Winding Down

Yesterday, was my second to last day with the kids at the Shinta Mani Farm in Bataey Srei! I thought it was going to be my last, though, so hopefully they’ll be surprised to see me tomorrow. We did a huge review and then taught them school supplies. The hard part about teaching from an American vocabulary box of flashcards is that not everything within the box is applicable to their lives. We took out “microscope”, “report card” and a few oddball things that they would most likely not encounter until college (if they went). It’s interesting to compare all the different classroom environments I’ve been in. Like at the farm and during the English conversation tables they’re always in constant communication with each other to help each other out. Learning really appears to be a group activity in Cambodia. Also, by working together they eased the stress level of each other when we asked them to write different vocab on the board. It’s also interesting being a teacher of English rather than an example. At the farm we teach things like pronunciation (“skuh-ware not suc-kaware, bahcks not bac”), while at the English conversation table I’m merely there as an equal and friend who will teach by example. During our day some donors came to visit the farm and that was only slightly awkward because we barely see Hannah’s supervisor, let alone people who donate for the farm. Overall it was an amazing “last day”, the kids picked flowers again and we played a lot of fun review games.

I absorbed what I think is my last long tuk-tuk ride in Cambodia. I LOVE tuk-tuk rides so much. It’s like being in a convertible except with no seatbelts, doors, windows, and the driver is constantly honking. The traffic here will never cease to amaze me either. It’s the definition of “organized chaos”. Everyone goes everywhere, and there are only two traffic lights in town but somehow little accidents occur. When I got home (AH, I keep calling it home) a few of us went swimming and I just hung out for a while. We all then attended a lecture with Rin Salin, a women who helps run NGO’s we work for. She discussed mainly her struggles growing up in Cambodia and how she became a part of an NGO. Her story was really difficult to hear at some points. An experience I’ve felt many times here is that you can definitely read or hear lectures on history or people’s stories, but it’s much more impactful hearing it from the source or seeing it in film. Salin is a great woman. The night ended quietly, a few of us got dinner at Genevieve’s and heard a live performance from a worker at the restaurant. He sang a traditional Khmer, Thai, and Welsh song and it was so beautiful! Four out of five of us ordered the fish amok, and by far that is my favorite Cambodian dish. I’m going to be really upset if I’m not going to be able to find a way to make it back home in Wisconsin L.

Today, I worked in the library again and for some reason kids didn’t show up until 10AM again. They must have an extended break or something after finals. On the bright side Professor Hansen came to watch me work, so we ended up just talking about my experience here and a possible fellowship I will apply for in Cambodia the summer of my junior year. A few kids ended up showing up for about a half hour, none that I recognized, but we drew ghosts because they LOVE ghost stories here. I cataloged in the library for a few hours after and then went back to the hotel for some lunch! We also had our last meeting with Michael today to reflect on our experiences so far. It was really heartbreaking realizing he was the first good-bye of our trip. He’s been such a fun, helpful and insightful member of the support team here in Cambodia. We had about a two hour discussion with him about our sites and probably the most interesting part of the conversation was him explaining that he prefers to call our course “learning service” as opposed to “service learning” because we really aren’t learning through our service about the culture and people, we interact with new people and places all the time. He says that through this course we are “learning service” and really learning how much it takes to give back to others on our own time. I’m really going to miss Michael. Maybe someday I’ll get an internship with ConCERT. I love how many connections we’ve made so far on this trip. The only thing I did not enjoy about our last meeting was that they had us all try durian which is a “delicacy” in Cambodia but smells absolutely putrid! It had the consistency of the middle of a half cooked center of an egg and smelled worse that rotting meat. I honestly thought what I was smelling in the market was all the dried carcasses of animals, turns out I think the smell was coming from the durian stand. Some places won’t even allow durian indoors because the smell is so offensive!

After the discussion we all attended the art exhibit of the paintings we made on Saturday! It was set up really really nicely! Oun Savann even reused the paint palates we used to display our names and artist statements. (Which is great because Styrofoam can’t disintegrate.) One of the girls I painted with even showed up to see the exhibit too which was a fun surprise! After the exhibit we had our final meditation session with Venerable Y Nol. It was bittersweet, but we will see him again on Thursday for our farewell party! Overall, today was a relaxing day.