“You’re doing WHAT over half term?” was the general reaction to my response when asked about how I planned to spend my precious week off in October. “Rather you than me” or “you’re going to be exhausted!” were some other examples.
Nevertheless I had an air of excitement about me as I boarded the national express headed to Heathrow at 5am on the Saturday morning. I was off to experience ancient temples and the warmth of the Cambodian welcome.
A somewhat bleary eyed 15 hours later we arrived in Siem Reap airport without our luggage. A taster of the occasional trials that South East Asia can throw at you. But where there are one dollar bills, there are solutions and we were soon kitted out in elephant pants and loose fitted cotton shirts ready for action. (Our luggage arrived later that day)
The whistle stop tour of Cambodian history was mesmerising and enriching. From the ancient civilisation and temples of Angkor Wat, to the twentieth century atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, the knowledge of Bunlay and Sauron was exceptional and where most poignant, based on personal experience.
We were given an incredibly warm welcome at both Camps Mealea and Pae from Sunny and Han. By all accounts absolute legends. Not only fantastic with the students in their care, but also men of principles with a vision of long term sustainability and key members of their local community.
The opportunity to have a chat with a few of the current ‘gapper’ residence of the camp was invaluable and a great chance to get an insight of the kind of impact the CAMP CAMBODIA experience can have on young people.
What struck me about the whole experience was that it was very well organised and we, as teachers, were given every opportunity to become part of the Camps ‘family’ and get a feel for what lay in store for the main event the following summer.
As we returned, somewhat exhausted after our half term adventure, I couldn’t wait to share my enthusiasm and tales of Cambodian wonder with my students.
What they will make of the creepy crawly pictures remains to be seen…they will all soon enough have their own face to face encounter with the mini beasts after all!