Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Ort Jong Tov

Something I wrote after leaving Cambodia whilst on the plane.

Ort jong tov

That is something I have been saying a lot of recently. It means I don’t want to go. In all honesty, its how I feel and how I will feel for a good long while. As I am on the plane, Phnom Penh rapidly becomes smaller and the Khmer coverage lessens all the while England grows closer and university beckons. The confirmation of it all becomes far too real. I remember when I decided that I should go to university all those months ago; I would just get this overwhelming feeling of sadness as I would be going around Phnom Penh. It would be as if a comical cartoon cloud would come over me and rain on me for a little while. That cloud has grown and grown and now it’s constant.

University is nice and all but it’s not quite Cambodia is it?

More recently this is me:

I have no idea what to write. I want to write. I have a desire to write but I don't know what about. On top of this, I have a growing apathy for everything around me. I don't want to depress or distress people further about my feelings. I know I want to go back. That's all I can say. I worry that people might get upset if I say more. I don't know how to convey this feeling to someone. Perhaps you've already had it whether that's through a hard breakup or the loss of someone close to you. It's that feeling of longing. You want to be with them. I can rectify it easily. If it wasn't for this stupid bit of paper. This degree. It's infuriating. I have experience. Hire me off of that! Although if you want to go higher you need one, if you want to do this or do that, you need one. But maybe i can get away with doing that or this. Aaargh! It's all the time. It's constantly in my head. Arguing. It never stops. I just want to smash my head in at moments due to the indecisiveness of my brain! I can't switch it off for the life of me.

Not as poetic I'll admit. Catch you on the next one. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

One month back. One week in.

This is a tough one. In some ways, I’m celebratory at the fact that I’ve been back a month already. Because it means I’m just that bit closer to being back in Cambodia. But I’m upset at the fact that I’ve been gone for a month. People lives move on. They start to forget. The edges blur. The fog descends. I hate that fact. I remember the parts that will stay with me forever. But it is the day to day you lose. The routine you were in, the worlds you were a part of. Nothing can replace that daily grind. It’s plastic here and controlled.  There is a hole that I thought the university would replace. I felt as though it will all be alright when I get there, the day to day schedule would mean I don’t think about it is as much. Though as I’ve talked about it with people here, I realise it’s what defines me. It is me. How can I not be with me? It’s nonsensical. Now it’s all I think about. It’s a constant war in my head. What would I be doing there? How would I phrase that in Khmer? What would my friends think of this? It’s like a block in my head. I have to mentally move it out the way before functioning.

This blog isn’t a slight in any way whatsoever to the people I’ve met. So far I have enjoyed myself thoroughly and enjoyed their company. However being here has made it glaringly obvious the difference between me, my peers and my countrymen. I’m not in the same mindset anymore, I’m out of place. I feel as though I’m a square peg trying to shove myself into a round hole. I’m not an academic; I haven’t been since I went to college. And yet here I am trying to push myself through it. I told myself I’m doing it for those less fortunate than myself, I’m doing it to help Cambodia when I get back. However, the tug of my Cambodian heartstrings means I’m more desperate to return than ever. That although they can function without me. That country saved me, I can’t function without it. I’m homesick. 

When I was out there people would call it the ‘wild west’ I never really understood. I always looked around and saw safety and peace. Now that I’m back in the west I realise how little freedom I have. I feel as though we constrain ourselves by how others may end up perceiving us. The crippling thought of doing or saying something wrong that will end our social lives. I hate this. We are thrown into the pot, put together and have to make it work. I’ve dealt with this already at secondary school. On the other hand in Cambodia, I had the freedom to not see those people I may not have liked or agreed with. I could leave situations I was uncomfortable with. In all honesty, I could run away, it’s not healthy but I was happy. Now I have run in the wrong direction and I feel like it’s a farce when I mention the degree will allow me to burst through a glass ceiling. I was happy, I could trot along doing what I was doing with no problems.

