a new thanksgiving tradition

Orange is the new color of choice for a group of SAS teachers during thanksgiving weekend, as we venture to Changi airport with bags packed to the brim, full of a hodgepodge of donatable school supplies, translated Khmer posters, lesson plans, art kits, and the minimal pieces of clothes and toiletries to last us through the four day break. With our bright matching Caring for Cambodia t-shirts, we assemble in orderly lines at the check-in desks. We have our passports in hand along with neatly packed bags filled with kilograms of art kits donated by students from our elementary school students. We play the game of adding art kit bags to our check-in luggage hoping that the combination won’t go over our 30kg luggage allowance. We give big smiles and hope that the airline will be as generous in return with a bags that might go over a few kilograms. We are group you can’t miss- a sea of orange shirts.

This was my third year going back to Siem Reap, Cambodia with a group of about 20 teachers volunteering to train Cambodian teachers. I had a chance to work with 5th grade teachers from schools in Siem Reap. As I reflect on my time in Cambodia, I’m reminded that being part of this CFC trip has become my new tradition. A thanksgiving dinner that involves no big family gathering in my home in NY, but an impromptu, where should we eat in town for dinner, with a group of coworkers that have become like family. We find a nice restaurant, with cheap prices and good food, but no turkey or pumpkin pie. And there is laughter, because happy hour is truly happy when drinks are only a few dollars.

The day after thanksgiving, we wake up early, grab our breakfast quickly, all before 7am, not because we want to beat the lines for black Friday, but because we have another day of training. By 7:50am, we arrive at the school, starting another day of intensive heat while training and working with our Cambodian teachers in the classrooms with no fan. I’m always trying to stay hydrated and cool with capri pants and a light t-shirt, while the Cambodian teachers are in long pants/skirts and long button down shirts, and don’t seem to break a sweat.

Saturday is the day I look forward to the most. Our training is done and we get to visit the classrooms of our teachers and observe them teach. This is truly the highlight of my trip each year; seeing the teachers take the lessons we taught them, and adapting them for their students and classrooms in Khmer. I’m always not sure what to expect, but I’m always amazed.

Sometimes, living abroad means letting go of the old traditions and embracing the new traditions that start to form. So for that, I realize there is much to be thankful for. cfc-0434cfc-0444cfc-0436cfc-0465cfc-0512cfc-0523cfc-0580cfc-0504cfc-0491cfc-0576cfc-0555cfc-0573cfc-0561cfc-0553cfc-0567cfc-0596cfc-0446

48 hours in Singapore

I always love having visitors, but I was a bit nervous about how much we could get done in Nuree’s 48 hours in Singapore. I knew how tiring the flights are from NY are and I wasn’t sure what she would be up for. Luckily, the haze wasn’t too horrible and we were able to pack in a lot in the limited time. So in the two days we had, we accomplished the following:

  • Breakfast at the local hawker (Whampoa Market
  • Lunch at Din Tai Fung
  • Walking the streets of Orchard Road
  • Exploring Chinatown
  • Church service at RHC
  • Visiting Sentosa and going to the southernmost point of continental Asia
  • Eating coconut thai ice cream with free coconut water
  • Seafood Indian food at the Esplanade
  • Walking from Esplanade to MBS, via the double helix bridge
  • Cafe hopping on Keong Saik Road
  • Enjoying the view and drinks from the top of Marina Bay Sands hotel
  • Chili crab at Jumbo Seafood
  • Supper at Swee Choon
  • Visiting Gardens by the Bay Cloud Forest
  • Taking the water taxi from Clarke Quay to MBS
  • Visting Mustafa in Little India
  • Walking around Haji Lane and stumbling upon the Selfie Coffee cafe.
  • Taking the bus, MRT, taxi, rides from friends, and walking as means of transportation!

By the end of those two full days of eating and walking our way through the little red dot, we were ready to board a plane to haze free Thailand and relax on the beach. I forgot how tiring walking around and doing sightseeing in Singapore can be, especially when you are outside in the afternoon. There were a few times, where taxis were necessary. By now, I think I could plan tours for anyone interested in coming to Singapore in my sleep. Also, Nuree needs to come back to Singapore because we didn’t get to try durian. Next time, my friend.

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