Sooooooooooooo, I have been feeling majorly demoralised about the possibility of getting to Cambodia. The shortened version is that life in the UK has been complicated, making me wonder if it is fair or realistic to go away for an extended period at this time at all. Compounding this sense of ‘oh it’s just impossible’ is that I never heard back from CWF, despite my comprehensive and really quite brilliant application (if I say so myself – albeit a bit tongue in cheek), and I have been feeling a bit peeved. Then, just as I was wondering if I should follow up with CWF, I came across a discussion thread all about CWF experiences on TripAdvisor. Now, broadly, all the comments were super-positive. However, one very heartfelt and lengthy post – which was deleted by the author almost within an hour of appearing – was very damning about the organisation. It was worthy of taking seriously though, because it was clearly written by someone who had been their many months, and tried to give a balanced perspective with examples. I presume they deleted their post speedily because they were still there and could have been identified from their comments. It suggested that CWF was corrupt and was being used to line the pockets of a few individuals, and had moved very far away from it’s original ideals – though they did also say the students are great and local staff lovely…. so it was basically a ‘still come, but don’t be too naive about what you’ve signed up for’ warning I began to think I was well out of it, decided not to follow up, and life has got in the way of any more proactive fossicking into alternative possibilities.
Until today. Today, completely out of the blue, I got an articulate and friendly email, asking if I am still interested in CWF (Conversations with Foreigners)and apologising for the delay in contact due to their recruitment manager having got a new job or something. Hmmm, I don’t know honestly. I’ve looked again at their websites and their reviews and the issues are the same. It does look legit, I daresay there are people making money off the back of the project, but that doesn’t necessarily negate everything about it. There are recent reviews that are positive. The Kratie project I was interested in going to doesn’t seem to have taken off, which is disappointing, but then again the advantage of Phnom Penh is that I wouldn’t need anti-malarials long term which would be good. Also, I got badly bitten by UK mosquitoes at a run last weekend and I’ve reacted really badly, it’s reminded me of the misery of insect bites in Vietnam, it is not a trivial thing over weeks and months. Kratie, with it’s riverside location, whilst lovely, would presumably be swarming with clouds of mosquitoes. Finally, given that they’ve only broken their silence after nigh on 3 months, maybe I should consider a November start, when the weather is a bit less humid and might suit me better (plus escaping a UK winter). Then again, I could still go independently, but I think it would ease me in a bit if I start with some sort of project framework, however inadequate. Aaaaaaaaargh, what to do.
The other bit of serendipity, is that I got a feed from a blog I follow about another TEFL teacher, reflecting on her first year of teaching in Siem Reap Cambodia. It was by no means all easy, but it did give me a bit of a pang for the recommencement of the adventure I had careering off in Viet nam which was unexpectedly cut short. I’m not sure Phnom Penh would be as lovely as Siem Reap, but if I’m going for a cultural experience rather than a permanent home, it might be good to be challenged. I’ll still get to travel around I think.
Truth is, I’ve lost some confidence professionally, since leaving Viet nam, I haven’t been able to work beyond writing for a TEFL website IELTS mentor so it might be good to start in a slightly more sheltered TEFL environment. I am also wondering about doing what I did in Viet nam, taking a short small group organised tour of Cambodia first, to help me acclimatise – and make sure I’m there for the water festival too which is one not to miss, so whatever happens on the project, I have a context of the country I’m in, and the proverbial ‘bigger picture’. Part of me thinks it’s insane to spend money on that if I can travel independently when I arrive after the teaching bit, but then again, I didn’t regret doing that in Viet nam, and unfortunately, bitter experience tells me things don’t always go according to plan. Better to bank some experiences whilst you can.
So, it’s been something of a roller coaster, a particularly dodgy and rickety one like the one I went on in Vung Tau and wondered why. It was like a DIY re-enactment of a stunt scene in one of the many Indiana Jones franchise films. I did survive it though, it is amazing what can be built with nothing but a few light looking canes, string and optimism it seems. I hope it was in fact safer and more robust than it looked, but I’m not altogether sure…
I think the immediate plan is to sleep on it. I would need a Skype interview with them, and I suppose I’m making an assumption that that would be a formality. I don’t think that’s entirely unreasonable though, apart from anything else, if their recruitment system has been stalled for the last 3 months they are unlikely to have filled all their vacancies. Plus I do have experience and qualifications so, whatever my confidence levels, I am equipped to do this.
I’d like to go, I really would. The problem is can I live with the guilt of going away, when there are compelling pressures demanding I stay. Life is short, I need to call this one. Head or heart? Eek..