10 weeks. That’s all it took for me to fall completely and utterly in love with Cambodia. I have been forever changed by my experience this past term. I have no words to describe the incredible people that I now call family. I refuse to say goodbye- see you when I see you Cambodia. It has been truly amazing.
It has been far too long since my last post. So much has happened since my birthday week, and I am unsure about where to start. First off, I am here in Cambodia for 4 extra days than planned. I was very sick last week and unable to finish assignments, say goodbyes and be in good enough health to travel to Vietnam. I am relieved that I was able to stay because these past few days without work and on my own have been pretty special. I could write a post several pages long to explain all the new experiences and amazing memories I have had within the past two weeks. However, I will refrain. I will be home soon enough to tell you all about this amazing country. My time here seems too short, and it has gone by so fast. I am so moved by the country and by the students at The Global Child. I have included some new pictures to help explain all of my passion for Cambodia.
Had the most amazing 21st in Cambodia. I loved the dinner and drinks, the delicious passion fruit cake and soccer with the woodhouse kids in the rain. The birthday celebrations ended the next morning with a sunrise bike ride to Angkor Wat. Thank you for all the best wishes from friends and family :)
More details to come later, but hopefully these new pictures captured the great memories over the past few days!
It’s hard to believe that another week in Siem Reap is over. The official countdown until we leave has started. Although we still have a little over 3 weeks left, there are still so many things we want and need to do before our time here comes to an end. At The Global Child, we have spent more time planning events and activities to do with the kids outside the school. This past Wednesday we made hot dogs and sandwiches with all the students because it was a holiday. It was such a different experience to have to entertain the students for a few hours without lesson plans and classroom restrictions. They all made their sandwiches in less than five minutes, something we had planned to take much longer. They loved seeing pictures of our family and friends, listening to music and watching television. For all of us, it was pretty exhausting. It was also amazing to spend so much time with them, and allow us all to interact on a different level. I feel so comfortable around these students, and I am always enthused to see them. They are so witty and honest that sometimes I forget how young they are, or that there is still a language barrier. Everyday I joke around that I’m going to fit all 26 students in my suitcase and take them home with me. That sounds realistic, no?
On the surface, this week was like any other. I taught classes during the day. I had a Vietnamese sandwich from a street vendor and a mango for lunch. I attended culture and language classes in the late afternoon. But this week was extra chaotic because of the fashion show at the boutique that helps fund The Global Child. While planning for this event has been so much fun and truly exhausting, it was very valuable as well. I learned so much more about businesses in Cambodia, how to work and interact with a team, and how to delegate to others. Even further, I was MC during the night of the show. Without a microphone or clear directions of what my role was, I had to take charge. Starting and ending the show and demanding the attention of the crowd was not as nerve raking as I had imagined it to be. It was actually very fun, and I was even able to get a few jokes into my speech. In the end, the show was a brilliant success. It went by so fast, but everyone had fun. The clothes were amazing, the guests were happy and our director was pleased.
This week has also brought a bit of frustration. Since we are here with school, we have very little say in our field trips and other activities. Sometimes we are told last minute that the time has changed or has been entirely rescheduled. This has been more difficult to deal with this week because we were looking forward to going to the student’s soccer game on Sunday. However, our field trip that was originally in the afternoon was moved to the early morning. With this change in schedule, we are unable to attend the soccer game. It was heartbreaking to tell the students this, and so tough to explain the situation. I was looking forward to watching and cheering on the students! I also had to deal with yet another change in my weekly teaching schedule. It is no problem that things change around often, it is just frustrating when I am not told beforehand. Today I arrived at school for an early meeting, with plans of teaching two classes later in the day. Only once the time for these classes approached was I told that the schedule was rearranged and I did not have to teach. I had my lesson plans ready to go and had planned to be at school for the day. Although I was happy to have some time off, it was still somewhat infuriating to not have been told earlier. I keep reminding myself that it’s Cambodia and this is how things work here. Only at times like these do I get frustrated with the system they have in place.
