Volunteer English teacher Tania Westlake sponsored a field trip for the 37 students from the two classes of English 1 she taught at Knar Primary School as a PLF volunteer. It was an unforgettable day filled with temples, ice cream, books, a museum and a Ferris wheel ride that topped even the escalators at the mall!
Tania, who hails from Melbourne, Australia, was a bit nervous on the tuk tuk ride to her first class, since it would be her first time teaching. But as soon as she stepped in the class room, it was obvious that teaching came naturally to her. She diligently prepared for her classes, introducing the students and teachers to new and exciting games and activities. Her students were as smitten with her as she was with them; she carefully learned their names and saw them come out of their shells to use their English with her. The field trip was a perfect way to celebrate their friendship and successes.
On the day of the trip, the bus picked the students up at 8:00am and transported them first thing to Preah Khan temple, along with Tania and teacher Chenda, along with Ponheary and Dara, who served as the children’s guides. Ponheary passed out the digital cameras on the bus, and as soon as we arrived the students were busy exploring the ruins and taking turns photographing each other and their teachers. Ponheary and Dara explained the history of the temples we visited in Khmer, while Tania and Chenda chatted with them in English.
Soon everyone was hungry, so the bus headed to Siem Reap for lunch at Khmer Kitchen and a walk through the town center. Our group of thirty seven exploring students was a sight that turned many heads, especially when a shopowner allowed them to test out a fish massage on their hands. Along the way, an Australian man stopped to talk to us and donated $5 to the PLF, which Ponheary used at our next stop, the Lucky Mall, to buy books for the Knar School Library.
While the students definitely enjoyed exploring the book store and eating ice cream, by far the most exciting aspect of the mall was riding the escalators. At first it was a bit frightening, but after one try the students were adventurous enough to ride them up and down (and up and down and up and down) independently. As we finished our ice cream and waited for the rain to subside, the students read aloud from their new books.
Next, the bus headed to Angkor National Museum where the students learned about the history of the Khmer empire, the ancient practices of Hindu and Buddhism, and the architecture of the temples they had seen in the morning. In the late afternoon, as bus turned backed towards Knar Primary School, Ponheary and Tania decided to stop at a fairground, where the students experienced their first ride on a very fast Ferris wheel. While Tania and her brave students flew around in circles, Ponheary caught their joyful screams on video. It was the perfect end to a fabulous day of new experiences.
It costs about $400 to sponsor a field trip such as this, yet at the end of the day it seemed a small price to pay for the joy that everyone shared and the lasting memories. It will be a day that neither Tania nor her students (nor I, for that matter) will soon forget.