Yes, there are things I miss massively: food, people, attitudes and language to name a few of them. These can’t be replaced. The language is the only one I can possibly sort out. But how does one move on from these things when you don’t want to move on? Is it unhealthy? Yes, probably.

Now at university, I hate how unbelievably stupid people think we are. The other day we had a compulsory fire safety talk that lasted at least an hour. I thought it was ridiculous that at this age, they thought we were going to play with fire. Naturally, I didn’t go. Fire is hot. Don’t play with it. You would just not have that there in Cambodia. Some may say it is to their detriment, that they could use a little more care and forethought. I don’t; carry on carrying on Cambodia, you’re perfect the way you are and I miss you.

Link of the day: Happier times

Saturday, 10 September 2016

England, for now.

Well I'm back. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I cried and cried. I can't get over how enchanting that little country is. Life was easy. Going to cafes and restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Speaking a wonderful language. Doing memorable things and making memories. Maybe another blog I'll write about it. When I am a bit more stable.

However I'm back. I have to get over it. I have to leave it behind. I have to go into this new challenge with my head held high and my history holding me up. People say don't talk about, just start again here. That for me is almost impossible, well for the time being. I left college, worked for 8 months and then went and did that! Everyone else went to uni and I'm sure they'll still be talking about that for awhile yet! So how am I not allowed the same allowance of talking about the stuff I've seen and done. I don't want to be only talking about these things but that's all I've got for the time being.

So now it's time for university. I have to focus on this. I think for me it will be a different experience to those who went straight from school. I have other duties I need to fulfill. I must get back to Cambodia next year. So I need to get a job to save up. Which means I won't be going out all the time. Hopefully this doesn't isolate me from my flatmates too much but we will see. Also got to find some football to play! See if I'm any better than rubbish!

Where's home? :

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Under 17 Tournament

So I wrote this and then sold my phone so lost it! It was another football write up for COP's last tournament with me at the helm.

When I first joined the team as a coach it was at the exact same tournament. Under 17s. It was my first experience with them and my lack of khmer was really difficult. I was trying to give advice but could not get it out. Incredibly frustrating.

They came dead last and missed all their penalties.

This tournament was much better. Their maturity in the six months with them was incredible. I know they had matured from playing in the big boys league. So it was an interesting experiment to see what would happen when playing in their own age group once more.

We had just started a new warm up technique so we got all players to turn up early. The tournament started at 0730. We got them there at 0645 and warmed up until 0710. Due to their only being one pitch and the way the pools placed us, our first game? 0930. No need to get there so early! Never mind we played on.

The first game and first half was dire. It was against a team that had some muscular kids and had just battered a team about 4-0. So COP was playing nervously. We had to get to half time.

Half time arrived and we hadn't scored nor had they. It was shaky but we could do it. I had to shout at them and reignite their desire for it. I asked what have they come for? To win? Or to play nicely? They replied they wanted to be champions. I had to get onto Vitu's back telling him if he has come to watch then he can sit with me. Something my Dad used to ask me.

Second half began. I made two subs. A workhorse of Rothana on the right side and our secret weapon of little Roth (13 yrs against big 16/17yrs) in the middle and moved Vitu to the left. It worked. Rothana bust down the right hand side, played in a cross and Vitu was on the end to head it in. 1-0. Now because this was a while ago, I can't remember as to how they equalised but they did. 1-1.

Our secret weapon, little Roth worked. He made some nice movements and Rothana put in another cross of which he headed in. 2-1. Just before the end of the game another chance came of which he volleyed in. 3-1.

Match number two. Local rivals.
Had to win to advance. First half again was sloppy and they went 1-0. We never looked like we had it in us for most of the half. But then one of our thinkers got the ball, Mony (17 yrs), He played a quick passing move with little Roth and he got it back and scored. 1-1. However they were still all over us. Get them in again. Change it up. My assistant coach spoke to them tactically. I spoke to them passionately. I took Vitu off, he had some blisters from playing in the heat. Brought Rothana on again. We were playing better and were more sound defensively. Though we weren't scoring. Brought Meng (16) off and replaced him with Vitu. Last minute of the game a ball came from the left from little Roth beating his man. Crossed it in, Vitu checked his run and side footed it into the bottom left hand corner. 2-1. Full time.

