I Have A School! (And Additional Commentary On The Cambodian People)
Today I met my school and briefly met my students. The kids are technically 3rd and 4th year university level students, but NUM has a distinct high school feel to it. Lots of boys and girls were running up and down the stairways in their crisp white uniforms holding cell phones and backpacks. They were filled with energy and lethargy in the way that only teenagers can be filled with two completely contradictory things. They were surprised to see me. The dean of the Management program and the rector of the University both gave me a very warm and excited welcome. Multiple times they asked me if I liked what I saw. I did. Quite frankly, the school reminds me of St. Coleman’s – the place I attended kindergarten through 8th grade. I imagine it’s exactly like the St. Coleman’s of the ’60s, when my parents went there. Open air hallways and concrete block porticos share space with mint green tile and giant hand-crank windows. There are those desks that are impossible to get both in and out of. And a white board, computer and projector for the teacher. Classes hold about 10-20 students and the air conditioning is minimal, but that not only doesn’t bother me, it also reminds me of my schooling in South Florida. I felt at home in a way. Teenagers are teenagers and at least with these I can’t understand their insults.
The kids read a lot of texts in English, although a mix of English and Khmer is used to explain the topics (something I won’t be able to do) and the idea of describing International Marketing to them is a little daunting. Most International Marketing textbooks I’ve gotten my hands on are written from a multi-national corporation’s perspective. “If you’re Starbucks, how do you expand into Tanzania?” “If you’re McDonalds, what cultural differences might you run into in Ecuador?” Well….. how about a classroom of kids that 1) are most certainly not a multi-national corporation with millions of dollars to spend on marketing and 2) unfamiliar with what Starbucks and McDonalds even are? How do I come up with examples that make sense and are relatable? I don’t know. I guess that’s to be determined. But the school did have some things that surprised me. A vibrant new computer lab that could rival any in America and a library that had people in it. Also, a giant flatscreen tv that was set up in one corner of the study hall and set to the news. Some of the girls were so adorably respectful and I even met my future class clown – who I already love. He said I was too young to teach him. I said my height made up for it.
That young man was just another example of the charisma of the people here. It feels very open, kind and familial in a way – combined with propriety and respect for others. That force competes head to head with the forces of poverty that breed prejudice, jealousy and crime. I’ve met a lovely young man, Meta, who serves me at the restaurant attached to the hotel. We have become friends and each morning he says “Hello today Kerry” and each afternoon he says “I give you this drink from my heart”. You would think it’s just smart business on his part. He does, after all, cater to tourists and work for tips, but you have to believe me that it’s not. If anything he’s using me more for my life story than my money. He wants to know why I came here and what my city in America is like. Similarly, the maintenance man who fixed my shower at midnight acted like I was a Nobel Prize winner and he was honored to be of service to me. Maintenance men at home don’t do that. The tuk tuk drivers who sleep in their carts and the cleaning ladies who stand on ledges two inches thick off the third floor balcony to clean someone’s window have good attitudes all things considered. They’re happy for the job and in good spirits. That vibe has made this all the more interesting. I have a feeling when people told me I would grow to love this city, that’s what they were referring to.
I have attached an instagram link showing a video of the University. It doesn’t seem to work in text, but I put it in the comments section..
(I ended almost every sentence with a preposition and began almost every sentence with a conjunction. Please understand that that bothers me too. But I had to write like I talk and, alas, that’s what came out. Grammar nerds, I apologize.)