When I first arrived to my village on the mission of doing homestay on the 14th of July, I already felt excited. My hometown is called “Koh Ksach Tunlea” it is located in the middle of the Bassac river. It is just one of the many remote islands in Cambodia. I felt happy,excited and nervous at the same time. I was not so sure if bringing western people to stay 1 week with the villagers will be good or bad? I felt confused, I sometimes felt anxious about this decision, as this group will stay longer than any other group I have brought.
I sometimes question whether the way of living, the traditions and the culture will change if there are too many foreign people coming and going in my village? I have to be careful with this and I have to balance the relationship I play in the role of the middle person.
However, when the students arrived at the ferry I already felt excited at how much they were going to learn and how they would experience a completely new different culture and lifestyle. Their host families came to my house to pick up their potential daughter or son. They came with a big smile, wondering who was their daughter or son?
After I matched the student and their parent then they all went off to their own homestay. I felt a bit anxious about how they all would settle and adapt to the homestay, eating rice most of the time, being able to speak so little Khmer, sleeping in a stranger’s house. How could they overcome those challenges? It worried me. But things have been working much better than I expected.
The students like their host families and they found that it is an interesting experience for them. A week with the local family will allow them to try harder at speaking Khmer in order to communicate with the locals and children, and able to learn more from a real Cambodian life style. Most of the host families have never hosted any foreigners before. It is more than just money we contribute to the families, but also friendship. They interact using body language in order to learn more from each other, and share different culture, foods, and memories of their stay.
The families are very excited to have the students stay. I find it sweet when Fiona’s host mum calls me asking “if she can eat this or that” just to make sure it is safe for her. When I joined dinner at Harry’s house, his host mum was very pleased to have him as her son. She always takes a good care of him, and his brother and sister taught him Khmer and tried the Khmer conversation. I also had a good time at Ava’s house. On the day 5 of the homestay, when I was at her house, her neighbors already said “we are going to miss you!”. Ava has been doing wonderfully with the homestay. In fact, Flora is doing amazing with her Khmer and always enjoy spending time with her host family. She did the family tree in Khmer with the helped of my mum and I.
Often when I pass by her house, I see Izzy hang out with Khmer people or children or sharing about her family or practicing her Khmer. And whenever, I met Noe, he always tells me “My family’s food is just amazing and I love my family”. I have a strong feeling that all of them have been doing so well with the homestay.
I know the families are going to miss them after they have stayed and shared their daily life for a week.
Tomorrow (21th of July) we are going to have a party at the program house. All the host families are invited. We are going to eat, share the moment, and dance together. Although, I am looking forward to the party, I don’t want the homestay to end. I have been enjoying watching the students learn and grow. It somehow reflects on their “Power and Privilege” – we had a lesson on this today. They have all got much more privileges than all of the kids at my village. And it might reflect them how much lucky they are to have these and be able to live in the high standard of living and freedom.