It is a quiet morning at the serene RiverGarden in Siem Reap. I loved this place so much last year and now it has been traveler tested by friends in New York who came last year, Linda Averbeck, and Lisa Stegman too. The final vote? We love love love it here.
Lisa left last night to get to Phnom Penh for her flights to Bali. I leave in a couple of hours and if luck and air transport work in harmony, we arrive within a half hour of each other to extend our adventure at Villa Pitou in Seminyak for a couple of days before moving onto Ubud.
Lisa's foot is definitely on the mend so we were able to see a few temples yesterday. They remain as I left them last year and as conceived centuries ago: magnificent and overwhelming reminders of the strength and beauty of the human spirit.
And this year, like last year, I am struck by the same thing when I spend time with Yorn Chea at the Enkosa RiverSchool.
The RiverGarden is across the river from the temple complex and free school that monk Yorn Chea runs to teach children English and other languages. The minute you wander into the open air, dimly lit classrooms, you are thrown into service, trying to remember how you learned English in the first place. It hardly matters what you do with the children. You can sing songs, practice spelling, learn the numbers or the alphabet or the colors or the names of things and they respond the same way: wildly enthusiastic to learn. They listen, they write down everything you write on the board, they repeat your words, they laugh, they try.
And you are enchanted. Luckily you can be a Facebook friend of Yorn Chea so you can stay in touch with him and follow his work. A year ago, I learned his goals. And this year, I could see that he is committed and true to his word. He has more than doubled the classroom space, found volunteers to fund and build a library and computer room. He is teaching more and more students.
I saw the future of Cambodia this week in the eyes of these children. The future has a name. It is called education.
So here is my advice. Don't wait to come to Cambodia. Start in Phnom Penh. Meet the Transitions staff and girls. Then head north to Siem Reap. Stay at the RiverGarden. See history by day and the future by night at the Enkosa RiverSchool. Experience first hand the magnificent and overwhelming strength of the human spirit, yours included.
Postscript: Lisa and I printed 50 copies of the True Body Workbook to leave for the girls and worked with the students on one of the exercises the night we taught. So for those of you who have supported this effort, know that your donations helped to bring the English language and, perhaps, some self awareness to even more young students in Cambodia.