I really, really miss teaching in Siem Reap, more than I thought possible, but I won’t lie — some days I lost my shit. I know that on social media, we almost always post only the happy, sweet, special moments and show the highlight reel of our experiences, and make everything out to be better than the reality. Of course there were so many of those great moments over the couple months I spent there, but there were also a lot of sad, stressful, uncomfortable, and downright horrible moments. Some days I felt trapped, some days I felt depressed, some days I felt stupid for going to Cambodia in the first place. I cried a lot. I would need both hands to count the number of nights I lied in bed asking myself, “What the fuck are you even doing?” The truth is, there were many days - especially at first - I didn’t really know what I was doing. I did my best to contribute as much as I could to the classroom, and sometimes I felt successful, and other times I felt like a fraud. Children are the best detectors of bullshit, so y’all can bet that for the first week or two I was treated by some kids like the clueless outsider that I was. But after establishing trust, building connections, and making as much genuine effort as I could with my students, I began to be accepted and even loved, and I was unsurprised to find that I loved them right back.
I know that the impact I’ve had on this school community in Siem Reap has been small and that I haven’t changed anyone’s life, but I also know that the time I spent with my students is time that is deeply cherished by many of us; it certainly is by me.
I truly don’t yet know if my life has been drastically changed by this experience, or if I’ve been made a better person because of it, but I will say with total conviction that my heart has expanded far beyond its prior size, because it’s had to make extra room for all of the new people it’s holding.
I am so, so privileged and I’m thankful for all of it. I won’t forget anything, and also I will never take a paved road or air conditioning or clean water for granted ever again. Cambodia, thanks for teaching me more than could ever be learned in a classroom. You have my gratitude always.