If you're a Peace Corps Volunteer, you definitely know that we have trainings and conferences all the time. We had Pre-Service Training, In-Service Training, Food Security Training, Program Design Training, Mid-Service Training, and so on. This is a chance for volunteers to gather in the same place again and catch up with the staff too.
Unfortunately, our last conference ever came and went very quickly. It's called Close of Service (COS) conference. When we first entered the year 2019, we started to have an awareness that we would be leaving Cambodia this year. However, the mixed emotions did not hit us until COS Conference. We met with some friends for the last time who are leaving in the following weeks. Most of the senior staff made really touching speeches for us. We volunteers even got to write messages in little notebooks for each other. Peace Corps also treated us with a boat cruise and reserved us rooms in a really nice hotel. Most of us stayed through the weekend. The goodbyes were hard, teary, and hopeful (to meet again in the future).
Once we arrived back to our villages, we started to have this very clear awareness of how close we are to closing our service. Even my villagers ask me how many days I have left (almost every day!). They're counting down as hard as we are. What are we counting to? To go back to the US? To meet our families back home? To travel the world? To go to grad school? To find that new job you've been hoping for? Well, for me, I'm counting down to the emotional time where I'd have to say goodbye to all my beloved host family, neighbors, students, coworkers, and other villagers I know. It's definitely not an easy feeling. I'm so happy to get to know them, sorry that I can't stay longer, and sad that we won't get to see each other often anymore.
Another thing I started to realize lately was that my closest Peace Corps friends has also become my family in the past 2 years. Being so far away from our families in the US, all we have is each other to celebrate the holidays (especially major US ones like Thanksgiving and Christmas). We've spent many weekends together and gone on many trips with each other. We've witnessed each other's ups and downs, successes and failures, and happiness and sadness too. Saying goodbye to them also means that having to separate from this new family we found. Once we all go back to America, we'd all be in different states so it'd be too hard to see each other as often as we do now.
But what can we do? This is life.
All I can do is be happy that I was able to receive such love, care, kindness, and support from everyone all this time.
Here's to the last 2 months of service! Cheers <3
Yogi Berra had said that "It ain't the heat, it's the humility."
I'd like to change that phrase a little bit: "It ain't the heat, it's the humidity."
It's common knowledge that Cambodia is hot all year round. However, the actual "hot season" comes around every year during late March to early June (give or take a week). According to my Khmer friends, this hot season is by far the hottest they have experienced in years.
I think the average temperature of Cambodian summers are similar to my Maryland summers back home. The only differences between the US and Cambodia summers are that most of us volunteers do NOT have Air Conditioning, a fridge at home for cool drinks or ice, or reliable electricity to even use an electric fan.
Of course the heat itself can be pretty intense already. However, humidity makes it worse.
Heat is the hotness of temperature, and humidity is the amount of moisture or water vapor in the atmosphere. Both of these factors combined can be a even bigger problem!
Humidity can make the air feel drastically hotter. Humidity causes the air to be saturated with moisture, and sweat does not evaporate as quickly when the weather is humid. This evaporation is a major method by which the body cools itself. That is why high humidity levels won't allow our bodies to cool off like we normally would.
I am suddenly feeling very thankful for the Air Conditioning I had at home, in my car, and every building I walked into when I was living in Maryland during summer time. It makes me realize that we take many things for granted in life, especially in the US. The things we consider as basic rights in the US is not even really a basic need here in Cambodia.
Imagine the farmers working under this heat just to feed their family or support village economy.
Just a little something to think about. ;)
If you talk to me often enough or see my Facebook posts, you will know that I talk about CYL a lot! In late 2017, my grade 11 and 12 students founded the Cambodian Youth Leadership (CYL) club. We learn about Leadership, practice English, and gain new experiences through various activities such as impromptu speeches, research projects, and celebrating international holidays together.
After the previous Grade 12 cohort graduated, we are left with only 9 members. I asked them if they wanted to recruit more, but due to schedule conflicts and language barriers, we decided to focus on the growth of the current 9 members.
