Looking out at our slice of home in Phnom Penh has had a touch more charm when viewed from the 5th floor of a Western style hotel with dry air conditioning, 2 ply toilet paper and big, squishy pillows.
We’ve been living in the school since we got here, trying to survive as cheaply as possible, so as of yet, we’ve not really ‘splurged’ on a fancy hotel.
We even opted for a dorm for our trip to Kampot to look after those dollars.
But with Zac still not 100% and me starting to feel less than peachy, the only correlation was the unscheduled wake ups at 4:45am, restless sleep, relentless drilling of the children until 8pm and lukewarm showers in the dark.
We’d both felt so fresh and free and ready to come back and teach the crap out of the kids when we were in Kampot and within a few hours of being back Zac had his inhaler on him at all times and was puffing away every few flights of stairs.
Then the toilets in the school broke.
I finished my second lesson, came upstairs to the room and flopped on to the bed.
My second lesson is hard.
There are lots of students and they’re either fantastic, or circling below average.
I’m finding it hard to create the balance because those that can do the work don’t want to, and then those that can’t just sit and wait for someone else to tell them the answers or what to do.
They aren’t learning.
They’re surrounded by English and only understand a fraction of what it means.
You ask them to read a word and they look at you for the answer, eventually you read the word to them, but they’re just repeating it, without ever reading it, then get sulky when I tell them to read the word, not look at me.
I think I cried out of frustration, some of these kids just need extra help, extra lessons, different work.
They need to be in an easier class for reading and they need to be taught how to write. I know what I need to do, but I can’t do it in the time, with the resources I have.
Maybe that’s a cop out. But that’s how it feels.
I’d been toying with the idea of giving up this week and just booking a hotel, and after Zac wheezed into the room again, I’d already made up my mind.
Tentatively I showed him, but there was no discussion, he looked and booked.
And was the perkiest I’ve seen him in days at school.
I enjoyed not sharing my bed with ants and tiny lizards and mosquitos.
I enjoyed just having a great big human hot water bottle to soothe my sore belly.
I loved the warm shower.
While Zac is feeling better for the sleep, I think I’ve caught whatever he had, although we feel better prepared to fix me quickly.
Zac thinks it’s possibly the eggs at the school that aren’t agreeing with us, he’s not been eating them, but I carried on and have been really suffering today.
Thankfully it’s one of my easy days with just 1 lesson in the morning and the afternoon!
So we’re just another couple of Westerners who cracked.
Who couldn’t deal with the thin mattress and the lukewarm showers.
Who didn’t want to use the same toilet as the children who don’t have Western toilets at home and really don’t know how to use them.
Who finally wanted a little bit of luxury and a private place to poo.
We love our school, we love the children, we love how accommodating they are and how great they’ve been to us and we loved how they tried to look after Zac when he was off sick.
We actually really enjoy Khmer food and we’re always learning something new and eating something new, but we also know how we heal best and largely a good night’s sleep does the trick.
Judge us all you like, call us Princesses and tell us it’s all part of the experience.
But when we’re only here for 7 weeks we want to make the biggest impact we can in that school and teaching when you’re sick is hard enough when you’re in familiar territory, let alone when you’re sweating in 82% humidity.
Neither of us are the best at hiding our emotions and living in a culture where it’s still important to save face, for us it was better to bow out for a week and still enjoy teaching than to make do and come to resent the school.
And do you know what? It seems to be working.