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.