Semi final. Big rivals who's captain had looked down upon us. He had previously practiced with us but had left under a rain cloud.
We played well and were sound. It was a feisty game. With our most improved player Ro getting a yellow card for some afters. Also Vitu getting a yellow card for lashing out. We were doing fine, just couldn't unlock the door. We hit the bar. We made the keeper work a fair few times. It just didn't want to go in. Then a lapse of concentration from our defender meant they got in one on one and scored. Never mind.
The lads heads were down. They were panicking and lost their heads in actual fact, 3 players went to close down one and he slipped a ball through 2-0. Game ended a couple of minutes later. We ended up hitting the bar twice and the post once. With the keeper tipping it round to a corner 4 times. Unlucky.
Penalties with the other losing team to find out who came third.
Now as an English man I'm never confident with these. Especially since what I had seen all those months ago and we hadn't practiced them since. Little Roth had the confidence to say he wanted to go first. So he was one out of three chosen.
The other two were the captain Hab and Vitu.
Roth steps up and misses. I told him to pick a corner, not change it and shoot. He didn't change it but he tried to shoot into the corner too well and it went past the post.
They scored. Pressure on.
Vitu steps up and scores.
They scored. 2-1.
Hab steps up and scores. 2-2.
They step up and it's saved by our keeper, Meng (17). True heroics. He'd saved penalties in the big league as well!
Another player needed to be picked to take the fourth. I choose Mony.
Steps up and scores. 3-2.
They step up and miss!
We did it! Third. What an improvement, I regret I wasn't able to give them a trophy. But after coming dead last and then in six months coming 3rd. Looking back I'm incredibly proud of their efforts and the result. Of course, the fairytale would be champions. Though it didn't happen. I will remember it forever. Thanks COP, you made me, yourselves and our fans incredibly happy and proud of you. To the next one.

Link for the day:

6 Months ago

Hab stepping up for a penalty

Waiting for the first game

Dark photo but, third!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The CISC family

I wrote this once and it got deleted so let's go through it again. The lovely, wonderful and dysfunctional CISC family.

I worked at that school for two years and I'll have memories for a lifetime. I'm not going to go through all of them. As you haven't the time nor do I have the patience or writing skills to do them justice.

The students were, of course, lovely. There are the ones you didn't particularly enjoy teaching as they were difficult but they could also be the most rewarding some days.

The first year was a massive learning curve for myself in a school environment and it was such a far cry from working in the volunteer school. I certainly didn't think the year before I left England that in a few short months I would have been the a teacher and main speaker at school events of an international school. How incredible is that? At 19, I was writing and presenting performances for the school. This continued through to my second year. I ended up doing 5 or 6 events in total. Even at one point dancing! Although I don't think they plan to do that again!

In the classroom I learnt a fair bit. How to teach, how to not teach. What to do and what not to do. Then because they saw something I got a contract to be a primary homeroom teacher which means teaching everything else.

I got very worried the day before school started because I thought I was going to let these kids down and get found out. I think I did right by them in the end though. I tried my hardest and they got through it. With my silly antics and all sorts of stupidity! The first year was a learning curve. The second year was a year of maturing. Rapidly. Having to constantly care for children. Constant worry about 'are they okay?' 'Do they need anything?' I once read that nowadays would-be parents forget that when you have a child, you no longer come first. Try having 6. 6th in line for everything. However it was wonderful as they pick up some of your traits and mannerisms. They essentially become mini yous and it is really nice. Maybe my siblings wouldn't appreciate having 6 mini mes running around. I did though!

