When I learnt 3 months ago that I would be coming to Cambodia as a volunteer with the Bayon School, I felt both excitement and apprehension; although this was not my first expatriation, this one already had a special taste.
Firstly because it is in Asia and I have already had the opportunity to discover a small part of this continent a few years ago. Memories that since then have never faded, quite the contrary. I never stop telling anyone who will listen to me that, one day, I will return.
Secondly – and this is the real value of this new adventure – because I am going there in a singular context; to work for an NGO in a field, which has motivated me since I started thinking about my future professional project, and in which I long to be involved. I have always tried to understand how our world works, how it finds its balance, how our societies are articulated, and especially what our differences are. Cultural, identity, social, I have always wondered about the importance of these differences and what they can teach us about others. I am convinced that it is vital to look around us in order to find the resources necessary for a more egalitarian world, for a balance conducive to change and progress. I also believe that it is by looking to others that we can look at who we are and who we want to be.
My involvement with the Bayon School is a melting pot of all these questions that I take with me, and that guide my work on a day-to-day basis.
I am particularly interested in how communication can transmit notions of equality, social justice and civil rights. I wonder about the many tools we have to shine a light on what is happening elsewhere and to spread the word about social and humanitarian initiatives that do not always receive enough attention.
As I started working for Bayon whilst in France, I have had time to picture what my work and my life would be like here. My imagination fills my head with images, which I am eager to replace with real experiences. Projecting from a distance what our future home looks like is a rather singular experience and my initial apprehension is gradually replaced by the growing excitement of finally leaving.
I am finally going to be able to discover what the school looks like, to meet the team in person rather than from behind a computer screen, to visit the families and the children, to stop imagining their smiles but to be able to smile at them too, to admire the work of these women who cultivate the land, to taste the pastries of our budding chefs, to be able at last to be a part of what the whole team likes to call this large family of the Bayon school.
D-day, August 12th. With my PCR test being refused at the check-in counter, causing me cold sweats and a great deal of stress, my departure is chaotic and I have to run like mad to catch my plane. But here I am, finally in the plane, exhausted from the last days and goodbyes to my family and friends, but happy to finally take off to Cambodia.
After 15 hours of flight, a short stopover in Singapore and 3 PCR tests to welcome me, I head to the hotel for the quarantine. Through the window of the bus, I rediscover the overwhelming, humid heat, the effervescence of scooters and tuk tuks in all directions, the street stalls of fruit and vegetables, the noise of horns and engines, and I have a hard time realizing that I have finally arrived.
Day 10. As I write this, it is August 23rd and I have been in quarantine now for 10 days. Only 4 more to go! Since I have been here, my work has become more meaningful and things have become more real. I am more aware of my role and the roles of everyone who assists our families. My commitment and motivation are growing and I cannot wait to be able to exchange and put all my ideas into action with the team on site.
View from my quarantine window
I don’t really know what to expect or what this year will bring me. I am slowly letting myself be carried and guided by the energy I already feel here. I hope to be able to give my work and my commitment an even wider dimension than the one I already try to have every day. Firstly for them, the children for whom the Bayon School works relentlessly, by giving them my support and accompanying them as best I can through this precious learning experience that is school. Then a little for me, hoping to grow even more, because I already know that, of all my experiences abroad, this one will surely be the richest in emotions.
When you will read this text, I will already have been in Siem Reap for a few weeks, and I will take the time later to tell you how I feel, if the images in my head and those I share with you for the communication of the Bayon School are the same as those in real life.