Thoughts for the Day
I’m realizing that it has been some time since I have added to this blog of mine. It has become increasingly difficult to write about the things that I find so normal now. Well, a grain of salt sort of normal. It has also been so hot that even sitting and writing felt like a chore. But now, with the rains beginning and the cool air breezing through my windows, my head is finally clear enough to put a few thoughts onto the web.
Very soon, I will leave this place that I call home to find a new one. July will find me in Siem Reap, teaching for a fabulous school called JPA, which is the most American thing I’ve ever seen in the town. It is well funded, well managed, and all around amazing for the students that will go on to American universities after they graduate from this K-12 school. More on that later, though. For now, I’m thinking about how upset I will be when I leave my home in Thmar Puok Village.
Recently it struck me just how many people I’ve interacted with in two years. I suppose it isn’t that surprising (two years is a loooong time), but at the same time, I had felt as if I had gotten into a bit of a habit of seeing the same people over and over again. I eat at the same restaurants, I teach the same students, and I interact with a certain group of people related to me and my family. But then, just last week, I went on a long bike ride through the more remote villages in the district. I rode past one student’s house, where I once went to a festival meant to send his older brother into monkhood... I went past the pagoda where I talked with the old men that I see there every time... I went past the place where I found shelter once in a rainstorm... I stopped and talked with some old women about the party I came to and they told me I dance better than some Khmers... I said hello to at least 6 students whose names I actually remembered... And I ran into the other barang in the village. Even while I spoke with him, three out of the four people who drove past knew me and said hello: One, a student who studies with a friend of mine. Two, another teacher whose family I know quite well. And three, a man whose wedding I participated in, a man who works with my cousin.
After this, as well as a barang / barang incident in Siem Reap (At one restaurant, I knew people seated at two different tables), it suddenly hit me that I have met so many people in this place. That this small village in the middle of the rice fields of Cambodia has become one more home for me. I love it here, and I only have to go a short distance to find a friend.
I’ve been thinking recently about an article that my mom sent me ages ago, something in the DSM Register about a young girl who came to Cambodia and volunteered for a few weeks here. I don’t quite know what brought it up into my mind, but I kept thinking about how brisk it all is. I see with so many volunteering things terms of just a few weeks, a month maybe. What I’ve seen from my service is that the most effective thing that I have done is to make a solid connection with people. We make some sense to one another, we found something in common. I stopped being an alien to them, and became just a friend. We joke around, we laugh together, and we’ve become buddies in a way that would have been impossible my first few weeks at site. These relationships have made my service a success. They have also made it almost impossible for me to think of leaving.
And so, the job search begins. With any luck, I’ll be able to find work in a different field, something closer to the refugee services that I once did and would like to do once more. And then, eventually, maybe I’ll be able to find myself falling in love with another country’s people, and make another home away from home.