Saturday, March 3, 2012

Notes from Campuchia: The Kingdom of Wonders Part 2

Welcome to the better part, part 2, of Notes from Campuchia. The second week was the most memorable. Students started opening up and feeling really comfortable around us. Our teaching styles grew to fit one another. We now knew the routine of the village and embraced it. We continued to explore, but we'd also bask in the comfort of what we'd already found.

“When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.” ~D.H. Lawrence 

1/29- Siem Reap

(Sunrise at Ankor Wat) "With each flash, the bugs look like glitter fluttering across the sky."

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

"The crowds are surely a shame, but with every turn of my head, my ears catch a different language. German, Chinese, English, Japanese, Russian. And then the accents, there are so many accents to be heard."

"Looking at the herds of tourists, cameras in hand, each thinking their photos are worth more than they are, is unnerving. I don't believe they are genuinely experiencing the greatness of our surroundings from behind their lenses. I'm one of these people until my camera dies. It's not hard to fall into this role, but now I'm forced out and for that I am grateful. It's refreshing and things look different."

Angkor Wat, Fortunately I do have some photos and I'm happy for that. There needs to
be a balance. 

We often escaped the crowds by heading off the beaten bath. To the side of Angkor Thom we found lots of monkeys!




Ta Prohm, The trees are grounding

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

1/30- Prey Chuk Vilage

"More and more it angers me to see the compulsive behavior of tourists. So many care so little about Cambodia's history, its reality, and its people. It seems that as long as they can add it to their list of places traveled and have proof of it in a picture or cheaply priced market souvenir, they are satisfied. But shouldn't traveling be about authenticity, really experiencing life like the locals, bridging the gap between countries and doing so with genuine interactions between locals and visitors? A country is not just a place, but people and a culture as well. Glad to be back in Prey Chuk."

School boys playing a balance-spinning game, so precious

"A Student approaches me before class and says, 'Teacher, I missed you so much.' I'm surprised because she knows how to say this and am overwhelmed with happiness.

He is not in school, but hangs around later in the afternoons. Also found us at home quite often. If I had favorites, it
would be him...


"Once at the pagota, we hear the melodic sound of monks praying inside a building covered in Kmer writing. The kids whisper and motion for our group to be quiet as we sneak past. We arrive at the largest structure, our usual meeting spot. Gradually we all take off our shoes and make it to the top of 3 levels. Surrounding us are about 50 miniature pagodas, each in honor of a different relic."

Coloring at the village's pagota

"We play games of all sorts. Some they teach us, some we teach them, and others, such as 'rock, paper, scissors,' we realize everyone knows."

Christine suggested a game similar to "statues." They LOVED it!


"Time is dwindling and I'm not ready to say goodbye. I go for a bike ride on some unexplored dirt roads. The further from the main road, the worse poverty gets. In getting started, the organization I'm volunteering with literally scanned the main road for schools in need of assistance and generated partnerships. With the best of intentions, it's difficult to get aid to those that need it most. Anywhere in the world, not just here. Fortunately, the more they expand, the further back into villages they will get."


"It's officially my last night in Prey Chuk. I hope that I can rest. It's quiet for now. Last night, there had been another wedding and the celebrations lasted well past bedtime. Sleep was out of the question, so I gave up, grabbed some coconut crackers and water and sat outside on the balcony to munch away. Being closer to the music, I was able to enjoy it. Crickets chirped and bats fluttered above my head. In the darkness, my eyes seemed to be playing tricks on me. I thought I saw fireflies. As my eyes began to adapt, so too did my ears and I realized how many cars were passing. I sat until the music stopped and I heard the sound of feet on the dirt road neighboring our house."

"Beside the classes at the public school, we've been motor biking to the neighboring village to teach a private class of older students on Fridays. One student is a monk and as with all SE Asian monks, I enjoy looking at him. I'm generalizing, but their shy smiles are so sweet and their skin so beautiful against their orange robes. Then you're not allowed to touch them, which may also add to the intrigue. This one wanted a picture of me, so he also let me take his."

Buddhist monk from private class


It's the morning. I don't usually write until night, but I'm feeling restless. It's not that I don't want to go back to Korea, it's just I know that I have some very big decisions ahead of me."

From a temple-like structure


"Getting from Prey Chuk to Siem Reap is an adventure. Christine and I, with the assistance of our host sister, wait next to the road outside our house. Our luggage signals those passing that we need a ride. Two cars headed for different destinations stop before we meet two men driving a large van that say they can give us a ride to Siem Reap for $4. Our host sister talks to them and then gives us the okay. It feels odd getting into a car with strangers, but it's normal here and the air con doesn't hurt! We joke about both the Australian and American horror stories where a hitchhiker gets owned.

During the ride, we learn the drivers speak a tad bit of English and are tour guides for people heading into Thailand. They are currently on their way back from a trip. We aren't sure who exactly the tourists are, but we decide not to ask too many questions. When we make it into Siem Reap all seems fine until the driver suddenly turns around and tells us he must make a stop at his friends house to tell him he can't make it to their party. Christine and I turn to one another and at the same time, telepathically ask "What the heck?" She then proceeds to pull out her cell phone and "call" our friends that are waiting for us at the hostel just so the driver knows our arrival is expected.

After a few more detours, numerous offers to stop for dinner, and a twist and turn of emotions, we make it safe and sound where I find myself gorging on bread, something I apparently didn't get enough of in the village."

Coconuts were always readily available

Everyday our grandma cooked authentic Khmer food for lunch and dinner.

"Goodbyes all feel awkward- with the students, the classroom teacher, my host family, and the hostel family. I have a difficult time expressing emotion face to face and in the moment, but despite this and despite having been here for just a short period of time, these people have impacted me immensely and I hope they know it. Students give me pictures and the classroom teacher tells me, 'Lana, I'll miss you so much.'"

Ring, Ring! The school bell

Prey Chuk School

The younger class- "hello!" 

The younger class

The older class

The classroom teacher

Beautiful sunset while heading back to Siem Reap

"With Christine, the goodbye is sweeter. We eat a breakfast of fresh fruit salad and a dessert of banana and sticky rice steamed in banana leaves served with coconut ice cream at a butterfly cafe. At times, usually in the classroom, our personalities and teaching styles clashed with nothing more to blame than us being two very strong individuals. Regardless, I feel I've made a very good friend, one that I very much respect as a person and a teacher and one that I genuinely think I'll see again."

Butterflies Garden in Siem Reap

Banana and sticky rice steamed in banana leaves served with coconut ice cream

"It's a crazy-special thing when one embarks on such an adventure alone, but winds up anything but. It's happened on every solo journey yet."

Christine and I in front of our relaxing table hut

Heading for the airport, back to solo

And there you have it- A giant nutshell filled with my notes from Cambodia.  Reading and re-writing them has  taken me back once again and allowed me to squeeze just a little more out of what was an amazing adventure. I'm reminded of my longing to be part of something bigger. My desire to spend meaningful time with the ones I love back home. And the desire to develop new skills. A language. An instrument. A new specialty. I guess to continue growing, period.

No comments:

Post a Comment