[This is Part Six of Aaron’s “Campus Division in Cambodia” story. Here’s Part Five and this is the final installment!]
Friday January 4, 2008
I think it can go without saying that we began our day with a delicious breakfast at the hotel. Our first stop today was to visit a couple of floating schools; schools actually on large boats in the river. Apparently as the seasons change, and the fishing areas change, and the level of the river changes, this school can be in several areas up and down the river. We were told that one challenge is that sometimes during the rainy season, some families will leave the village, and the students are unable to attend school.
Upon our arrival we were greeted by all the children and a beautiful bouquet of flowers. On the floating school we saw first hand a library that RTR had created. We were able to ask the students and teachers what it was like before this library, and it was as we expected: without fun books to read, the students had no real passion for reading. But in the middle of this library filled with children’s books, there was genuine joy and excitement amongst the children, their passion for learning was being fueled by this library.
We got a chance to speak to some of the school children, and again we were all infused with a great respect and love for the people there.
We got to go on another beautiful boat ride along the river before returning to town for lunch, this time not at a buffet. Our food was really good.
In the afternoon, we concluded our school visits with a trip to a large school in the heart of the city, 6000 students we were told. RTR was able to give this school a computer lab, a language room and a library, which all seemed to be huge helps to the school.
In the library, we saw the same exuberance in the children as we had seen in the library on the boat. The kids are so much more inclined to love reading and learning when they have books to enjoy! A couple of the girls here actually knew some English, and we were able to have some candid conversations for the first time without our translator. Speaking to these young girls in English, knowing how difficult their lives are was a uniquely exhilarating experience.
We concluded the afternoon with some Q and A with some teachers and administrators at this school, and then we were off to a dinner.
This time they had selected a fancy restaurant in downtown for us, and we again narrowly avoided international incident as we ordered our vegetarian specialties, deviating from their standard meal. I believe the waitress said to me “sure, I can make that without fish, but I don’t think it will be any good”
We had some good final conversations with the RTR staff, and then went off to relax and enjoy our final night in Cambodia, hoping beyond hope that everything great we had experienced could truly sink in. It was sad to leave at the time, and it is sad still to remember, but I have a sense of renewed vigor to work harder, better, faster stronger, and hopefully provide even more support for our non profit literacy friends, and count down the days until the next big adventure.