Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Kagna left for college. She's in college now. She and Leeta (eleventh graders I taught in Cambodia) have been at the Adventist University of the Phillipines, or AUP, for several weeks now. I didn't think she'd ever leave Cambodia. Not that I wanted that for her, I just didn't know what to expect of her dreams about the future. I didn't know how realistic it was for my students to have the opportunities that I do. I'm glad for her.

We Skyped a few weeks ago, right before she was going to leave. Terrified, and slightly overwhelmed by VISA issues, tuition, and English proficiency tests, we talked for quite awhile about the future.

I asked her, "Are you excited about going to AUP?"

"I guess."

Suprised by her answer, I said, "Do you want to go? You don't sound very excited about it."

"I'm scared."

She has never left home. She doesn't know if and when she will be able to return to Cambodia. She isn't sure she can afford it. She's never been in an environment that required her to only speak English. I'm so proud of her.

Kagna and Leeta are at AUP. Sophea and Reachany are hoping to go to Mission College in Thailand, but apparently the bitter feud over land at the Cambodian-Thai border has gotten messy and they're not sure they can go. Mony is apparently headed to a University in southern California, which totally blows my mind, because my students exist in a world separate from my life in the States and it is so difficult for me to imagine her here.

My students are growing up and moving on. It's strange.

When I emailed Kagna and told her I was nervous about spending Thanksgiving with Jeremy's family in Delaware, she replied: "I believe in you and you Can do it...sometime you just feel so they don' like you Coz they don't know you yet...but I believe in you that you Can do it...Did you remember when I first meet you I don't like you, but then I get to know you better...and now I can't forget you and love you more cuz I find out that you're sweet and fun to be around...I believe in you. Show them your big smile!"

I melted. Sitting in the chill of Nebraska I felt warmer, lighter. These students are so good to me.

Fay is still trucking along in Cambodia. She amazes me still. She called me a month or so ago when she was in the States visiting her daughter who just had two premature twin babies. We can talk and talk, and yack and yack. She will always be my friend.

Stella, my friend/counselor, moved back to India and has started a private clinic in Pune. She seems happy and still asks about my eating disorder, God, all those issues. We talk. We relate. Even with a half a world between us.

Often, I'll be online and see the little green lights on my Gmail chat screen pop up meaning my students are online. They are exactly 12 hours ahead of me so usually I ask them, "Will tomorrow be a good day?" Sometimes I'll have 6-7 conversations going at once as they are all sitting in computer class, huddled around the computers. I'm definitely distracting them from class, but I'm okay with it.

Apparently Ratanak has been spreading rumors that I am going to Cambodia next year. A few students have asked me, "Is it true? You come back?" I wish. Let me explain, I wish I could afford to visit. VISIT. It'd be surreal and healing to go back I think.

I would want to walk the streets again.
I would want to see the city with new eyes, less calloused, less hurt, less lonely.
I would want to travel with friends, backpack the country perhaps.
I would want to rent a moto and brave the countryside, drive as fast as I could past rice paddies and cattle.
I would want to see the new school, with it's concrete walls and fans, computer lab and real desks.
I would want to sleep in, experience the culture, and learn some more Khmer words.
I would do things differently with 1.5 years of perspective under my belt.
I would want to take my family and Jeremy and show them all the places I've been talking about, the culture I've been describing, the poverty I still dream about at night.

Things have changed. Things continue to change. I wonder what it would be like if I went back.

Cambodia pops into my mind often. I'll be doing my hair and pop: Cambodia. And I'll think to myself, "Well, Cambodia, what are you doing here?" It happens.

Like yesterday, I was walking out of the Dick building after my rhetoric class and I was right back on the round-about near the Tom Poung market where I bought my cucumbers. I was bumbling along on the back of a moto headed for home. I continued walking toward the atrium and continued with my day.


Carley Brown said...

and POP..haha.. thats so true. The things that pop into our heads. Sometimes I don't mind, sometimes I wish I could just stop them from showing up.

Its been over a year, and Steven is still constantly popping into my head.


Oh well. I guess its impossible to suppress the past, whether it be good or bad