As I wrote in my last piece exam season is upon us. Last week was the writing/and grammar exam and yesterday was the start of the listening and reading exam. The final element, speaking is judged by the teacher based upon performance in class over the term, and, in some lower groups, a separate test where the teacher takes the student out of the class in turn and asks a set of questions. Saturday was the last class for these students so they sat the test and got the results on the same day. In the coming week there will be the test on Monday or Tuesday and then a full lesson, of up to two and a half hours, before the student gets to find out if they have passed, and move on to the next level, or have failed and have to take the class again.
So yesterday the students wanted to do the listening first but it can only be played once and some people who wanted to take the exam had not arrived by 8:30 for an 8:00 start for the class, so I started the 45 minute reading exam to finish at 9:15 but with three staggered late arrivals it went on to 9:35 with the majority sitting in quiet for the extra twenty minutes. Apart from at 9:15 when the time ran out and I started to collect papers two people had become confused between the listening and reading exam, In the listening you get time at the end to transfer answers to the answer sheet from the separate piece of paper you jot them down on. In the reading you do not. So, they had not put most or all their answers on the answer sheet and would get nothing, or next to it. I was collecting papers and two students started remonstrating, one started crying to get extra time to transfer their answers. At first I refused, it was the end of the test, 45 minutes was 45 minutes. When the rest of the class, obviously apart from the three who arrived late and were still getting on with their test, started supporting their call, after five or so minutes of pleading, I relented and let them quickly transpose the answers. The reading test finished I played the listening test, collected the papers and went off to my workplace to mark them, enter them into the computer and then take them back to the students at 12:30.
I got to my workplace only to find I didn’t have the answer sheet for the exams. I turned my desk and everything upside down to try and find it but it was not being found. I tried to find the people responsible for the exams but they were not there. After searching for someone else teaching the same level who might have the answer, but to no avail, I spoke to the Manager of the school and it was decided to tell the students there was a problem and they would be able to collect their grades on Friday and I could do the marking on Monday. So, I was filling in the time until it was time to tell the students they wouldn’t be getting their results when someone said they had seen the Senior Teacher responsible. As 12:00 I found them and we found someone else teaching the same level and the answers. I started marking. At 12:30 I hadn’t finished and went up and told the students there had been a problem and it would be closer to 13:00 before they got their results. I finished marking, checked them and then entered the results into the school’s database and printed off the sheets for each individual student, stamped it with the school stamp and took it to the students.
Out of 18 students in the class three had not taken the exams. I took seven out with their bags to tell them they had failed so they could leave if they wished without having to see their happy colleagues. They didn’t want to do that. They wanted me to change their results so they had passed. Their sponsors expected a better result.They wanted to resit. I said, they were the results of the exams I could not change them. Previous experience dealing with unhappy people in a previous job came in very useful here and I pointed them to the school admin staff who could best answer their questions about resits etc. I then had the happier job of telling the five remaining, of the eight that had passed, that they had done so. Their emotions were a bit mixed, distraught at having seem their former colleagues learn of their disappointment, but, mostly, happiness at passing and moving on to the next level. For me it was now time to go home, do my shopping and other chores, get my end of the working week massage and then shower and get dressed for the school’s Christmas party.
I live close to a crossroads where some tuk-tuk drivers congregate waiting for trade. There is one I have a contract with for daytime use but he had already told me he was out of Phnom Penh this weekend so I found another I use sometimes at night. He often wears a Manchester United shirt, so it is despite that he gets my business. I found him and told him the destination and he checked whether it would include returning later which I confirmed it would. Phnom Penh is mainly on the western bank of the Tonle Sap river at it’s confluence with the Mekong. There is therefore part of the city on the eastern bank of the river, between the Tonle Sap and the Mekong down to the point of their confluence, called Chroy Changvar. It was the hotel at the point of this confluence, Sokha Hotel, I was headed to, something of a landmark in the city, though, in my opinion, not one of its architectural gems and something of a waste of such a prominent city landmark. I had never been over the river before and the picture of me crossing the Chroy Changvar II bridge, also known as the Cambodia – Japanese Friendship Bridge, is the first one in this piece. The second picture was taken driving along the bank of the river to the hotel and shows the speed of the sunset, when compared with the light in the picture taken crossing the river. The third picture shows the sight that met my arrival at the hotel, banner not for me. On arrival at the 20th floor I was greeted with a free organic pepper mill in a blue bag from people who took the lucky draw portion of my ticket.(pictured above right.) On getting in I first took a picture looking out over Chroy Changvar showing the rivers Tonle Sap (left) and Mekong (just, right):
and from the other side of the room, the confluence of the rivers:
I got a drink and mingled with colleagues before finding a table to sit at. There was a stage at the front on which music was being played by a quartet whilst we collected food from tables laden with it around the side of the room. Having got there in the sun and despite the air conditioning, it seemed strange hearing Christmas songs and carols. There were a lot of different starters and salads and then main dishes of Khmer specialities like beef and noodles and a wonderful fish in garlic and chilli sauce, a Thai chicken and coconut soup,a French Lamb Provencal, a spinach and cheese dish for vegetarians and many other delights. The food was so very good I went back for more before getting my share of the desserts. During the food I accompanied colleagues who smoked outside for this view of the city at dusk:
We then had a catwalk featuring various members of staff who had dressed up including one teacher from our school who had been an athlete and did a backflip on his way back to the stage to woops from the crowd. Members of staff then entertained us and I circulated including talking with my manager, in far better circumstances than earlier in the day, about holiday plans for once the term finishes on Thursday. He told me that last years do had cost $40 a head and this was much better in terms of value at $60 a head, we were getting more than the extra $20. It backed up something he had said, when we went out for dinner as a school a month earlier, about how well the business is doing.
Now came the part of the event people had been waiting for. I am kicking myself that I did not take a photo of the sheer number of white goods that were to be given away. There were two tables which won spot prizes, every member of the table near us got a large floor fan each. (In view of the climate a popular prize.) People won irons, water heaters, 1TB of memory and there was not one but three or four of each of them. There were so many prizes it was by far the largest portion of the evening. The penultimate prize was a massive Sony Bravia TV but everyone was interested in the main prize, the latest iPhone 6. Once that had been announced I ducked out and left, disappointed to miss the dancing but I had an appointment at a bar nearer my home to join my friend and fellow ‘blue’for the second half of the early football match of the day featuring Manchester City. So I met the tuk-tuk driver and he charged back over the bridge (pictured above) but he needn’t have as the result was the usual disappointment against Stoke City.
*The title is part of a quote from Abigail Adams “I hate to complain…No one is without difficulties, whether in high or low life, and every person knows best where their own shoe pinches.”