I took a quiet morning walk through Phnom Penh, but with barricades and riot police everywhere, the stillness was ominous.
In the news: "The ban on demonstrations will also be put to the test on Sunday, when leaders of nine unions are planning to gather 10,000 supporters in Freedom Park to demand the release of the 23 detainees and push for the doubling of the minimum wage for garment workers to U.S. $160 per month."
In so many casual conversations, I was surprised at how people were willing to talk about politics. Many said they got their information online. "We're not stupid anymore," they would say.
By afternoon, the police were smoking, playing cards and napping. We could all sigh in temporary relief. I tend to think these are signs of an emerging democracy, but my Thai friend corrects me, "How could you really know?"
To prepare momosign for Cambodia, I asked for help at DDP (Deaf Development Programme) (http://www.ddp-cambodia.org) They are active in basic education, job training, community development, sign language interpretation and a project to standardize Cambodian Sign Language.
The taping went fairly smoothly since I know what's involved. Without a studio, the lighting is always tricky and there will always be disputes over signs. In this case it was about eggplant. "It's this way, no it's this way, no it's this way."
We could reach a consensus and cover the 30 momosign lessons in time for the CAM TESOL conference. I hope to be back and do justice to this great language.
Conferences are supposed to be fun, but sometimes I wonder with sessions like, "Perspectives in acquisitional complexity among users of the independent clause."
Not to be outdone, I did finger spelling for ABC at the CAM TESOL 2014 conference. I love to see grown adults practically fall out of their chairs in enthusiasm over momosign. When we reached "Z" it was as if the entire room was triumphantly planting their flags at the summit of Everest.
We didn't take as many photos as the Lao TESOL, but one participant, almost in relief said, "Thank for waking us up."
The Cambodia TESOL was an impressive event. Despite its scale, it was well organized and the various sessions were well attended. I presented momosign under the title: Kinesthetic connections across borders and barriers
"English has the potential to connect people across regional and international borders, but acquiring the language is not easy for everyone. With the emphasis on writing and grammar, the importance of non-verbal communication and contextual understanding are often overlooked. Sign language is by default non-verbal. It encodes gestures, facial expression and the use of space into the transference of meaning.
Martin Momoda has developed a method of using gestures from sign language, as an effective tool for hearing students of English. Memory is strengthened through aural, visual and kinesthetic means. Symbolic gestures are direct expressions of meaning and thus reduce translation. Using signs strengthens non-verbal skills, making communicating in English easier and more enjoyable."
"The promise is to dramatically increase English skills through this method, which is especially suited for resource scarce country. Stronger English skills will open doors to economic integration. A large population of students who know basic sign language will break down barriers for the disabled, promising to create an inclusive education as well as an inclusive society."
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia is a horrific testament of what humans have done to each other. The Khmer Rouge killed an estimated 2 million people (30% of the population) in the late 70s through starvation, torture or execution. At Tuol Sleng, 20,000 died with only 7 known survivors.
It is a museum now, formerly a prison camp and originally a secondary school. Other than the barbed wire and the lack of happy voices, you might think it is still a school. There are blooming frangipani trees, clipped lawns and teenagers playing soccer. The building style is alarmingly similar to a typical Lao middle school.
Isn't it a problem in the design that a school can so easily be converted to a place of torture? Can't some master architect design a school so beautifully true to its mission that this can't be possible? Creative thinkers and free spirits need to defy the killers within us.