January 6

Friday, January 6, 2012
On Friday morning we leave the dorm at 6:30 AM to walk to the market. Darcy and I also thought we might purchase some things for ourselves but were so caught up in the experience that we didn’t get to it. To walk the neighborhood along with others who were making their way to work in garment factories or to school and elsewhere and call out sue s’dy (sp?) (pronounced sue-es-dey), a common greeting meaning hello was great fun. The people riding their moto’s navigate extremely well around the pedestrians and narrow walkways and alleys. I’m not sure I could do it – my feet will have be my transportation for now.

We have offered to cook for the girls one night. We want to become more familiar with the different vegetables and how to combine them for the best flavor before we try anything. I’m sure we’ll put our own twist on the recipes. Perhaps the next time we venture out to the market with one of the girls, we’ll figure out what to buy for our night as resident chefs.

Later on Friday, Alan Lightman arrived at the dormitory and I’ve never seen girls so happy to see someone. They call him and his wife, Dad and Mom. Alan travels twice a year to Cambodia and knows each girl’s name, major and has a lovingly paternal relationship with them. I watched in proud awe as he met each of the first year students and studied their face so their name would stick in his mind the next time he saw them. I’ve been here five days and have had to resort writing notes in my journal describing each girl along with her name. I’ve met 45 young women, all with long beautiful black hair, eyes so brown they are almost black and smiles as bright as the sun. And their names are often difficult for me to pronounce. All my tricks for remembering names aren’t working. For example, when I meet someone new I usually make a mental note about the color of their eyes or who they remind me of, or make a rhyme with their name – none of that works here.

Alan held a short meeting in the great hall where he welcomed the first year students and reminded the girls of their great opportunity here and that he sees them as Cambodia’s next generation of great leaders. It was inspiring and I felt privileged to be present.

The weather is glorious today and as I sit in the library writing of my impressions I work alongside students studying. The breeze is blowing just enough to cool the room to a comfortable temperature and contemporary music playing in the background. Am I not the luckiest person you know?

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