How’s Life in Cambodia?

I am burnt. One of my strengths as a human has always been getting things done. And these last couple of years, I have felt less excited to do things, let alone get anything done. I’m not sure where this burned out feeling stems from, but my guess is it is a combination of three things: residuals from the pandemic, the huge disappointment that was the 2021/2022 teaching year, and having no resources.

The pandemic caused an influx of prices and it ended up costing me close to $17,000 to move back to the United States in late June of 2021. That price only increased when I was forced to get a car and the Subaru dealership in the area where I was living had no used cars on the lot and only a handful of new ones (also pandemic related). The car I purchased, a Subaru Forester, was sold to me on the slip of a paper, promised a month down the line because it was just coming in through Rhode Island. The insurance and monthly payment for this car was half of my small monthly pay at the school where I was working. I won’t go into details about why my 2021/2022 teaching year was such a disappointment (that would only make the school and me look bad), but it was a huge mistake that I hope to never-ever-ever make again. That leaves my resources. My resources are depleted mostly because I made the decision to move back to the United States: move costs + new car + monthly pay at a Connecticut boarding school = massive setback. All of the money I saved during my three years in China is now gone. And, I am still paying on the car I purchased even though I have no ability to drive it from Cambodia, and might not see it again for another year or two. (Anyone interested in buying it? Or at the very least, renting to own it? I’ll give you a hell of a deal!)

But, alas, I somehow made it back overseas with both of my pets in tow. Hugely thankful, in part, to a number of donations I received from friends all over the world helping to insure my pets arrived in Cambodia safely. 

Cambodia is wonderful! I find it charming to zoom around the city in tuk tuks for less than 90 cents, most trips. It’s nice to be able to use the American dollar wherever I go. And, I have a beautiful apartment that is close to a number of cool places (thank you Amanda and Tobin!!). But, Phnom Penh is by no means a dog-friendly city. Because land is so expensive, it is hard to find any grassy areas that have not been developed. And, anything that looks to be a park, usually has No Dog signs attached to it. Nearly daily I manage to take Beanie by tuk tuk back and forth from my apartment to Diamond Island, where my school is located because there is a lot more grass and larger sidewalks. To help with this, I enrolled Beanie in day school while I am at work.  And, after a painful first week, he is now enjoying it (mostly). It’s a small price to pay for having him here in Cambodia with me, so I’ll take it. In other news, Cat Rigby is having a blast! He enjoys sunning near the windows and loves to chase rogue lizards that occasionally come in through the terrace doors. We are slowly, but surely, settling in.

My school is huge, which I love. I teach 28 classes of 4 grades each week; Grades 3 – 6, with my Grade 6’s rotating time slots every other week. I think I gravitate towards big schools because I believe in big fish/big pond situations. I went to a high school where my graduating class was just over 2000 students. I went to a huge university for undergrad. I love big cities like New York and Shanghai. Big schools allow for lots of diversity in student population and activities. I enjoy knowing that at any moment, any time of day, I could find something interesting going on. I also like that I can hang back in the crowd and isolate, if need be. My colleagues at the Canadian International School of Phnom Penh are incredibly nice and welcoming and laid back. They are professionals who really strive for the best in our school. It’s amazing how helpful and friendly everyone has been since my arrival. 

However, it’s my students who really take the cake! I teach a diverse group of students from over 30 countries. They are kind and funny and they like to try new things. They listen to fun music and truly care about the things we do in art class. It’s so delightful to have taught the first two weeks already and not feel the least bit exhausted. Instead, I feel fulfilled, enlightened, and ready for the school year. It’s exciting to me to have a Visual Arts Team of three teachers to work alongside with and an even larger team of nearly 9 that includes the Performing Arts. I have limited supplies at the moment. But, orders are being placed and everyone knows that lacking things can sometimes bring out the greatest creativity! Each week I have 15 hours of planning time allotted for in my schedule and only 2 duties (both on Mondays). Oh! And I have the most wonderful TA! The support I have at this school is truly seen, felt, and appreciated. Only good things can come out of this! And, I am looking forward to it!

Now, back to what I started this post off with: feeling burned out. I can only imagine that with time, this feeling of malaise will lift. I have started private yoga classes and I have been focused on furthering my education – something I always lean into when I am feeling lost. In the coming school year, I am looking forward to writing more and making small watercolors. I’ve joined a book club, started plans to open a teaching workshop in the rooftop space above my house, and I’m joining a small theatre group. I think if I can just stay focused on the future, this seemingly huge setback I experienced over the past couple of years will become something of the past. It is not normal for me to vent about disappointments or stress, but *in light of the good things to come* I thought it was important to mention. Thank you again for your support as I continue to navigate international life!

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