ALSO- i’m trying things I never would have done at home. Lunch and dinner from street vendors without knowing exactly what i’m eating. Walking over cages of crocodiles and over rickety rackety bridges. And at the time it all seems so normal until I realize I would have made a huge fuss over doing this stuff in America.
Cambodia continues to captivate me. I am so enthralled with this country that I have decided to write my senior thesis about NGO’s in Cambodia. While I currently work at a very organized and safe school, there are many non-profit organizations that deal with corruption and disappointments. The Global Child even had a rough past, and many students dropped out along the way. I am so excited to begin my thesis and start really learning about the NGO’s role in a third world country. Amidst success, there are also many conflicts and issues that arise.
The choice to focus on Cambodia speaks for itself- I am so in love with this country. Every day with my students and the kids at The Global Child is an adventure. I find myself getting a quick lunch so that I have more time to be with the students during their break. We buy mangos with a chile/sugar dipping sauce and snack on this as we talk. This might be the best part of my day. The students always share stories about previous volunteers and it makes me wonder if they will remember us. Just under 3 months is such a short time in the large scheme of things. I get very anxious that we only have 4 weeks left with these students. We are trying to plan as many events as possible and figure out more ways to interact with them on our days off. These students are the focus of my time here. It’s amazing because they have no idea how much they have taught me.
I am starting to build more profound relationships with the kids, and learn more about their backgrounds. None of them have had an easy life, and they all come to school with such positive and inspiring demeanors. We all certainly have a lot to learn about their resilience. As always, there is much more I want to say about these students. They are so curious about other cultures and about the way of life in America. They get the most joy out of running around and having tickle wars. They love Korean music and to poke at me. Rock, paper, scissors shoot is the easiest game to play during break, and pretending to not see each other is always humorous. “Have you seen Tiery today, I can’t find her! Have you seen her? Tiery where are you!? “
Interacting with the high school students and being able to hang out with them at the woodhouse is very rewarding. Since we can hold deeper discussions with them, we are able to learn so much more about where they come from. Last night we went there to finish a movie. Instead, it turned out even better. The 3 girls that live there showed us their rooms and pictures of their family. We had bike races and took pictures. Before we knew it, we had stayed way past their curfew. Whoops. At the end of these incredible days I always find myself thinking “I have to come back here.” Hanging out with them we do such simple things and yet they tell us it makes them so happy. I actually think it makes us even happier.
Aside from all the excitement at school, we are always constantly running around. With the fashion show quickly approaching, there are many things to prepare for. We just painted the “Beau Fou” logo in the boutique above Joe-to-Go, we’ve been hanging up posters all around town, and tomorrow we have our first run through. Somehow I was nominated to be MC of the fashion show, and as the days approach I am becoming more and more weary of this decision. In addition, we are still taking classes of our own 5 days a week and scrambling to finish all of our homework.
This morning we left our guesthouse at 6 a.m. for what we were told was a trip to the bird sanctuary. We were all pleasantly surprised to find that we were actually going to visit a floating village. We explored the village on a paddle boat, had lunch in a floating house and I was even able to drive the boat part of the way home. It was such an amazing day, and once again so simple. The scenery was beautiful and the people were full of smiles. Although I am not sure I could ever live the way they do, I very much admire their lives. The idea of having to paddle a boat anytime I wanted to go somewhere made me feel very trapped. However, these people had everything imaginable- floating fruit stands, restaurants, and even small convenient stores. There were hairdressers, police stations and schools. I was in awe. The village was amazing- but you could tell how much hard work and dedication is required to survive in such an environment.
These few paragraphs do not even justify the experiences I have had. They also don’t begin to tell you about the million mosquitoe bites I get every day, the constant feeling of disgust when I am covered in sweat every time I go outside, and the total exhaustion I feel every night. I will miss the ease of waking up and leaving for school without worrying about what I look like. Sometimes the girls think I am so beautiful, and other days they call me fat and poke my stomach. In the Cambodian world, I am a triple XL- no joke. This doesn’t effect me very much, as they are all so skinny and small here because of malnutrition. I am proud and lucky to have meat on my bones.