Following the Fellows

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By Carolyn Canetti

250 words cannot describe how life is in Siem Reap, Cambodia. But here goes.

The first month was a dream. The second month was hard. The third month was a flood. The fourth month I began to understand my students, colleagues, Khmer culture and start projects. The fifth month were holidays. The sixth month—this is home.

Cambodia is a beautiful country. At first, I thought it was really flat. Now, I see the hills. The stars are bright. I see Jupiter and Saturn every evening. It’s balmy and breezy and perpetually July. In Siem Reap, people are constantly coming and going—tourists, expats, volunteers. There is always something being built—­ just on my street I’ve seen buildings go down and go up in a matter of weeks. There is prostitution and corruption, but there’s also hope.

I work at a school with 24 of the brightest, most energetic students. They are the reason I call Cambodia home. They live off dollars per week, in shacks with 10 other people and come from families of divorce and some of abuse.

These “former street-working kids” come to school looking beautiful, with endless laughter and smiles. They live with nothing and they still offer me snacks and hair bows.

I’m here for less than a year, what they learn from me I can’t say.

But what I learn from them I will keep forever, and that is to be generous and to live every day with a smile.

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