By Becca Duffy
When I enter the gates of The Global Child, “Teacher Becca, Teacher Becca! I miss you every day! I love you every day!” comes ringing down from the balcony above the driveway, greeting me and kicking off my morning.
It is impossible not to fall in love with these children, who are now part of my family and my heart.
Teaching my teenaged students and becoming a member of the Siem Reap community has managed to simultaneously fulfill me beyond words, and test the outer limits of my patience.
Siem Reap, Cambodia, is a city that is stuck in a strange transitionary period between coping with and revitalizing after a civil war and genocide that massacred millions and an intense Westernization brought on by a new market for Cambodian tourism.
The Khmer Rouge, the brutal dictators who governed Cambodia until the 1980s, successfully turned the Kingdom of Cambodia into an isolationist, Communist country, while targeting all educated citizens who threatened this way of life.
In this new era for the country, the doors are now open, welcoming tourists who seek Cambodia’s “lost temples,” warm weather and beautiful beaches. This has ushered in fast and immense change for cities like Siem Reap and the people living in them.
They are exposed to a new urban, Western lifestyle and all of the bad and good that is brought with it.
Nowhere has this change been more evident than in my students, all of whom are members of the young and exposed generation of Cambodia.
They steadfastly cling to many of their traditional beliefs, mannerisms and practices, but they are wildly intrigued by everything outside of Cambodia’s borders and are excited to become parts of the political, economic and social change that their country is undergoing.
It has been truly engaging and challenging to be a component of these kids’ educations.
Whether giving sexual education and internet safety lectures, listening to them discuss their opinions of their own country, maneuvering the male-female dynamic inside and outside of the classroom or simply struggling to explain a seemingly inexplicable vocabulary words, this experience has been life-altering.
I can only hope that upon my return in April, I have left these kids with even a portion of the insight and love that they have brought into my life.
To read more about Becca’s experience in Cambodia, follow her blog at beccaincambodia.tumblr.com.