May 26, 2010

Student Party

Today is the day labeled “Student Party” on all the CWF calendars. An ambiguous event that some students adore and some teachers dread. I had low expectations for the student parties this morning at six and seven. I brought some pandan (that's a common sweet flavor in Asia) snack cakes, some juice and even some crackers for the less sweet-toothed students. Expecting the fizzle-out party of last semester, I was delighted when some of my Advanced Discussion students showed up happy and ready to teach me some games. It was fun to let them lead and to see their personalities in a different setting. At the end, the female students presented me with a lovely card, shoulder bag and a blinged-out pencil case. I felt funny receiving such nice presents from my most experimental class, but they gave it to me with such pride and gratitude that I nearly cried!

The morning level 4's, whittled down to four men about my age, showed up with a few bottles of Coke, some rice cakes and even cups and straws. It was so cute. They asked me a lot of questions about America, my boyfriend, and they even gave me a lot of advice about what to do and see in Siem Reap. I felt more like their friend instead of their teacher. That's a good feeling at the student party.

I also said goodbye to my Khmer teacher, the person who has been there for me since I arrived in Cambodia. We have grown into our roles as big sister and little sister. I've been teaching her how to use Facebook with the hope that we can stay in touch. She has given me faith in the future of Cambodia, and she has shown me an honest friendship (which is saying a lot in this country). Under cover of giggles, we saw the tears in each others' eyes this morning as we said our well-wishes, hoping that this wasn't our last iced coffee with sweet milk together.

Despite the solar-heated water (reminiscent of the NE Family YMCA) I tried to savor my final swim at the Sport Club. Sun blazing, rich blue sky, and the sound of power saws and jackhammers across the street—yes, this will be one of my finer memories. Barely afloat thanks to a week of overindulgence in last-chance foods and student party buffet, I cranked out 1000 meters and bid farewell to the delightfully upper middle class oasis I have grown so fond of.

My evening level 4 class, the one with 15 students who come every single day, treated me to Lucky Burger and Karaoke—at the same time. We sat in the tiny VIP room with burgers in one hand and microphones in the other. Between songs, we ate a burger each, then moved on to the mountain of fried chicken and french fries. Greasy as the whole situation was, I enjoyed the company of my students, and I was flattered that they wanted to do something this nice (and expensive) for me. There were times in the semester when I forgot who (and why) I was teaching, but tonight I was able to deeply appreciate my students.