Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Office

Got into work about three-till eight today, parked my moto, exchanged hellos with my buddy Sopheoun and the administrative assistant and got down to work. Folks trickled in until about 8:10, about half the staff's around at any one time, with the rest out in the field of at some meeting-or-other. It's customary to kick our shoes off just inside the front door, next to the mail cubbies and the water dispenser and go around barefoot in the office. There's no air-conditioning, but the standing fans work just fine and help keep the flies away, except for the few hours per week when we lose power.

The office is located on the grounds of the Provincial Teacher Training College (PTTC), across from the Regional Teacher Training College (RTTC) where they train upper secondary school teachers (grades 9-12). Also on the same grounds are a primary school and a special institute for deaf and blind children.

We've got a good-old squat toilet over-around the side, which we keep padlocked presumably so the teachers-in-training can't make a mess of it. They have another public toilet right beside, but the school-children, alas, aren't so lucky and either have to hold it, or find a suitable tree.

The campus is a mix of extreme fastidiousness and disorder. The other day, we were instructed to park our motos facing away from the building because it looked "untidy" the other way. On the other hand, the path leading down the grounds from the main road is completely demolished (think asphalt someone decided to jackhammer and then just leave there). Roundabout noon, little boys and girls collect wood fallen from the trees in the compound to bring home to cook the lunch time meal. Later in the day, a few cows and the occasional goat keep me company just outside my window.

The office consists of four main sections, the Girls Education Initiative (GEI), where I am, Child Friendly Schools (CFS), the School Breakfast Program (SBP), and Educational Support for Children in Underserved Populations (ESCUP). GEI and CFS each have about 10 folks who sit together in two workrooms on one side of the office. Our room has windows with wooden shutters that lock on the top and bottom, so you get to clamber up on the desks each time you want to open or shut them properly. On the corner, next to GEI, you have management/administrative. Opposite all that, are two small cubicle rooms for finance and data-entry and the SBP office sandwiched in between. ESCUP has a separate office just around the corner.

There's a large digital clock mounted in the center of the office between the two sides which marks the time and lets us all know when it's noon and time for our lunch break. Every day, religiously at 12pm, the whole office shuffles out and the doors are locked. Folks ride home for food, a shower, and a nap, and then come back at 2 to finish out the day. The long break makes the day seem like two days since you've always got those two chunks. But every day, at 5 'o clock on the dot, we're out the door again. If there's a such thing as a rushed deadline (haven't seen it yet), I guess it's dealt with at home, because if your computer's not off and your shoes nearly on at 5:10, you're liable to be carried out rather unceremoniously.

A group of three monks and three Buddhist priests came and blessed the office at Khmer New Year; they chanted and prayed for an hour and a half to improve our chances at receiving donor support in the next year. We cleared an entire room, set up a special altar with incense, mini-pagodas and small offerings of food, and nearly the whole staff came. At the end, the monks threw candy and longans and flowers at us all. It was a beautiful ceremony but unfortunately for me, the main bit took place in the CFS section, and not my own, which means we only got the whatever luck was leftover near the end when the head monk went from room to room.

More to come on what I actually do at work, other than watch cows and pray.

1 comment:

  1. I was just about to say that it was time for a new post!! Thanks for giving me non-law reading material =D.