Friday, 5 October 2012

Cambodia | Teaching and Living in Siem Reap

And so the island shenanigans in Koh Chang were brought to a premature close as we hopped on another bus and made our way to the Poipet border.

Our crossing into Cambodia was fairly smooth, although lengthy. On the other side we clambered back onto our bus and made our way to Siem Reap. Here, in the next few days, we would begin our voluntary projects. Due to the foot and mouth scare in Cambodia, at the time, Government schools were closed. We were initially worried that our teaching placement wouldn't take place as planned and thought we would have to participate on another project  (conservation, diving or working in an orphanage). Fortunately for us, we weren't volunteering in an area badly affected by the disease and the school itself, like many of the Government schools in Siem Reap stayed open. The school we taught at is run by a charitable NGO providing additional education to the children of Siem Reap and surrounding villages.

The only dilemma we did face was that our placement wouldn't be starting until the following week as they had taken an unscheduled "holiday". As a result, none of the children would be turning up to school that week. On a brighter note, this gave us a chance to explore Siem Reap and learn more about Cambodian culture and its ancient, fascinating history, as well as get to know some of the locals. As a compensation for the closure, the lady which founded the organisation, took us on a tour around some of the rural villages; showing us where the money they received was going towards: building wells and providing better drinking resources for the villagers. We also got to visit another, more rural school and were met with bright, eager to learn faces. Here we got our first taster of teaching the Cambodian children as we improvised a lesson on the alphabet and basic words to associate with the letters. I felt, as I stood up in front of the young class, the love and inbuilt desire I have for teaching seep back and manifest greater and stronger since my last experience of teaching in Fiji!

The month we spent in Siem Reap was extremely enjoyable; I partied too much and drank my body weight in beer; danced and became a regular at Angkor What? and Temple Bar. But, despite the Cambodian chaos, which could only take place on one street (Pub Street), I enjoyed teaching the young Cambodian's (I had the age range: 3 - 14) the most. Particularly I loved helping them practice their writing skills and speak in English by repeatedly practicing various basic words and phrases.

During this month I experienced both travelling highs and lows: I formed a close, almost sisterly, friendship with one of the other trail members: Emma, which later extended to both the other girls on the trail. I, unfortunately, was the victim of a mugging and had my wallet stolen. I visited some of the most beautiful beaches in Sihanoukville, Southern Cambodia and experienced the crazy nightlife; visited some stunning ancient temples and City ruins and watched the students in my class slowly pick up and master writing certain letters, which made me feel so proud and genuinely thrilled for them.

As our placements ended we visited Angkor Wat and surrounding temples such as Ta Prohm and the faces of Bayon, all of which are phenomenal. Next we re-grouped with the rest of the trail and headed south for Phnom Penh where we visited the Killing Fields and S21. No words can describe how terrible and horrific the events of what went on in those places was. Sometimes humanity is so cruel; I could hardly believe and comprehend that we, as a race, are capable of such atrocities. I don't think I'll ever fully understand the motive behind such mass killing and torture.

That same day we travelled by night bus to the border between Cambodia and Vietnam and embarked on the final leg of our journey through South-East Asia.


  1. Have thoroughly enjoyed your blogs so far. If this doesn't inspire more people to travel I don't know what will. Eagerly awaiting the next chapter :)

  2. What a great posting. I feel like going on an adventure right now! Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  3. Thank you so much! It's great to know that it's sparking a little buzz within others to go out there and travel and see the world:)