My Last Day Teaching English in Cambodia

I had no clue it would be like this. That I would be living without air conditioning in 100 F (38 C) heat. That I would shower with frogs. That I would gain so much joy from walking through fields and seeing kids run towards me. This simple life teaching English as a volunteer in rural Cambodia is beautiful.

My typical day looks something like this: wake up at 6, lay in bed and try to get wifi, then start getting dressed in something modest (but still cool), eat a quick breakfast, make photocopies of worksheets for school, grab a tuk tuk. The tuk tuk takes the volunteers for the CESHE school to a path that winds across a few rice fields. We walk and toddlers and little children run towards us screaming "Hello!" "Teacha!" "Cha!" We give them high-fives and hugs before continuing to school. There we round up our students and start class. An hour and a half of teaching, with a half an hour break in the middle. Then we come home for lunch, to plan our afternoon lessons, and lay around with the fans on trying to not sweat so much. Back for a class from 2-4 and a higher level class from 5-6. Then back home for dinner, a shower, planning morning lessons, a game of cards or a bit of reading. Repeat four more times that week.

They come to school on foot or bike, swinging plastic bags with their notebooks and pens, wearing pajama sets, football uniforms,or fake designer clothes. Usually there is a sugary drink in their hand, or an unripe mango dipped in chili powder and sugar. The big brown eyes watch you enter the classroom and they ask, "Good morning. How are yoooou todaaaay?" in unison. They are eager to learn, clever, and hard-working, but they are still kids. So we read books together, practice pronunciation, write in past tense, and copy lists of vocab from the board. But we also sing songs, play traditional Cambodian games, do 'Jeopardy' and 'BINGO,' and color worksheets. And some days they run out of the classroom or want to play instead of learning grammar and that's okay. Childhood is short in Cambodia and these children are precious.

The NGO that I volunteer for offers free English and computer lessons for whoever wants to come. We have kids from age 3 to 24 and three separate schools in different locations. I volunteer at the original school, but there is another school without a playground or football field and a third which is just being built. The organization runs solely on donations and volunteers.

I have so many stories I could tell you: of a little girl who acts up in class because she has been awake since 3 a.m. helping her mother get ready for the market, of a boy who makes his worksheet sentences more elaborate than the directions asked for, of a young woman who dreams of university knowing her parents will never let her attend.

These kids--these people--have so little. Yet they are happy. So do not pity them. Do not feel guilty thatyou might have more than they do. Simply see how beautiful the people are. Different. Full of life.

If you would like to support the organization I worked with, please click here. Any amount helps, $1 provides pencils for a whole class and $5 provides electricity to a school for a week. I recommend that you request your donation to be put towards a certain project. We are currently in need of a playground (at "PAPA's school"), art supplies, whiteboard markers and ink, books, and workbooks. Thank you.