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Monday, 26 July 2010

The key to success?

It's exam time in Sisophon, Cambodia and what greater way to show off weeks of hard study, revision and learning? Pass your Grade 12 exams and become one of the intellectual elite. The world is indeed your oyster... well, sort of.

What's that I hear you cry?! You haven't done enough revision? Not to worry, outside the exam centres today there are hundreds of buzzing entrepreneurs just waiting to sell you the answers to your exam paper for the bargain price of $2.5. Competition is fierce and preparation this year can't be faulted, with people leaking the exam papers with weeks to spare!

Short of cash? Then why not text your uncle, brother or cousin or aunt, and they will hand deliver your answers personally!

Whatever your move, I hope you've planned it in advance, because this year the restrictions are tough and it's harder than ever to pass Grade 12. The police are in place, the centres are fenced... how do they expect anyone to graduate at this rate?

Sunday, 18 July 2010


Over the last 11 months, I think I have felt every emotion known to man - at ten times its normal magnitude. There was a time when I really didn’t think I could do it. And, if I’m honest, that it wasn’t worth what I had given up. Now, with just six weeks left, I am sitting in my living room, having just gotten home from an impromptu party at the school where I’ve been attending a local art class. I think I have just had one of the nicest afternoons of my life.

Leaving the party, and saying goodbye to some of my friends there, has really made me think about my life here and how its changed. The children I’ve gotten to know are just wonderful, and their openness and warmth will stay with me long after I’ve gone home. Its difficult to explain, to them they are just being themselves – they were curious about the foreigner, a little shy, but took the time to talk to me and practice their English. They made me feel welcome, and they wanted to be a part of my life here. I can’t tell you the impact this has had on me. Going to this art class has given me something to do here that I really truly, love. Something that isn’t work and was just for me. Going, and having people there that want to tell me that they moved house yesterday, and want to ask me one question please – why is it that foreigners don’t want to always eat rice? Why did I want to travel to Cambodia? It’s made me feel a part of something, a part of the town, a part of someone else’s life. I wish I could tell them just how important they have become to me and how much I will miss it when I am gone.

I used to think that I came to Cambodia for a variety of reasons. I always wanted to travel, and I wanted to help. Good reasons, I think. Now –selfishly- I think the biggest reason I came here is because I wanted to live in another country. I wanted to see if I could do it. The work is of course important, and I am happy now that it is going well and I have made something of the job I came to do. But right now, after today, if you asked me what my biggest accomplishment in Cambodia is? It’s that I like it. I feel now that I don’t just live and work in Cambodia, but that I have a life in Cambodia. It’s taken me a long time to really feel this way, longer perhaps than it should have done. But now I know that I have friends, not just foreigners, but Khmer friends too. I feel a part of Sisophon and a part of Cambodia. I am looking forward to going home, but I can honestly say that I will be sorry to leave. And for me, that’s the greatest achievement of all: I’ve done it.