The room was filled with people. Important people. Businessmen, young entrepreneurs, government officials… all to see us. Hard to believe!?
After 3 weeks in Cambodia, we had the opportunity to showcase some of what we had been doing with our partner NGO’s.
With a handful of kids from the EYC school we had been teaching at, Impact, we sung some of the songs that we had been teaching them. Three of the kids from the school came along with us quite early so we could rehearse before the performance. They were dressed nicer than I’d ever seen them before. I doubt they’d ever had an experience like it before. It took a lot of prompting before they would let themselves try the finger food, but when once they started they really stuffed their faces. It was delightful to see.
This trip was a cultural exchange – so we wanted to show exactly what had been swapped… and it wasn’t as sophisticated as some may have expected. We were partnering up with children, not professional musicians, so we found ways to connect meaningfully with them. This meant easy folk songs in English, like Old MacDonald Had a Farm or Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes; or simple gospel tunes. They taught us some songs too – a Khmer song called A-Rappya, and a Dutch pop song from the 80’s called ‘Take Me To Your Heart’. It was the first song they showed us when we arrived.
Despite it’s simplicity, the performance was very well received, with smiling faces, and cordial speeches. We felt very glad for the opportunity to show people just what we’d been up to.
Being thrown in front of a classroom with a general instruction to use music to teach English gave me a lot of room to move. It meant I had the opportunity to be creative and take initiative. It was as valuable in skills as it was in fostering relationships. That said, I do feel as if some more preparation in ESL skills wouldn’t have gone astray. The same could be said for learning their language – it really is such a barrier to speak a different language. I knew the kids liked me, and I liked them, but I wished we could have had more of a dialogue.
The teaching was rich, and I was very glad for the shape it gave to the trip. Much like being invited over for dinner and having a tea-towel thrown at you as the host washes up, I feel like the invitation to assist teaching made me feel as if I had a place, even if I didn’t contribute an awful lot