Today, Hannah, Brittney, Pheng and I all drove out to the farm school for my last day out there (for real this time). On the way we stopped somewhere so Hannah could buy a soccer ball for the kids, and I bought the Barack Obama fortune teller book. I bought it mostly because I wanted someone to translate my page for me completely, but it is also a future goal for me now to be able to translate the entire book! I really hope I end up learning Khmer one day. At the farm we played American bingo, soccer and ninja. Afterwards we visited two homes in the village on the way back to town.
Later in the day we stopped at the P.A.G.E. house, which acts as a dormitory for girls supported by the Life and Hope Association that Wat Damnak is associated with. This place encourages girls to study up to grade 12 and then has scholarships for them to continue in college or in a training school for sewing. This is done to empower the girls and help them realize their potential beyond being wives and mothers. For most of the girls, if they do not have an education they will end up marrying very young or migrating to Thailand for work where they are at risk of being trafficked. While we were there we got to chat with a lot of the girls there and I actually knew two of them from the English conversation talks at Wat Damnak! It was really nice to recognize them! We all talked briefly about their plans for college and read my fortune telling book and then the entire 25 girls and 9 of us on the trip had a mini dance party upstairs in the dorm area. It was really fun just to let loose and enjoy music. They tried teaching us Apsara dancing and we taught them some typical embarrassing American moves. It was such a wonderful experience! When we left they gave us all bracelets too. After that we visited the sewing school at Wat Damnak and I had dinner with a few people from the group and Kong Kia. I ended the night with a heavy three hour writing session trying to finish up the analytical journals that are due for this course. So much writing! I’m glad though that I’m writing down all my experiences so that I can look back on them later.
Today was my last day at CKS and only two kids came! At first I was really bummed when I realized they were still on break after their exams but the twins, Sokefuug and Malay were a blast. We made a paper chain together that got to be about seven feet long! We drew pictures and things like that, but what really tugged at my heartstrings were all the chains they made just to tell me how much they liked me! They’re seriously the sweetest kids! They even brought me a little Angry Birds cake for my last day. It was a really nice and relaxing last day and I finished cataloging a total of seven book cases, totaling about (I think) 700 books! So overall my time spent at CKS was went spent! Lin-e, the library assistant even came in and hung out with us too! At the end of the day Sivleang gave me a pink kroma which is a traditional scarf that Cambodians wear. I was so surprised! It’s beautiful though and I’m so happy she did!
We had our final class discussion at CKS today as well. We talked mostly about the Somaly Mam controversy and what we have learned overall in the course so far. After that we headed over to the vihiya for a final blessing by Venerable Y Nol. It’s really heartbreaking knowing that these are all goodbyes, but I keep thinking to myself that these are only “bye-for-now”s. After the water blessing we went over to the main conference area where we had first gathered for our orientation when we first arrived in Cambodia. Professor Hansens said our collective thank-yous and we handed out gifts to all the staff, volunteers, and students from PUC that helped out with the trip. Then, Nid Noi, Sreypich, and Pheng all said a few works and Nid Noi surprised us all by telling us that we were now giving out the awards for the students! I won the award for “best customer of the Night Market”! 🙂 Which, if you could see everything I bought, not only for myself but my beloved friends and familia you would completely understand. We all each received an embroidered kroma that said “UW Madison & CKS Siem Reap 2014”. It was a really nice souvenir! Then for even more fun, all of us students got to say a few words on what we liked most about this trip and I talked about going to the English conversation tables. I still can’t believe how lucky I was to meet such welcoming and kind friends here in Siem Reap! Nid Noi then led a Thai ceremony where everyone has a white string that you tie around another’s wrist, affirming your friendship with them. It’s basically a gesture of your deep bond, but also a goal to reconnect with them again and to celebrate the bond you have. With my blessing strings on both wrists, the bracelets from PAGE and various others, my wrists have been getting a whole lot of lovin’ this trip.
Later the PUC students tried teaching us Apsara dancing and then we had a picnic outside of CKS. I had an amazing meal surrounded by amazing people! I even got a chance to talk with Krisna, the director of CKS, about the junior fellowship program available at CKS! I can’t believe I only have three more days left to enjoy Siem Reap! This month has gone by way too fast.