Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A big yet little girl

Betty and her classmates are singing to me.

They're singing "Thank you, teacher. Thank you for teaching us today. We will see you again tomorrow." They hold their hands up toward me prayerfully,  as a sign of respect.

 But Betty, 14, doesn't say she will see me tomorrow. Instead, she sings she will see me five days later, on Monday.

I ask her why.

"It's the 100-day celebration,"  she smiles. All the children smile when talking to me, a volunteer teacher at their school, ABCs & Rice (a place for less-privileged kids to learn English on a full belly.) Every last one of them is polite. Kind toward me.

I ask, "Celebration of what?"

"My father. He died 100 days ago," she says, adding, "so we honor him with prayers and food."

And then she burst into tears. And she falls into my arms, sobbing. I met her two days ago and already my heart hurts for her.

It's so hard for me to see her so broken.

Because she's my superstar Cambodian.

Of all of the children in my class, Betty has what it takes to excel.

During my first day on the job, she asked me why I was in Cambodia. Why I came to her school to teach.

I told her I wanted to learn about the Cambodian people and culture, something best learned by living it, not just looking in.

"OH!" she exclaimed, then jumped up and sprinted away, only to return pronto with two 8-by-10-inch booklets, one about Khmer food and the other about the culture.

She and her classmates wrote both booklets, she said, as a way to make money to finance a school trip to the beach.

One costs $10. The other $15.

"But if you buy both, it's $20."

I'd say she's a born leader. Intuitive. Self-starting. Brave.

So having her cry on my shoulder reminds me she's still a child, but one with great potential.

(If anyone reading this wants to help Betty and her classmates go to the beach, email me. The booklets are in English, mostly. I think they need $800 more for their trip.)

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