‘There will be no students when you come back to the village so don’t come back until October.’ I got this call when I was in a minivan heading to Phnom Penh.
‘October when?’ I asked.
‘I don’t know.’ The other person answered.
‘Huh?!’ was my response.
Flashback to the beginning of last week. My ex-English student came to visit me in Cambodia. She took tuk tuk and bus directly from the Phnom Penh international airport to the village. The whole journey took around 4-5 hours, even longer than her flight. Roughly, our plan was to start from the village, then to a town and then return to Phnom Penh.
It was actually a very sad week for the students cos two of the priests were leaving the country after serving here for 2+ years so the students had been very busy preparing for farewell parties. I honestly don’t like farewell parties. I don’t like seeing people cry. For them, Europe is very far away and they can’t afford to fly there to see the priests (for the time being). But the priests will come back in 5 years. It’s not like they will never come back. The students will graduate from university by the time the priests come back and I envisage the students will have a bright future and will be able to fly to Europe to visit them and ‘bring’ them back to Cambodia. 🙂
A French volunteer consoled one of the students who was wailing, ‘Don’t cry. When you see Father in Cambodia again in 5 years’ time, he will be very fat cos the food in France is sooo good that he will eat a lot and will have a big belly.’ (She was speaking in Khmer so I just guessed the meaning.) The student laughed but a few seconds after, she cried again. I can understand how she felt. I heard she doesn’t have a father so the priest is like a father to her.
Love was all around at the farewell party.
After the party, my ex-English student, the priest, the French volunteer who boasted about French food :P, one student who’s moving to a town and I left the village. We headed to the town for another farewell party on the following day.
After staying in the village for a few days, my ex-English student had enough of it, I think. All the resources here are limited – water, food, etc. We have abundant rain and insects in the village though. She had to be careful about the usage of the resources and when she ate, she needed to be careful not to make the place dirty otherwise, army of ants would come out and take the scraps. These are not house rules. Hm… just the nature’s rules. 🙂
As a minimalist, I packed only the things that I needed for this four-day trip to Kampong Cham and Phnom Penh. I didn’t take my computer which was a big mistake!!
Kampong Cham was definitely a bit more ‘civilised’ compared to the village even though it is still very… (cough cough) quiet.
The day after we arrived, the relic of Saint Louis and Zelie Martin also arrived. It was a casket. A Mass for this cum the farewell was organized.
So, fast forward to the following day when we headed to Phnom Penh and that’s when I got the call telling me not to go back to the village. I should be happy because I was so close to civilization. BUT, as I said, I wasn’t prepared for this spontaneous long vacation.
So what happened in the end? My students from the village went to Phnom Penh international airport to send the priests off and I came back to the village with them and am now writing this blog. I still need to leave. I still need to pack tonight because all the students went back home. The thing is, if you want to ask people to leave for a long vacation, you should give them advance notice so that they know what to pack (and plan where to go). And another thing is, I still don’t know when I should come back. Should I just take all my luggage and go back home?
Welcome to Cambodia.