On March 3, CYL members successfully completed the biggest challenge I've given them so far: host a workshop for University Preparation!
It took me 2 weeks to teach CYL members about Resume/CV, Personal Statement, Scholarships, and how to host events (planning, attendance, ice breakers, feedbacks, etc). The English to Khmer translations definitely wasn’t easy either.
Since my Khmer isn't fluent and our target audience English skills aren't strong either, we decided that the CYL members will become translators for each portion of the workshop. This led me to the idea that maybe they could just do the presentation themselves if I teach them well enough. This would be a great leadership activity too. While they were nervous, they all agreed to lead a session during the workshop. Some were more nervous than others especially because they have never spoken publicly or taken a leadership role.
It took them 2 additional weeks to master each of their assigned tasks. I already knew they’re hardworking students, but I was so surprised and impressed by how diligent they were about preparing their tasks. They ask to meet with me during their lunch breaks and free periods during school hours to practice, even when they literally don't have additional free time besides this. They message me every day to ask questions or get confirmations. They literally went above and beyond for this on top of their already heavy work load.
The workshop was also a success. They dealt with the unexpected situations well, and also performed their parts perfectly. Words can't fully describe how proud of them I was/am!
(Top Row, L to R): Chornai, Sy Eng, Chantha, Peter (Veasna), Sok Lis
(Bottom Row, L to R): Vorthna, Veasna, Me, Tong Meng, Sambath
Today was one of those casual Sunday evenings where I sat with my host mom in front of our village home. We talked about any or every subject while we watch the sunset. Our conversation somehow arrived at the Khmer New Year in April, where I'll have 4 consecutive days off. I told her I don’t have any plans yet. She said “Good. Don’t have any plans. Stay with me. You don’t have much time with me left.” That really surprised and touched me because my host mom has never really told me not to go anywhere before. She’s always given me space and respected my boundaries, way too much even. I also didn’t think she had already started thinking about my departure like that either. This is one of those special moments when I know she cares about me and that my presence means a lot to her too.
I've been on the go since December. I was traveling or went to the city almost every weekend. During these times, I barely had enough sleep. When I'm in my village, I worked every day, except Saturdays. Even with enough sleep, I was still exhausted. I don't even know how it's already February.
In addition to my usual work with Health Center, Vegetable garden project, Primary School, and Cambodian Youth Leadership club, I did so many additional things for the last 3 months.
- Traveled to Siem Reap
- Traveled to Phnom Penh (due to migraines)
- Traveled to Battambang
- Traveled to Phnom Penh/USA/Phnom Penh (within a week)
- Traveled while in US too
- As soon as I arrived back in Phnom Penh, I went straight to Peace Corps to work for 2 days non-stop
- Traveled to Kampot
- Traveled back to Phnom Penh to my village
- Traveled to Phnom Penh and back to village
- Peace Corps came to observe my class at school (Preparations required!)
- Traveled to Phnom Penh - Myanmar - Phnom Penh
- Ministry of Education came to observe my class at school (Preparations required!)
- Traveled to Kampong Cham for Ministry of Education Curriculum Development meetings (I was also sick, so it was 4 days of torture)
- Traveled back to my village to pack, to travel to Phnom Penh
- Traveled to Kandal while in Phnom Penh
- I was emotionally and physically hurt due to unforeseen circumstances
- My friends from South Korea came to visit
- Traveled to Kampong Cham to host a Provincial Meet Up for new volunteers
- Found out that my uncle was in an awful accident, being hospitalized, and needed surgery
- Got food poisoning
- I've been busy preparing for a education workshop this whole week (and will continue to prepare for it until end of Feb)
- I also have to attend a 2-day meeting with Peace Corps next week too
When my body is tired, my mind isn't at peace either. Exhaustions cause my brain to either shut down or stress itself out. I find myself being lethargic or disinterested in work. I just need a really long sleep and recuperate.
For the first time in forever, I have no plans this coming weekend, and I'm really looking forward to sleeping in, doing laundry, clean my room, and just have a stress-free and music-filled down time.