After months of discussing the history and politics of Cambodia while sitting in a classroom in New York and weeks of exchanging emails full of questions and ideas about our approaching work on the ground, I was anxious to touch down in Siem Reap. After arriving at the Seven Candles Guest House to the warmest welcome from our hosts, the Ly family, and hearing about the inspiring lives and incredible work of Ponheary Ly and Lori Carlson, I was feeling much clearer about what I would be doing here: helping to provide the space for students to think and create.
Yesterday morning, we were able to visit two of the locations that we will be working in: Tchey School and Knar School. As we walked through each site and listened to Lori speak about the schools and their students, I felt a connection to the work in a way that was missing during all of my preliminary planning. The results of different motives and ideas of development had played out in these spaces in very clear ways – some to great advantage of the schools, some not.
Later in the evening we visited the Bamboo Shoot City Dorm, where I will be putting together workshops for the girls living there alongside my peers from the New School. I entered the space not knowing what to expect: would these girls be receptive to our presence? Or would they wonder what these Americans who know nothing about them are doing in their space? I was thrilled and grateful to be welcomed by a room full of smiles and to have had a few minutes to take a tour of the dorm and talk with some of the girls. Before we left New York, the importance of making connections was discussed. After last night, I am even more excited to be working with the girls at City Dorm and to have started making those connections.