Other than that though the students were just a small part. What made it worth going to school were the staff. My colleagues. They were always supportive. Always helpful. Always there. If you had a question they'd help. There was no backstabbing office politic rubbish. If you needed help they would be there for you. My morning chats with one certain member of staff. The jokes with the others. It's something I will miss in the day to day. There was so much comradery. Something I will miss in the coming years. I really want to thank each and every one of you. Enjoy the next school year.

It's a bit jumbled and not as nice as my previous version. But we'll go with it. I haven't got a link today. However I do know in the next couple of weeks with my return to England. I will be writing a lot as a type of therapy.

See you on the next one.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Crunch Match

As a child when we used to play in the mighty Strides FC down on Chesham Moor one of the parents used to kindly volunteer and write up a match report. So as it was coming to a close I thought best to try and do something similar. All credit of this idea goes to Simon Standish.

It was a relatively coolish afternoon in South East Asia for that afternoons game. Well, cool for Cambodia.  We arrived knowing this was a crunch match. If we lost, we would not be going to the quarter finals. If we won or draw, we would be. We had worked incredibly hard for this. We had had some tough games in the run up to this 6 pointer. Memorable games as well. Perhaps if we had won games we drew, and drew games we lost, we might not have needed to worry about this game. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. We were the youngest team in the tournament by far. Our average age was about 20. The other teams were probably 25+. They had experience on us, we had energy on them.

The lads were raring to go. The team we were playing had slowly been creeping up the league after changing most of their players. They had some quality but we knew how to shut them out. Due to unforeseen circumstances football training and friendlies were not played in preparation for this game.  Was that a mistake? We would soon find out. The team talk was held. Do it for the supporters today, do it for our defender with a broken leg, do it for me, do it for yourselves. The flame was lit inside of them.

The referees blew the whistle, handshakes and bows were done. The teams lined up and off we went. We started lethargically. Not much energy, no focus. Green Max smelt blood, they attacked from the off. Within two minutes, they had passed themselves through our defence and from about 12 yards out from the left hand side they shot past out goalkeeper into the right hand corner. 1-0 down. The worst possible start. The team that needed a win desperately could now sit, defend and frustrate. We had never had to deal with this before. To break a team down, the one thing we hadn't learnt to do.
Their key midfield player had decided to play in defence. This meant he could ping the ball and recycle possession all day long. I, playing in midfield, could not get close.  This doesn't mean we didn't have our chances. I got a knocked down ball, saw our striker with his blindingly bright green new boots making a run in behind, scooped it over, he got onto it. We were all screaming shoot, everyone was leaning forward in their seats, wishing and willing him to score. He did shoot! He fluffed it a bit but it was going over the keeper! It was a goal! Come on! I can remember it now! The slow motion movement of it all. It hit the underside of the crossbar and unlike Lampard 2010 no goal line technology was needed, it bounced away. We, of course, screamed goal. We all knew it wasn't though. That pretty much set us for the rest of the game.

We had many chances from many different players. Even two phantom goals! Two crosses from myself to our target man, who finally had learnt to head the ball. It was in! I screamed and yelped and jumped for joy. Then wondered why no-one else was. Much like English grassroots football the side netting had a hole in it. Twice, our striker found that small hole but not the net! We hit the post a couple of times, the bar a couple more times. At one point, I was sat in front of the goalie after falling over and the ball came into the danger area and I tried heading it in from a sitting position. Cleared off the line. Clearly need to practice my heading from sitting down!

We did have some luck though. Our second goalkeeper was in nets. Only second purely by the fact the other goalkeeper is just slightly better and older. The attacker was brought down in the box. Penalty. Soft, but a penalty all the same. Yellow card as well! In these nets and this tournament unless the player actually misses or puts it down the middle, it's generally a goal. With fingers crossed and prayers said. The player stepped up and put it down the left side. Our goalkeeper dived to his right and made the save! Strong hands to put it round for a corner. Our hearts swooped! Always rated our goalie! We were still in this.

