Commencing Day 7 in my epic battle against the almighty Jet Lag, a fierce beast that has effortlessly pinned me to the sofa- my eyes barely cracked to watch old episodes of So You Think You Can Dance, my hand with strength enough to lift chocolate covered blueberries to my weary lips. It’s tough being back. Needless to say, I am incredibly happy to be home with my family and both comforted and concerned by the fact that my dog Mocha gained more weight than I did despite my continuous consumption of rice over the past two months (not to mention fried bananas, banana shakes, and banana soup…). However, much of my mind is still in Cambodia, with my friends and colleges a world away who I already miss so dearly.
Goodbye wasn’t easy, and as I parted with those in Cambodia who I became closest to, several farewell attempts failed before I was able to actually part ways. I visited PIO Saturday morning with the intention of seeing the kids one last time but returned that evening and stayed late to play with the kids and talk to Somaly, the site director at PIO’s living quarters. While the children watched a treasured Tinker Bell movie on my laptop, Somaly and I again discussed the difficulties of singlehandedly tending to over 60 little ones while working in between upper management, parents, and local staff. However, I was assured that she was well supported by her international team, and especially Executive Director Noun Phymean, who travels back and forth between Cambodia and Canada several times a year and was in fact nominated for CNN Heroes in 2008 (check it out!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWD9HZE7Yv0). Still, I left wishing that Somaly received more recognition and assistance as she raises these beautiful children outside of school, keeping them away from burning trash just down the street. I definitely felt grateful for my time spent with her. The kids then proceeded to smother me with drawings, bracelets, and hugs before I boarded my bicycle and promised to return again in the near future.
On Friday I took the kids at SCC out for soup and the arcade, hoping that the outing would color the occasion in brighter shades, but ended up returning Monday just hours before my flight home. Because only five children live at this center, we had become very close, making this goodbye particularly difficult. Pia, who had always been so energetic and playful while I visited, smiled but refused to play and David was much quieter than usual. My heart broke a little bit when I did not get to say goodbye to Pao who was currently receiving surgery on his leg (a good thing) so that he would not return that night and could not receive visitors in the hospital. However, on the bright side, I am excited to skype with Se Coot and the boys, gorgeous and brilliant young people whom I will never forget and am so grateful to have met. And one day fellas, when you just a bit older, I will return and finally teach you the English lyrics to your beloved Adam Levine song One More Night.
Parting with the adults at work was of course a bit easier, in part because everyone was pleasantly distracted with the donuts Chris and I provided. We took many pictures, promised to keep in touch, and received beautiful gifts crafted by WOMEN clients.
At home, however, I did not want to leave my family, and while Savuth seemed a tad surprised by my hug (Cambodians aren’t big inter-gender huggers), Mommie did not want to let me go. When I come back, however, we plan to go to Thailand together to visit Small Son!
As reported throughout my time in Cambodia, I learned so much over the course of my stay and fell in love with some truly beautiful people. It certainly took time to settle into a new place and adjust to a completely different way of life. However, if it had been love at first sight, I’m not sure I could have appreciated all the small things, the perfect moments, that filled my heart with deep affection for country. I also left in the midst of a huge election, concluding just two days ago, and while Prime Minister Hun Sen was not removed from power, he certainly lost ground in Parliament such that his ultimate authority may waver and weaken, especially before elections in 2018. Times are changing in Cambodia and I am blessed to have witnessed a few tremendous moments of the country’s history. (check here for news on Cambodian elections and politics: http://www.cambodiadaily.com/ .) Also, I have to bring banana soup to California. That’s surely going to happen.
On a final note (don’t play the music just yet!), I want to thank everyone who supported me on my trip to Cambodia kept up with this first attempt of a blog. I’m still trying to figure out where to go with this project now that I’m home- not sure I’m in the market for a long-term commitment but certainly this was more than just a fling… So for now, I plan to continue writing when I deem appropriate which will likely include days of travel and further exploration into the world of poverty alleviation and social justice, dotted of course with other adventures and perhaps tales of my weekly mishaps (I did manage to set off a small alarm in the Toyko airport on the way home- oops.) So stay tuned folks, and Cambodia, I already miss you Darling.
Until we meet again,