School Days

Well, neither Kori nor I slept terribly well our second night in Cambodia. We both woke up at around 4am after a somewhat fitful night’s “rest.”

We are thankful, however, that we were not greeted this morning by the sound of a pack of feral cats eating a baby strangling a parrot. That, or something very like that, was our cock’s crow yesterday. This morning, we were wooed to semi-consciousness by the collective groan of our household realizing simultaneously that sleep would no more grace our weary, sun-baked bones. 

So at 5:30, our adventuremongering son, Pak, who had previously promised to “go out every morning and watch the city wake up” croaked, “Less juss eat here this mrnnning…”

Yesterday was a big day.

We rose early (thanks to the aforementioned and unwelcomed cacophony) showered, dressed, and headed out to my favorite breakfast spot, a road-side phở stand off Mao Tse Tung Boulevard, across the street from a Cham Muslim mosque. As I suspected, my family was enchanted by the toothsome mélange of beef, wide rice noodles, shallots, herbs and chilies swimming in a savory broth. Pak ordered a second bowl, and would have eaten a third if he hadn’t already snacked at home.

We headed off, fatter and happier, to Prek Eng, and arrived at the Asia’s Hope Christian School, greeted by a hundred smiling elementary kids. I got a few hugs, but most of the attention was lavished on my wife and my kids. “Kori! Hello, Mommy! I love you!” “Hello, Chien! We miss you!” “Pak, Hello, my friend!” “Xiu Dan! You are so beautiful!" 

My kids were somewhat bewildered, but allowed themselves to be led off, grinning, to various parts of the school. For the next four hours, we played games, sang songs, and participated in classes. “Where’s Pak?” I asked. “I think he’s teaching in one of the rooms,” answered Kori.

When the lunch bell rang, the kids went back to their homes for their three hour break. We drove to a nearby restaurant and reflected on the day thus far. “This one girl kept tickling me,” said Chien, trying hard not to smile. “They keep pinching my cheeks!” exclaimed Xiu Dan. “Can we go back now?” asked Pak.

We finished our lunch quickly and headed to Prek Eng 2, the nearest orphan home. We played with the kids for another hour or so, and then walked with them back to school. Kori took a short nap on a cot in a shady area behind the school, I sat in on a staff meeting with all of the orphan home directors, and the kids participated in the classrooms. When the school day ended, I barely had energy to drive home.

After a delicious dinner at a local Thai/Khmer restaurant, we returned to the guesthouse and crashed. Hard. I guess it was about 7:30pm. Maybe waking up at 4:30am isn’t so bad after all, considering.

This morning, we’ll relax for a while and maybe eat breakfast at the guest house. I’ll probably take the kids out to the school, and then I’ll return for an important meeting with the ministry of Social Affairs. I’ll need to put on a suit (I’ll only do it for Asia’s Hope. No one else, so don’t ask.), prepare a short speech and exchange pleasantries with various officials including, I hear, the Secretary of State. I think maybe I should shave, too.

So, we’re busy. We’re tired. But we’re happy. Thank God for Asia’s Hope.