Wednesday, July 23, 2008

To My Students (Wat Bo’s teachers)

To My Students (Wat Bo’s teachers),
I had a lot of fun in Siem Reap. Your gifts were very kind. The shirt, the scarf, and the Apsara dancer statue were all very nice. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I miss you all very much. Please tell your students, the kids, in the English classes that Mr. Tom says hello and misses them, too!

I appreciate all your email letters. It is a good way for you to practice your English. Keep your messages coming. I like getting messages from friends.

This is me, at my desk in my office, getting back to a 'normal' life.
A few of you have asked about my job. I work at Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Virginia (America). For my job, I build web pages on the Internet. I am including two pictures of me at work for you to see. The first one is me at my desk, and the second is me working with Ruth, the Assistant Webmaster. Together, we are a department called Web Services. Ruth deserves a big “thank you.” Without her running the department while I was in Cambodia, I would not have been able to leave my job to teach you about email, and the Internet. This is me talking to Ruth. Ruth deserves a huge thanks for running the department while I was abroad.
My job is at a school, but I do not teach students. I am part of the staff that makes the school run, like the Director and Vice Director at Wat Bo. Also, Tidewater Community College is a college, which is different than Wat Bo School. At Wat Bo School, you teach students in kindergarten through grade 6. Tidewater Community College teaches grades 13 and 14. From Tidewater Community College, students can go on to University, or grades 15 to 20 and beyond.

I told some of you that I am a student studying at University. My University is the College of William and Mary. I am studying for a master’s degree, or grade 18. I will graduate in December of 2009, hopefully!

Dr. Don Rahtz, my professor, handing out bread at the Shinta Mani Village. He wanted to be certain the two oldest ladies in the village were fed.The College of William and Mary, and my teacher Dr. Don Rahtz, are who you should thank for buying the Internet connection for Wat Bo School. The Internet connection at Wat Bo School costs US$ 150 per month you know! It is very expensive, so be sure to thank Dr. Don and the College of William and Mary, too.

Also, you asked about my dog. I told you all how much I missed him. You know my dog is like my son! I posted his picture here so you can see him. His name is Caesar. He is three years old. I had him since he was a little puppy, just 5 months old. His birthday was 30 June. I was with you in Cambodia then, so I missed his birthday this year. It is okay. We celebrated it this weekend.
This is my dog, Caesar
Keep practicing using the computer. If you have questions, see Tong So Chea! He can help you because he is very good at computers. You can also email your questions to me.

Do not forget that I showed you how to chat with me, so in the morning in Cambodia (between 9:00 and 11:00 a.m.) you may see me online in the Yahoo! chat. We can even try to video chat using the web cam I set up for you.

I hope that I can see you again someday. Please take care of yourselves, and stay in touch with me.

Kind Regards,
Tom Feist

A bit about my return and my final blog entry

Sorry it has been a while since my last post. After I left Cambodia, I went for a week-long tour of northern and central Vietnam. That tour was not part of this course, so I will not cover my Vietnamese adventures here.

No sooner had I shaken my jet lag, but I caught a cold. I am sure glad my health held out until I got back! In any event, I am finally coherent enough to collect my thoughts for my last entry.

My final entry will take the form of a letter to my students, or the teachers and staff of Wat Bo who I taught to use the computers. Yes, I am aware the letter is written in very elementary terms: simple sentences, simple concepts, and simple language. I had to remember my audience—they are just learning English, and do not understand how our educational system works. I wanted to write a note they could comprehend.

The lesson traveling teaches: “Why do you…?” versus “Why don’t you…?”

Me and our guide in Kompong Kleang. It is through his brother that Ponheary is able to purchse brand new bicycles for only $40 for the children who graduate and want to go on to secondary school.When traveling, fortunes change on a dime--and, ironically, some of those fortunes-gone-bad end up costing small ones! Traveling encourages you to keep an open mind.

More importantly, traveling opens for you--if you allow it to--a wider perspective on life. With this new perspective, you more often softly ask “Why do you…?” to seek understanding than boldly blurt “Why don’t you…?” to belittle. This wider perspective teaches you to appreciate differences and embrace rather than shun them; to stand back and simply say “huh,” while admiring a different technique rather than to scorn and accuse someone of doing something “the wrong way,” or “not how I would do it.” Finally, the wider perspective encourages you to less often use the extreme descriptors “right” and “wrong,” and more often use a subtler descriptor--“different.”

Me riding on the bow of the boat in Kompong Kleang, so I could get a good view of upcoming shots. The trade-off was it was in the beating sun, but the hat really helped a lot more than I thought it would.
Enjoy a couple of photos of me taking photos, being a tourist, and otherwise absorbing the Cambodian culture.