Role up, role up, familiy life in Battambang
“One Week On”, a new name for my blog? Nah, not really, although I have been debating what type of blog this really is and what it is really about. Sunflower Journey is our record and a means to share experiences with family, friends and new virtual acquaintances of our physical journey to Cambodia and beyond. But, this was also destined to be a journey of reflection and learning. Each week I post, and each week I have far too much to say! Quite frankly why wouldn’t I?!
Every week is #oneweekon and a lot can, and will change. Events, experiences, but equally or otherwise new observations, reflections, connections. It is not just being in Cambodia that provides stimulus and gives me so much to talk about. I actually think it is because we have allowed ourselves time for thought and consideration – what do we notice, feel, think? Previously unnoticed in the rush of our weekly routine, I now notice the minute, the very small.
It is all too easy to welcome routine – get up, exercise, school,work, work, work some more, kids, home, dinner, work, TV, bed. It is all too easy to let the routines takeover and not build in to them time for reflection and consideration of what we do and why we do it. Yes I admit we too have routines, but for the moment they are unrefined and effortless. The same breakfast and lunch, a favourite cafe, the ebb and flow of work, and the inevitable Drink O’Clock.
So much thought about the day-to-day and the grander meaning of it all has made my weeks feel longer and more fulfilled. Not massively so, but enough to feel I am allowing time to think and discover more about who I am, and who we each are as a family. Back to my earlier post, people do indeed make places. It has helped so much to have Sam spending time with the boys, to have found a Battambang soulmate, Amy, with whom even a girls night out featured on the agenda this week, and for the boys Amy’s son. We even stretched to inviting new friends to a social evening here in the condo and it makes all the difference.
Have I told you recently how truly spectacular these Legge boys have been? Really they are. Every day we spend together we become closer and more passionate about each other. I wondered if it would’ve been the reverse by now! The boys rarely complain or ask for much other than the obvious.
#oneweekon and I notice the extent of their physical growth, Zachary now only an inch or so shorter than Oscar. Oscar thinning out and developing a wise and more confident look (with freckles). More surprising is noticing their cognitive growth in so many ways. Oscar takes control of keys, timings, directions, arranging our travel and TukTuks. Zachary has learnt to hold his own, to question decisions and offer new ways of seeing the same old things.
Zachary is so curious and has an answer for everything. He is all or nothing and in his haste will not often notice the minute of our surrounds. Oscar notices everything. I notice how they learn from, and play with each other, and how dependent they have become on each other. Of course they fight, but certainly not enough to bother me much.
#oneweekon and I learn more about how to be with them. To be present. Not in a muddled vortex of a routine rushing on to the next thing. This sabbatical has enabled me to do this and forge an even greater bond and understanding of each child and their uniqueness.
Each boy has become financially aware and I try my best to teach them to be good householders, but I can’t say it comes naturally.
Week 4 for Sunflower School, Project Music. I felt more empowered to deliver this than our previous week of Architecture. I am focusing on breadth, rather than depth of study (if you can call it study!), so the boys explore a wide range of themes and topics. At times a deep dive can also be beneficial in bringing the whole subject to life.
Breadth of study has the added benefit of allowing me to observe what peak’s each of their interest. I realise every day how much I am learning about my own children, how they think, how they study, their fears and their desires. It is such an honour to have this time with them, but I have to admit homeschooling is far from easy.
There was such an incredible volume of material online to pull together our Music Week. I clearly suffer from “compulsive consumption of information”. I am easily overwhelmed in cyberspace, and it is far from healthy. I don’t have much patience for long passages of information, guilty of merely scanning for snippets of knowledge. In the 6 hours of a fairly unfocused search for the ‘best’ resources for our Music Week, reality is 95% of material came from the first couple of sites I stumbled across – Classic for Kids (classicsforkids.com) and Making Music Fun (makingmusicfun.net). There has to be a lesson in this. Don’t strive for excellence in everything. Take the pressure off. Make sensible and realistic choices of when enough is enough, and when indeed what you have is good enough.
This isn’t just Sunflower School for the boys, it is also Sunflower School for me, but that’s pretty obvious to you by now! I can’t help but marvel at the integration of the internet into all our lives, and particularly now to our lives here in Cambodia. I have had to accept this week that I am indeed a digital junky. I am addicted to my Mac, I am addicted to Google and the stimulation from always finding some sort of answer to my questions.
