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Covid-19, Why?!

I contemplated writing this earlier but decided to wait until I had semi-processed what is going on. Two-ish weeks ago, Tyler reached out to all of Gen 12 Minerva Fellows explaining that because of Coronavirus, we unfortunately, would not be completing the entire time in our placements. We did not know if this meant that we were going to be pulled out within a week or maybe three. To the say the least, WE WERE STRESSED.

A few days later, Tyler reached out to us again explaining that Union had officially come to the decision that Dalila and I would be returning to the US earlier while the other fellows maintained in their placements with caution of being pulled out if things drastically changed. We were told that we’d be departing Cambodia at the end of March. Although this still meant that Dalila and I weren’t going to finish the time at TGC as planned, I was grateful because I was very worried that we were going to be pulled out of the program by the end of that week. Which this then meant that I would not have time to properly say goodbye to my students and friends. I was so afraid that I was not going to finish what I had started but being told that we had roughly 3 weeks left, made my day!

As soon as we were given the news, we made sure to let our boss (Dara) know so that he was aware of the changes that he would have to make to the schedule once we were gone. We decided to wait til we had an official date of departure to tell our students because we did not want to give them false information nor get them sad ahead of time.

The Gods & Goddesses now know how much I wish that I told them when I found out!

Although Tyler & Michelle warned us that there was a possibility of everything going downhill and changing, I did not see that happening. On March 3rd, a man was tested positive with the virus in Siem Reap, Cambodia- we did not panic nor think anything bad about it because it was only the second case in Cambodia and first in Siem Reap. On March 6th, 44 people were held in Siem Reap’s Referral Hospital to be quarantined. Not that I got into full panic mode, but I did start to worry because this is the hospital right in front of Pub Street, a place where my friends and I constantly meet for Taco Tuesdays, fried ice cream or just a night out.

Have I been in contact with any of these people? Na, that could not be me, I’ve been cautious! Will this make Union take us out earlier?! Na, we’ll just be asked to be more careful.

After having an amazing day of renting E Bikes and being in full adventure mode, Dalila and I decided to go for some sorbet before going back home to call it a night. As we enjoy our delicious sorbet, Dalila’s face goes blank as she reads a Skype message from our Boss, Dara- “Siem Reap Town schools are ordered closed”. Excuse me?! Schools, ordered closed?! This night, Saturday, March 7th at 10pm was when I realized that my life was going to change very, very quickly. And I was right. Seconds after getting home, Tyler called and the first thing he said was “Hey.. so, we’re pulling you out ASAP”. How sweet of him to want to rip the bandage off as quick as possible but, although I knew that this was what he was calling to say, I was no where near ready to hear that! I, of course teared when I heard him say that, then went into full anger mode and lastly into disbelief.

By 12:30am, Dalila and I were on the phone with Tyler again, buying our plane tickets to return to the US.

My biggest concern was my students. I have grown to love each and everyone of them in individual ways. I have watched them grow into incredible people and they have taught me so much about myself in such short time. How could I leave without saying goodbye? Without giving them an explanation? Luckily, TGC had announced that there was going to be one last meeting before the school was officially closed. I was mentally preparing myself all night to walk into the school and see none of my students (since the Prime Minister ordered schools closed immediately) or to only see half of them. I tried to write letters, make a video and even practiced a quick little speech that I wanted to give them but, nothing worked. I felt numb and could not process what was actually going on.

The next day, I walked into school and noticed that there were less than half of my students there and cried as soon as one of my K8 girls approached me, tearing and repeating “why?”. I wish I had more time with all of my students and more time to explore Cambodia as a whole. I was sort’ve finding myself as weird as that sounds. I had just become 100% comfortable living there and had started to make intensely, loving and crazy relationships with people. How could I leave it all behind just like that?

Wednesday morning, March 11th– I thoroughly thought about my time in Cambodia as I reached the airport in my tuk tuk, sipping on the last bit of Khmer coffee I’ll have in a very long time.

As I write this while being self-quarantined, I cannot help but think about all of the positive things I’ve earned through this journey. I am so lucky to have lived and experienced this Fellowship. Although I am sad to be back in the US, I don’t think I’d change a thing about this journey.

I have not fully wrapped my head around being back especially since I have not gone outside since arriving from the airport. That being said, stay tuned for Part II of this post because I have A LOT more to say about this topic.

Stay safe everyone!


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