To be honest with you all, I truly never wanted to go to Asia. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Europe has always been my dream continent to work full-term in. The culture of Western nations always fascinated me, but the culture of Eastern nations quickly stole my heart.
Upon arriving in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, our group made a quick turn around to Siem Reap in the north. My attitude about this was not good initially. Having just flown literally 40+ hours, I was ready to be home and in bed, not on a six hour bus ride. Boy, did my mind change quickly.
Siem Reap stole my heart. Each day, another charming local reached out to me, showing me that I was important. In American culture, so often you walk unnoticed. Not here. Sometimes as a foreigner you are swarmed by market vendors, Tuk-Tuk drivers (essentially Cambodia taxis), and even children of need. While this was definitely stressful initially, learning “Ate Akhun” or “No thank you,” and “Akhun sheran!” or “Thank you so much,” helped simple communication become easy.
What I’m trying to say is this, I never imagined finding a home in Cambodia. Thankfully, the locals make it impossible to not find charm in the smallest of things.
Our team spent our first few days getting to know each other and this new city. This was done through language courses, culture orientation, and intentional walks. An overload of information is a good way to describe my first few days in Siem Reap, as well as culture shock.
Feeling overwhelmed from the new culture, language, food, and friends, I quickly began wondering why I am here. I found myself questioning my abilities and doubting my skills. Thankfully, I was comforted in so many ways.
First, there was our hotel staff. These individuals made a strange land home in one day and for that, I am forever thankful. Second, our team is made up of individuals that complete each other so well. We all have a role and that helps so much.
Next, we had the opportunity to visit a school for the deaf and blind of Siem Reap. I was completely humbled when being lead through a dark room by a blind girl more joyful that I have ever been, despite her circumstances. We were also able to see more of the culture by visiting the Floating Village, a local silk farm, and finally Angkor Wat.
Most exciting, I was placed on a team of teachers that taught young women who were recently rescued from a life of prostitution trade skills. We also taught the property staff English, something I found myself extremely passionate about.
All in all, Siem Reap quickly became my home away from home. Our group arrived in Phnom Penh for the next two weeks and while I’m excited to be in the classroom more, I will always long for the streets of Siem Reap (call me crazy, I know.)
Please pray for my team as my of us, including myself, are bogged down by intense sickness. I have a bacterial infection that has me bed-ridden and I’m hoping to be better before we dive into the classroom again.
Thank you for following along! I wish you all could see this place in person, as my words will never do Cambodia justice. This land is like no other.