were actually looking at a clock or a watch or cell phone.  Once the sun was low, they just started to show up.  On cloudy days, they came over extra early. 

No, we didn't jail them.  They were outside of our window watching us, waiting for English Class.
Certainly the best students in our classes were the oldest girls.  They knew much more than the rest, but none of us could ever seem to remember their names for more than a few moments.  I even wrote them down, but I couldn't remember which name went with which girl.  Ceri and I asked them their names so many times, that we eventually were too embarrassed to ask them again.  Many Khmer names were very hard to pronounce correctly.  Fortunately, Na and Da and Lin and Nid and Vid were some of our most regular visitors and we could get their names down. 

The older girls knew the most English in our class and probably in the village.

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