I’ll be honest with you. As much as I loved Cambodia, I cried every day we were there.
And as long as we are being honest, when emotions get the best of me, my automatic default is to cry. Getting yelled at? Cry. Lost in a new city? Cry. Overcome by the raw emotion of the Biggest Loser? Yup, you guessed it…I cry. I wish this wasn’t true and that I wasn’t quite such a cry baby, but after 32 years, I have come to accept it’s just the way I am, and I even let myself cry it out without feel too bad about it.
At first glance, the utter poverty and apparent hopelessness of Cambodia is enough to make my tear ducts start to water. Throw in children following you around temples begging you to buy their postcards for a dollar, and mothers begging for formula on the street for their baby? I never had a chance…let the waterworks begin.
I know, I know. You are going to say, “What did you expect? It’s Cambodia, one of the poorest countries in the world!” I have traveled enough and seen enough poverty to know that it’s not all sunshine and unicorns everywhere, but all I can say is that it is different when it happens to you and you actually have to look at the child or the baby or the person that is standing before you begging another human being for money or food, and decide what you are going to do to help or not.
Now, I know these kids at the temples had my number from the get-go. I don’t pretend to blend in over here and I’m sure from the moment my blond little head popped out of the car we were being driven around in, they started calling dibs on me. I hesitated after the first ten times they asked me if I wanted to buy a postcard from them. I did a double take when they asked where I was from and upon finding out it was America, started reciting the capitals of all 50 states! I added a “No thanks, sweetie” to help soften the blow. PLEASE! I was toast.
But the thing is, I didn’t care that I was toast because all I could think was that these little girls should be in school, jumping rope, giggling and playing. All I could think was: THEY SHOULD BE IN SCHOOL. If they are doing this when they are seven or eight, what are they going to do when they are 14 or 15?
Of course, the American politician in me just wants to take all of my money and throw it at them to help fix the problem. But if you start handing out dollars at the temples of Angkor Wat or at your local community center in Ohio, you have a different problem on your hands and have you really helped anyone over the long haul? There’s that whole adage that comes to mind about giving a man a fish versus teaching him to fish… But then you do the math and realize there aren’t even enough “fish” to give out in the first place to fix the bigger problem. And yet, you cannot just walk away and do nothing.
We did finally buy some postcards from a little girl at one the temples. Actually, I don’t think we took the postcards, we just gave her the dollar and I cried all the way to the next temple. When approached by a teenager with a baby, asking for milk, we followed her to the store and bought her formula for her baby. But for everyone we helped, as much as it hurt my heart, we had to turn away ten more just like them. Sigh.
Click Here for Part II of our stay in Siem Reap (Savong School)
Finally, on the last day of our trip, I had a breakthrough when we volunteered (teaching English) at a school for rural children in the afternoon. It was an incredible experience, especially when I realized while driving away from the school, that…I didn’t (believe it or not) cry. Why? I’ll tell you all about the experience tomorrow. After I go grab a box of tissues.
Click Here for Part II of our stay in Siem Reap (Savong School)
“Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” These words spoken by a favorite Atlanta son, Martin Luther King, Jr. always come to my mind the first day of summer. Report cards are done, classrooms are clean, blogs have been deleted, students are hugged, parents handled, gifts given, good byes said, no more packing lunch, no more waking up early, no more meetings, no more regularly scheduled showers, FREEDOM! It is just this amazing feeling that I can go anywhere and do anything I want for 8 whole weeks!
It has to be one of the best feelings in the world, and one that I have only seen duplicated when I take Henry to the boathouse and he is let off his leash for the first time. He runs around in circles like a mad man, barks at people, then runs again. He finds a squirrel, a rat, another dog, and chases it until he can’t run anymore, laps up some water, finds a ball, loses a sweater, jumps on someone and starts with the circles again, and is deliriously happy about every step he takes. This is how I feel on the first day of summer. FREEDOM.
My summer in Atlanta usually involves this:
1) me hanging out with Henry
2) getting the house clean, organized, and decorated again
3) calling and making lunch dates with all my girlfriends that I haven’t seen since the spring rowing season started
4) eating peach milkshakes from chik-fil-a at least once a week
5) because of the milkshakes, more running/rowing starts to happen
6) cooking better than usual dinners
7) reading non stop
8) coaching a rowing summer camp of some kind
9) going to garage sales on Saturday morning with my dad
Now, most of these can’t really happen here in KL, and here is why:
1) Out for obvious reasons. No Henry, duh. Maggie pretty much sleeps all day and wouldn’t do well if I took her out of the house to the dog park. (Which I don’t think they have here anyway.)
2) We didn’t bring a lot of stuff to clean or organize. Although, I admit my closet could use a once over.
3) I only have a few friends here and most of them are going home for the summer, so I better call them quick.
4) No chik-fil-A.
5) Working out I can do, although no rowing.
6) Cooking better dinners I am all over. My friend Julie lent me her crock pot for the SUMMER and so I will trying out some new things for sure.
7) I am also all over the reading thing. I have read 3 books in the last 2 days. Good start.
8) No rowing camps to coach. 😦 First summer since 2001 that I haven’t coached a rowing camp. I’ll miss you Rachel, Mohka and Allen!
9) I don’t think they have garage sales here. For lots of reasons that I won’t get into. Plus, my dad is in Singapore. I’ll have to ask him if there are garage sales there.
I’m not going to lie, this has been a hard year for me professionally and personally. Moving to Malaysia is HARD! So, as much as I am excited about my freedom, I am still at a little bit of a loss of what to do with it here. I do have 3 things on my list for summer so far:
1) Teach summer school. (3 weeks)
2) My mom and sister are coming to visit at the end of June. Possible road trip planned.
3) Dan and I are going to Australia for two weeks in July.
4) Driving all sorts of cool place (yet to be determined) because my awesome friend Ann let us borrow her car for the summer. More freedom. Love it.
So, stay tuned for adventures in Malaysia in the summer. And hopefully lots of freedom.
End of School Year Public Service Announcement: You know the old saying, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all? Well, I’m going to break that for just a teeny, tiny second in hopes of educating the masses. No matter what country your teacher is from, please don’t get her anything with an apple on it for an end of the school year gift. She also doesn’t need anymore mugs, pens, key chains, canvas bags, candle sets or a pictures of your little darling. Also, as long as I’m saying it, please don’t pass on a gift that you were given and didn’t like, because, honestly, if your child is seven or under, your darling usually tells us that this is the case! Gift cards, cash, and wine (if she drinks, and most teachers I know do) are the most universally excepted and appreciated gifts. Of course, if you know your teacher is way into something like monograms or Boston Terriers for example, that is also good, but does not apply to everyone. If the above is a little too much on the wallet, we as teachers, will totally understand. (have you seen our paychecks?!) A nice note from the family/child/parent is thoughtful, low-budget way of showing your appreciation to your favorite teacher. Happy Summer!