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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Cambodia X-Phase

Picture this: it’s nine o’clock pm, twelve sleepy dragons are trying to put up their hammocks on the roof of a boat to sleep; very unsuccessfully I might add. As we pulled up to dock where we were to stay for the night, we saw giant laser beams shooting across the Mekong River from the nearby town. Loud dance music was playing with people all around us, some even looking in our boat. Our captain had left the boat to get dinner while we stayed docked at this rowdy stretch of land. Eventually our captain came back to the boat, and with the help of our fearless leader of the week, Izzy, we asked to move to a nice, quiet part of the docks. This was just one of our many adventures during our X-phase.

For those who don’t know what an X-phase is, it is a time for the students to run the show for a couple days and go on an exploration. We created our own schedule, cooked our own meals, and ran all of the errands. On our X-phase, I really saw our group come together and perform. We selected and ran lessons, debates, discussions, and games, and in doing so really got a feel for what the I-team does every day.

At the beginning of our X-phase, we had no idea what we were doing. We were put into teams for meals and lessons and also signed up for activity time slots. The I-team gave us a budget to stay within and set us off in Phnom Penh. As the food person during our exploration, I had to gather the menus from the teams and create a master shopping list. Together as a group of twelve we decided to go to the grocery store and purchase all of our food; it was very chaotic. As we searched for a grocery store to go to, we walked everywhere. First we headed to the Orussey Market, which is a local market we thought would sell food. With no luck, we walked all around asking in Khmer for directions to the closest supermarket. When we finally found one, it took us about an hour to buy all the groceries we needed for our upcoming two-day river adventure. We haggled with the tuk-tuk drivers because they thought we were tourists and got them down to a reasonable price to drive us back to our guest house.

Once on the boat, I feel as though our group really started to understand the concept of leadership. Running two days of the program in a country we all really came to love, we learned how to function as a well-oiled machine. With every struggle we had, we turned it into a learning experience. I know that our next X-phase will be even more amazing because we figured out what we could do better. We also saw where we thrived and will continue with that. I think learning from our mistakes is what shows our potential for leadership, as well as teamwork.