Five minutes with... Leandra Lok, Cambodia

Leandra Lok, a teacher training adviser, has lived in Cambodia for one-and-a-half years along with her husband who is also volunteering with VSO in Battambang.

Describe your typical morning in Cambodia

Usually I get up in the morning around 6am. In summer it might be a bit earlier, because then it's light earlier and I can do some exercise before work. I either have breakfast at home or later that morning with my colleagues. It's a good way to establish relationships over a bowl of noodles or rice with pork! I work in a teacher training college, where the day starts with their flagpole meeting at 6.45am. That means that I need to be in at 6.40am. I like to cycle to work. In the morning these cycle rides are lovely, with a beautiful sunrise. I attend the flagpole ceremony, after which the trainees get information about new events, teacher-trainer workshops or things that the management think are important for them. At that moment I usually check my email for messages from the country office or other volunteers.

Who do you work with?

I work closely with my volunteer assistant (VA), we often meet in the morning about what we are going to do that day or the plans for that week. If we have a meeting with management, we usually prepare this very well, so he knows exactly what our ideas are and what we would like to get out of the meeting. I help management with improving the leadership and management of the organisation, communication between them and the teacher trainers and more interactive meetings.

What else does your placement involve?

Sometimes I meet my VA in one of the practice schools in town. During the practice period I observe the trainees in their practice schools and give them help and suggestions for their teaching. I also talk with the class teachers about their support. At the moment we are quite busy implementing some of the Khmer literature material another organisation has donated to the practice schools. We help the teachers with implementing the materials and give them suggestions on how to teach in the most effective way. Teachers are quite pleased with this, after they have understood you are not there to inspect them. They are not used to being helped in this way and most of them take the opportunity to ask a lot of questions.

I also prepare workshops, reports and visits – such as an English teacher in the college. They are able to speak English with me on a fairly reasonable level and it's possible to have a feedback meeting afterwards without a translator. We also have meetings with all the other education volunteers in Battambang, or cross-sector meetings with all volunteers.

What are meal times like?

There is usually a long lunch break in the education sector in Cambodia. We stop at 11am and are back at the college at 2pm. My VSO colleagues who work in the Provincial Office of Education or District Office of Education usually start at 7.30am and are finished at 11.30am. During this long break I usually have a simple meal (fried rice, noodles, or banchao – a kind of pancake with chicken and bean sprouts) with my husband in one of the cheap restaurants or at the market. I also quite often get takeaway and eat at home. We have a nice modern little house, on the same grounds as the landlady’s house. There is even a small garden. We almost always stay outside during the day, surrounded by palm trees and banana plants.

What do you do in the evening?

In the evening we read, study Khmer, watch videos and take Khmer lessons, I also help a Japanese volunteer with her English. Usually we go to bed quite early at 9.30pm, compared to the time we went to bed in the Netherlands. But that's still late compared to our neighbours – they usually close the door at 8pm and go to bed before 9pm. Well, if there are weddings or a funeral nearby, the music will wake you around 5am (!), you just need to take all the sleep you can get!

How to apply

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