Settling in to Siem Reap

My last two weeks at ECC School in Siem Reap were really great. I settled into what felt like a somewhat normal life routine; I sampled the iced teas, iced coffees, and banana shakes from around the village, got to know more and more of the kids, spoiled myself on the weekends, attended a village festival celebrating the anniversary of a local pagoda, celebrated a birthday, visited with a friend I met during my European travels, had a book club meeting, watched warriors games and the Olympics, found possibly the only shop in Siem Reap selling nets for basketball hoops and installed one at the school, and spent a lot of time reading in hammocks.

Teaching got easier, I got better at lesson planning, got more creative with games, and felt much more relaxed up in front of the class. Of course teaching still had many challenges, and wasn’t always fun, but the positives absolutely outweighed the negatives, and I’m not sure there is anything quite like seeing the lightbulb go on for a kid when they figure something out. Here are some more photos from my time at the school:

Leaving the kids and the school will definitely be hard. It is very weird to think that after I leave here, the daily routine of the school will simply continue without me, new teachers will take my classes, and the kids will continue to grow. It’s especially strange to think about what they will become when they grow up. I’m sure many will work in the city in tourism, at hotels, hostels, as tour guides, and tuk-tuk drivers. When we ask them what they want to do, the most popular answers are teacher, doctor, and tour guide. Without a doubt the next time I come to Southeast Asia, Siem Reap and ECC School will be a must visit, as it has come to feel like a home away from home for me.

It was also truly special to have the opportunity to show my parents the school and the village. The kids enjoyed asking them questions, especially “how old are you?”. Mom bought a cheap watch and had a 10 year-old student help set the time, we were escorted from a cafe to the school by a couple of students, gave high fives to kids around the village, checked out the crocs, and saw BOTH giant pigs. It was really nice to get to give them a glimpse of what I’ve been living for the last month.

I had such a great experience volunteering my time that I’ve already signed up for the next volunteer project! For a month starting mid April I’ll be working shifts at a language cafe in Busan, South Korea. Students from the nearby university as well as adults come to the cafe just to practice their English. It will be different from teaching as I won’t have classes or lessons to prepare, but I’m really excited to talk with Koreans all day, as it will be such a great way to learn more about their culture. However, before that begins there are some adventures to be had with these two!


We are going to spend a few more days in Siem Reap, I’ll finally visit Angkor Wat, and then off to Vietnam! Also, now that I’ve left the school my food pictures should return to being a bit more interesting!

4 thoughts on “Settling in to Siem Reap

  1. auntcorie

    What a marvelous experience! What memories you are creating!
    …And to share it in person with your Mom and Dad. How wonderful.

  2. amyoso

    Hi Emily! To chime in with my mother: What an amazing experience — life-changing for all involved! It’s great that you’ve set up your next volunteer work. And – cousin Amy echoing Aunt Corie again – so wonderful that your parents are with you. Love to you all.

  3. Sue Rittenberg

    I can tell from your pictures that the 3 of you are having the best time. Amazing stories and memories to share. Lucky you…lucky mom and dad!!!

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