Our striker with his new boots wasn't firing on all cylinders. Slow to shoot and when he did it was going over. My shooting wasn't much better. But for love nor money that ball wasn't going in. Whipped in crosses were being cleared whereas previously they may have been own goals or handballs. Shoots were being fluffed, or going past the post. It just wasn't going.

Then as we were throwing players at this impenetrable wall  of skin and football boot. We won a corner they got the ball and quickly countered. A ball over the top and a mix up from our two most experienced players, the defender and goalkeeper, meant that the attacker ran round them picked up the ball and passed it across the pitch for the other player to score into an open net. Against the run of play but they smelt blood and they took it well. 2-0. Mountain to climb.

Then the ugly side came. We have never had too much luck with referees this tournament whether due to our youthfulness or what, I don't know. That day was just another level. There were at least two or three penalty shouts from handballs or pushing. They were leaving feet in, they were stepping on players boots. Bullying. Pure bullying. To frustrate and distract. These kids haven't experienced it. So it's another lesson learnt. Although it's a shame they had to do that. We had our other foreigner square up to one of their players after constant little kicks and pushes. The funny thing is, our guy is about 195cm and the guy that pissed him off was about up to his waist. The other player knew he'd made a mistake and backed off pretty rapidly. I was swearing at refs. It got to a point where a player bounced off me and fell over, then quickly it went for a goal kick which I didn't see. I thought the ref was calling a foul on me. So I gave him a few choice words (in English) which the crowd didn't understand but they knew from the intonation. Then when I turned around and realised my mistake. I had to laugh and the crowd followed suit after. I apologised to the ref afterwards.  RESPECT and all that.

Then it was over. There were tears. We had a team meeting. I let them know that we have all learnt so much. Don't stop now. This was all experience and how they can be proud of themselves. I am really proud to have played with these guys and to call myself; coach and captain of COP. Hopefully we can get them into an U-17 tournament and they'll tear it up with their new found experience.

End result: Green Max 2 - 0 COP

Consequence: Knocked out the tournament. Final position in the league 9th out of 16. 
The team - The one time I don't smile, they do.
Check out No.11 new bright green boots, trying to blind defenders.
Do it for yourselves.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Centre of Peace

The orphanage I've been helping out at for the past couple of months with football and English teaching. Their blog -

The days are like those long summer evenings you never want to end. The nights are like the end of parties when it starts to die down and you're left with your close friends and just talk into the night. 

The relationships are as warm as the glowing embers of a bonfire. Every time I drive over there it's like being on a rainbow. For I know, at the end there is a pot of gold. After a long day of work, to just go there and chat is just the most wonderful thought. It calms on the days filled with frustrations. It warms me on the days when I'm sad. It fills me with excitement on good days. It's inexplicable. The dreary greyness of the outside world is shut out and the love and warmth of humans is kept in. 

There are problems. The main one being I can't be there all the time, the other being I can't speak more complex Khmer to fully explain concepts or get my idea across. However the kids make concessions and speak simpler for this white foreigner in their midsts. 

I now know how my dad used to feel every Sunday night. When he would take me back home after spending the weekend at his house. It's like leaving a piece of your heart behind. The realisation of how truly alone we are in this universe comes crashing down on your back like a tidal wave. If you're lucky enough to have shared this feeling with another person, you truly care for each other. I have it with all the kids in the centre. 

Sunday mornings have become my favourite part of the week. I get up at 5:30AM make my way to the football field for coaching for 2 hours. Finish that and pack everything up and take it to the centre. Then we all listen to the director/teacher/mother talk and teach with some prayers and songs. It's enlightening and relaxing. Now, I'm not Christian. However I can see the appeal. To come together at the end of the week, sing, joke, laugh, learn, enlighten and pray. The songs and prayers are in Khmer but it adds to the charm as they are beautifully sung. Not like churches in England with old ladies wailing through the hymns.

It's these memories that I cherish. It's these kids I will miss. It's this pot of gold, this corner of the earth, this place that I will miss. However it will always be in my heart when I'm on the other side of the world. 

Link for the blog :