So the next stage is a couple of pdfs arriving by post. I am weirdly reassured by this. It isn’t rational, but I find the solidity of actual documents that you can print out and leaf through highly plausible. It matters not if none of the claims within shall come to pass, at this moment I believe in them. For the first time I come to understand why it is in Vietnam there was an obsession with physical copies of everything from passports to qualifications. Not just copies actually, but the real, original thing. I spent a lot of my travels in a barely suppressed state of panic that I’d lose each and every one of my identity documents in one fell swoop. It is I think, nigh on miraculous that I was able to count the certificates out and count them back. I am mightily relieved that I am NOT required to take any original documents (apart from my passport I presume) with me to Cambodia. (I asked twice).
Anyway, I digress, today I got pdfs which are full of genuinely useful content. One is a CWF orientation guide It is slightly out of date (I know there have been staff changes) but it covers everything from management structure and medical issues to consideration of culture shock. I am genuinely impressed, it conveys an established and well organised project. When in Vietnam (which worked out fine for the record) I essentially travelled blind, having this kind of information in advance will definitely ease adjustment in. Also, to be completely candid it is good that the contact I have had with the organisation so far has been in English. I met wonderful, generous, kind and funny Vietnamese colleagues, in my previous TEFL adventure, but I can’t ignore the fact that there were at times significant communication problems. Although these were on the whole resolved, it definitely makes life easier to operate if they aren’t there. I feel more confident that things will happen as there is less potential for misunderstanding. Also, it’s slowly dawning on me that I’ll be one of a team of volunteers, it will be great to have a peer group around me, I don’t want to mingle only with them, I do want to meet local people too, but it will be comforting I think in the early stages especially, to share experiences and learn from one another. I have a bit of a fear I’m going to be the old lady of the project, but I’m told there are always ‘one or two’ older volunteers each term. I do think living independently will be a good move though. I think of myself as reasonably game and adaptable, but I do value my personal space, and my dorm sharing days are most definitely behind me. I am quite excited to hear that there is someone at CWF who can help me find something suitable ‘according to budget’. I suppose I need to think what my budget is, or at least what my criteria are. (Air con and wi-fi and access to a washing machine are the ones I can think of straight off – honestly, what am I doing going to a hot and humid country when I’m puffing from just hanging some washing outside on a hot day. Oh well, should be fine as long as I lose 30% of my body weight in the next 2 months…).
The second pdf is (if ‘t were possible to believe) even more exciting! It is a Programme Overview, slightly marred by being for 2015, but let’s not quibble. It’s brilliant, it gives details of how to get a visa, information on airport pickups (with photos of smiling volunteers a-plenty), a picture of what the currency looks like and best of all, a timetable for the Induction Programme!
An induction programme! Now this is a rare thing indeed. I’ve changed job more times than I care to draw attention to, but even in the best of organisations induction has been often perfunctory at best. I suppose again, as I am part of a cohort of joiners it makes sense to do a ‘proper’ induction, and it seems to be sensibly managed. There is a balance of excruciating team building activities (it doesn’t say they will be excruciating, but I’ve been around long enough to have my reasonable suspicions), important stuff on child protection and even some starter Khmer language lessons (which you can continue with throughout your stay should you wish to do so). It will be knackering too of course, but way better than blindly sinking or swimming from day one.
Also built-in is an opportunity to visit the partner Rural Development Project in Kratie during that first two-week window. It all sounds great, exhausting, and probably all-consuming, but essentially great. The only real downer was a photo of the expected clothing. It’s quite formal, and includes closed-toe shoes. Without wishing to over-share, I have real problems with my feet, and in a hot climate I’m going to have to go with open toes unless there’s a compelling cultural reason to do otherwise. I got away with it in Vietnam, and in the photos I’ve seen on the Facebook site for CWF it looks like students often have bare feet or sandals so it can’t be actually offensive (I know pointing toes or feet at people can be in some countries) although it is possibly regarded as a bit over-casual. I’ll think it through, have seen some keen sandals that are sort of open and closed at the same time, but rather expensive given I’ve got some sandals already, and I don’t want more shoes if I can avoid it.
Ooh, sorry, rambling. Point is, the runes are good. Well I think they are anyway. Unfortunately, I know nothing about actual runes, and what is considered lucky is culturally specific. Still, whatever lies ahead, I’d rather travel in hope. If the destination disappoints and the reality terrifies, at least I’ll have had fun in the build up eh?
So I email back and I say yes. The woman from Sheffield says she will. I am that woman. I hope I will still be happy as and when I get there. I feel happy for saying yes though, and I believe in going with those instincts sometimes. What the hell eh, what’s the worst thing… oh hang on, better not go there.