Bangrien Nih, Bangrien Nuh

My second month at site (fourth month in Cambodia) is proving the statement ever so true that Peace Corps is the toughest job you’ll ever love; although I’m not sure if it’s too early to be saying this. It seems like just yesterday I was eating Chipotle twice a day in preparation for my two years of service.
To fast forward from my last post detailing my first few weeks at
site, lately at my health center I have been having awkward staring contests with patients and have been slowly trying to break the ice with  random conversations that lead to awkward silence and smiles. On the bright side I have gotten more comfortable taking blood pressure and assisting the midwives with weighing pregnant mothers.

In the first week of November, I attended a staff meeting where the
health center chief, Ith Narith, goes over different goals for the month, how many women are pregnant, and finances. Narith was even kind enough to ask me if I had any suggestions or any updates. I really felt like a part of the staff! I mentioned that I would like to start going into the community and with a staff member at first so that people in my village would be more inclined to listen. This led to me being able to accompany the head nurse, Sophy, to different villages for vaccine runs and vitamin distribution. My health center conducts these visits to ensure that children are up to date with vaccines while supplying essential vitamins and checking growth charts. Growth charts are used to measure the weight of children to see if they meet a
healthy weight for their age (used to target malnutrition).
I decided to start off with an educational session on Nutrition since
no matter where you are in the world nutrition is an important subject. Using a lesson from one of the Peace Corps toolkits I was able to find an activity focusing on the three basic food groups while also utilizing a poster from my health center.

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The first village I visited consisted of crying babies and me wondering what have I gotten myself into! I began to spew my humble introduction in Khmer about who I am and why this random American is here speaking Khmer. Another thing I like to do before educating is asking if it’s okay if I teach about a subject before I start. But honestly what would I do if someone were to say no? lol

This visit or what I should call the trial run was not the worst attempt at education in the history of health education; however, it could have been more interactive. After a while I felt as though no one was really concerned with what I was talking about. Then this little girl came and sat down next to me and put her hand on me knee
and told me “You can do it!” *Rob Schneider voice from any Adam Sandler movie*. Okay maybe she didn’t say that but the gesture felt like the little boost of encouragement I needed to keep going!

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I decided to try something different for the next group of men, women, and children I would come in contact with. This time I would use cut out photos of different foods found in Cambodia and pass them around to everyone so people could get a better idea of which foods belong to which group. My second village visit went much smoother thanks to this effective method. There were still crying babies and children, but this time I felt as though everyone was more engaged.
After, children were able to recite the foods that belonged to each group and parents were able to tell me how to incorporate a food item from each food group in every meal.

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My fear of meeting new people or putting myself out there as subsided,
somewhat. Deciding to use my free time wisely at the local high school
is probably one of the best things I’ve done so far besides health education! I’m not sure what motivated me to step outside of my comfort zone but I am pretty sure it had something to do with the million questions a day asking if I could help teach English. Teaching English as a foreign language is new for me so this will be a memorable experience for the students I will be teaching and for me!

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I am currently helping two teachers with their classes and I’m enjoying the learning process as frustrating as it can be some days.
While there are students who excel at the English language, in the same classroom there are more students who are behind their peers. The main challenge is how can I work with the teachers I’m assisting to help those who have fallen behind? I’m also not sure how many students are interested in catching up. I was a teenager once (omg I’m so old for even saying this) and I get it. One thing I’ve started doing is lingering around (probably the wrong choice of words) the high school
after class in order to just have casual conversations with students.

They enjoy it because they get a chance to practice their English and
I enjoy it because I miss speaking English. It’s a win-win!
I had so much fun talking to them. They didn’t make me feel like an outsider or some strange person. I felt normal for once.  Those conversations that I had with the high schoolers made me realize two years is a really short time to build these relationships
just to leave them in 27 months.  I want to make the most out of this experience so I am hoping to start a club soon! So far soccer was
suggested by one of the grade 12 girls. Let’s see if I can learn how to “Bend it Like Beckham”.

Here are some other updates!

-Contacted an NGO to hopefully get maternity wards added to my health
center, let’s hope it gets approved!

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-I went hiking again and lived!

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-I’m making new friends…kinda

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-I got invited to a wedding!

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-Started watching The Wire (D’Angelo didn’t need to go out like that)
-I may be attempting to learn how to read Khmer…keyword is may
-I got my first care package!
And if you’re interested in sending me anything I could really use
some hair product. Hair is starting to feel like a brillo pad, Famous
Amos cookies, Cheez-Its, or just a letter of encouragement! All things
are welcome 🙂
Denise Aiyedatiwa
(017937701)
Peace Corps Volunteer
PO Box 0701 Kampot Town, Kampot Province
Cambodia- Asia

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