When online learning doesn’t work…

The government closed Cambodian schools on March 16 and declared learning would continue online. In a country where a large portion of the population doesn’t have electricity, that is a major challenge, not to mention the lack of smartphones. In the Boeung Tum Pun area, where the Maryknoll Sisters work, they are developing some workarounds, some work-at-home packets to keep the youngest kids engaged and connected to school during this l-o-n-g hiatus. Here a couple staff prepare colored pencils for the packets, colored pencils being maybe THE essential item for younger kids.

A Little Hideaway

Riding along the streets of Phnom Penh, one is confronted by high walls and gates of compounds that just reflect a frightened urban mentality. Go through some of those gates, though, and one is in another world, such as this compound where some famous sisters live. It could not be more secluded although it’s right by the royal palace and the prime minister’s house. Going to the sisters’ house in the dark, one could almost expect the Death Eaters to emerge.

COVID-19 Notes

When the pandemic started and we had the first cases of infection in Cambodia, all the schools (top photo) and the church put sinks in accessible places so people could wash their hands.

Now, because Cambodia hasn’t had a new infection since April 12th–and no deaths–the sinks aren’t used that much. And the bottom photo shows that people are not using masks or maintaining physical distance either.

Cambodia could really be setting itself up for a terrible second wave of infections.

Make-Do Technology

This week, today and tomorrow, I am leading an online retreat for the Maryknoll Lay Missioners in Cambodia. We are using Zoom and getting it set up took some doing:

  • My desktop computer has no microphone but I needed to show a PowerPoint from there so I made one Zoom connection with that computer. (I have an external mic for the desktop but it stopped working.)
  • Then I used my smartphone for a second connection for speaking and listening to the group.
  • I needed good background for my presentation so I moved to the end of my desk for the blank wall behind me, and then turned the monitor a bit sideways so I could see it. I couldn’t face the monitor because it put bright reflections on my glasses.
  • Working sideways on my desk, I had no place for the keyboard and mouse so an ironing board became a credenza.
  • I added the table lamp on the desk to help balance the light coming from the windows.
  • Our office wi-fi connection went out so I had to use the data connection on my phone to connect to the Internet. Luckily my data connection here only costs $5 a month.

The setup had its quirks and problems, but in the end we basically got through the two-hour session and hopefully tomorrow it will be easier and smoother.