Just Another Weekend
I noticed that even here in Battambang, we still are able to create the familiarity of a traditional “weekend”. Our weeks have become busy, normal. Just different by the fact we are in Cambodia and perhaps are unable to do some of the things we would’ve otherwise. Having our weeks focused on work and Sunflower School, we too have a real sense of pleasure on making it through to the weekend. By its nature you have to do things differently. Party time, wind-down time, treats and simple pleasures, no alarm clocks, an extra beer or two, and a bike ride.
I have never been much good at taking it slow, but I am learning. I am learning there can be pleasure in not being busy and feeling rushed. I suppose we have as standard a weekend as many of you out there (if there is such a thing as standard!). A stream of weekend Facebook updates from all over the world – football practice, parties, socialising with friends, holidays and weekend breaks, what you observe and read in the news. We were no different to you, and in fact largely you are no different to the majority of Khmer people around us. A weekend is still a weekend wherever you are in the world. The inevitable buzz in the evenings, and a go slow by day. We too took it slow. We took a bike ride and went to the pool. We drank coffee and ate out. We socialised together and with friends. We spent time talking to our family on Skype. We shopped for the week ahead. We did the same as many Khmer, and we did the same as you. We are in another culture seemingly so different from the outside, and yet as humans we have the same basic desires to reclaim a balance between our work and personal lives.
Role up, Role up
I talked of my many roles last week. The first step has been to identify these roles I wish to fulfil (thank-you Rosie W) – mother, blogger, keeper of my body, worker, volunteer and so on. Next up my first ever attempt to structure a week around these roles. For the first time, we have made a wish list of our ‘roles’ over the forthcoming weeks. I actually produced a schedule and allocated time for each for the week ahead. It is a work of art. Too much of a work of art and by the end of Monday I had learnt Lesson #1 in weekly planning.. do not overstate the time you have available, and leave plenty of time for spontaneity to also have a place. I was behind schedule within a day.
My character dictates a need to structure time in order to get things done, so this is work in progress. In the past it has always been work and school, a few social commitments, and a never-ending wish list of things I wish I had time to do but never finding time to. Well, now I want to find the time, I need to find the time, I will find the time.
The Virtual Office
As I find more time to work in various “work roles” I notice myself seek out the appropriate surroundings for the task at hand. My virtual office. There are a good few cafes in Battambang, all with free wifi in return for the purchase a single drink. My favourite of the moment is Kinyei for working in the mornings (whilst J takes on Math with the boys) – fabulous coffee, friendly and peaceful. For the afternoons I may heard to somewhere with strong air con and a cool coconut water or homemade lemonade. I have discovered I do the same type of work in each place, almost associating each with a virtual office for my “work role”.
This concept of free WIFI wherever you go is so different from the commercialisation of the Western World. Last time I was in London, I remember being in Costa Coffee or similar, and allowed a free half hour of Internet before having to buy data, or buy more food. Whats wrong with keeping it free? Inevitably you will buy more than just one drink.
7 Minute Workout
The case of the Ever-Increasing-Midriff. Yikes. I have now decided to experiment with preventing this ‘expansion’ without sacrificing Drink O’Clock. I am hoping the answer lies within one of the workout apps I have downloaded to my phone. The high-intensity 7MW (aka 7-Minute Workouts). The new (or not so new, I am a laggard after all scientifically-proven high-intensity interval training, all within 7 minutes. Hurrah. I have high hopes, it’s our only choice with the limited space, facilities, and the on-going challenge of rain and heat.
Finally, it is exciting times. Sunflower School is back on the road as we head out to Malaysia to meet Mimi / Mother-in-Law / Mum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We are SO excited and counting down the days.
Wonderful wonderful update. I don’t know how you find the time to write these truly detailed blogs. I admire you immensely! I think Mimi is counting the days too!!
Hey there! I just found your blog looking for posts about Battambang, as my partner and I are planning a move there in February. I’m really enjoying reading about your experiences. How long is your family sabbatical?
Hey thanks for taking a read! I am not sure how long the sabbatical will be, a good few months yet I hope! We expect to move on from Battambang before the end of the year. Send me an email if you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer just use the contact form 🙂